It’s a (modular) phone. It’s a (smart) speaker equipped with a 15-inch touchscreen. It’s a… “video chat device” of some sort “geared to the living room”?

Facebook’s first consumer hardware effort since the resounding 2013 HTC First flop remains more cryptic than a teaser for a new Darren Aronofsky movie. But various insiders and supply chain sources, as well as largely conceptual patents, might be helping us slowly solve the puzzle of the secretive Building 8’s plans.

The latest piece falling into place today is a fresh Bloomberg report based on intelligence shared by early testers of a “new product category” on condition of anonymity. These appear to suggest ex-Googler Regina Dugan’s team of “world-class experts driving innovation” in AR, VR, AI, connectivity and “more” is simultaneously working on at least two projects, both of which could see daylight next year.

Fearing smart speaker overcrowding and impossible Amazon Echo competition, Facebook may ultimately choose to “abandon” its own contender in that particular arena, instead “prioritizing” this new niche-carving video chat product.

A “laptop-sized touchscreen” at between 13 and 15 inches is tipped as a major selling point for the unnamed device that could go official as early as spring 2018, with “smart camera technology” also in tow to make video chatters at a distance feel like they’re in the same room.

Built-in microphones, speakers and a wide-angle camera lens would all be powered by “artificial intelligence to boost performance”, if current ideas pan out, with a proprietary “Siri-style” voice assistant likely coming to further congest an already jam-packed market. A “version” of Android is eyed to run on Facebook’s social-first, category-defining product, which should cost “a few hundred dollars”, compared to the “low $100 range” where the company’s standalone speaker is expected to squeeze in if it ever comes to pass.

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