All posts in “Sony”

Japanese Buddhist temple hosts funeral for over 100 Sony Aibo robot dogs

Temple chief priest Bungen Oi holds a Sony pet robot AIBO after a robots' funeral at the Kofukuji temple in Isumi, Chiba on April 26, 2018.
Temple chief priest Bungen Oi holds a Sony pet robot AIBO after a robots’ funeral at the Kofukuji temple in Isumi, Chiba on April 26, 2018.

Image: NICOLAS DATICHE/AFP/Getty Images

Over 100 dogs just shared a funeral in Japan. The catch? They were all robots.

A group of Sony’s out-of-production, old-generation Aibo robot dogs were honoured with a traditional funeral service in Chiba Prefecture, reports The Japan Times.

The 114 dogs were formally lined up April 26 within Isumi’s historic Kofukuji Buddhist temple, and each was given a tag describing their family owners and place of origin, according to the publisher. 

The dogs are all different Aibo releases, including Sony’s first generation dogs launched in May 1999, and described as “the first robot designed for home entertainment purposes … equipped with adaptive learning and growth capabilities that allow each unit to develop a unique personality.”

More than 150,000 dogs of different iterations were sold over the years, before Sony discontinued Aibo in 2006.

Last version of Sony's pet robot AIBO moves in front old version displayed on an altar.

Last version of Sony’s pet robot AIBO moves in front old version displayed on an altar.

Image: Nicolas Datiche / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICOLAS DATICHE/AFP/Getty Images

The funerals are reportedly a practice instated by vintage electronics repair company A-Fun Co., who encourage people to send their broken old generation robot dogs in for a service, before they’re dismantled for parts like range finders and touch sensors. Sony even refers people to this company to get their older robodogs updated.

“We’d like to return the souls to the owners and make the robot a machine to utilize their parts,” Nobuyuki Norimatsu, head of A-Fun, told the Times. “We don’t take parts before we hold a funeral for them.”

A girl wraps an AIBO after the robots' funeral at the Kofukuji temple.

A girl wraps an AIBO after the robots’ funeral at the Kofukuji temple.

Image: NICOLAS DATICHE/AFP/Getty Images

With Sony canning Aibo in 2006, and closing its last Aibo repair clinic in 2014, owners were at a loss as to how to maintain their four-legged robofriends. Many held personal funerals in 2015.

Owners of older Sony Aibo robot dogs asked the tech giant in March 2018 to review their repair policy, which says that discontinued products won’t be maintained seven years after they’re canned. 

Sony’s Aibo robot dogs aren’t completely dead. The company surprised everyone in 2017 when it announced the return of Aibo, unveiling an AI-fuelled demo in January 2018 — with a whopping $2,000 price tag. 

The newest generation of the Aibo robot, which uses artificial intelligence.

The newest generation of the Aibo robot, which uses artificial intelligence.

Image: DAVID MCNEW/AFP/Getty Images

Importantly, you can’t sub in the parts from the new Aibo dogs with the older models — so resurrections are becoming harder and harder.

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Here’s the ultra-low-light phone camera Sony promised

Sony promised an “ultra low-light camera” during its Mobile World Congress press conference back in February. The off-hand announcement was intended to throw a bit of shade at Samsung’s recent flagship, but ultimately had the unintended consequence of undermining the company’s own newly announced XZ2. But, then, Sony’s never been great when it comes to marketing handsets.

That said, the company didn’t waste a lot of time delivering on that promise. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that the Xperia XZ2 Premium was the phone the company would have liked to have led with at the world’s largest mobile show, but it just wasn’t fully baked at the time. In fact, the handset won’t actually be arriving until this summer.

When it does hit retail, it will sport a number of improvements over the regular XZ2 (and likely a steep price tag to match). Most notable here are the upgrades to the camera, because, well, Sony. The company says the phone’s capable of capturing ultra-low-light stills with an ISO of up to of 51,200 — with up to 12,800 for video. Press materials issued this morning say the phone accomplishes this by utilizing its dual camera sensors (a new addition with the XZ2 line), utilizing the company’s AUBE signal processor.

That’s a pretty impressive feat, if true, and would certainly surpass Samsung’s recent low-light camera advancements. I can’t say as I’m always excited to try out the latest Xperia handset, but this is one I’ll want to put through its paces. Sony’s certainly wowed us with its camera prowess in the past — in fact, that’s really the main thing Xperias have going for them. U.S. availability, on the other hand, isn’t likely to be one of them.

Other bits and bobs worth mentioning: There’s a 4K HDR display here, pretty much a given on a Sony flagship at this point, along with 4K movie recording. The phone also sports a similarly smooth design to the other XZ2 models — a notable upgrade from the old, boxy design. There’s also a beefy 3540mAh battery on board, along with a Snapdragon 845.

Given Sony’s traditional use of the Xperia line as a funnel for camera technology, I’d say it’s probably safe to expect similar low-light cameras to start trickling into other manufacturers’ handsets in the not too distant future.

FTC warns companies that void warranties over using 3rd party services

The days of reading the small print to see whether a repair or new part for your ailing laptop will void its warranty may be coming to an end. The FTC has officially warned several companies that their policies of ceasing support when a user attempts “non-approved” repairs or servicing are likely illegal.

It’s the sort of thing where if you buy a device or car from a company, they inform you that unless you use approved, often internally branded parts, you’re voiding the warranty and your item will no longer be supported by the company.

The idea is that a company doesn’t want to be on the hook when a user replaces an old, perfectly good stick of RAM with a new, crappy one and then comes crying to them when the computer won’t boot. Or, in a more dire situation, replaces the brakes with some off-brand ones, which then fail and cause an accident. So there’s a reason these restrictions exist.

Unfortunately, they’ve come to encompass far more than these dangerous cases; perhaps you replace the RAM and then the power supply burns out — that’s not your fault, but because you didn’t use approved RAM the company takes no responsibility for the failure. The result is consumers end up having to buy components or servicing at inflated prices from “licensed” or “approved” dealers.

“Provisions that tie warranty coverage to the use of particular products or services harm both consumers who pay more for them as well as the small businesses who offer competing products and services,” explained Thomas Pahl, from the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in the announcement.

The agency gave several examples of offending language in customer agreements, blanking out the names of the companies. Ars Technica was quick to connect these with the major companies they correspond to: Hyundai, Nintendo, and Sony. Here are the statements the FTC didn’t like, with the company names in bold where they were blank before.

  • The use of Hyundai parts is required to keep your . . . manufacturer’s warranties and any extended warranties intact.
  • This warranty shall not apply if this product . . . is used with products not sold or licensed by Nintendo.
  • This warranty does not apply if this product . . . has had the warranty seal on the PS4 altered, defaced, or removed.

It’s one thing to say, don’t overclock your PS4 or we won’t cover it. It’s quite another to say if the warranty seal has been “defaced” then we won’t cover it.

“Such statements generally are prohibited by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act,” the FTC announcement reads, and in addition “may be deceptive under the FTC Act.” The companies have 30 days to modify their policies.

This could be a major win for consumers: more repairs and service locations would be allowed under warranty, and modders of game consoles may be able to indulge their hobby without trying to hide it from the manufacturer. That will depend on the new phrasing of the companies’ policies, but this attention from the FTC will at the very least nudge things in the right direction.

Sony teases an ultra low light camera for its future phones


This morning’s Sony press conference was a real whirlwind. The company announced two new phones and the availability of its Xperia Ear Duo, still managed to wrap it all up in about an hour. All said, it was actually kind of refreshing to be in and out so quickly. There was a quick “one more thing,” however, as it teased a future camera technology aimed at shooting in ultra low light conditions.

The news appeared to be targeted at last night’s Samsung Galaxy S9 reveal as much as anything. And as Sony happily pointed out on stage, it beat Samsung to the punch with super slow motion, when it introduced 960FPS shooting with last year’s flagship. Of course, as anyone who follow the industry will happily point out, people don’t actually buy Xperia phones, really. So being first doesn’t really count for that much, beyond serving as a kind of proof of concept of what the company’s working on.

With that in mind, it’s almost as useful to tell just an audience of tech journalists that it’s working on a solution to low light shooting and feature a couple of demos at its booth. Of course, the new Xperia XZ2 has a couple of camera tricks of its own, including, most notably, 4K HDR video shooting. But those looking for a Sony handset that really tackles the problem of low light are going to have to wait.

Samsung, meanwhile, takes a promising step in that direction this week, with the dual aperture S9, which ports that technology over from the company’s recently released flip phone, of all places. Like Samsung’s offering, the new Sony device will sport dual lenses — a first for the company, in spite of its long-standing camera-first push.

Sony’s not revealing too much at the moment (after all, it has two other new phones for the show), but it promises the technology will be capable of some truly impressive low light shooting — a long time stumbling block for most handsets. The company says the new technology will be capable of capturing photos with an ISO up to 52,100 and video up to 12,800.

Low light has been something of a stumbling block for handsets — and, indeed both Samsung and ZTE have made a major selling point for their newly announced phones. After all, a large percentage of social media shots happen in poorly lit places like bars and restaurants. A really great low light solution will go a ways toward helping reduce noise and blur is less than ideal settings.

No word on when the tech will actually arrive on Sony’s handsets — or, for that matter, third party devices. 

Sony’s new Xperia flagship shoots 4K HDR videos


Sony always had an odd sort of relationship with the smartphone. Sure, it’s one of the world’s largest consumer electronics companies, but it’s never really cracked the code with its Xperia devices. Really, the company’s phones tend to feel more like a showcase for its latest camera technologies than truly competitive devices.

The XZ2 is unlikely to change any of that, of course — which is actually kind of  a bummer, because it looks like a pretty solid handset. Also, it bucks the trend of sharp corners that have defined the company’s phones seemingly for forever. The company refers to the aesthetic as “organic design,” which mostly refers to a more rounded approach to building a smartphone, along with Gorilla Glass 5 on both the front and back of the device.

The other big addition this time around is 4K HDRs movie recording — a first for Sony devices, which means it’s a first for just about every phone manufacturer. Keep in mind, the technology the company introduces in a given year often only ends up on the competition’s flagships the follow — Super Slow Motion on the Galaxy S9 is the perfect example.

 

Sony introduced it on last year’s Mobile World Congress flagship, and lo and behold, it’s s a key feature on Samsung’s latest smartphone. The handset sports a 19-megapixel rear and five-megapixel front-faceng camera.

Also, not exactly revolutionary, but Sony’s pushed last year’s compelling 3D scanning capability a bit further with the ability to create 3D selfies. So, essentially, if you’d like to create a 3D version of yourself, but don’t have a friend around to help out, well, you’re luck here. The new device pushes the screen size  5.7-inches at a now-familiar 18:9 ratio and HDR.

All of that is powered by Qualcomm’s latest, the Snapdragon 845, colluded with 4GB of Ram and 64GB of storage. Sony’s also packed in a healthy 3180mah battery.

There’s also an five-inch Xperia XZ2 compact, which sports largely similar specs to its bigger brethren, with a few key changes, including the move to a less premium polycarbonate backing and a 2870 mAh battery. Both have will be available in March.