In Their Own Words: Sony AI’s Researchers Explain What Grand Challenges They’re Solving & the Best Parts of Life at Sony AI

Sony AI

May 22, 2024

This year marks four years since the inception of Sony AI. In light of this milestone, we have found ourselves reflecting on our journey and sharpening our founding commitment to creativity, innovation, and augmenting human potential through AI. This upcoming milestone is not just a testament to our growth—but, more importantly, will be a celebration of the profound impact our team has made in research and development to benefit society and enhance entertainment experiences.

Through the distinct yet interconnected lenses of Grand Challenges, Creativity, and Diversity, we are sculpting a future where technology empowers the everyday without replacing the everyday people who are working to build our future. Recently, we interviewed our researchers at Sony AI to dive into these themes that define the mission of our organization, enriched by our accomplishments over the past four years.

In tackling Grand Challenges, we are not content with incremental advancements; instead, we aim for monumental breakthroughs that redefine what's possible, underscoring our commitment to pioneering research that is deeply intertwined with the potential for real-world applications. This past year alone, our journey through creativity and innovation was highlighted at prominent conferences such as ICCV 2023 and NeurIPS 2023, and by the release of significant research like “Beyond Skin Tone: A Multidimensional Measure of Apparent Skin Color.”

Furthermore, integrating GT Sophy 2.0 as a permanent feature in Gran Turismo 7 exemplifies our push towards creating immersive and interactive entertainment experiences.

Creativity here is not just about enhancing human capability—but about redefining collaboration between humans and AI, fostering a new era of co-creation. This ethos was brought to life with our participation in the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) 38th annual conference, SXSW, and the insightful contributions from our AI Ethics team, reflecting our dedication to ethical and responsible AI development.

Meanwhile, Diversity is not merely a buzzword for us—but the core of Sony AI's ethos, where varied perspectives fuel ethical, responsible, and groundbreaking solutions. The diversity of thought and experience within our global team has been crucial in addressing the grand challenges we face, ensuring our research and solutions are inclusive—and impactful.

Together, these themes are not just threads in the Sony AI fabric; they are the very warp-and-weft of our mission to harness artificial intelligence in service of creators—because nothing can replace the creativity and the revolutionary problem-solving of humanity.

Throughout this post, we will examine these themes through the lens of our researchers, who are our living and breathing testaments to what’s possible when you tackle Grand Challenges with creative and diverse minds. As we move forward, Sony AI continues to explore the frontier of AI research, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and shaping a future where AI and humanity progress hand in hand.

Grand Challenges at Sony AI

As early as 1960, Sony Co-Founder, Masaru Ibuka, envisioned AI as the future of electronics. Ibuka predicted that the capabilities of AI would be dependent on accumulated data but that AI would have the ability to improve our day-to-day lives — while also allowing us to identify and solve problems as a society. Established in 2020, the Sony AI Team works diligently to ensure that these predictions come to light and investigate the limitations of current technologies to serve the social good better.

“Sony AI stands out — at least to me — in its mission statement of doing groundbreaking research and doing that for creators and entertainment,” notes Tarek Besold, Senior Research Scientist at Sony AI.

“And we really have two classes of targets or goals,” explains Peter Stone, Executive Director at Sony AI. “One (of those goals) is making scientific breakthroughs and discoveries that increase humanity’s body of knowledge. It's not about pursuing small wins but trying to think ahead in terms of what kind of big impact we can have on the academic community and other businesses at Sony,” Stone concludes.

This idea of small wins is at the heart of solving grand challenges at Sony AI. Whether it’s understanding the importance of skin tone recognition or improving semantic communication, we tackle each Grand Challenge with the hope that we will make the lives of creators more expansive, opening a whole new world of possibilities.

“So, we're not chasing the latest trends in AI. But we're certainly aware of them. We're focused on some of the core problems, sequential decision-making in big domains, how to integrate hardware, software, and AI techniques together into a full system, and how to do machine learning that's privacy-preserving and ethical,” explains Tom Walsh, Senior Research Scientist at Sony AI. “All of those are big problems that aren't going away with the trends of the season. They're here to stay,” Walsh says.

And this is resoundingly true. AI is making headlines each-and-every day, especially in how it affects the day-to-day lives of people or could possibly affect their lives. From enhancing entertainment experiences, like we did with GT Sophy™, to unpacking the tension between facial recognition and lack of diverse training datasets—we are not afraid to tackle society’s big challenges.

Watch the full interview here: Sony AI on Tackling Grand Challenges—CTA:

Grand Challenges :

Creativity at Sony AI:

One of the core values we adhere to is our goal to pave the way for a future where AI is partnering with creators—not replacing them.

“I think one of the really interesting ways AI can enhance creativity is by giving back to humans and showing them new solutions or new techniques that they might want to adopt because, ultimately, humans are the creative force in this collaboration. Artificial intelligence is just showing different ways to use different techniques,” says Walsh.

“AI can empower human beings with enhanced creativity. So, for example, an AI system can give recommendations in terms of the different design styles, layouts, and colors,” adds Lingyuag Yu, Senior Research Scientist at Sony AI.

All of these ideas from the employees who bring Sony AI’s mission to life have one thing in common: We want to enhance technologies that potentially help people create better entertainment experiences.

“AI and computer science, in general, is really a science of how to do things in a better way, a faster way — and in a more creative way,” explains Michael Spranger, COO Sony AI.

Whether in music, visual arts, or storytelling, AI can and should act as a creative assistant, streamlining routine aspects and freeing artists to invest more time and energy into the core of their creative pursuits.

As Radu Berdan, Research Scientist at Sony AI, aptly denotes, “AI should help you augment your own creative mind.”

This narrative is not just a testament to technological advancement but also a reflection of our dedication to fostering an ecosystem where technology and creativity merge. We believe in the art and science of offering new dimensions to traditional artistic expression and paving the way for future innovations in entertainment—and beyond.

Watch the full interview here — Sony AI on Creativity—CTA:


Diversity at Sony AI:

Through every challenge and breakthrough, Sony AI has emphasized and proved the importance of Diversity within our team.

Alice Xiang, Lead Research Scientist notes, “It is extremely important to have different backgrounds represented. There is no singular conception of what responsible means, what ethical means, and what fair means. These principles can be viewed through very different lenses depending on individuals, backgrounds, and experiences.”

This melting pot of ideas fosters open communication, collaboration, and the kind of innovative experimentation that can only arise from a multitude of perspectives confronting and complementing one another. Beyond merely assembling diverse teams, Sony AI has ingrained inclusivity into its core values, fostering an environment where every voice contributes to a shared goal and enhances collective understanding.

“Something I love, in particular, about Sony AI, is the fact that here, people are very open-minded, and it's always very nice to present your ideas, to discuss them, to have some moments where you share and confront yourself on those ideas. Always with an open mind. And this is something which is very special about this place—and I love it a lot,” Lorenzo Servadei, Senior Research Scientist at Sony AI.

Our commitment extends beyond internal dynamics. We aim to tackle global challenges by harnessing the rich tapestry of human experience and expertise, and in doing so, we not only advance in our mission but also set a precedent for how Diversity can drive forward the most complex and creative problems in AI. This reflects a broader commitment to inclusivity and innovation in the technological landscape — it’s part of our ethos.

We believe diversity is fundamental to solving the complex issues of AI. Our team is given full reign to research the limitations of AI and highlight ways to improve the technology — all in an effort to create a fairer society. We are an ambitious group that is delivering on contributing critical, groundbreaking research in the field of AI. Though AI is a pervasive topic, it is still in its infancy. Still, it holds unbridled potential, and we are dedicating ourselves to exploring that potential to benefit creators worldwide.

Watch the full interview here—Sony AI on Diversity—CTA:

If you’re interested in becoming part of our team, please visit our careers page for exciting opportunities. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Linkedin as well to stay in the know about what research we are working on as well as conferences and events we will be a part of.

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