Sony introduced consumers to robotics with the popular AIBO (image via Reuters)
Sony is an entertainment mogul. And now they're returning to robotics. The area is nothing new for the giant company. They release adorable robot dog AIBO in the 90s, which was one of the most popular entertainment robotic dogs – remember Tekno and Poochi? But it didn't do much for Sony in the long run and they scaled back all AI related efforts due to heavy losses. Though the company is still trying to straighten out its financial troubles, they're returning to the robotics game.
Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai made the announcement last week. He didn't provide much insight into what kind of robots the company will focus on, but he mentioned they will be “capable of forming an emotional bond with customers.” He also said designing a model that brings customers back for periodical purchases is a possibility. “We need to push the envelope to really grow Sony into other parts in all of the electronics business, where we know we could make a difference,” Mr. Hirai told The Wall Street Journal in an interview.
Sony enthusiasts may be happy about the news, but analysts aren't impressed yet. They believe Sony's goal of achieving a profit of $4.86 billion for the year ending March 2018 isn't possible robots or no robots. The company only reached that level of profit only once before in fiscal 1997. But it's clear that Sony isn't having much trouble with the Playstation 4 selling more than 40 million units since it was introduced in 2013, surpassing rivals Xbox One and Wii U. Since Sony's announcement, their share rose to 10%.
But robots are everywhere, why does it matter that Sony is returning? Because Sony was one of the first companies to develop robots for consumers. And while companies like Boston Dynamics are advancing what robots do, they're still mainly for military purposes. Sony has the potential to bring robots to the mainstream market. Mr. Hirai believes with Sony's return, it can stand out in the market, like it did over 20 years ago with video games, which were ruled by Nintendo at the time.
Sony has a lot of competition to face when it comes to robotics. Since their absence many other companies have taken it upon themselves to throw their hat in the ring. Sharp Corps has taken a similar approach to robotics with Robohon, a bot that works as a smartphone. It requires users to pay a monthly fee for software updates and add-ons. While robots seem to be on the rise with more of them being developed, there are still very few for consumer use. Could Sony's return to the industry change this? We'll just have to wait and see. Updating the old "robots" from the past seems logical, and fun. Hope to see more.
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