The Building 8 team is working on a smart device sized like a laptop that will enhance video chat experiences. Image: TheUSBPort.

Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that Facebook’s Building 8 is working on a video chat device that is roughly the size of a laptop. The tablet-like product would be all touchscreen and it would have a smart camera and virtual assistant when it debuts, possibly next year.

Sources familiar with Facebook’s hardware division said the company was also developing a smart speaker set to rival the Amazon Echo and the Google Home. Alexa and the Google Assistant might get to know their virtual contender first since the in-house AI apparently powers the video chat device.

Mark Zuckerberg’s foray into hardware sales was previously limited to Oculus Rift headsets, the virtual reality HMDs that rival HTC’s Vive and more. The makers of these devices are said to be launching a more affordable version next year as well.

How will Facebook’s video chat device work?

According to sources close to the development, the new video chat device from Facebook will measure between 13 and 15 inches, the same size as the display from most standard laptops, and it will open a new product category since it is not a mere tablet.

This dedicated device will be focused on communication, and Facebook’s artificial intelligence will help it enhance that experience by emphasizing immersion and interaction as if people were in the same room as the other person.

Facebook’s Building 8 seeks to create new device categories with a social focus. Image: Facebook.

The size of the display is an element that plays a role in achieving this since it gives more room for people to appreciate details. Audio and video-wise, the device will have a Facebook-made camera that will provide better resolutions, while microphones will be able to capture better the sound around the room.

Smart features allegedly include in-video tracking, which makes the device capable of detecting movement to focus and follow on dynamic elements in the frame like people, animals, and more. Zooming capabilities are also being tested, and a future version of the video chat product might come with a 360 camera.

Facebook devices align with their new mission

In that sense, Facebook’s rumored video chat device is part of a recent shift in company philosophy that prioritizes people and communication over social media as we know it. The gadget aims at bringing people closer together, just like the platform says it wants to.

The new mission of the social media giant sheds light on the focus of the device, which is primarily social but might cater to a limited audience at first as a targeted product.

Seeing the recent emphasis on community-driven projects through Facebook Groups, developers might be plotting to sell the device as an official assistant for top leadership members within an organization.

Reportedly, it will cost a couple hundred dollars, unlike the more accessible Facebook speaker that is also supposed to be in development and planned to cost a little over $100.

Source: Bloomberg