Facebook Portal Mini has an 8-inch display.


James Martin/CNET

Facebook said Wednesday that it donated more than 7,400 Portal video chat devices to help veterans feel less isolated as people stay at home to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The social network partnered with the US Department of Veterans Affairs and the American Red Cross to help distribute the devices to eligible veterans. The donation is another example of what Facebook is doing to help during the outbreak of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. The partnership also gives Facebook, which has faced privacy concerns, an opportunity to showcase its video chat devices as it competes with products such as the Google Home Hub and Amazon Echo Show.

Earlier this month, Facebook gave 2,050 Portal devices to the UK’s National Health Service to help people in care home and hospitals stay connected with their family and friends. Facebook has different versions of the Portal including one that sits atop your TV. The device has a smart camera so users can stay within the frame even if they move around a room and works with Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

“We hope that by using these Portal video calling devices, veterans and their caregivers will be able to feel less isolated and more present with their friends and family no matter where they are,” said Payton Iheme, who leads Military and Veteran Policy at Facebook, in a statement.

Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie said that he believes that veterans, families and caregivers will benefit through an “increased support system” and Facebook’s Portal device can help.

To be eligible to receive a free Portal, veterans and families have to part of the VA’s Office of Caregiver Support program or VA’s Geriatric Services and Extended Care program. People identified as at-risk for suicide by a VA provider are also eligible.

The American Red Cross Military Veterans Caregiver Network is handling the distribution of these devices and you can request one by filling out this form on its website. Supply is limited and devices will be distributed on a first come first serve basis, according to the site.

Three of Facebook’s Portal devices are $50 off through Mother’s Day. The 8-inch Portal Mini is $79 and the 10-inch Portal is $129. Portal Plus, which has a 15.6 inch display, is $229. Portal TV is currently out of stock.


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