Sony PlayStation creator Ken Kutaragi lashes out at Metaverse and ‘annoying’ VR headsets

Sony PlayStation inventor Ken Kutaragi shrugged off the metaverse.

PlayStation inventor Ken Kutaragi shook off the metaverse as the tech industry’s next major venture and head-mounted displays as the gateway to that destination, describing them as dividing rather than unifying the real and virtual realms. “Being in the real world is very important, but the metaverse is about making it quasi-real in the virtual world, and I don’t see the point in doing it,” the 71-year-old entrepreneur told Sirbpti News in an interview. . “Would you rather be a polished avatar than your real self? That’s essentially no different from anonymous message board sites.”

Kutaragi, who acquired the video game business of Sony Group Corp. in 1993. is now the chief executive officer of Ascent Robotics Inc., a Tokyo-based artificial intelligence startup that just raised 1 billion yen ($8.7 million) from Sony and SBI Holdings Inc.

The goal of Ascent, which Kutaragi describes as his life mission, is to combine the real world with cyberspace in a seamless, gadget-free manner akin to Star Wars holograms. Technology companies, including Apple Inc., Meta Platforms Inc. and Sony’s PlayStation unit are ramping up virtual reality headset development in a race for what they expect to be a metaverse bonanza. But Kutaragi is not a fan.

“A headset would isolate you from the real world, and I disagree,” he said. “Headsets are just annoying.”

The technology Ascent is developing for its robotic systems will help convert real-world objects into computer-readable data. The idea is to create smarter, more versatile robots that can perform different tasks and produce more than one kind of product. Ascent gear is aimed at retail and logistics customers, liberating human labor from simple tasks.

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The new funding will accelerate the development of a robotics platform that includes software, sensors and machines, all designed in-house by Kutaragi’s team. Using out-of-the-box hardware wouldn’t lead to a meaningful breakthrough, according to the PlayStation pioneer, so he’s re-imagining the approach he took to recreate the original Sony video game console from scratch.

“Today’s robots don’t have software and sensors that can match humans in understanding the real world and responding to things they see for the first time, and our short-term goal is to provide a solution for that,” he said. “Because you want robots to be able to make a variety of things, not just countless units of the same thing.”

In addition to industrial robots, Kutaragi plans to use the visual data collected by Ascent’s robots and sensors to reproduce digital scenes in the real world. He envisions a revolution in e-commerce, which is still rooted in decades-old web technologies, as hologram representations of products offer a whole new shopping experience. Or the technology could be used to simulate a distant meeting place in the real world, allowing people to socialize remotely without resorting to cumbersome headgear.

Ascent does not currently make consumer products and is secretive about the details of its long-term plans. Kutaragi will start sharing more of his vision publicly this year and also try to form an open collaborative group, just like he did when creating the PlayStation business, the CEO said.

“I’m not going to spend a decade or two making my dreams come true. I’m 71 and time is short,” he said.

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