Facebook's secretive Building 8 lab is reportedly on the verge of unveiling its first piece of hardware to the public. According to a report citing sources familiar with the matter, the social media giant is working on a "video chat tablet" that will give users the illusion of being in the same room as friends and family through artificial intelligence and smart camera technology.
The proposed device will allegedly feature a 13-15in, laptop-sized touchscreen created by LG and could run on a modified version of Android. The clever part of Facebook's device – described as a "new product category" – is the wide-angle camera, which could include a feature that automatically scans a room for people and delivers the video feed to another user potentially miles away or in a different country entirely.
Multiple microphones and speakers will utilise AI to "boost performance", the Bloomberg report notes.
A 360-degree camera attachment is also rumoured to be in testing, but will likely not release alongside Building 8's creation. The device is reportedly already in testing in people's homes ahead of an unspecified launch date.
As well as the video chat tablet, Mark Zuckerberg's company is also considering releasing a smart speaker to rival Amazon Echo and Google Home. The standalone device would feature a Siri or Alexa-like digital assistant, with former Apple employees currently developing the platform.
The anonymous insider sources expect Facebook's smart speaker to retail at just over $100 (£75), which significantly undercuts Amazon, Google and Apple, with the latter's HomePod targeting a premium audiophile market. The report notes, however, that the speaker could be abandoned in favour of a new sole focus on the video chat hardware. The social device is expected to cost "a few hundred dollars".