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Facebook’s video-chat device signals ramped-up hardware efforts

Facebook’s video-chat device signals ramped-up hardware efforts
[Photo: Flickr user Anthony Quintano]

Facebook may be known primarily as a software company, what with billions of people using its core service, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram apps. But Mark Zuckerberg’s company seems ready to be a significant player in hardware, as long as the devices it produces are geared toward connecting users.

Already, the company’s virtual reality division, Oculus, produces the high-end Rift headset. And its in-house, everything-under-one-roof hardware lab, Area 404, has started working on numerous projects, beginning with helping to turn out prototypes of the company’s high-end VR cameras, the x24 and the x6. Now comes word from Bloomberg that Facebook is developing a several-hundred-dollar laptop-sized video-chatting device with “smart camera technology [that] could help far-flung people feel like they’re in the same room.” That goal also fits with Zuckerberg’s new stated mission of bringing people closer together.

The device is said to have a camera, microphones, and speakers all powered by AI, Bloomberg reported. The company has also been developing a 360-degree camera for the device, according to the report, but it’s unlikely to be ready in time for the initial launch. Facebook is also said to be working on a smart speaker, which would run a voice assistant created by Facebook and compete with Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home.

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