Facebook secured a new patent detailing an "electronic device" that may be one of the company's upcoming smart speakers, as suggested by a new listing published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday. The gadget that can be seen above is meant to sit on a flat surface and its exact purpose remains unclear, though the top of the product features what's presumed to be a speaker grille. The Menlo Park, California-based tech giant has been working on a smart speaker for well over a year now, with the project reportedly being helmed by Building 8, its main moonshot factory.
Recent rumors suggested Facebook is preparing to launch two smart speakers later this year, with numerous insiders indicating both will be equipped with large display panels measuring up to 15 inches diagonally. Those claims don't correspond to the newly patented design, indicating the gadget seen here isn't the one planned to be commercialized in the coming months. Facebook already delayed the launch of its smart speaker series on two occasions, having first pushed back its announcement from Q1 2018 to its annual F8 developer conference taking place in May because it wanted more time to perfect the product, sources claimed several months back. The second delay was a result of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that emerged in mid-March and placed major scrutiny over the firm's user data policies and their privacy implications. As at least one of the two speakers is expected to have facial recognition capabilities and allow for Echo Show-like video calls, Facebook opted to redesign the device in order to store sensitive user data such as their biometrics profiles locally instead of sticking with the cloud so as to make the solution more secure, as per recent reports.
The smart speaker code-named "Aloha" is expected to be advertised as the Facebook Portal and be priced at up to $500, with the firm also reportedly working on a more affordable gadget that's internally referred to as "Fiona." Both devices should be officially announced in the second half of the year and begin retailing by the next holiday season, several industry sources claimed in recent weeks.