Facebook planning to launch “Hey Facebook” voice activation feature

Facebook is planning to release its own alternative to Hey Siri and Hey Google.

The company has announced that it will introduce the Hey Facebook wake word for its smart devices, Portals, which have been sold around the world for a couple of years. The social network has been working hard to build market share for its smart displays, which can be used in the same way as a Google Home or HomePod, with an in-built display for video calls and to access other content, such as browse the internet or watch videos on Facebook.

The new Hey Facebook command will also work as part of the company’s Oculus Quest headset, allowing users to take a screenshot or find out which of their friends are online.

Portal already had a wake word – Hey Portal – but this is being replaced with Hey Facebook to streamline the service and bring all of Facebook’s products under one umbrella. The firm will record and transcribe voices after the wake word has been identified, and the feature is optional. The Portal smart speaker will listen for the wake word and send data to Facebook’s servers, though the microphone can be turned off and the smart assistant can be muted, too.

Facebook has faced significant criticism in recent years over its handling of sensitive user data, so it will be interesting to see how the company handles the launch of Hey Facebook. Hey Siri, as a comparison, doesn’t send data to Apple’s servers until the wake command has been heard, which offers more protection and gives users some added peace of mind.

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