Back in February at Mobile World Congress 2016, Sony Mobile Communications unveiled a new-look XperiaTM brand with the first “X” series smartphones and a vision for the future of communications, with ambient connected devices capable of changing the way you interact with the world. Since the product announcements, we’ve received lots of questions about the smart concepts and our new brand vision. To give you an in-depth insight we caught up with Asuka Matsumura, Product Planner at Sony Mobile Communications. Here’s what she had to say:
There were a number of really exciting new Xperia product announcements at MWC, why did you decide to show conceptual devices as well?
At MWC we committed to providing increasingly personalised and intelligent products and services that empower Xperia users to do more. We didn’t just want these to be empty words, so we set about showcasing all-new smart product concepts that embody our Xperia brand vision.
Our vision is for Xperia smart products to work as an extension to the smartphone experience or autonomously, to show how we’re evolving our offering to enrich lives and challenge conventional ways of communicating. Showcasing the devices at such an early stage of development also enables us to gauge interest from the market and potential partners; that might have the capability to shape and influence the experience.
How does Sony decide which concepts see the light of day? Are there any others that came close?
We regularly come up with designs and concepts for products, but we decided to showcase these devices as the first in our roadmap, as we believe they can connect people to each other and become essential and beloved parts of their lives.
Why did Sony decide to develop the Xperia Eye, Xperia Agent and Xperia Projector in particular?
The concepts are part of our branch into the market commonly referred to as “internet of things” and/or “smart everything”. We chose to have these products as they include new technologies that we will continue to develop to enhance daily experiences.
In broader consumer terms, we’ve designed our wearable and new Xperia smart products as integrated sensor and software experiences. Sony is a company that creates and enhances experiences every day – going to the cinema, listening to live music, visiting art exhibitions, receiving pictures from your friends, or just speaking to your loved ones on the phone, these are all experiences – yes they are enabled by technology, but the human element is what is valuable in them. It’s this that powers our vision. Take Xperia Projector for example, the concept is designed both for those who wish to access entertainment or work in a larger format and for families who wish to enjoy entertainment and games together. Our vision is that the projection isn’t just making your content bigger, but fully interactive also – responding to touch, voice and gestures. It’s designed so you have more time to experience the world around you and communicate with those you care about.
Exploring new sensor and software combinations is important – as we believe it’s a powerful vision of how users can let the technology work for them unobtrusively. We’re taking that same approach to future development as well.
Where did the inspiration for the MWC concepts come from? Do you lean more on focus groups and customer research or creative brainstorms?
A mixture of both, it’s important that we listen to our customers and find out what they want, before we come up with the concepts and put our own Sony spin on them. For example, as part of our development of Sony’s voice control and AI engine, we have regularly focus groups at different locations around the world – to hear people from every walk of life describe how technology can benefit them.
What provisions and platforms does Sony put in place to encourage innovations like these? Is there one particular team who just get to work on new concepts all the time?
At Sony Mobile, innovation is a constant and fundamental process. We have some of the best R&D teams in the world working on incredible new technologies that are sometimes years away from becoming products in the market.
But not all of our innovation happens as a direct result of this process. Innovation is a company-wide focus and all our employees are encouraged to contribute and think creatively as part of their day-to-day life. Over the past eighteen months we’ve established a dedicated sales office in the United States to bring niche and emergent technologies from within the Sony group to market , started building a dedicated research and incubation division in Lund to develop “beyond smartphone” technologies and piloted Sony’s Concept for Android beta which allowed Swedish users to test and shape their Xperia Android experience.
How likely are we to see the concepts we saw at MWC on the market some day?
We can’t comment on very specific timelines, but we are wholly committed to each concept – and are working towards commercialisation, which is a very exciting time for us.
Voice control seems to underpin and power Xperia smart products – can you explain a little about how it works?
Sony’s voice technology is a proprietary Sony application that lets you command your device with your voice, using a natural language user interface. It currently powers smartband Talk, Smart Bluetooth® Speaker BSP60 and SmartEyeglass Developer Edition SED-E1. Our vision is to evolve the technology over time to build a smarter and more useful assistant – and to apply it across a number of different consumer hardware devices. We’re excited about its potential and believe it will offer users an intelligent solution that allows them to do more with ease in different life scenarios.
We’re differentiating it from similar services by offering a “personal assistant” experience. Our vision is to evolve and develop the underlying technology in “Xperia”, so it starts to learn about your preferences and adapt accordingly, becoming a useful “agent” helping you to get things done.