CES: Sony Planning a Push in Robots and Media Consolidation Wave

At CES in Las Vegas Sony has showcased the newest version of their robot dog called Aibo, according to Bloomberg. Japanese company is now planning a deeper push into the robotics.

The mechanical mutt is just the beginning of the Sony’s return to robotics, CEO Kazuo Hirai told Bloomberg TV. While Aibo is primarily a toy, its artificial-intelligence capabilities and robotic architecture can be used to create machines for various service fields, he said.

“The technology we incorporated into aibo, A.I., robotics, and that combination, in different form-factors can manifest itself in other robots that can be a part of transportation, education, health care. So it has a lot of different applications beyond just being an entertainment robot,” Hirai said.

Hirai ordered the push into robotics in 2016, a decade after Sony discontinued the original version of its robot dog which had gained a cult following in Japan. While the new aibo promises more functionality powered by advanced artificial intelligence, it has drawn criticism for lacking features offered by digital assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. Aibo costs 198,000 yen ($1,800) plus a monthly fee of 2,980 yen.

Hirai also uncovered that Sony wants to be a buyer in the wave of consolidation sweeping through the entertainment industry. Sony recently talked to 21st Century Fox about acquiring its film and TV assets, Hirai said on Bloomberg Television in Las Vegas. Though it eventually lost to Walt Disney Co., the Tokyo-based company wants to make sure “that we are in the driver’s seat and not in a situation where we have to give up control of the assets we have grown over the years.”

Theatrical films remain a top priority, according to Hirai, who also wants to expand TV production to “ride the wave of the growth in the industry.” The studio ranked fifth at the box office last year, with North American ticket revenue of $1.09 billion. “We need to make sure that first and foremost that we have a strong line-up in our motion-picture releases. I think we’re on a path to recovery in that space,” Hirai said.

While he seeks deals, Hirai said the strategy is to continue shoring up his movie business, including better control of production costs and ensuring proper financing arrangements to attract top talent. He also hinted at the possibility of more movies based on PlayStation video games, which are part of the company’s most successful division.

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