By Kiyoshi Takenaka and Mayu Sakoda
Japanese electronics and entertainment conglomerate Sony Group Corporation says it has the technology to make humanoid robots quickly once it has identified how they could be effectively used.
“In terms of technology, several companies in the world including this one have enough technology accumulated to make them swiftly once it becomes clear which usage is promising,” Sony chief technology officer Hiroaki Kitano said this week.
“We will make an investment (for manufacturing) only when such investment is deemed necessary. We see a potential in humanoid robots, but we also believe other forms of robots are quite important as well.”
Sony launched a robot dog called Aibo more than two decades ago.
It sold about 150 000 units from 1999 until 2006 and then unveiled an advanced version in 2018, selling about 20 000 units in the first six months.
Humanoid robots have been in development for decades by Honda Motor Co and Hyundai Motor Co and in September, Tesla chief executive Elon Musk showed off a prototype of its humanoid robot Optimus.
Musk's company is floating plans to deploy thousands of the robots in its factories, expanding eventually to millions around the world.
Kitano said Sony, armed with expertise in audio-visual technology and rich entertainment content including music and video games, was well-positioned to play a major role in the metaverse, or immersive virtual worlds.
The metaverse is a vague term encapsulating the idea that consumers will spend more time in online simulated environments.While the concept is evolving, it has become a buzzword in briefings and a driver of industry earmarking.
“As for the metaverse, it's not like people would show up just because you've created a venue … Content is what makes or breaks the metaverse,” he said.
Kitano said this week that Sony would strengthen its research and development activities and defined sensing, artificial intelligence (AI) and digital virtual spaces as key technical domains to drive Sony's business expansion.
“Sensors, AI and virtual spaces interlocking together is the core of our technology and will be our great strength,” Kitano said.
Sony's image sensors are widely used in smartphones and becoming key auto components as carmakers strive to reduce traffic accidents and move towards autonomous driving.