Sony turns to science fiction for new ideas

What would you think of a mask that allows you to enjoy the synthesized smells of fine dining? How about a houseboat for people displaced by rising sea levels due to climate change?

These are among the ideas that Sony Group Corp. has imagined, all based on stories created through a collaboration between science fiction writers and young in-house designers at Sony.

Such stories offer a glimpse into the future envisioned by an author’s daring imagination, with details of imagined futures used to develop potential products and services. This method is called science fiction prototyping.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has featured scenes like those from a sci-fi movie, such as cities strangely empty due to lockdowns, Japanese companies such as Sony are starting to explore unconventional ways to find solutions. new ideas.

Sony has shaped products and services that appear in stories developed in workshops between writers and designers, with words like “2050”, “Tokyo” and “romance” designated as keywords for the overall theme.

Models of products and services designed using sci-fi prototyping were on display this summer in Tokyo’s Ginza district.

In the past, Sony had mainly relied on practical methods to seek the perspective of consumers in general for great ideas for new designs.

Yet in collaborating with science fiction writers, in-house designers have had unique moments of insight. They often found that writers and designers look at things totally different, according to Shigeki Ono, a senior official at Sony’s Creative Center.

“In the beginning, there were times when our communication wasn’t smooth,” Ono said.

Designers are good at drawing pictures, but they’re not used to writing stories with characters.

One designer who participated said, “I realized how interesting it is to pay close attention to every detail, including a setting for the story and the relationships between the characters,” according to Ono.

Sci-fi prototyping spread among tech companies on the West Coast of the United States in the 2010s.

Many famous entrepreneurs have been influenced by works of science fiction. Among them is Elon Musk, who founded Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX. It aims to take humans to Mars.

Sony’s Sci-Fi Prototyping Project was supported by Wired Sci-Fi Prototyping Lab.

He worked with online advertising company CyberAgent Inc. to envision the possible future of the media industry.

The laboratory is also developing a concept for a new city using cutting-edge technologies in collaboration with a local administration.

“We hope that many people will learn the ways of thinking from science fiction writers and use them for business,” said lab director Tomonari Kotani.

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