Facebook is bringing Portal video chat devices to the workplace

Facebook is bringing its Portal devices to the workplace for people to make voice and video calls. Workplace by Facebook delivered a number of upgrades as part of its Flow by Workplace conference being held today in Menlo Park, including the fact that Workplace now has 3 million paid users, up from 2 million in February. The 8-inch Portal Mini and 10-inch redesigned Portal smart display come out next week. Portal devices will be able to speak with up to 50 participants in each video call, a company spokesperson told VentureBeat in an email.

As the split screen image above appears to illustrate, Workplace video calls will supply a shared work space, perhaps drawing on the same tech that will allow people to watch videos together with the Portal TV device due out next month. At launch, Workplace voice and video calls will not work with Portal TV.

A Facebook spokesperson declined to share additional details on how dozens of SaaS apps and integrations will work with Workplace Portal video calls.

Workplace video calls will work with a dedicated Portal app called Workplace by Facebook and will soon support Facebook Live, a company spokesperson told VentureBeat in an email.

The Workplace-Portal offering appears to be Facebook’s first strictly enterprise pairing with first party hardware, and may help Workplace compete with Microsoft Teams, which currently offers AI-powered video call perks like automatic captioning and background blur.

The move also signals that Facebook could open up Portal for WhatsApp Business in the future, though the device currently has no WhatsApp Business specific features.

Portal devices making Workplace video calls can use Smart Camera to automatically frame video for up to 10 people and Smart Sound to automatically enhance volume to ensure a video subject is heard even when standing at a distance from the device.

Workplace is also introducing:

  • Automatic video captioning for videos posted in the Workplace News Feed that functions much like Facebook’s News Feed. Live captions will initially be available in the language of the speaker so long as they speak English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Arabic, Vietnamese, Italian, German, Turkish, Russian, Thai, Urdu, or Malaysian.
  • Badges for rewarding employees for reaching milestones like community builder, expert, or mentor.
  • Learning posts, a way for managers to highlight content that might be good for best practices, then share them with new hires, as well as thanks posts for acknowledging employee achievements.

There’s also Insights, an analytics platform that scores Workplace to measure engagement with posts, using sentiment analysis to label each post as positive, negative, or neutral. Sentiment is predicted in part based on comments and reactions to posts.

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