My mother lives a solid 5-hour drive away, and as a result, she doesn’t see her grandchildren anywhere near as much as she would if she lived close. Add to that the social distancing requirements of the modern pandemic and you’ve got the perfect reason to invest in a little bit of technology to bridge the COVID-19 and Distance gaps.

Mum has a Facebook account, and I’ve hooked her up with a Tablet she can use for that and her Sodoku, but in reality, using Messenger for the kids has only in the last week become a reality, and even then it’s very much reliant on the kids having a device spare to use.

Facebook Portal offers a very simple, clean and fun way to connect – without using anyone’s personal devices.

There are four versions of the Portal, different sizes of the all-in one device as well as an attachment for your TV to bring the family video chat to your big-screen.

It all works by linking your Facebook account to the device. You can also link your WhatsApp to use the device for WhatsApp calls.

You can select your most favoured contacts, these will appear as shortcuts on the screen, and then with the simple press of the video camera button, any of those contacts can be called directly from the device.

It’s permanently powered, and connected to your WiFi, so you don’t need to have a smartphone nearby or anything – it’s all happening inside the Portal.

Video calls are as good as you’ll get with any other service, but the camera is intelligent. If you’re standing at a distance, it will zoom in on you. If you walk from one side of the room to the other, it will follow you.

Someone else walks in, it will widen out so all can be seen – very very cool.

Of course, the kids will love it for the many filters and funny faces you can put on yourself during the video calls – smiles all round.

My only criticism is that it does need to be linked to one Facebook account. This means any private video calls you get will “ring” on the portal. Perhaps setting it up as a “Child” like device so it can be called directly might be a better approach.

Otherwise, I can’t wait to fly again – when I’m travelling I can use WhatsApp or Facebook to call the kids – and the best part of that – the angle will be spot on.

Anyone who has called their kids on a video call via a phone or tablet will know they always hold it weirdly and walk around giving you motion sickness.

Facebook Portal solves all that, and gives us that Video Calling “phone” that all the sci-fi futuristic movies said we’d have.

Portal standalone devices range from $149 to $399, and the Portal TV is $229.

Web: Facebook Portal