Sony showed off its Xperia Agent concept during Mobile World Congress this week. This robotic personal assistant sits about one foot tall, with a multitude of sensors and features that Sony hopes will raise the bar set by the popular Amazon Echo over the past year.
When someone talks about a robotic personal assistant, the first thought that might come to mind is Sico, the gigantic rolling robot butler featured in Rocky IV. While Sony certainly has a novel concept on the idea with Xperia Agent, this personal assistant won’t be hand-delivering you a birthday cake anytime soon.
Once finalized, Sony hopes it will enable users to find information about things like traffic and weather, post to their social media accounts, control their home automation devices – all without ever having to look at a screen or pick up your phone.
What Is It?
At its core, the Xperia Agent is a voice-activated personal assistant. It listens for voice commands, provides quick answers to simple questions, and looks up information on command.
Like the Amazon Echo, the Xperia Agent is a small, cylindrical device that sits on a flat surface.
Unlike the Echo, it features an automated camera mounted at its top that rotates, enabling it to see and identify people in the room. It also comes equipped with a projector that offers some visual feedback at its base.
Sony hopes the Xperia Agent will enable users to free themselves from their mobile devices and carry on a more casual, natural interaction with technology in their homes. Instead of picking up your mobile phone to check the weather, you can simply ask the Xperia Agent and it will tell you what you need to know.
In the future, the Xperia Agent may also connect to your home automation devices, making it a useful control point for the growing Internet of Things, and enabling users to provide a voice or even a gesture command to do things like turn off the lights or set their thermostat.
Who Is This Product For?
One thing is for certain, this is a clear indication that hardware developers such as Sony are taking a stab at the stationary personal assistant idea popularized by the Amazon Echo.
As the product enables users to do things like post to and check their social media accounts, read and display text messages, and do things like switch lights on when someone walks into a room, the Xperia Agent would provide a useful and life-improving tool for the disabled and elderly.
Potential users with limited mobility, dexterity or vision will now be able to input and receive information through voice commands or gestures from virtually anywhere in a given space, making a big difference in their lives.
In addition, having a tool available that children and adults can use to look up information and ask questions with factual answers is a plus. While many currently use Siri, Cortana, or Google Now on their smartphones for this purpose, having a device listening and ready to provide an answer without your device in hand is can be useful.
What We Don’t Know
At this point in development, very little is finalized regarding how the Xperia Agent will connect to the Internet, or what its price point will be if and when it comes to market.
Sony hasn’t even decided whether the Xperia Agent would require a connection to an Xperia smartphone or tablet to operate and we don’t yet know if this concept design is anything close to the one that will ship.
All that said, what we do know is that Sony is putting its research and development dollars into a product genre that could very well change the way we communicate with the world from our living rooms.