Facebook has announced the addition of Messenger Rooms and several other new useful features on its Portal smart display.
Sales for Portal – Facebook’s smart video display – were initially discouraging, but according to a recent Forbes report, they have “finally taken off,” with some models actually sold out. In May, the wait time for the 10″ model was up to 90 days, whereas the TV-mounted version is completely out of stock.
While admitting “hardware is hard,” Facebook’s VP of consumer hardware Andrew “Boz” Bosworth recently said that sales were actually up 10x from mid-March. “It does feel like the right tool for the time that we live in, the challenges that we face,” he explained.
To capitalize on this, Facebook is now launching several new features on Portal, to make it “more useful and fun” for users.
Messenger Rooms Available on Portal
You can now use Messenger Rooms on Portal devices, hosting video call sessions with up to 50 people at a time – to “gather a book club, […] just hang out on the couch with friends” or “even entertain the crowd with AR effects and Story Time.”
Messenger Rooms let you invite anyone to a call, and they can drop by whenever they like. Whoever you invite doesn’t even need to have a Facebook account.
New Backgrounds on Portal Calls
Say goodbye to distractions in the background of your video calls, with the ability to blur your background or replace it with an image using Portal Spaces, during your Messenger or Messenger Rooms calls on Portal.
Portal Spaces use cool dynamic backdrops that change over time – the inside of a private jet, a field of flowers that turns luminescent depending on the time of day, or a tropical island with birds flying in the background.
Go Live From Portal to Facebook Pages and Groups
Up until now, the Facebook Live app on Portal let you only broadcast to your personal profile. Now you can also go Live from Portal on your Facebook Pages and Groups. The new feature is available using your Portal Mini, Portal, or Portal+.
Photo Ops, AR Effects and New Story Time Stories On Portal
While on a Messenger call, you can share photos from your phone using the Portal mobile app, which now comes with AR effects “to keep you entertained.” These effects also include AR Virtual Cards, which let you “send immersive cards to celebrate special occasions.”
Soon, Facebook will also introduce two new stories to Story Time on Portal – The Okay Book by Todd Parr and How To Eat Pizza by Jon Burgerman. More titles will be arriving over the summer.
New “Hey Portal” Functionality
You can already use “Hey Portal” to start hands-free video calls or get your morning briefing. In the next few weeks, Facebook will add “Hey Portal” commands in British English, and the ability to start WhatsApp calls.
The “Hey Portal” voice command is currently only available in English (US/Canada). Using “Hey Portal” commands for WhatsApp calling will only be available in English (US/Canada) as well, and you will need a WhatsApp account for that.