Sony's new Future Lab Programs takes an interative approach at SXSW

by Jack Sommer

A couple of weeks ago, Sony announced a new R&D division called the "Future Lab Programs." The goal of it is to bring more of an openness and communication with society throughout the development phases. So instead of waiting to show people the product until it's finished, Sony is sharing the prototypes at earlier stages so they can utilize feedback into their process throughout. And at SXSW this past week, they followed up on that promise with their first unveiling of their new "Concept N" product.

In a recent article of ours, we talked about the series of Amazon Echo and Alexa gadgets, which are voice assistants and bluetooth speakers. The "N" is also a voice assistant, with a hidden camera even included, but instead of a speaker it's a neckband. Engadget even called it an "Amazon Echo you wear around your neck."

A neckband? Yes, not the most typical choice. The idea is to wear the skinny and slick neckband, which uses open speakers to hear and respond to voice commands (just say "Listen up, Arc!"). There are optional headphones, but they are just a matter of preference - or perhaps a matter of where you are when using it. There's no swiping or tapping on it, just voice. It can also inform you on things such as the weather, news, events, info on restaurants near you, and so forth. In terms of the camera, you just tell it to "Take a picture" and the hidden capturing ability will appear. 

Now, it has to be re-addressed that this again is a prototype and not the final version. It's an interesting start and direction for Sony, maybe even more so in terms of the R&D program itself than the product. It will be noteworthy to see how having such an open dialogue about products, with the customers who may be buying the devices, will influence the trajectory and end result of those very tools. 

We are excited to see more companies continue to experiment in the world of voice, as we think it's an important next step in the world of technology and IoT. 

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Originally posted about on Wareable.