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Sony employees’ ideas get in-house incubator

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Japan’s Sony toy platform ‘toio’ was displayed at the International Tokyo toy show in Tokyo June 2. The platform went on sale in December.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Japan’s Sony toy platform ‘toio’ was displayed at the International Tokyo toy show in Tokyo June 2. The platform went on sale in December.

TOKYO >> Aiming to recover the Sony corporate culture that produced the legendary Walkman and PlayStation in the past, Sony Corp.’s Seed Acceleration Program seeks to promote new businesses proposed by Sony Group employees.

Since it was launched about four years ago, a total of 13 products and services have emerged, including the “toio” toy platform that the company unveiled in June.

Toio is the first product for children made by the in-house incubator. Children use a controller to make small cubes equipped with motors and sensors move around on a tabletop or floor. The cubes are a base upon which users can build robots or vehicles, and they can use the moving objects to play action games and do puzzles.

Toio is based on a study by Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Inc. and is recommended for children age 6 and up. While the platform was still in development, students from a neighboring elementary school played with it. They tended to concentrate for extended periods, likely because of the platform’s characteristic of allowing users to modify and operate the cubes any way they like.

“I like to present my products whenever I come up with something interesting,” said Sony senior manager Akichika Tanaka. “I think Sony style means changing lifestyles by creating new value.”

The incubator started from the prodding of Sony President and Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai. As of March 2017, the company had held nine auditions for which a total of about 1,600 participants submitted about 600 entries.

“We are encouraging open innovation through greater networking and bringing together individuals from both inside and outside the company,” said Hirai at the 2015 IFA electronics show in Berlin.

“By encouraging entrepreneurship and pursuing unconventional ideas and ventures, we continue to create an ecosystem essential to the development and growth of new businesses,” Hirai said.

New products and services from the program have been garnering a lot of attention among various industries.

For instance, the “wena wrist” project proposed that analogue watches could be turned into smartwatches. Another proposal is the “Huis Remote Controller,” which allows users to arrange their remote control buttons as they like.

Sony has forecast a $6.8 billion profit for this fiscal year, the best ever in its 72-year history.

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