Sony’s crazy Future Lab is making sci-fi tech a reality

Sony has made some absurd products in its time – portable LP player ora 4K-enabled Xperia Z5 Premium, anyone? But now its R&D lab, Future Lab, is looking to turn science fiction into fact.

Unveiled at this week’s SXSW festival in Texas, Sony’s Future Lab showcased an incredible “Interactive Tabletop”. No, this isn’t like Microsoft’s failed Surface table from years ago; Sony’s tech uses a projector to turn any flat surface into a screen for people to interact with.

Using depth sensors and motion tracking, Sony’s projector can recognise objects and allow you to interact with them in new ways. One example attendees were shown was a Wonderbook-style interactive storybook of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – with the projector recognising an off-the shelf copy of Lewis Carroll’s classic.

Image:The Verge

Once activated, you can pull pictures out of the book and have them interact with other objects on the table. In a neat touch, when you move a character around the table, it leaves behind little footprints to show them walking to a new location.

Concepts like this have existed for a while now and never really taken off, but Sony sees this as nothing more than a prototype to demonstrate what Future Lab is capable of. It’s not hard to imagine this sort of technology coming to classrooms that can’t afford the likes of Microsoft’s costly augmented-reality HoloLens headset.

Projected audio

Sony’s Future Lab was also showing off a pair of headphones that you don’t actually put anywhere near your ears. Known as Concept N, Sony’s Bbluetooth audio device sits around your neck and uses multi-directional speakers to funnel music up to your ears without the need for earbuds and wires.

sony_future_lab_concept_n_headphones

The idea behind Concept N is to allow for people to listen to music without blocking out environmental sounds such as traffic or people talking to you. Audio safety has become a concern lately, with a few headphone manufacturers at CES also showing tech to keep outside noise audible for safety reasons.

Concept N also comes with accompanying cone-shaped earphones that talk to the neckband, so you can use it more like a standard pair of headphones. The earbuds still don’t completely block out external noise, but they do provide a more familiar audio experience.

You can also interact with Concept N via Google Glass-like voice commands. Although it’s unclear exactly what you’ll be able to do, it’s possible Sony would use the tech found in its Xperia Ear to power the feature.

While Concept N seems far more polished than Sony’s interactive tabletop, both devices are firmly in prototype stages with no plans to take the devices any further. But let’s hope Sony doesn’t sit on the concept for too – it could really do with another product hit to help turn around its lagging business.

Read next: Everything we know about Sony’s next flagship, Xperia Z6.

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