Sony’s Future Lab has unveiled the first of many concept prototypes that it wants your feedback on. At the South by Southwest interactive conference this week, the company touted its first project — called “N” — a hands-free headphone that may remind you of LG’s Tone Infinim Wireless headset, the difference being that it includes voice control.
This wearable device, which is equipped with open speakers and responds to voice prompts, doesn’t require an earpiece, although Sony has also experimented with an open-ear concept. The headphone features a camera, sensors, and a GPS feature. So far, Project N has brought in Strava, AccuWeather, and Yelp as content partners.
Up close, the prototype looked and felt like a premium Sony device, and the audio quality was sharp. The voice technology, which was created by Sony, can be activated by saying “Listen Up Arc.”
Other prototypes that Sony showed off include an open-ear earphone that fits snugly on the bottom of your ear and ties in with Project N. The company says that it uses a specially designed acoustic conduit for this project. The idea is that people will still be able to hear ambient sound while using the earphones, which is an important safety feature when using them on the go.
The company also showcased two concept projectors in its event space. Sony said that the first one — shaped like a small Sonos — could be used to create an interactive table top. It works on any surface that you can engage with (like a smartphone), and allows you to display a screen on the device. The other projector is defined as a “multi-axis moving projector” and allows you to move the screen onto any wall without distorting the content or sound being displayed. There was also a “gun,” akin to the Nintendo NES Zapper, that Sony let me play “Find and shoot the space aliens” with.
Lastly, the company showed off its haptic feedback technology — a game console with a “metal ball” on the screen. When it is moved left and right or up and down, the device vibrates and makes a sound that gives the impression of a physical object.
It’s important to note that while the company showed off these devices at the event, they’re still just prototypes, which means that consumers may never see them out in the market. And this is the reason the electronics manufacturer is so interested in hearing what the public thinks about its efforts.
Future Lab is a new program aimed at supporting the research and development arm of Sony. Its goal is to ensure that the technology is in sync with the needs of the public. Sony targeted the SXSW attendees to find out what technologically savvy individuals are looking for in their devices and how they see these advances fitting into their daily lives.
Updated on March 13, 8:28 a.m. Pacific: The activation phrase for Sony’s Project N headphones has been updated.