Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Inc.
Sony CSL* ("Sony Computer Science Laboratories") is a leading-edge organization that works to create new research areas and paradigms, as well as new technologies and businesses for the common social good. We find inspiration in developing technologies and businesses that hold great promise of providing a brighter future for all.
When founded in 1988, Sony CSL focused on fundamental research in computer systems, including operating systems, the Internet, and user interfaces. As the organization evolved, its focus shifted to exploring ways to use computers in diverse domains such as systems biology, econophysics and artificial intelligence. And now, its major research themes are "Global Agenda," which encompasses issues ranging from energy to food and healthcare; "Human Augmentation," which includes studies exploring human creativity and human-computer interaction/integration, and "Cybernetic Intelligence" for various industries.
Our scientific, technical and technological solutions are benefiting society across a wide range of fields and industries.
We may anticipate greater convenience and enhanced capabilities, but these can be accompanied by unforeseen effects-both positive and negative-on how we live our daily lives, how we communicate and even on our privacy. We choose not to approach these unexpected phenomena from a position of pessimism, preferring instead to proactively bring future technologies under development in the lab to users as early as possible. This serves to cultivate an active, rather than passive, engagement among the general public when it comes to the process of change. We want people to experience first-hand the new human capabilities that technological progress promises and which we encourage them to explore, assess and discuss.
"Global Agenda: agriculture, alternative and smart energy systems, and communication systems"
In the field of agriculture, Sony CSL is the launchpad for "Synecoculture™," a sustainable agricultural practice that balances productivity with the need to reduce environmental impact and recover the functioning of ecosystems. It aims to solve global issues related to the food we produce, the environments we live in, and our own health. A prime cause of environmental destruction has been excessive application of monoculture farming trading away biodiversity for productivity at any scale. Research from Sony CSL has shown that by combining more than 200 edible crops at a small scale, Synecoculture has the potential to fundamentally solve that issue. It creates a new form of biodiversity on a scale never before possible in the history of agriculture, while also allowing for food production that restores the healthy functioning of ecosystems and promotes human well-being. By taking maximum advantage of the material cycling that occurs naturally in ecosystems, and tailoring rich ecosystems with a diverse mix of plants that coexist together and grow lushly, Synecoculture eliminates the need for plowing, fertilizing, and pesticide use that impact the environment. It aims to support a new agricultural revolution that supports the diversity of living nature and human society. Because Synecoculture requires "big data" on plant ecology and distribution of products, Sony CSL is also using information and communications technology (ICT) to develop systems to support greater social-ecological diversity. For several years Sony CSL has been conducting tests at a number of farms, cultivating a blend of plants in order to collect data on plant compatibility and soil conditions. This field data is being used to design a "megadiversity management system" which will make use of ICT to offer support to primary industries that impact our natural environment and also to the systems of our societies. Synecoculture is a new field of open systems science which integrates domains including ecology, physiology, information science, complex systems science, food science, environmental science and agriculture. In 2015, at an experimental farm in Burkina Faso on desertified land where natural recovery was impossible, a Synecoculture solution using 150 local crops was introduced, which succeeded in reversing desertification in a year, restoring a rich forest ecosystem filled with edible species. An urban Synecoculture proof of concept trial on the rooftop garden of a Tokyo skyscraper began in November 2019, featuring more than 100 kinds of different species of vegetables, fruits, herbs, etc. in planters and more than 200 kinds of useful plants in a small field on the same rooftop, thus creating an "augmented ecosystem" with high ecological and social values. Moving forward, Sony CSL will pursue opportunities for creating urban areas that feature the augmented ecosystems in various locations, which simultaneously serving as a vehicle for members of the public to learn about the functioning of ecosystem cycles through direct first-person experience. This is facilitated by the "Synecoculture Principles Learning Kit" that will also form the basis for the creation of a Synecoculture-related learning platform enabling continuous and diverse opportunities for collective citizen science. https://www.sonycsl.co.jp/tokyo/407/
In the field of alternative and smart energy systems, Sony CSL's Open Energy Systems initiative strives to advance the viability of renewable energy for the benefit of communities around the world by finding more innovative ways to deliver electricity from renewable energy sources. Open Energy Systems (OES) is a whole new type of bottom-up, distributed, autonomous electric power system, which automatically manages electricity in communities based on the demand from individual homes and facilities, as well as the fluctuating production rates from renewable energy sources. Conventionally, electricity is generated in a centralized manner, then distributed through transmission lines that run over long distances, to ultimately reach residences and businesses. Although renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power generation have seen rising demand in recent years, there are significant issues to overcome before thinly dispersed renewable energy can be utilized effectively. Open Energy Systems consists of a decentralized power distribution and battery storage network that enables local users to share energy within the network, facilitating community-managed energy. Because an OES operates independently from a conventional utility power grid, it is especially valuable in places lacking reliable electricity distribution networks, or where power outages occur frequently.
Sony CSL's research and development work on novel sustainable power systems began in 2010 with a project to provide public viewing of games from the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ to more than 10 off-grid communities in the Northern Region of the Republic of Ghana by using solar-generated power. "Bringing electricity to the world's people through sustainable power systems using renewable energy" is one part of the future that Sony CSL hopes to realize.
In the field of telecommunication apparatus and systems, Sony CSL is conducting R&D into an optical communications system that would be installed on small satellites to transmit large volumes of data over long distances. The system utilizes the optical disk technology that Sony has employed in household devices such as CD and Blu-ray players. The goal of the Small Optical Link Project (SOL Project) is to establish a real-time, mass-data communication system for future inter-satellite communications and communications with ground stations with fine-pointing control technology.
Such satellites utilizing long-distance optical communications technology to create full-fledged internet networks show great promise for allowing regions of the world that do not yet have internet connections to have access to the Net, and to allow humanity to live in new places and carry out new activities in space. A future where all people everywhere have access to real-time information could spur great changes in the world. On September 25, 2019, SOLISS was launched to the International Space Station (ISS) and in-orbit optical communication experiments are underway.
"Human Augmentation: AR, VR and Robotics"
In the field of artificial bodies and robotic limbs, Sony CSL is pursuing evidence-based musical training that will foster cultural enrichment of the world through coevolution of an open system forming artists, educators, and audience. The "Musical Dynaformics" project seeks to understand the bodies and brains of musicians, to optimize musical practice and education so that musicians can transform musicality into music effectively and efficiently, without suffering from injuries such as tendonitis, chronic pain, and focal dystonia, and ultimately to enable them to achieve a wider range of creative expression. In the world of sports, athletes are breaking records in dramatic fashion with the help of cutting-edge science and technology. Preemptive force-feedback interfaces actuated by means of electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) or mechanical actuators that speed up human reaction time without fully compromising the user's sense of agency could likewise give musicians a push into creation of new musical expression. https://www.sonycsl.co.jp/tokyo/7277/
In the fields of virtual reality systems and human immersive experience transmission systems, Sony CSL is exploring how to expand the limits of human perception and enhance interpersonal relations such as empathy by facilitating real time sharing of perspectives among multiple people. What if we could directly connect our sense of sight to other people and share what we see? Could we extend our embodiment? Complement our memory? And/or extend our perception? Under a research framework called Superception, computer technologies are used to intervene in the process of human perception and to connect multiple senses together: an approach called "perception engineering." Parallel Eyes is a technology for creating a mutual visual shared parallel experience. Sony CSL has developed a system that allows a person not only to see his own perspective but also to see other people's perspectives at the same time. Users wear a head mounted display which shows shared videos of each other's perspectives as well as one's own perspective in real time.
In the field of interactive events, Sony CSL has developed the Fragment Shadow system which will allow members of the public attending an event to experience their own real shadows, transformed with sound and video. The shadow is the most primitive form of graphic, one that each person projects themselves, so the transformation of our own actual shadows can induce changes in our sensory experience of our own bodies. "When your shadow is transformed, you feel that you have been transformed." This proposition appeals to the public's demand for novel and immersive experiences. Sony CSL's Fragment Shadow Technology consists of multiple projectors that project different physically calculated individual images onto the same projection surface to display one synthesized image with geometry, color and uniformity calibration. When human bodies or objects enter the projection space, the occlusion of one projector reveals images from other projectors. In the calibrated multiple-projection field, a person's real optical shadow will be fragmented, textured, and immersed in the projection graphic.
In the field of audio and video apparatus and systems, Sony CSL created Flow Machines, a research and deployment project aimed at achieving augmented creativity of musical artists. Throughout the history of music, each era's inventions and technical improvements, from the development of new acoustic instruments through the years, to the advent of the synthesizer and drum machine and beyond, have extended the creativity of artists and propelled music to a new stage. Flow Machines applies leading-edge machine learning and signal processing technology to take up the challenge of giving musicians around the world new tools for creativity in our era. Flow Machines Professional is a "human-centric" AI assisted music composing system that empowers creators to compose melodies in many different styles based on its own music rules created by various music analysis. Creators can generate melodies, chords, and basslines. Flow Machines cannot create songs automatically on its own; it is a tool for the world's music creators to greatly augment their creativity by generating inspiration and ideas as AI and creators interact with each other. For example, the artist enters their own chord progressions and style of data, then Flow Machines can help in generating music that is of that style but is not thought of by that artist. Since AI is capable of producing pretty interesting things that a human would have never, ever have thought of, when AI does something that artists do not expect, it stimulates the artists' creativity. AI assistance will continue to grow in the field of entertainment creativity. https://www.sony.net/SonyInfo/technology/stories/AI_Ethics/
In the field of urban development, Sony CSL has been a core organization pursuing the Wikitopia Project, a cross-disciplinary research project, whose goal is to empower citizens to take the task of improving their neighborhoods into their own hands, by realizing technologically-enhanced future cities that are designed to be continuously edited and improved by citizens (like the online encyclopedia Wikipedia). The project, launched in 2017, is characterized by an eclectic approach informed by a range of academic and professional disciplines, such as computer science, electrical engineering, architecture, urban planning, political activism, etc. Building on existing and emerging practices of officially-sanctioned DIY urbanism, and incorporating cutting-edge technologies such as digital fabrication, IoT, AR, and robotics, the project aims to massively scale-up citizen-led urbanism, making the process an integral part of how cities are made and maintained around the world. In the long term, plans call for establishing a "Wikitopia Zone": a special region where rules regarding the use of public space are deliberately relaxed. This would provide a testbed for large-scale experiments with an eye toward global, real-world deployment.
"Cybernetic Intelligence: AI"
In addition to carrying out these and other research and development efforts intended to benefit the general public, Sony CSL undertakes to provide on a contractual basis sophisticated testing services concerning the performance and effectiveness of various systems including but not limited to augmented reality systems, virtual reality systems, artificial body, robotic limbs, human immersive experience transmission systems, quadcopter video camera systems, telecommunication apparatus and systems, as well as the following areas:
Sony CSL provides testing of artificial intelligence systems, for example,
a study commissioned by Japan's Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) on the use of artificial intelligence for characterizing the investment behavior of fund management firms in order to optimize the manager structure. Papers based on this research received recognition from the industry two years in a row.
Sony CSL provides testing services in relation to telecommunication networks and robotics, for example as one partner in the provision of CALC big data analysis services utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) for highly accurate estimation of causal relationships between data to support management decision-making in various industries. Sony CSL provides algorithm development and other R&D aimed at improving functionality and performance.
Sony CSL provides testing in the context of audio and video apparatus and systems, such as a system called "Omoiiro" that supports the difficult process of choosing colors for the fashion industry by automatically generating color palettes from various sources. "Omoiiro" is a collection of new and old (but finely tuned) techniques for color palette extraction system that leverages our understanding of the human perception of colors to explore the distribution of the colors in various spaces before selecting the best candidates. Sony CSL provided designers at ISSEY MIYAKE with a program which automatically extracts color schemes from input photographs (in one case, from snapshots taken in cities throughout the world) and then generates a color palette. The colors/tones extracted by Omoiiro were then used in handbag designs and textiles.
* Sony CSL is a service mark of Sony Corporation.Tokyo/Kyoto