Facebook may be pursuing a smart speaker after all.
Code in the Facebook and Messenger apps details a prototype interface for speech recognition technology, dubbed ‘Aloha,’ according to developer and tipster Jane Manchun Wong.
It’s the latest indicator that Facebook could be preparing to launch its own voice-activated speaker.
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Code in the Facebook and Messenger apps details a prototype interface for speech recognition technology, dubbed ‘Aloha,’ tipster Jane Manchun Wong discovered
The code describes a product called ‘Aloha Voice Testing,’ where users speech is translated into text in a message thread, according to TechCrunch, which first reported the move.
The feature would work in the core Facebook app, the Messenger app and also ‘external WiFi or Bluetooth devices,’ such as a speaker.
Wong also said she discovered what appears to be the Aloha logo in the code, which is a graphic of a volcano.
Another part of the code notes ‘your mobile device is now connected to Portal,’ TechCrunch said.
Speculation has been building for several months that Facebook is creating a pair of smart speakers, one of which will be named Portal.
Reports have said that the other speaker would be named Fiona and both would have touchscreens and advanced features like facial recognition.
Facebook is believed to have been interested in creating some kind of smart speaker as far back as December 2016, based on various patents it has filed.
The firm filed a patent in April for a product called ‘Electronic Device’ that’s a seemingly small, square device with holes on the top panel that could be where audio comes out of.
Another view of the device appears to show buttons on a flat surface that could perhaps be a screen of some kind.
The device is also expected to be able to respond to voice commands and will include social media functions – a detail that’s somewhat corroborated by Wong’s view of the Aloha Voice Testing screen.
Portal is also expected to feature a laptop-sized touchscreen and smart camera technology.
Facebook is believed to have been interested in creating some kind of smart speaker as far back as December 2016, based on various patents it has filed
The firm filed a patent in April for a product called ‘Electronic Device’ that’s a seemingly small, square device with holes on the top panel that could be where audio comes out of
The devices have been speculated to cost an upwards of $499 (£370), making them much pricier than similar products currently on the market, such as Amazon’s $39 (£27) Echo Dot.
Previous reports indicated that the devices would have hit the shelves this summer.
But Facebook decided in March to halt production of the devices as it became embroiled in a massive user data scandal.
It was recently revealed that data from 87 million Facebook users, mostly based in the US, was harvested from the platform without their knowledge.
Trump-affiliated research firm Cambridge Analytica scraped users’ data unknowingly from third-party apps on the platform and used it to try to influence the 2016 presidential election.
WHAT IS FACEBOOK PORTAL?
Facebook is reportedly creating a pair of smart speakers – the ‘more sophisticated’ of which, nicknamed Aloha, will eventually be known as Facebook Portal.
The device will feature a wide-angle camera, microphone, and speakers boosted by artificial intelligence, and it will be geared for communal use in the living room.
A version in testing would enable the camera to automatically scan for faces in the room and link them to their Facebook accounts.
Like Amazon’s screen-equipped Echo Show, the device will be controlled by voice-command and designed for indoor use.
In response to the Cheddar rumours, Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s Vice Preident of augmented and virtual reality, wrote on Twitter: ‘Can’t comment on speculation but can confirm it’s going to be an exciting year for AR/VR. #F8’
Facebook intends to let Portal access third-party streaming services like Spotify and Netflix, the report claims.
While Facebook itself has not confirmed any rumours, Andrew Bosworth, the company’s Vice President of augmented and virtual reality, wrote on Twitter: ‘Can’t comment on speculation but can confirm it’s going to be an exciting year for AR/VR. #F8’.
The comment suggests Facebook could announce Portal in May at the company’s F8 developer conference.
The scandal has led many to zero in on what kinds of data Facebook collects on its users.
Many were shocked to learn that the firm collects intimate details about you, ranging from call logs and text messages, to your address, as well as your location each time you sign into the app.
Additionally, a Cambridge Analytica whistleblower recently claimed that Facebook uses people’s smartphone microphones to spy on them.
By delaying the smart speaker’s release, the firm likely wanted to avoid scrutiny that it’s looking for new ways to spy on users.