A video-calling camera that only has eyes for you

Facebook’s new Portal system uses AI to follow the speaker like a TV cameraman

Facebook Portal, from £129
Facebook Portal, from £129

Facebook is not an uncreepy company, but even if you eschew its core social-media offering, I’ll bet most of you use one of its acquisitions: WhatsApp. And you have probably discovered WhatsApp video, introduced in 2016, whose near-magical compression makes it possible to make decent video calls on internet connections too flaky for Skype or FaceTime.

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Facebook has now taken video calling to a new level with a group of products called Portal, which work with WhatsApp video as well as Facebook Messenger video. Portal doesn’t just leave the camera static and pointing in one direction. Using an AI program, it works out who is talking and pans and zooms like a TV cameraman to follow them if they move around the room. Quite uncanny. My choice of Portal product would be Portal TV, a device that clips unobtrusively onto the top of your TV, still performing its in-house camera-guy trick, so it truly feels like the parties you’re talking with are in the same room.

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