Business Insider said that Facebook's Building 8 has suffered from a number of high-profile departures in recent months, including those of chief operating officer Richard Wooldridge, head of consumer experience Donald Hicks and head of product management Olivier Bartholot. The device will reportedly be capable of recognizing people's faces. He's been at the company for over a decade and is a close confidant to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the report said. That's Building 8, also known as Facebook's "B8", the group that announced they were trying to make humans type with their brain earlier this year at F8. The announcement was recently made inside Facebook by CTO Mike Schroepfer, and a company spokesperson confirmed the news to BI on Wednesday. Though the company sells the Oculus virtual reality headset, it acquired its maker and didn't create the original product.
Now, it has been learnt that prototypes of the video speaker have been tested in Facebook employees' homes, and the plan is to release the device to the public for a price in the region of $499 in May 2018. A version of the device in testing includes a thin, vertical stand that holds a large touchscreen measuring between 13 and 15 inches diagonally, the people said.
One hurdle Building 8 has faced in its efforts to build its first device is consumer mistrust of Facebook protecting user privacy, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.
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Ha Thai, a spokeswoman for Building 8, declined to comment. For example, the camera could zoom onto a painting that a child brought home from school to show to a parent away on a business trip.
According to the report, Aloha will be the first in a series of consumer devices from Facebook's CE team, which is also working on a smart speaker, a 360° camera and wearables.
It conducted marketing studies for Project Aloha and reportedly received "overwhelming concern" that Project Aloha would help the company spy on users. Because the speaker concept has already been popularized, two of the people said, Facebook could abandon it and prioritize the video chat device instead.
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