Updated on August 29, 2018
Sony is combining its existing strengths in areas such as video and audio technologies, image sensors and mechatronics, with artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, communications and other technologies to offer new proposals that will expand the field of electronics. aibo, the autonomous entertainment robot re-released in January 2018, is the result of an effort to leverage Sony’s AI, robotics, and sensing technologies to create a robot that autonomously and actively bonds with humans. aibo, with its lovable appearance and ability to change over time as it interacts with the owner, is being considered for use in various environments in addition to the home. A nursing care home operated by Sony Lifecare Inc. is trialing the adoption of aibo to increase the quality of its resident services. Two aibo have been loaned to the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, USA that is conducting research into living on Mars. The research project is monitoring the effect on interpersonal relations and benefits from having a robot present in the enclosed research station.
Sony has developed core libraries (Neural Network Libraries) that provide a framework for developing deep-learning programs, making the libraries open source. Program engineers and designers can use the core libraries, available free of charge, to develop deep-learning programs for AI creation and incorporate the programs into their products and services. The open sourcing of the core libraries is expected to spur the developer community to develop more programs. Sony has also developed Neural Network Console software, which provides an integrated development environment with a GUI to operate the core libraries, making it available free of charge.
Since May 2018, Sony has been offering a cloud-based, high-speed deep-learning service that utilizes Neural Network Console and supports multiple GPUs. These initiatives are part of Sony’s strategy to promote AI. In a world where more goods and services are expected to make use of AI to provide higher levels of convenience, Sony will support further deployment of AI to benefit society, by developing tools that increase the efficiency of advanced programming for a wider range of developers and researchers.
In October 2014, Sony announced that it would commercialize image sensors for automotive use. Having positioned the automobile industry as a focus for its image sensor business, Sony has worked on R&D to contributing to the popularization of self-driving cars.
To promote safety in self-driving vehicles, Sony has established the Safety Cocoon, a safe-zone concept in which vehicle safety is secured in various daily driving situations by 360-degree monitoring around the vehicle, enabling early preparation to evade risk. Sony’s automotive image sensors offer a number of advantages including high sensitivity, wide dynamic range, and an LED flicker mitigation function that reduces flickering when imaging LED signs and traffic signals.
Sony aims to help speed the arrival of the age of self-driving cars by sharing this vision with its partners.
Sony Olympus Medical Solutions Inc., a joint venture between Olympus Corporation and Sony Imaging Products & Solutions Inc., developed a surgical microscope with 4K 3D imaging capabilities to facilitate precision surgery with the aid of high-resolution, 3D digital imagery. The system was developed through the collaboration of all three companies and is being marketed by Olympus. With a conventional surgical microscope, the surgeon must peer through an eyepiece to view the magnified area, which is only visible to the surgeon. The solution utilizes a 55-inch 4K 3D monitor to enable everyone in the operating room to view the procedure. The large monitor is expected to reduce surgeon fatigue and facilitate team surgery, while also supporting the education of young surgeons.
Sony Global Education, Inc. is on a mission to create a new educational infrastructure for the connected society of the future. The company seeks to foster people who will take the initiative to address the issues that the world is facing and take action to find solutions for a brighter future. In 2017, Sony Global Education released KOOV™, the connected robotics kit for tomorrow’s innovators. The kit teaches children coding by assembling blocks into any shape to create robots that are programmed to make them come alive. The colorful blocks have universal appeal, and the kit is being adopted by more and more schools as programming education rises in importance. KOOV was released on the U.S. market in April 2018, setting the stage for Sony to bring KOOV to classrooms around the world.
Sony Global Education organizes the Global Math Challenge, an online math contest that tests logical thinking, creativity, and intuition. Some 280,000 people from more than 85 countries and regions have participated in the challenge through its five editions. Sony Global Education is also using advanced AI and blockchain technologies in the field of education. The company is using blockchain to develop a new infrastructure system for storing and sharing academic data from multiple educational institutions securely over the network.
MESH is a project that came to fruition through Sony’s Seed Acceleration Program (SAP), which takes ideas and supports their commercialization and related business operations. MESH comprises two main parts: wireless block-shaped electronic MESH tags with different functions such as lights, buttons or illuminance sensors, and a MESH app that is installed on a tablet or other device. MESH can be used to put together IoT solutions without having advanced electronics knowledge or programming skills.
MESH supports If This Then That (IFTTT) service, which enables different smart devices and Web services including social media sites to talk to each other. IFTTT makes it easy to implement ideas such as having a motion detector automatically detect and register the presence of a person at regular intervals, or having a temperature/humidity sensor detect when the humidity exceeds a certain value to trigger an alert. MESH is increasingly being adopted as an educational tool by both public and private educational institutions in Japan and the United States, as programming education and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) education becomes more important.
In July 2016, Sony launched a platform for the sharing of medical and health information that leverages FeliCa contactless IC card technology and utilizes secure cloud systems, placing the highest priority on the protection of users' personal information. Sony has established this platform in a relatively short period of time, and with it, participating facilities are benefiting from easy sharing of users' health data.
This platform is the home of harmo, an electronic medication notebook accessed through a harmo card, one of which is provided to every user. A card can be created for anyone, from toddlers to the elderly, with no smartphone required. The user can share his or her prescription information with doctors or pharmacists simply by tapping the card against a reader. By opting for a card-based system, Sony hopes to increase the number of harmo users. Because reliable data is recorded to harmo, it makes it easier for patients to obtain the most appropriate medication guidance from pharmacists.
A dedicated harmo smartphone app offers additional benefits to users. With the app, they can set alarms to remind themselves to take their medicine, manage their prescription history, declare their preference for generic medications, and record known allergies. The harmo app also makes it easier to provide support to those closest and dearest to users. Guardians can manage the prescription information of their children, and families can check up on their elderly relatives from whom they live apart. In these ways, harmo is expected to contribute to improved "medication adherence."*1
The future proliferation of harmo will help to reduce incidents where patients forget to take their medication, as well as increase the effectiveness of pharmacists' medication guidance. These are likely to contribute to fewer leftover drugs and duplicate prescriptions, thereby reducing unnecessary health care costs.