Sony has invested an undisclosed sum in US startup Cogitai, a specialist in artificial intelligence (AI), with the goal of turning it into a strong revenue stream.
Cogitai is just a year old, and will use the funding to focus on machines that continuously learn through interactions with the real world, according to a report on Reuters.
Sony plans to release a service or product in 2017 that chief executive Hiroaki Kitano hinted could be something more than smart hardware. "We are considering various options, including a robot,” he said.
Sony was fairly prominent with its work in AI and robotics over a decade ago, and produced robotic dogs equipped with AI until 2006.
But its work in the field has tapered off in recent years as various restructures and the split from Ericsson saw the company evolve as a corporation.
The investment in Cogitai looks to be making up for lost ground. However, the space is becoming increasingly crowded as companies large and small develop AI and cognitive computing systems to allow consumer products and enterprise software to carry out more automated and intelligent tasks.
IBM has its Watson AI, which is being put to widespread and varied use, while Facebook is trying to develop an AI–powered smart assistant dubbed M for the firm's Messenger service.
Microsoft has a range of machine learning virtual assistant technologies, and has used its acquisition of building game Minecraft to aid a number of AI experiments.
But as the AI space gets more crowded competition heats up, particularly when the likes of Apple snap up AI experts to challenge Google, Amazon and Microsoft.
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