Sony exhibits off its first set of bizarre and wild Future Labs prototypes
Final week, Sony took the wraps off its Future Lab initiative — an R&D arm of the corporate displaying off early prototypes of merchandise and gathering suggestions to assist form their improvement course of. As we speak at SXSW, Sony confirmed off a few of these prototypes to the press. As anticipated, the corporate had a brand new sort of wearable to point out off. It is referred to as the Arc, and its design jogged my memory of some Bluetooth headphone units on the market — however the system is sort of a bit totally different than a easy pair of headphones.
Maybe the simplest strategy to describe the Arc is to name it an Amazon Echo you put on round your neck. The system is constructed for arms-free operation; 4 microphones are inbuilt with noise-cancelling options round so you’ll be able to all the time speak to it. After saying your set off phrase (“Pay attention up Arc!”), it’s going to begin listening on your command and use your telephone’s GPS to provide you location-based mostly information. Proper now, you possibly can ask the Arc to inform you the climate, offer you native information, native restaurant information and even to take a photograph.
Yup, that is proper: There is a tiny digital camera embedded within the Arc. However Sony seems to have discovered from Google Glass, as that digital camera is hidden by default and solely opens up should you inform the gadget to take a photograph. It is a enjoyable little trick to see the digital camera lens pop into view after which disappear once more.
The Arc’s final trick is to play again audio with out you needing to put on earbuds. Because of some intelligent speaker placement, the Arc does a reasonably nice job at reproducing audio in a restricted vary round your head whereas nonetheless letting you clearly hear what’s occurring round you. The prototype I attempted did not give off really excessive-high quality audio, however it definitely sounded higher than I anticipated and would work in a pinch for the Arc’s meant capabilities.
If you would like higher audio efficiency, Sony can also be making a pair of earbuds with a singular twist. These so-referred to as “open-ear earphones” include a driver that has a small tube going off of it that ends in a small open circle you set in your ear. It is a bizarre factor to explain, however finally it manages to do an excellent job of transmitting the audio from the driving force into your ear whereas nonetheless letting you hear every little thing round you. I had a number of conversations with music enjoying in my ear and had no drawback listening to the individuals I used to be speaking to.
Whether or not or not the Arc has any probability of succeeding the place Google Glass failed stays to be seen — Sony should do quite a bit to make it clear how it may be helpful to potential consumers, however the firm strengthened the truth that this gadget continues to be very a lot a prototype. The way it may exist in its remaining type stays to be seen.
That is simply one of many experimental units Sony was displaying off. The corporate additionally had a black field that seemed like a Bluetooth speaker that featured a way more spectacular function. It is meant to be mounted above a floor like a tabletop; as soon as arrange, it may venture down onto the desk and primarily flip it right into a touchscreen. However the undertaking is not simply contact-delicate — it could additionally calculate depth because of cameras pointing on the desk.
Sony had a reasonably loopy demo that is fairly arduous to explain to point out off this unnamed gadget’s energy. Within the demo, you opened up a bodily copy of the ebook Alice in Wonderland — the digital camera and projector then began interacting with the contents of the ebook. The drawings got here to life and actually jumped off the web page onto the desk; you would drag them and transfer them wherever you need. You might additionally spotlight passages from the ebook and the phrases would float out of the ebook. It was actually fascinating, and whereas the sensible purposes stay to be seen, it was a critically spectacular piece of know-how.
The opposite projector prototype Sony confirmed off felt rather less probably helpful, however it nonetheless had some fairly enjoyable options. It was an “purpose-in a position projector” — utilizing a black wand hooked up to the system, you possibly can level the projector anyplace alongside a wall that you simply needed to, and a speaker array hooked up to the system made it sound like audio was coming from wherever the projection was at any given second. Within the demo Sony confirmed us, the projector put a small alien UFO on the wall, and as you moved it throughout the wall, the audio adopted the projection. Sony even rigged up a gun allow you to transfer the projector round to shoot UFOs off the wall. It was one other weird demonstration in an evening filled with bizarre concepts from Sony, however that does not imply it wasn’t enjoyable.
The final gadget Sony confirmed off was a bit extra low-key than these demos, however no much less enjoyable. It was a complicated haptic controller — principally a contact display with an accelerometer and a few critically spectacular haptic suggestions capabilities. The demo I attempted principally amounted to a ball on the touchscreen, and as I tilted the controller, I might “really feel” the ball bouncing round. It was as if there truly was a rubber ball contained contained in the controller, and its bouncing felt actual in my palms. You might even change up the fabric of the ball, so a metallic ball had its personal distinct haptic feeling. It was a bizarre expertise, nevertheless it looks like the sort of factor that’ll be nice within the subsequent PlayStation controller.
Past the viability of those merchandise (or the shortage thereof), it is fairly nice to see Sony displaying off a lot bizarre know-how forward of its launch in shopper-prepared merchandise. It is easy to overlook now as the corporate’s revolutionary spirit dropped through the years, however Sony has a wealthy historical past of making an attempt loads of bizarre know-how and pushing it into the mainstream. Getting extra public sneak peeks at what the corporate is engaged on can solely be good for the know-how business as an entire — and entertaining to these of us who comply with it.
Nathan is a senior editor at Engadget and was previously an editor at The Verge. A semi-current San Francisco resident by means of Boston, Nathan covers Google, gaming, apps and providers (particularly music), bizarre web tradition and far more. He’ll evaluation nearly any odd piece of hardware that comes his approach. In his spare time, Nathan enjoys the superior meals SF has to supply and loves taking pictures round northern California.