Sony and Microsoft develop AI-powered imaging chip

The Witcher Season 2

Sony and Microsoft have teamed up to develop focused solutions for AI cameras.

The companies announced their union on May 18 through a press release, explaining that they will incorporate the capabilities of Microsoft Azure AI, a cloud computing service based on Microsoft’s AI, in the Sony IMX500 image sensor recently introduced. This sensor is, according to Sony, the world’s first image sensor to contain a pixel chip and a chip dedicated to AI signal processing. The combination of both technologies will allow the Sony IMX500 sensor to be able to capture the image and at the same time analyze the scene and determine what is seen in it using artificial intelligence.

“Video analytics and smart cameras could lead to better insights and business results in a wide range of scenarios for companies,” Takeshi Numoto, corporate vice president and chief marketing officer for Microsoft, said in the statement. “Through this partnership, we combine Microsoft’s expertise to provide trusted business-class analytics and artificial intelligence solutions, with Sony’s recognized leadership in the image sensor market, to offer new opportunities to our customers and mutual partners,” he added.

It is a solution-focused on the business customer that requires the installation of several cameras and that, for example, could be used in a retail store to alert of shortages or in factories to detect possible potential hazards for employees such as falling objects.

It is not the first time that Sony and Microsoft have come together to seek joint solutions. In May 2019, the two companies (rivals in the world of video games) announced a strategic alliance to use the cloud and improve their services streaming of content and games.

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Microsoft and Sony Reveal New Collaboration to Capture, Analyze, and Market Player Data

Microsoft and Sony today announced a closer collaboration between the two companies to capture, analyze and market player data from console games, including everything from how much time is spent playing a title to what is purchased within a virtual marketplace. The effort will be carried out through Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform.

According to today’s announcement, Microsoft will provide “cloud-based services that enable the collection of richer data produced through gameplay including inputs, actions, behaviors, and responses.” This information will then be presented to publishers in an aggregated fashion.

“We’re excited about this opportunity to work closely with our friends at Sony,” said Kareem Choudhry, corporate vice president, Microsoft Game Studios. “In addition to welcoming a great partner, this is a fantastic opportunity for us to share more about our plans for Xbox Live.”

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“Through the use of the Azure cloud platform, we are able to scale quickly and globally across data centers in 44 regions around the globe, processing and analyzing massive amounts of data in parallel,” added Choudhry.

“By working closely with Microsoft, we can purchase data more efficiently and analyze it in a robust and scalable way to extract valuable business insights.”

The partnership will leverage Azure’s “super-fast global network of over 100 regional data centers that provide low-latency access close to gamer populations anywhere in the world.” With this, Microsoft and Sony will aim to provide decision-makers with “actionable intelligence.”

“Over the years we have accumulated a massive amount of untapped knowledge within our network of internal and external data sources,” said Phil Spencer, corporate vice president for Microsoft Game Studios. “This new partnership will help unlock the transformative power of data across every aspect of our business and delivers on another key milestone as we transform into a Devices and Services company.”

Microsoft’s announcement included comments from both Vlambeer co-founder Rami Ismail and Electronic Arts COO Peter Moore.

Ismail argued that the move reduces costs for smaller studios while opening up opportunities for bigger companies.

“The most interesting thing is that where previously it would be prohibitively expensive for companies like Vlambeer to collect this data, costs will now go down drastically, which of course has the potential to open doors for new companies in digital distribution and development of new business models,” said Ismail.

Moore, meanwhile, noted that his company’s strategy “is centered on listening to our customers and evolving our services based on that feedback.”

“Microsoft’s commitment to providing us access to vast amounts of data from Xbox Live enables us to fully explore the balance between what people are playing and how they’re playing it,” he added. “We love bringing more information about games people are loving or even not playing at all into our decision-making process – whether it’s through a subscription service, micro-transactions, free-to-play, or other business models.”

As you can see from the “source”, this is a rehash of  MCV’s article from last week, which in turn was based on a rehash of Phil Spencer’s tweet a few days earlier about Microsoft looking for a way to “deliver on another key milestone as we transform into a Devices and Services company.” Did anyone actually buy the idea that Microsoft wants to create Xbox Live profiles for other platforms? I don’t. As expected, it turns out that this was just one big misunderstanding. On page 16 of today’s X018 slides (you can find them here ), there is a mention of Google Analytics integration with Xbox Live:

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This could be easily explained as an extension of what Microsoft already does with achievement tracking on console, but since they have no plans to bring Xbox Live functionality to Android/iOS, what are the chances that this is something more than just statistical data related to games played on these platforms?

Microsoft provides detailed statistics about how many people play their games and how. I don’t know what exactly they use for that, but it’s probably a mix of public APIs (so the number of players is very precise) and something like surveys (which would make sense if we take into account the next slide).

And while this certainly looks like an interesting new feature, there’s nothing to suggest that Microsoft is planning some kind of Xbox Live on Android/iOS after all these years. The company only mentioned it in passing during X018 so you shouldn’t get your hopes up just yet. By the way, at least one article has already declared this announcement as evidence that Microsoft is indeed “bringing Xbox Live to mobile.”

That particular piece included a tweet by Xbox head Phil Spencer who said that “Xbox Live is a great experience on any device” and that “we’re going to be more open in how we engage with partners.” Here’s the thing: Microsoft has been saying this for years. They’ve even hired a few people from Sony to work exclusively on connecting Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, but they have failed spectacularly so far due to numerous technical, legal, or business reasons. In fact, recent comments from Phil Spencer have made it sound like mobile is not even relevant in their current strategy (“I can’t say anything about mobile right now”) which makes the entire story seem extremely suspicious… but what else could you expect from MCV?