Sony has announced plans to develop a robot “capable of forming an emotional bond with customers.” And no, it’s not talking about the Rolly. At the company’s corporate strategy meeting this morning in Tokyo, CEO Kaz Hirai said that a new robot-focused organization within Sony was established in April and is working towards a business launch.
“Sony will seek to propose new business models that integrate hardware and services to provide emotionally compelling experiences,” the company says in notes from the presentation; no further details on the robot are available. Japanese telecoms company SoftBank makes similar “emotional” claims about its Pepper robot, while Sony arguably achieved the goal to some extent with its AIBO dogs, which some users have gone as far as to hold funerals for.
Elsewhere in the presentation, Hirai highlighted VR as 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 exploit 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,” without going into details.
Although Sony’s image sensor sales took an unexpected dip in the last quarter, Sony expects its Devices division to grow significantly in the mid-to-long term, citing the shift to dual-lens cameras as something that could counteract the overall slowing in the smartphone market. The next iPhone launch is rumored to include at least one model with a twin camera setup, and Sony has long supplied Apple with camera components.
Sony revised its targets for the next financial year (starting April 2017) up for the games division, but down for mobile, semiconductors, and imaging.