Sony: Concept products catch the eye

The Xperia X, XA and X Performance continue the Xperia tradition of bold colours and a blocky form factor. But Sony's most interesting products were its upcoming Ear - which will be launched in summer - and a trio of concept products: the Eye, Projec
The Xperia X, XA and X Performance continue the Xperia tradition of bold colours and a blocky form factor. But Sony's most interesting products were its upcoming Ear - which will be launched in summer - and a trio of concept products: the Eye, Projector and Agent.PHOTO: SONY

Sony's presence at the Mobile World Congress this year was surprisingly understated. Its press conference was held at the early time slot of 8.30am on the first day, and there were no tantalising invites a la Samsung or LG to send the rumour mill into overdrive.

Pundits were hoping for news of a new flagship Z6 phone, a Z6 tablet, or more information about the PlayStation VR headset. What they got instead were just three mid-range phones: the Xperia X, XA and X Performance.

The phones themselves have continued the Xperia tradition of bold colours and a blocky form factor, though the harsh edges of previous models have been made slightly gentler.

The higher-end X Performance is powered by the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 that is found in the LG G5, but has a smaller 5-inch, 1,080p screen and the same camera as the Z5 last year. The phones did have several snazzy features, such as object-tracking autofocus.

However, the most interesting products at the Sony booth were not the phones. It was the upcoming Ear, and a trio of concept products - the Eye, Projector and Agent.

They are all designed such that a user will have to interact less with the phone in the conventional manner of looking at a screen and swiping or tapping.

The Ear, to be launched in summer, is a tiny earpiece that connects to your phone wirelessly and is designed to be worn continually. It can respond to voice commands, and can also be used to feed notifications and information to the wearer.

The Eye is a clip-on camera which can detect the best time to snap a photo, such as when there are many faces looking towards it.

But what I was interested in was the Projector, a short-throw projector with a sensor that lets you interact with the projected surface as you would a touchscreen.

I found it pretty accurate, and it handily tracked my writing on a wooden table. It was also accurate and responsive when pressing small buttons, or swiping left and right.

The Agent is a combination of all three devices, with a camera, projector, microphone and touchpad.

Sony intends it to be an all-in-one home concierge service, and it may be particularly useful for users such as the elderly who are unfamiliar with a smartphone.

For example, they can use voice commands to direct the Agent to make a video call to their family, and the call can then be projected on a nearby table or wall.

Lisabel Ting

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2016, with the headline 'Sony: Concept products catch the eye'. Print Edition | Subscribe