Earlier this month, sources told Bloomberg that Facebook’s Building 8 division was working on both a video chat device akin to the Amazon Echo Show, and a standalone smart speaker to compete with devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Business Insider’s new report confirms both projects are well underway.
The video chat device, apparently code-named Aloha, will have a large touchscreen (supposedly bigger than in competitor products), a wide-angle camera, microphones, speakers, and will be capable of recognizing faces. Aloha has been tested in employee homes for several months, and the company is said to have plans to bring the device to market in May 2018 with a price tag of $499.
Business Insider’s sources re-confirm Building 8 is also working on a smart speaker (which should carry a price of around $100), as well as a 360-degree camera. It is also exploring wearables, like a sensor-laden necklace.
BUILDING 8 IS ALSO WORKING ON A SMART SPEAKER, A 360-DEGREE CAMERA, AND IS EXPLORING WEARABLES
Veteran Facebook executive Andrew Bosworth has been chosen to head up both Building 8 and Oculus, Facebook's virtual reality division. Hugo Barra, Facebook’s new vice president of VR, will report to Bosworth as well as Regina Dugan, who moved from Google to Facebook in order to lead Building 8.
Though Building 8 has made headlines for some of its more creative endeavors — like a brain-computer interface to let you type with your thoughts — it seems its first products will be direct competitors in the consumer smart home market. Bosworth’s new role leading consumer hardware efforts could be a sign that Building 8 will be creating more shipping products than the experiments Dugan led at Google’s ATAP division, like Project Ara and as-yet unreleased Project Jacquard.
Facebook’s biggest battle when the devices are publicly available might not be market share, but privacy concerns. Although several home cameras, like the Nest Cam IQ, can already recognize people, Facebook has faced an uphill fight in convincing users that their privacy is intact. Business Insider says that the company is considering alternative ways to market Aloha, including brand names separate from Facebook and framing it as a way for the elderly to easily stay in touch with their families.