Consumers who like doing a little armchair R&D will soon get their chance, thanks to a new initiative from Sony. The electronics giant has established what it’s calling the Future Lab Program to help the company employ user feedback to refine and improve new products.
The newfangled research and development effort has the goal of releasing concept prototypes that will eventually evolve in an open, creative environment — and with help from open communication with the public.
The goal of the initiative is apparently to remove R&D from the corporate shadows and gain consumer input on products while they’re still being refined. According to a Web site set up by Sony, Future Lab “aims to co-create new lifestyles and user value in the future [and] share concept prototypes with users while still at the development stage, and look to them for inspiration, leveraging their feedback to refine and evolve its projects.”
To the Letter
Among the initial ideas being run through Future Lab is a necklace-type audio device, named simply N, that lets users hear audio without headphones. Sony refers to N as a “concept prototype featuring a hands-free user interface that [allows] the user to receive audio information without having to insert any object into his or her ear.”
As with the N wearable, each new prototype from Future Lab will be known by a single letter. The company is using a stylized F and L as the program’s concept logo.
A video on the Future Lab Web site didn’t provide much detail about how N works, but some reports indicate that it’s similar to The Music Wrap, a wearable that uses highly directed sound to create what its manufacturer calls a personal sound space. Music Wrap recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign to get its product to market.
User Help Wanted
This isn’t the first time Sony has looked to consumers to help shepherd products to market. Last summer, the company introduced First Flight, Sony’s own crowd-funding Web site, where niche-level Sony projects will be introduced and produced if the advance interest among early adopters is high enough.
The N sound device, along with presumably more information about Future Lab prototypes and ideas, will be on display at the SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas, beginning Saturday, March 12, and continuing over the following two days.
The ultimate goal of Future Lab is to “throw away conventional wisdom when incorporating cutting-edge technology,” Sony said. Whether consumers are on board with the idea will be seen starting next weekend at SXSW Interactive.
Image Credit: All images via Sony Future Lab Program Web site and videos within.
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