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Sony's vision of our connected future is vague and uninspired

This year's Xperia Concepts could've been last year's Xperia products.
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In addition to a new phone line, Sony also laid out its grand vision for the future of its Xperia line. Three concepts were on display. And they were all a little underwhelming.

Let's start with the strongest. The Xperia Agent is a personal assistant that listens out for voice commands and gestures. It's clearly a reaction to the Amazon Echo. But it does things a little differently. Rather than just talking back at you, the Agent will project information onto the table. It's not immediately clear why that's more useful. The stand-out feature is the animated "head," which houses a camera, and a ridiculously adorable face. It looks like Eve from Wall-E!

Sony Xperia Agent

Next up was the Xperia Projector. It's an interactive projector. It's not as small as it looked in the promotional video -- maybe 9 inches long and tall, and 4 inches wide. It has a short throw and, in its concept stage, a very dim projection. Sony says you'll be able to interact with it with voice, touch, and gestures, but only the touch was working in the demo. It uses lasers to detect where you're touching, and it's not very responsive.

Xperia Projector

Finally is the Xperia Eye. It's a life-logging camera, just like the Narrative Clip, the Autographer and countless others. Sony differentiates its take on the genre by fitting it with an ultra-wide-angle "360-degree" lens, and adding some facial and voice detection to capture moments intelligently. At least, it plans to. The Eye doesn't appear to be working right now -- it's nestled behind glass at Sony's booth, and we were told the units were non-functional.

Sony Xperia Eye

So what can we take from Sony's Xperia concepts? I'm not sure where Sony got these ideas from. Whether it needed something to show so cobbled a bunch of half-thought-out ideas together, or if it truly believes that these three products represent the future of phones.

The weird thing is Sony actually has a ton of interesting ideas coming out of its First Flight crowdfunding program in Japan, but they don't seem to have permeated its culture in any meaningful way. Because Sony could've announced these as products a year ago and people would've barely batted an eyelid. As concepts, they're baffling. A projector that's not so different from what already exists, a personal assistant that's not so different from what already exists and a life-logging camera that's (you guessed it) not so different from what already exists. The future, it seems, is very derivative.

Aaron writes about design, technology, video games and whatever “culture” is supposed to be. In his spare time he enjoys scouring the world for beautiful furniture, taking long walks on the beach, training orphaned dolphins and making up facts about himself.

Ethics: Aaron's partner is an employee of a video game publisher. She also writes various games, comics and other fiction. Aaron will never have input on coverage related to that work.

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