Sony's unorthodox take on AI is now open source

The company behind the Aibo robot dog is releasing its algorithms to the wild.

When it comes to AI, Sony isn't mentioned in the conversation like Google, Amazon and Apple are. However, let's remember that it was on the forefront of deep learning with products like the Aibo robot dog, and has used it recently in the Echo-like Xperia Agent (above) and Xperia Ear. Sony is finally ready to share its AI technology with developers and engineers to incorporate them into their products and services, it has revealed.

Sony joins its rivals Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and others in making its AI open source. On one hand, it will help developers build smarts into products, and on the other, Sony is hoping that developers will "further build on the core libraries' programs," it writes. That will in turn make its AI more useful to everyone.

We gladly give props to Sony as an AI pioneer, but its current products like the aforementioned Xperia Ear, which uses the Siri-like Xperia Agent, are pretty rough compared to the Echo or Google Assistant. Specifically, we noted in our review that Sony's assistant doesn't have a very natural speaking voice compared to rivals, and isn't, well, very smart.

However, Sony's AI offerings are certainly unique. Unlike the typical machine vision, voice recognition and other functions available from others, Sony offers augmented reality AI, the Lifelog activity tracker app with action recognition tech and, of all things, a real estate "price estimation engine." That type of specialized AI might help it carve out a certain niche.

And despite being behind others, we wouldn't write off Sony just yet. It recently purchased an AI firm called Cogitai to jump-start its deep learning work, and has extensive robotics experience plus more types of consumer products than just about any other company. As such, we could see its AI appear in surprising places like VR gaming and cameras.