On September 18, 2019, the first ever ”Sony Technology Day” was held at Sony City Osaki in Tokyo, Japan. The primary goal of this event was to invite investors, analysts, and media for them to gain a deeper understanding of the competitive technologies which connect and support Sony Group’s diverse businesses, while also promoting general awareness of the technological aspects of Sony through media exposure.
On this day, Kenichiro Yoshida (President and CEO, Sony Corporation) and Toru Katsumoto (Senior Executive Vice President and Officer in charge of R&D) took the stage to speak about the role of technology within Sony and the company’s R&D strategy. This was followed by a technological exhibit aimed at visitors.
”Contributing to Society through Technologies that Enable Us to Get Closer to People”
Yoshida began by introducing Sony’s Purpose which states the meaning of our existence, as well as its Identity, which expresses who we are as an organization. He stated that “in both, technology is the keyword. Technology is the thread that binds together our diverse business portfolio; it empowers all of our businesses. This is the role of technology at Sony. Based on our corporate direction of ‘getting closer to people,’ we are engaging in R&D that enables us to do just that.
Next, he noted that “Sony should strive to create ‘spatial’ and ‘temporal’ value through technology.” For spatial value, he stressed the importance of the level of ‘reality’ that is experienced via the resolution of images and sounds in three-dimensional space. For temporal value, he discussed the value of real-time performances, as well as the delivery of higher resolution on the time axis such as super slow motion. He also noted that there is value in the combination of ‘reality’ and ‘real-time,’ and that many of the day’s exhibits showcased Sony’s initiatives in those areas.
He then introduced several of the featured technological exhibits, including real-time ray tracing, which enables highly realistic real-time rendering of computer graphics, and live encoding and transmission technologies, which share the emotion generated by live experiences in real-time to a large number of people. Afterwards, he stated that Sony is positioning imaging and sensing as core technologies that widely support our ability to deliver spatial and temporal value, and highlighted the Eye-AF feature of α™（Alpha™）as one example of this technology in action.
He also explained that Sony is engaged in developing a range of technologies that further enhance sensing accuracy, such as sensor fusion, which combines raw data from image sensors and active sensing systems for automotive use. “Increasing vehicle safety will not only lead to advancements in autonomous driving and mobility-as-a-service, but it can potentially also reduce the environmental impact of driving. And in the long-term, we believe the advancement of autonomous driving will lead to new entertainment consumption in the mobility space.”
Speaking on people’s health within the medical field, he stated that “In terms Sony’s initiatives providing value in this domain, surgical endoscopes and 4K/3D surgical microscopes that use our imaging and transmission technologies are already on the market. He also introduced the “Bilateral Control” technology that was on display, stating that “technology that is capable of detecting physical force in real-time, is one example of Sony’s wide array of sensing technologies.”
Yoshida closed his speech by once again touching on Sony’s Purpose. “Our image sensors for automotive use and the technologies in the medical space that I introduced are examples of how we support people, who create, and experience Kando. Through creating ‘spatial’ and ‘temporal’ value and enhancing our technologies that embody the corporate direction of “Getting closer to people”, at Sony, we continue to contribute to society.’”
”Technology that Inspires Emotion”
Katsumoto began by reaffirming that technology is a keyword underlying Sony’s Purpose and Identity. Using a chart that maps technology to Sony’s corporate direction, he then explained how Sony’s corporate and technological strategies are consistent with each other.
Following this, Katsumoto covered the following topics:
- Input/Understanding: Technologies that meet the requisite levels of spatial/temporal resolution to accurately capture our ever-changing three-dimensional world and convert that input into digital data in order to achieve “Reality” and “Real-time” in the spatial and temporal realms, respectively.
- Processing: Technologies that take the inputted digital data and use various methods of signal processing, including AI and deep learning, to convert that data into new value conveyed in the form of “output/expression.”
- Output/Expression: Technologies that take the digital data that has been converted into new value, and express it in the real world as immersive, “Reality” and “Real-Time” kando experiences. This area also includes contributions to safety and reliability.
“With each of these technologies, it is crucial that we get closer to people’s motivations, and I believe it is only with a deep understanding of those motivations that we can begin to provide worthwhile value. And the element supporting all of these technologies and making them a reality is Sony’s diverse pool of talent.” In this way, Katsumoto-san explained how Sony’s management and technology directions are fully aligned around ‘people’ and ‘technology.’
Next, he discussed Sony’s R&D organization. He covered the R&D that is specifically tailored for each of Sony’s individual business domains, as well as the corporate R&D structure that oversees Sony Group’s technologies as a whole, explaining that “we position Sony’s technologies that enable us to ‘get closer to people’ as the element that empowers and binds together our diverse portfolio of businesses.”
In addition to Sony Group’s own efforts, Katsumoto touched on how Sony is strengthening Open Innovation through initiatives such as the Sony Innovation Fund (SIF), Sony Startup Acceleration Program (SSAP), and the Sony Research Award Program. Speaking on his ongoing hopes for these efforts, he stated that “Through these and other external partnerships, we hope to bring together the motivations of creators and users from an even wider perspective, and these efforts play a crucial role in expanding what is possible through our businesses.
Following this, he introduced various “focus categories” where he believes Sony has a technological advantage. “The technology created through these efforts all work to ‘get closer to people’ and to ‘connect people to each other.’ In order to determine the direction these technologies are headed, it is essential that we get closer than ever to the motivations that drive creators and users.”
He then explained that the eleven exhibit themes on display that day, each of which seeks to “get closer to people’s motivations,” could be placed into three categories.
- Empower: Technologies that unleash creators’ imagination, and create new forms of kando
- Connect: Audio and imaging technologies that bring creators and users together and deliver kando.
- Exceed: Technologies that open up new possibilities by going beyond human capabilities.
Lastly, Katsumoto reiterated that “Through all of its technologies, Sony seeks to deliver kando and contribute widely to society. What you see here today is just a small fraction of Sony’s technological portfolio, and I look forward to future opportunities to share more of them with all of you.”