Facebook may launch its own smart-home gadget to get you messaging more friends and looking at more photos. DigiTimes reports from Taiwan that Facebook is building a 15-inch touch-screen smart speaker.
Citing sources from the “upstream supply chain,” Chinese iPhone manufacturer Pegatron is building the device for a Q1 2018 launch, with a small pilot run having already been produced. It’s said to have been designed by Facebook’s secretive new hardware lab Building 8, using an LG in-cell touch screen with a magnesium-aluminum-alloy chassis.
While no further details are known about the speaker’s functionality, it could potentially extend Facebook’s feed of photos and videos, plus its dominant messaging platform, into the bedroom, living room or kitchen. When reached for comment, a Facebook spokesperson sent me the company’s standard response: “Unfortunately we don’t have anything to share at this time.”
The Facebook speaker might work as a digital photo frame when inactive, piping in new photos or videos to brighten up the home. Through voice commands, users could potentially Like or leave comments on this content.
It would also be sensible for Facebook to allow messaging from the speaker, via voice-dictated text messages, VoIP audio calls or video calling. As of February, 400 million of Facebook Messenger’s 1.2 billion users communicate via Facebook audio and video calling every month. A touch-screen smart speaker could become a high-tech home phone alternative that’s easy for younger kids and grandparents to use.
Amazon is already trying to barge into the home communications market with its new Amazon Echo Show version of its smart speaker, which lets people video call each other over its screen. Google has its own Google Home speaker and Apple is preparing to launch the HomePod. But none of them have a ubiquitous cross-device instant messaging platform with a comprehensive social graph the way Facebook does.