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Facebook Delays Unveiling of Echo Show Competitor (Report)

Facebook has scrapped plans to unveil a smart speaker with video chat capabilities at its f8 developer conference in early May, according to a Bloomberg report. The change of plans comes in light of the recent privacy backlash, which reportedly also prompted the company to revisit some privacy safeguards for the project.

Facebook had reportedly been working on a smart speaker that doubles as a video chat device, similar to Amazon’s Echo Show, for some time. The company has yet to publicly acknowledge its plans for such a project, but was set to unveil it at its f8 event on May 1 before making it commercially available towards the end of the year, according to Bloomberg.

The device is likely going to mimic some of the functionality of existing smart speakers, which monitor their environment for so-called hot-words like “Okay Google” or “Alexa.”  Upon hearing it, they kick into high gear and transmit audio to the cloud to answer questions, deliver personalized news, music and more.

In addition to this fairly standard set of features, Facebook’s device reportedly also makes use of facial recognition to easily let users initiate video calls with their contacts.  However, the outfall over the Cambridge Analytica data scandal would likely not have provided the best context for the introduction of a device capable of voice and video recognition.

In fact, the company is now rethinking how to handle some of the data gathered by the device, The Information reported Wednesday. Instead of uploading facial recognition data to the cloud, it might process it locally on the device itself — an approach that mirrors the way Apple uses biometric data to unlock the iPhone X.

Facebook didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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