Facebook Removes “Hey Facebook” Wake Word on Portal Smart Displays
Facebook has suspended “Hey Facebook” as a wake word for the voice assistant built into its Portal line of smart displays, according to an internal memo first reported by The Information. The memo alleges confusion over the phrase among users as the reason for its removal.
The report explains that Facebook was discussing bringing Hey Facebook as a wake word to more Facebook services like Instagram and WhatsApp, but that the phrase made people only think of the Facebook app and not those subsidiaries. The voice assistant’s wake word is notably absent from all of the announcements for the new Portal Portal Go, and Portal+ devices unveiled this week. The features discussed only obliquely mention voice control at all, commenting on hands-free calls without saying what that means or how to access it. On the other hand, “Hey Facebook” is still listed on the help pages for the device, so the removal may still be ongoing or perhaps temporary. We’ve reached out to Facebook about his Facebook about the report and will update as we learn more.
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The internal wake word decision report is circulating just as other reports indicate Facebook is planning a significant rebrand this week, changing its corporate name. While customer confusion may be an element of that choice, the ongoing series of alleged scandals and complaints about the company likely has a lot more to do with the total rebrand. The Hey Facebook wake word came to Portal smart displays in February, joining “Hey Portal” as an option. For those who really want to say Hey Facebook, the Oculus Quest and the new Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses that Facebook helped build.
Facebook has been discussing its own voice assistant for a while, as Mark Zuckerberg confirmed back in 2019. Portal’s revamped operating system further fueled those rumors. The wake word seemed to fit the corporate strategy begun a couple of years ago to add “from Facebook” at the end of every subsidiary product’s name, hence “Instagram from Facebook” and “Oculus from Facebook” appearing more often. The desire to boost Facebook’s brand by association may not have worked so much as hoped if the total company renaming rumor is true. And while names and wake words may be small on the scale of Facebook’s plans for virtual assistants that summarize the news and mind-reading sensors for issuing commands, they’ll be necessary before any of those more ambitious projects will work.