Sony is on quite a roll as of late. It launched the Playstation 5 console late last year (2020) in most of the world including the U.S., Japan and EU territories (although the US got it a week earlier). If you are a gamer and follow major game launches you may know that this was not always the case where a console launched so close to a single date worldwide. You may remember a time in the 16-bit and 32-bit generation of consoles where systems would sometimes launch a year ahead of time in a region like Japan from the rest of the world.
This is Sony’s flagship product and a gaming system loved the world over. It has also been very hard to find as stores around the world are running out of stock as soon as they get the console orders in (due to not just demand it seems, but a trade war). This is good news for Sony as it looks to be another major success.
This brings me to my next point, which is what we should expect from Sony going forward with the Playstation line up of products and others it has in the pipeline. I recently tuned in to a Facebook discussion and interview that occurred last Tuesday, Feb. 9, between Tonino Greco, the Chief Analyst at Sony Technology Partnerships Europe and Corporate Technology Strategy division with Netguru’s Filip Sobiecki. One can still watch the interview via Netfuru’s Facebook page here.
The interview was interesting because Greco went into many aspects of Sony’s operational focus and also gave some hints on future products or disruptions we may exepect from Sony.
“Nothing gets in and nothing gets out in terms of information,” he said, thus could not directly reveal anything and basically answered with a bunch of possibilities or maybes. However, if one watches his descriptions of certain technologies, it is possible to come to the conslusions he was describing products or services in production right now he is working with.
Sony is looking for both value to its customers such as will this product be cheaper, faster or better in some ways than other products on the market but also that “wow factor”, he said. Basically, how to wow people to get them to purchase a product over competition.
They look at whom they are dealing with or who they want to present a technology to before finding this wow factor and ways to give value to this type of customer.
Right from the get go he was asked if he could tell us anything about the next Playstation, presumably 6, and he basically said that he would not be able to talk about it even if he knew anything, but revealed that the Playstation product cycle of development is roughly seven years.
This may seem odd as Sony tends to support their consoles for a decade if not longer, but I assume he was talking about the actual time the consoles get worked on until finalized versions — or in terms of research and development and not actual market production time.
He also quickly alluded to new things being in store for gamers within the Playstation division in the coming years particularly when it comes to virtual reality (VR). He also mentioned possibly something to do with augmented reality (AR) and possibly a handheld (thus a successor to the Vita, which I know for a fact many gamers or strongly hoping will one day be a reality as depsite it being a niche product the Vita has a cult following).
VR was a strong focus of the interview as he kept alluding to new innovations happening soon within this field related to the Playstation. He claimed that it is not just about a technically superior head-mounted display (HDM) with more pixels and less tethering available (if not completely without the wire), but about full immersion. By full immersion he alluded to possible things like the skin or body feeling aspects of the VR experience in addition to just the eyes or the visual aspect.
“Current version solutions not just at Sony [on the market as a whole] are not fully immersive,” he emphasized. “The more sensors you put in the more interactions you can nail… like cameras or gyroscopes the more interactions with your surroundings you can have. The ultimate experience is also with skin or feeling.”
This pretty much is telling us we should not just expect an upgrades PS4 VR experience with what Sony has in store for PS5 VR in the coming future. Controllers may either be redesigned entirely for the experience or be not used at all in favor of skin or the hands alone.
Greco also went pretty heavily into describing the way Sony works with other companies or startups and even pours money into universities to find new talent through initiatives.
“Sometimes you may be surprised by the ideas outsiders can have and you can bring them in contact [with Sony staff or execs] and something amazing can happen,” Greco said.
He was referring to partnerships with other companies or bringing individuals onto the team to develop new ideas or solutions.
His team looks at very early stages of a company like a startup forming or even before it forms and ideas presented at the university level. Sony wants to be first to have access to an interesting or disruptive technology it sees potential in whenever possible. The company could then guide or direct this group to what they would like them to work or focus on if possible as it would fall in line with what they are looking for in the long term.
Sony Innovation Fund is something he mentioned that is used by the company to invest in startups and finds such partnerships. There is also something he talked about called the Sony Research Award Program.
“We finance research at universities to work on specific topics,” Greco said. “Hopefully out of this research maybe a startup can form or we can install a strategic partnership at the university.”
Greco has a history researching and working with semiconductor technology and part of the reaosn he ended up at Sony was thrugh this work and experience. he also emphasized how important this type of work is for Sony going forward with product designs.
A completely flat architecture can be made or new form factors can be created causing products to be compacted advances in semiconductor tech. He mentiond metamaterial semi conductors part of this research and development particularly acoustic metamaterial.
“You can in principle hide objects by cloaking them,” he said. “If a sound wave hits an object it doesn’t reflect the sound wave for instance.”
Some of this stuff is hard to grasp for a layperson or someone like me not familiar with this technology, but it does sound mind boggling or something worth keeping an eye out for in the future.
Greco also mentioned Sony being on the hunt for environmental friendly materials or innovations and other things like drones being an interesting topic.
Overall this was a surprisingly interesting talk and a way to delve into the mind of someone working with innovations at Sony directly and within the Playstation division among others. It also made me realie how Sony is not much different from the Googles or Apples out there in terms of hunting for talent and working with startups despite the company being often seen as this big corporate giant that is set in its ways.
It will be interesting to see if he truly was referring to a Vita successor being developed or he simply used that as an example to prove his point that Sony is always looking into new product ideas. I have a feeling though that he was letting his tounge slip a bit and this may be the first leak or story into mentioning such a handheld previously dismissed as a possibility in the near future.