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Sony Reborn? Xperia Agent Will Take On Amazon’s Echo

Acknowledging issues with the company’s relevancy in recent years, Sony president and CEO Kazuo Hirai announced at IFA the company’s financial stability and renewed focus on innovation. Hirai then introduced a litany of new products including premium audio and smartphone products, as well as innovations to come, such as a home robot and a combination Amazon Echo/video phone device called Xperia Agent.

“Sony’s performance has been sluggish in the last couple of years,” Hirai admitted to hundreds of assembled reporters, noting the timing of the company’s relevancy rebirth with the company’s 70th anniversary. “Today the narrative is changing.”

Hirai then announced the “eagerly awaited” Play-Station VR goggles would be available next month.

Hideyuki Furumi, executive VP of global sales and marketing for Sony Mobile Communications, revealed what he called “the pinnacle of the Xperia experience,” the 5.2-inch Xperia XZ smartphone and a smaller 4.6-inch X Compact version.

Primary among the XZ’s premium functions is a new “triple image sensor” camera technology.

The water-resistant XZ and X Compact also are the first smartphone cameras with 5-axis SteadyShot.

For taking calls on the move, Furumi announced the Xperia Ear, an ear-plug Bluetooth earpiece with a four-hour battery life plus three full charges from a carrying case. Initially available only in Europe starting in November, it will be coming to the U.S. “in the future,” according to a Sony spokesperson.

Furumi also unveiled a pair of intriguing concept products, the Xperia Agent and the Xperia Projector.

The Xperia Agent melds the Amazon Echo with a video phone. Around 10 inches tall, Agent is equipped with an approximately 4.5-inch screen (no specs were made available), a pivoting base and a pivoting ball “head,” with two slits for “eyes” and a camera in the middle. Agent is designed to provide voice control over varying A/V components as well as a Nestle coffee maker, and like Echo, play music and answer simple questions.

The Android-powered Xperia Projector can project a touch-controllable image on a wall or table, designed to enhance group or family play and shopping. Hirai also indicated the company was working on a family AI x Robotics robot that would “assist you in every day needs, but also develop emotional connections.”

No indication of if or when these products would make it to market, however. “Stay tuned,” Hirai noted.