/ 1 January 2002

Dreaming, with Sony

A pocket-sized computer that warns you when it might rain and a walking, talking boy-shaped robot are just two dreams that Sony Corporation said on Wednesday it was turning into reality.

The Japanese giant hopes to capitalise on its electronics prowess and powerful entertainment arm, as it embraces a new era of broadband Internet technology, which it sees as the way forward.

”We want to realise people’s dreams in a broadband future,” Kunitake Ando, Sony president and chief operating officer, told an annual meeting of some 500 company representatives and dealers from around the world.

Sony chairman and chief executive Nobuyuki Idei, added that combining media content, such as movies and music, with the entire group’s assets ”will play a vital role in transforming Sony into a 21st century company.”

”We are currently in the midst of a new era of uncertainty so it is important that we present our customers a clear message of the future and to deliver attractive products to help them realize their dreams,” Idei told the symposium at Pacifiko Yokohama, a conference hall just outside Tokyo.

A pair of wide-smiling compares described the firm’s achievements to-date — including Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. becoming top US movie studio — and defined its visions.

For anyone who has ever been caught in the rain without a brolley, Sony’s latest concept — the user-sensitive Vaio EQ computer — could be the answer.

”You keep it in your pocket and, for example, if it is about to rain the Vaio EQ would remind you to bring an umbrella as you left the house,” explained a Sony guide.

”Or, if you had been walking around for a few hours it would sense you might be thirsty and give you a list of nearby coffee shops,” he said.

Sony has only built a concept model of the hexagonal-shaped, white block, which is on display at Sony Dream World 2002 — a two day exhibition opening to the public this weekend in Yokohama.

The futuristic show-house features massive screens projecting images of popular cartoon character Astro Boy, an array of top-of-the-art digital cameras and personal computers, cars fitted with interactive gadgets, colourful computer games and a cordoned off area for a pack of robotic dogs.

In one corner Sony has exclusive screens playing pictures from the ”Blu-ray Disc”, a new digital optical disc format being developed along with a consortium of eight other electronics firms that will likely replace the popular DVD as it holds more information.

”I am very impressed,” said Roderick Kournay, the vice-president of Motta International which imports consumer electronics goods to Latin America.

But he said his region would not receive broadband products from Sony for a few years as it lagged behind Japan and the United States in the Internet age.

Henry Vogel, the managing director of Sony Central, a Sony store in Adelaide, Australia, also said his country was slow in catching the broadband wave.

”It is important to have the infrastructure in place first,” Vogel said.

Enhancing its portfolio of futuristic gadgets, Sony has also conceived a humanoid dubbed Sony Dream Robot 4X.

”It is purely for entertainment purposes, but the robot is not for sale yet as we are still testing it,” explained a second guide, Hiroshi Fujita.

The robot — about the size of a small toddler — can dance and sing.

”It may be a dream for everyone else but for Sony we make it a reality,” Ando said. – Sapa-AFP