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  1. The company will share more details in spring 2021. Sony wants a bigger piece of the drone market. Today, the Japanese giant unveiled a project called Airpeak, which will “support the creativity of video creators to the fullest extent possible,” according to a cryptic press release. That makes it sound like Sony wants to take on consumer-focused drone makers such as DJI, Parrot and Skydio. Which makes a lot of sense, given Sony’s expertise in the compact and full-frame mirrorless camera markets. If you’re a vlogger or independent filmmaker that already uses Sony gear, you might be tempted by a drone with similar technology. If nothing else, it would make it easier to color correct and combine footage. In the press release, though, Sony notes how drones have led to “workflow efficiency and energy savings in the industrial sector.” It adds: “Sony has assigned the ‘Airpeak’ brand to reflect its aspiration to contribute to the further evolvement and the creation of the unprecedented value through its imaging and sensing technology as well as 3R technologies (Reality, Real-time and Remote) in the drone area.” So it a consumer or enterprise play? We’re hoping its the former. The company already has Aerosense — a business-focused drone collaboration with ZMP — which specializes in surveying, capturing live events and creating maps from drone imagery. The consumer drone market is notoriously difficult to penetrate, though. GoPro thought it could take on DJI in 2016, but its Karma quadcopter was a commercial failure. The situation is a little different this time, however. DJI has been caught up in the US government’s growing hostility toward China-made technology. Sony, therefore, might be favored in the West as a Japanese company. Still, it will have to battle the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has made it harder for people to travel and reach spots where they’d like to fly a drone. Hopefully the situation will be better in spring 2021, when Sony plans to formally launch its Airpeak initiative. Source
  2. Sony ponders potential PS to PC ports Yet another crack shows in the company's walled console garden. Enlarge / Horizon: Zero Dawn probably won't be the last game Sony ports from a PlayStation platform to PC. 83 with 63 posters participating, including story author Horizon: Zero Dawn probably won't be the last former PlayStation exclusive to make the jump to PC. In its 2020 corporate report published late last week, Sony says that it "will explore expanding our 1st party titles to the PC platform, in order to promote further growth in our profitability." The "explore" wording there is a little bit couched, suggesting that Sony still hasn't completely made up its mind on the specifics of further PC game publishing. And the report doesn't go into detail on which games, if any, Sony considers ripe for porting. And even if Sony does continue publishing on PC, we shouldn't necessarily expect major PlayStation titles to hit Steam on the same day as the coming PS5. In Horizon's case, Sony waited a full 1,256 days between the game's February, 2017 launch on PS4 and its PC launch earlier this month. Cracks in the walled garden All that said, explicitly mentioning the potential for PC ports in its annual report is the latest sign that Sony continues to slowly loosen its tight, walled-garden approach to game hardware and software. In 2017, for instance, Sony expanded its PlayStation Now streaming service to work on Windows PCs as well as PS4 hardware. That service now has 2.2 million regular subscribers, Sony says, up significantly from the 1 million subscribers claimed last November. In 2018, Sony finally opened PS4 titles to cross-platform online play with other consoles after years of public reluctance on that score. Then, earlier this year, Sony said MLB: The Show will come to non-PlayStation consoles as soon as 2021, after decades of PlayStation exclusivity. It all speaks to a company that's more aware that "competition from online PC games and players from other industries is expected to continue to intensify," as it says in its annual report. Even as Sony pushes hard for the exclusive "speed, haptics, and sound" improvements of the upcoming PlayStation 5 this year, it is hedging its bets somewhat with support for non-Sony hardware as well. Elsewhere in the annual report, Sony said it will "continue to invest in, or acquire, firms with abundant creativity and cutting-edge technologies to build up Worldwide Studios." That follows on last year's acquisition of Spider-Man developer Insomniac, the 14th distinct studio in Sony's portfolio. The PlayStation 4 has now sold 112.1 million units worldwide, Sony says, with 45 million users paying for a regular subscription to PlayStation Plus. Revenues and operating income for the Game & Network Services division were down for the 2019 fiscal year, though, due to a "decrease in game software sales [and the] negative impact of foreign exchange rates," Sony said. Sony ponders potential PS to PC ports
  3. Production is set to ramp up in late summer 2019, just in time for a deluge of new Android and Apple devices Sony, the global leader in imaging sensors — both for smartphones and professional DSLR and mirrorless cameras — is eager to establish itself as the go-to supplier for the next generation of visual-processing chips with a set of new 3D sensors. Speaking withBloomberg last week, Sony’s sensor division boss Satoshi Yoshihara said Sony plans to ramp up production of chips to power front and rear 3D cameras in late summer, responding to demand from multiple smartphone manufacturers. Though Yoshihara is geeked about the potential for augmented reality applications, the most intriguing aspect of this new tech would appear to be a better form of face identification than we currently have. The Face ID approach that Apple first brought into use on the iPhone X — and others like Xiaomi, Huawei, and Vivo have since emulated — works by projecting out a grid of invisible dots and detecting the user’s face by the deformations of that grid in 3D space. Sony’s 3D sensor, on the hand, is said to deploy laser pulses, which, much like a bat’s echolocation, creates a depth map of its surroundings by measuring how long a pulse takes to bounce back. Sony’s sensor chief argues this produces more detailed models of users’ faces, plus it apparently works from as far away as five meters (16 feet). Imaging hardware has traditionally been all about photography and videography, but depth-sensing of the kind Sony is talking up for 2019 is becoming increasingly important. The Japanese giant acquired a Belgian outfit called SoftKinetic a few years ago, which was renamed to Sony Depthsensing a year ago. Now there’s an entire website dedicated to Sony’s venture into the category, with autonomous cars, drones, robotics, head-mounted displays, and of course gaming all figuring as potential applications. In the mobile context, there’s certainly room for improvement for current face-unlocking methods. The most basic kind, such as on the OnePlus 6T, uses the selfie camera to identify the user’s face, and is thus only usable in the dark if you’re willing to flash your face with a bright light every time you unlock your phone. Apple’s Face ID and its Android rivals are all built using multiple components that demand a significant chunk of real estate at the top of the device — which is fine for larger tablets like the new iPad Pro, but stands as a big hurdle for any phone designer eager to achieve the ultimate all-screen design. Sony’s 3D sensors would be an instant winner if they prove capable of matching Face ID for accuracy and security while shrinking down the size of required parts. In late 2017, a report emerged of Apple preparing exactly this sort of 3D laser-based system for the 2019 iPhone, though at the time the company was said to still be courting suppliers. Yoshihara wouldn’t be drawn into discussing which hardware partners Sony expects to see using its 3D sensor technology, but Sony already provides imaging sensors to Apple, so there’s a reasonable chance that these two reports find their confluence with the release of the next set of iPhones featuring Sony’s upgraded 3D-sensing chip. source
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