A new report out of Bloomberg hints that within Facebook’s Building 8, an experimental division that allows the company to test new products and services before they are publicly unveiled, the company is currently building a new video chat device meant for the home. It’s said to feature a 15-inch touchscreen and possibly even be powered by Android. It’ll also have an advanced smart camera with technology taht allows people you speak with to feel like they’re in the room with you.
This all sounds great, but what would a 15-inch touchscreen in your home provide you? In theory, it could be a bigger and better Amazon Echo Show. It could show you news in the morning, stock information, weather charts, and obviously video calls, but what would Facebook do to set itself apart from the rest? They’re reported to be developing their own AI assistant thanks to the help from Apple vets who helped develop Siri, so that’s not new. No one’s ever done a 15-inch touch-friendly screen for this specific purpose before, but the idea’s already been executed. And it’s said the device will be geared toward the living room in homes, but this is already the place where most people put their Amazon Echos and Google Homes.
All in all, it further indicates Facebook wants to try and make a splash in a market already saturated by big names like Amazon, Google, and soon Apple and Microsoft. A large 15-inch Android-powered tablet thing with a smart camera, AI assistant, and strapped to a stand sounds cool, but in practice, it could ultimately flop and just suck. Of course, the price of the device would be the determinant for most people whether to buy it or not, but in terms of functionality, there may be nothing here.
But if this device turns out to be a gimmick, Facebook may have a plan B. According to Bloomberg, the company is also experimenting with a smart home speaker that would compete directly with the Echo, Home, and HomePod that would be powered by the same AI assistant mentioned earlier. It remains unclear as to what this device may look like or what uniqueness it would bring to the table, but I would assume some people would buy it at least over the giant 15-inch touchscreen/video calling machine.
Bloomberg notes that both devices could be unveiled this Spring, while they’re both likely being tested inside employee’s homes. Since it’s such a big story, we expect to hear much more about these devices in the near future so stay tuned.