How do you turn around a multinational company that’s been watching profits slide for years? Sony figures that crowdfunding will play a big role, so they built their own site.
It’s called Test Flight, and you won’t find anything there that didn’t come from the minds at Sony. All the projects have been cooked up by employees in a new division set up by Kaz Hirai to spur innovation at the company.
Interestingly enough, two of the three projects you’ll find on Test Flight right now were already crowdfunded elsewhere. One is the e-Paper FES Watch, which originally surfaced as a product from a company called Fashion Entertainments on the Japanese site Makuake. Sony said they hid their name so that FES could stand on its own merits.
The other is the WiFi connected MESH project. The tiny, colorful blocks are a bit like Twine, designed to add connectivity and interactivity to “dumb” devices. With a simple drag-and-drop software backend, MESH could do things like make a trash can thank people who used it or send a heads-up to employees when the boss opens his office door.
Both were well-received, with MESH pulling in about $65,000 and FES nearly ¥800,00 more than its modest ¥2,000,000 goal on Makuake. There’s one other project on Test Flight right now, and it’s the only one that wasn’t crowdfunded elsewhere before arriving on the site.
It’s the HUIS remote control. Like the FES watch it’s built around an e-Paper display. HUIS is a customizable control for an entire smart home, not just the electronics in your entertainment unit. And like MESH, software is an important part of the package. It’ll allow HUIS users to configure different interfaces for different scenarios, like turning off all the lights when you leave the house or setting up simplified controls for the kids on movie night.
Is crowdfunding going to turn around Sony’s fortunes? Probably not, but you certainly can’t blame them for wanting to capitalize on the trend. Why risk a failed product launch when consumers have repeatedly shown that they’re more than happen to pay for a device months ahead of time?