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Blog: Sony and Microsoft to collaborate on semiconductors and AI


Like PlayStation, it’s all about Azure

Remember the earth shattering news that Sony and Microsoft would be working together on cloud and game development that was really all about network infrastructure and more specifically, Azure?

Well, there’s another part to that story — the two companies will also be collaborating on semiconductors and AI:

As part of the memorandum of understanding, Sony and Microsoft will also explore collaboration in the areas of semiconductors and AI. For semiconductors, this includes potential joint development of new intelligent image sensor solutions. By integrating Sony’s cutting-edge image sensors with Microsoft’s Azure AI technology in a hybrid manner across cloud and edge, as well as solutions that leverage Sony’s semiconductors and Microsoft cloud technology, the companies aim to provide enhanced capabilities for enterprise customers. In terms of AI, the parties will explore incorporation of Microsoft’s advanced AI platform and tools in Sony consumer products, to provide highly intuitive and user-friendly AI experiences.

There’s a lot to be unpacked here, but seeing how Microsoft doesn’t dabble much in hardware anymore outside of Xbox — since almost everything from Zune to Windows Phone, and the Band failed dramatically — and Sony doesn’t really have any hardware that isn’t reliant on Google like Xperia and Bravia TVs — the partnership at first seems strange. That is until we inject Azure, the server division of Microsoft, into all of this.

Sony has long talked about AI, and mixed with the world class image sensors that they make, the two on paper become a fantastic match — powerful sensors that can pick up the slightest of details and artificial intelligence that can parse the data/image it receives and turn it into something actionable. Outside of Alpha cameras, you can find Sony sensors in competitor smartphones, factories, robotic dogs like Aibo, and even cars, but there’s something missing: AI.

While the Japanese giant over the past few years at major shows like CES has been touting AI as a key component of their future,

the reality is that PlayStation aside (and even there, you can find some questionable decisions), Sony doesn’t really have the talent in place to tackle AI, let alone firmware updates on a TV.

With Azure in place, Sony can do what it does best — hardware, and Microsoft can do what it recently does best — software¹ in the form of server side computations and AI. So again, much like their collaboration in gaming, don’t think you’ll suddenly find Sony consumer products with Microsoft software and certainly don’t expect Microsoft to begin releasing products built by Sony because they frankly don’t have any meaningful consumer business anymore that isn’t legacy like Windows and Office.

So while this might all sound juicy and be a collaboration that certainly has its benefits for both sides, especially Sony, it will mainly be invisible to consumers, much like any cloud computing is in general. Still, the idea of more intelligent devices like an Alpha camera that can tap into Azure and better process a given image is indeed exciting, and for corporations that are deploying image sensors in their factories and cars, they’ll now have a much bigger incentive to go with ones from Sony if they’re backed by or can be easily incorporated into Azure.

Oh, and don’t forget another category of future products that will be heavily reliant on image sensors, cloud computing, and AI — robotics.



Source: Artificial Intelligence on Medium

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