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Facbook

Facebook is launching two in-home video chat hardware devices, the company announced Monday.

Why it matters: The devices will help Facebook collect more data about how people use technology services, like voice assistants and long-form video, in their home.

The details: The company is announcing two new devices: Portal ($199 USD) and Portal+ ($349 USD). Portal+ is bigger.

  • The devices, which include Amazon Alexa voice assistant technology, let users connect to a plethora of media apps, like Spotify, Pandora and iHeartMusic, as as well as Facebook's TV-competitor app, Facebook Watch.
  • It also includes voice calling and a smart camera that automatically pans and zooms to keep everyone in view.

Between the lines: While the company has dabbled with some hardware products, like its Oculus Rift VR headset, it typically makes most of its money from software, mostly advertising. This opens up a new revenue stream for the company — hardware sales — but it will also increase engagement to Facebook-owned apps, which are linked to the devices.

The bigger picture: Facebook is facing multiple investigations in the U.S. and around the world for its data-based practices. Facebook says the Portal gives users tools to control privacy settings. Facebook says it doesn’t "listen to, view, or keep the contents of your Portal video calls."

Go deeper

Moderna says vaccine appears to protect against new COVID-19 variants

Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is effective against new variants of the virus that first appeared in the U.K. and in South Africa, the company announced on Monday.

Yes, but: The vaccine was as effective against the strain from U.K., but saw a six-fold reduction in antibodies against the South Africa variant. Even still, the neutralizing antibodies generated by the vaccine "remain above levels that are expected to be protective," according to the company.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Updated 1 hour ago - World

Xi Jinping warns against "new cold war" in Davos speech

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Wang Zhao - Pool/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that a "new cold war" could turn hot, and must be avoided, in a speech on Monday at World Economic Forum’s virtual “Davos Agenda” conference.

Why it matters: Xi didn't refer directly to U.S.-China tensions, but the subtext was clear. These were his first remarks to an international audience since the inauguration of President Biden, whose administration has already concurred with Donald Trump's determination that China is committing "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims, and issued a warning about China's aggression toward Taiwan.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Dominion files $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani

Photo: Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani on Monday seeking $1.3 billion in damages for his "demonstrably false” allegations about the company's voting machines.

Why it matters: Giuliani led former President Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the election and spread the baseless conspiracy theory that Dominion's voting machines flipped votes from Trump to Joe Biden.