For all its successes (and failures) over the decades as a mainstream consumer electronics company, Sony has always cultivated an alter ego — a weird place where crazy, off-kilter designs and product ideas have been allowed to come to market, even when they're anything but a guaranteed commercial success. This is Weird Sony.
To commemorate the launch of Weird Sony's latest products — the QX10 and QX100 lens cameras — we wanted to take a walk back through some of the most amazing, bizarre, and unlikely devices that the company has ever made. Some have helped shape the industry, some have helped shape Sony, and some have simply come and gone. All, needless to say, are weird.
- QRIO. Billed as a humanoid counterpart to the better-known AIBO dog, QRIO went through several iterations but was never sold.
- SCD-1. Sony had intended Super Audio CD to be the eventual successor to the ubiquitous Compact Disc. iTunes had other plans, but SACD exists even today as a niche product revered for its high resolution. The first SACD player, the SCD-1, was an over-engineered (and overpriced) work of art.
- Clie PEG-VZ90. Sony's final Palm OS-powered product, the VZ90, was a proper sendoff: it had a color OLED display, a rarity in 2004.
- XEL-1. The design of the world's first production OLED television made it impossible to mistake for anything else. At just 11 inches, the $2,500 price tag made it little more than a novelty.
- VAIO UX series. Long before tablets went mainstream, Sony tried its hand at an almost-pocketable PC running Windows. It even had a fingerprint scanner and, on some models, support for 2G data.
- Sountina NSA-PF1. Described as a "column of music" that radiated audio in every direction, the PF1 was covered in leather and cost $10,000.
- eMarker. This pocketable device was little more than a clock in disguise: you would press its button when you heard a song on the radio that you liked; plugging it in to your PC later allowed you to see what was playing at the time the button was pressed. It failed at retail and was eventually recalled.
- Clie PEG-NR70V. While Palm made conservative, business-friendly PDAs, licensee Sony went the opposite direction. Of its wild Palm OS-powered Clie line, perhaps the NR70V is the best-known: it was unapologetically enormous and had a swiveling camera and display, a full keyboard, and gorgeous HVGA resolution.
- AIBO. Though the four-figure price tag kept it out of reach for most people, robot dog AIBO was a fixture of Sony's twilight years as the most dominant consumer electronics company on the planet. The last model was discontinued in 2006.
- Odo. A series of unreleased (but functional) design concepts, Odo devices were intended to be as environmentally friendly as possible: the Odo digital camera, for instance, was charged simply by spinning it.
- Tablet P. Sony's dual-screen clamshell Android tablet was roundly panned as a terrible product, but — if nothing else — it was interesting.
- Data Discman DD-10. It's hard to imagine reading a book on it, but that's exactly what Sony intended you to do on its Data Discman line, which featured an "Electronic Book" logo over a decade before the advent of the E Ink readers we know today. Small discs — similar to the more popular audio MiniDiscs — were loaded with dictionaries, translators, and novels.
- MDR-R10. Occasionally cited as one of the best pairs of headphones ever made, the oddly-shaped R10 retailed for four figures in 1988 and has only appreciated in value since then.
- ICF-7500. This AM / FM radio was really two products in one: the right side could be disconnected from the left to lose the loudspeaker and become a portable headphone-only receiver.
- Rolly. Who could forget the Rolly? Perhaps the most bizarre product Sony has ever made, this egg-shaped device was a digital music player that rolled around and flashed in sync to the audio. It was a confusing concept, and the $400 MSRP didn't help.