2 min read
The Best Product of 2018: The Portal
IMHO, the best consumer electronic product of 2018 didn’t come from Amazon, Google, Samsung, or a hot new startup. It was introduced by a company that has not sold any hardware before: Facebook. With the retro name of Portal, this amazing product captured that inflection point where technology transforms the function of a known device so broadly that it creates a completely new experience.
While current video conference at its best is sitting in front of a screen and talking to someone or a group at the other end, Portal creates the experience of being in the room with the other parties. The combination of an AI-driven camera that follows people and knows who is speaking and who is moving with an automatic zoom in and out recreates the experiences of being in the same place with the other parties. The technology is not perfect and there are some flaws, but the experience it creates is almost magical. The video quality is great and the microphone and speakers are very good. It also doubles as an Alexa, making the original Alexa look rather old-fashioned and, frankly, of not much use.
Portal is a great example of using a reasonably good, but not cutting edge, technology in a way that makes a device significantly more useful, creating value for consumers and crossing into a new category.
The use cases right now are primarily for individuals especially families, but there is potential for it to also be used as a gen-z type facetime (like Houseparty). It will be interesting if Facebook creates an app store for Portal where third-party developers can add new functionality, possibly even create business-to-consumer opportunities, providing a way of remote shopping, remote experience, entertainment, and education.
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