Sony has announced plans to develop a robot “capable of forming an emotional bond with customers.”
Sony’s chief executive Kazuo Hirai did not disclose specific details about the robots, but says it will propose new business models that integrate hardware and services to provide emotionally compelling experiences.
Sony is re-entering the consumer robotics game after increased competition in the Asian markets led to massive cost cutting in 2006. It has, however, launched Aibo, its canine-modelled artificial intelligence robot. Alongside its popularity as a consumer robot, the robots were used by researchers for a number of areas, including a robotic football tournament in 2005.
A decade later, it seems that a lot of tech companies are finding ways to make the human-robot interaction as warm and fuzzy as possible. Japanese telecoms company SoftBank made similar “emotional” claims about its Pepper companion robot, while Boston Dynamics has unveiled earlier the SpotMini, a robot with a sense of humor.
It’s not surprisingly that Sony would want to get back in the game after it had made great strides a decade ago with AIBO dogs, which some users have gone as far as to hold funerals for.
Hirai also announced that virtual reality will be another future area of growth for Sony. The PlayStation VR system is set to launch in October, and Sony believes it’s well-placed to take advantage of the technology in areas like entertainment and digital imaging as well as gaming. The company also says it’s considering “cultivating [VR] as a new business domain.”
All in all, Sony has a lot in store for the newest generation of techies.