The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Sony’s Jun Rekimoto Dreams Up Gadgets for the Far Future

Inside Sony’s lab for utterly impractical electronic wonders

4 min read
Sony’s Jun Rekimoto Dreams Up Gadgets for the Far Future
Instant Aviation: Jun Rekimoto watches as a volunteer controls a camera-equipped aerial vehicle with intuitive motions of his head. Jun Rekimoto IEEE member Age 52 What he does Invents new ways for humans and machines to interact. For whom Sony Computer Science Laboratories Where he does it Tokyo Fun factors Has the freedom to build whatever he can dream up.
Photo: Jeremie Souteyrat

Jun Rekimoto stands in the corner of his office, frowning at a small white refrigerator. He's not worrying about his diet—in fact, there's no food inside. Rather, he's showing off a new method of interactivity with the world of appliances, as a red frowny face lights up on the door of the fridge. “You see, it won't open until I smile," he says, pulling on the door to demonstrate that it's locked shut. Then the pensive researcher's face is transformed by a beaming grin. The fridge responds with a smiley face of its own, in bright green, and the door swings open.

This emotionally engaged fridge is one of Rekimoto's many inventions for Sony, but don't expect to see expressive appliances in stores anytime soon. Sony, as one of the most successful consumer-electronics companies on the planet, has plenty of research-and-development labs devoted to improving its televisions, computers, cameras, and so forth. But Rekimoto works at Sony Computer Science Laboratories (CSL), in Tokyo, an exclusive scientific sanctum where researchers are encouraged to pursue their wackiest ideas and push the limits of technology. Rekimoto needn't concern himself with whether or not his creations will turn into products in the near term, because Sony wants him to invent gadgets for a future that consumers haven't even imagined yet.

Keep reading...Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

IEEE President’s Note: Looking to 2050 and Beyond

The importance of future-proofing IEEE

4 min read
Photo of K. J. Ray Liu

What will the future of the world look like? Everything in the world evolves. Therefore, IEEE also must evolve, not only to survive but to thrive.

How will people build communities and engage with one another and with IEEE in the future? How will knowledge be acquired? How will content be curated, shared, and accessed? What issues will influence the development of technical standards? How should IEEE be organized to be most impactful?

Keep Reading ↓Show less

The Device That Changed Everything

Transistors are civilization’s invisible infrastructure

2 min read
A triangle of material suspended above a base

This replica of the original point-contact transistor is on display outside IEEE Spectrum’s conference rooms.

Randi Klett

I was roaming around the IEEE Spectrum office a couple of months ago, looking at the display cases the IEEE History Center has installed in the corridor that runs along the conference rooms at 3 Park. They feature photos of illustrious engineers, plaques for IEEE milestones, and a handful of vintage electronics and memorabilia including an original Sony Walkman, an Edison Mazda lightbulb, and an RCA Radiotron vacuum tube. And, to my utter surprise and delight, a replica of the first point-contact transistor invented by John Bardeen, Walter Brittain, and William Shockley 75 years ago this month.

I dashed over to our photography director, Randi Klett, and startled her with my excitement, which, when she saw my discovery, she understood: We needed a picture of that replica, which she expertly shot and now accompanies this column.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This Gift Will Help Your Aspiring Engineer Learn Technology

Know someone that is hard to shop for? We have the perfect gift for you.

4 min read