Sony Mobile Communications Inc. wants to turn a loudspeaker into something that engages its users rather than a passive electronic device that merely plays music.
So, it has put some thought into the potential of a wireless speaker.
“We thought it would be interesting to add communication elements,” said Hiroshi Iwata, head of companion product planning Tokyo at Sony Mobile.
“We are quite confident that we have come up with a loudspeaker that people have never really seen before in terms of its design and movement.”
Sony’s new Smart Bluetooth Speaker BSP60 is a spherical stereo loudspeaker with two pop-up ears, which weighs 349 grams.
It integrates with Android smartphones and boasts voice recognition to understand commands. For instance, users can speak into its ears the name of a track they want to hear.
The speaker not only plays music, it also functions as an alarm clock and can pull data from a paired smartphone to recite the weather forecast, read messages or voice entries from the user’s schedule.
And it can even move to the music, although what Sony describes as a “dance” is merely one preprogrammed movement.
The product is aimed at “people who enjoy music and have speakers and use them everyday,” said Iwata, explaining that functions such as voice control might make users “feel closer” to the device.
The firm first introduced the speaker at the Mobile World Congress, a consumer communications industry trade show, in Spain in March. The news quickly spread on the Internet, with many people showing interest in the funny looking speaker.
Call it cute, call it odd, but its round shape and ears have led some online commentators to compare it to the Haro robot from popular anime ‘Gundam.’
While the product is categorized as a speaker, it is far more than that when paired with a smartphone.
For instance, when an alarm goes off, the speaker will recite the weather, the outside temperature and the user’s schedule for that day based on data from the phone. Iwata said the LED lights on the pop-up parts also gleam in different colors depending on weather.
If users ask whether any emails arrived overnight, the speaker finds out and can read them aloud.
Although voice controlled, the speaker also has a touch screen.
“Touch panels have been a trend, but voice control is emerging as a new interface with smartphones rather than inputting on a screen,” Iwata said.
While the device can answer certain questions, Iwata said the device cannot converse with users, although he added that it might be an option in the future.
Iwata said the company doesn’t mind what people call it.
The speaker works with Android phones, but not with iPhones. Its sound output is rated at a measly 2.5 watts, arguably small for the price, but Sony says it produces quality sound for its size.
It is priced at ¥37,880 in Japan. It debuted overseas in late June.