When Facebook launched its first hardware products, the Portal and Portal + smart displays, last year, the company particularly praised its video call features against Amazon and its Echo Show.
But Facebook also had an interesting function that usually flew under the radar. The Portal devices were also capable of augmented reality, with Spark AR, the platform responsible for mobile augmented reality experiences on Facebook, Messenger and Instagram, delivering the virtual effects.
About a year later, a former Google engineer led the Portal team, Facebook expanded the Portal family.
In addition to last year's Portal + (now $ 279), Facebook now offers an updated portal ($ 179), which is now similar to a digital photo frame instead of a Google / Nest Home Hub, the equally designed but smaller Portal Mini ($ 129) and a completely new form factor, the Portal TV ($ 149).
The devices can be purchased via the portal website, Amazon and Best Buy in the US and Canada. Customers who choose to buy two devices receive a $ 50 discount on their purchase. Facebook has also expanded its sales area for the Portal collection of devices, allowing customers in the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Australia and New Zealand to purchase the hardware.
For our purposes, we focus here on Portal TV, because it reaches a fairly unique milestone: it brings augmented reality to your television. And that is the unit that we have asked Facebook to use for a practical exploration.
With dimensions of 7.48 inches by 1.18 inches at 2.24 inches and weighing 0.68 pounds, the Portal TV device is available in any color, as long as it is black.
The central hardware feature of Portal TV is the camera, a 12.5 MP sensor with a 120 degree field of view. The device also includes a full-range speaker for audio output and a far field array of eight omnidirectional microphones for voice input. As you would imagine, it has an HDMI port to connect to a TV for video output (HDMI cable not included).
Spark AR on Portal
Portal has four augmented reality categories that users can choose from, one that is known to Facebook Messenger users, two that are unique to Portal and another that is still in the oven.  First, the Portal TV offers the same AR camera effects that are available on the mobile Messenger app. These AR effects work on calls between Portal users and in calls between Portal and mobile Messenger users.