November 27, 2013
Wearable Device Market Eyed By Sony, Patent Filed For Smart Wig
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
As computer engineers continue to develop smaller and more adaptable technology, electronic devices are turning up in all kinds of places – from wristwatches to refrigerator doors.
In a step marking the latest evolution of this device culture, Sony has filed a patent with the US Patent & Trademark Office for a “Smart Wig” capable of functions such as giving driving directions, checking blood pressure or manipulating a slideshow presentation.
"The usage of a wig has several advantages that, compared to known wearable computing devices, include significantly increased user comfort and an improved handling of the wearable computing device," the Sony patent said.
Filed in May -- not made public until this week – the patent describes hidden input sensors in the wig that analyze data, communicate wirelessly and give tactile feedback. These sensors would be covered by parts of the wig and hidden from sight. According to the patent, the Smart Wig could be fashioned from horse hair, human hair, wool, feathers, yak hair, buffalo hair or synthetic materials.
The patent from the Japanese-based company also stated that the device has the potential to become "very popular" and could be a "technically intelligent item and fashion item at the same time.”
Sony said the device could be used for gaming applications or "any type of virtual reality appliance;” although it did not provide any specific examples.
"Wearable gadgets are definitely going to be one of the big areas of growth over the next two years," Andrew Milroy, an analyst with consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, told the BBC. "And Sony - which is trying to regain some of the sheen it has lost in recent years - clearly understands that and wants to play a major role in the sector."
“It’s an interesting idea but I think it would be very difficult for Sony to commercialize,” Mitsushige Akino, chief fund manager at the Japanese firm Ichiyoshi Asset Management Co., told Bloomberg News. “Who will want to use this wig will become a problem.”
Bloomberg also confirmed through a spokesperson that the device was conceived by Sony engineer Hiroaki Tobita.
“Smartwatches are already made by many companies, so this is something new and fun,” Junya Ayada, a Tokyo-based analyst at Daiwa Securities Group Inc., said in a phone interview with Bloomberg.
If Sony’s Smart Wig were to ever come to market, it would join other wearable devices from the company’s product line – such as its SmartWatch 2.
In October, the company’s CEO Kazuo Hirai told reporters that Sony was both developing new devices and studying consumer needs for wearable computers.
In a September interview with Bloomberg, Sony vice president Yasuhiro Ueda said the company is developing chips for products such as self-driving cars and medical devices. These chips are somewhat similar to those already being used for smartphones and digital cameras.