A new report from Business Insider has confirmed rumors of Facebook’s plans to develop consumer hardware. Early the month, speculation of these efforts began to circulate after sources told Bloomberg that Facebook’s Building 8 division was working on a video chat device and a smart speaker in order to compete with the likes of Amazon and Google. The aforementioned video chat device (code name: Aloha) will feature a large touch screen, a wide angle camera, microphones, speakers, and will offer facial recognition software. The device has been tested in employee homes for sometime now and is expected to come to market around May 2018 at around $499. The new Facebook smart-speaker is expected to ring in at $100 and will feature a 350 degree camera, with speculation about compatible wearables.
The project is being led by veteran Facebook executive Andrew Bosworth. Hugo Barra, Facebook’s new VP of virtual reality, and Regina Dugan will be report to Bosworth. Even though Facebook’s Building 8 department first started turning heads with the announcements of its more experimental and creative projects, it seems that the first products to be released will be reactionary competitive products pitted against Echo and Google Home.
One of the major issues facing Facebook a chronic lack of customer trust when it comes to privacy. Facebook conducted a number of marketing studies for the Aloha project and noticed a significant amount of concern that Facebook would use the smart speaker to spy on users. The address listeners’ concern, Facebook has looked creative ways to market the speaker including pitching it as a way for elderly people to communicate with their families. It’s all been rumored that Building 8 would use a new brand name to sell their products under.