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Sony Bets Big On 4K, High-Res Audio, SmartWear

Las Vegas — Aiming to “inspire and fulfill curiosity” while moving people “emotionally,” Sony president and CEO Kazuo Hirai put Sony’s chips on black, ushering in a new class of advanced 4K UHD TVs, high-res audio components and high-design SmartWear for 2015.

Hirai led off Sony’s press conference here Monday by addressing the well-publicized  destructive hacking incident that caused embarrassment to many of Sony Pictures’ current and past employees, allegedly by hackers retaliating against the company’s release of “The Interview,” based on a ludicrous, yet comical, assassination attempt against Kim Jong-Un, “supreme leader” of North Korea.

Hirai thanked everyone who stood up for freedom of speech and expression by supporting both Sony morally and monetarily by going to see the film in theaters or via Internet downloads.

As for the year ahead, Hirai said his directive to the company since coming on board has been to inspire consumers with technological innovations that affect them emotionally.

An example, he said, was the release last year of PlayStation Vue, an over-the-top streaming TV service delivered initially over the PlayStation 3 and 4 consoles, but headed to other devices as well upon its formal first quarter launch.

“PlayStation Vue brings the best of live TV and an extensive catalog of the latest programming and content together, keeping you constantly connected to what’s popular, what’s new and what’s trending,” he said.

Sony Electronics (SEL) president and COO Michael Fasulo said Sony’s product development mission statement for 2015 is “to deliver state-of-the-art electronics and digital tools that make life, work and creative pursuits more rewarding.”

Keys to that philosophy on display this week are the latest advances in 4K Ultra HDTV technology, hi-res audio products and life-logging SmartWear devices.

In 4K UHD, Sony is showing 11 4K Bravia LCD TVs in three model series, all featuring picture-processing improvements behind a new 4K Processor X1.

“The X1 upgrades the picture quality of any source, and it does this by analyzing not just the sources resolution, but the bit rate to ensure the best possible picture,” Fasulo said.

The lineup is highlighted by ultra-thin flagship LED LCD TV sets in the X9000C series, featuring a “Floating Style” design concept and what Sony called “the world’s thinnest” LCD panels, measuring approximately 0.19 inches at the thinnest point — even thinner than the company’s Xperia smartphone.

Sony will also display its X9300C-series 4K UHD LED TVs, billed as the world’s first two TV sets equipped with speakers supporting high-res audio, and Sony’s proprietary DSEE HX technology that the company said can up-scale compressed audio from broadcast TV and other sources to near-high-res audio levels.

Ultra HD is also paramount this year in the camcorder category, where Sony is introducing smaller 4K UHD models in the Handycam and diminutive Action Cam series.

To underscore the new 4K Action Camera’s image quality, Sony brought on stage skateboarding legend Tony Hawk to show demo clips he shot in 4K with the camera on the ski slopes, on the surf and in a skateboard park. Hawk also used the opportunity to tease that he is involved with a new video game that is due for release later in the year.

Meanwhile, in the rapidly advancing high-res audio space, the company introduced a range of compatible products for music playback both on the go and in the home.

Sony is introducing a total of 10 high-res audio devices, including a compatible Walkman portable music player (model NW-ZX2), Bluetooth headphones (MDR-1ABT), wireless speakers (SRS-X99 and SRS-X88), home-theater systems (HT-ST9, HT-NT3, and HT-XT3), and multichannel integrated amplifiers (STR-DN1060 and STR-DN860).

In SmartWear devices, Sony is showing a line of products designed to log life experiences by recording actions of the user throughout the day. Information stored in a Lifelog app helps the user identify and improve daily patterns. Sony is also advancing its ties with fashion and lifestyle brands this year to bring trending fashion alternatives to conventional wristband-style electronics, the company said.

Sony SmartWear will range from design-centric headsets to eyewear and will provide more third-party services and apps, ranging from communication to improved tracking and recording functionality for various fitness activities.

Among the SmartWear prototypes on display this week is the Smart B-Trainer, an all-in-one, lightweight, headset device made for runners and equipped with essential running sensors and music playback capabilities. The device encourages a sustainable running routine, while motivating activity with the automatic selection of songs with tempos matched to the user’s heart rate, while offering audio guidance for a variety of training programs.

Sony is also showing its SmartEyeglass Attach concept model for sports use, consisting of an attachable single-lens display module that leverages Sony’s OLED technology integrated into the eyewear products of cooperating third parties, providing a high-resolution color display.

The module joins the SmartEyeglass transparent lens eyewear that is designed for developers and targeted for release later this fiscal year.

Hirai pointed out that Sony is also building on the Life Space UX concept for electronics it introduced last year with an ultra-short-throw home video projector. Furthering the effort, this year Sony is showing an LED Bulb Speaker that doubles as a functional lightbulb and blends into the living space, and three models of Symphonic Light, which is another audio-emitting and contemporary designed light fixture.

Also on tap is a new cube-shaped portable ultra-short-throw projector capable of projecting a 50-inch screen.