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Sony launches crowdfunding platform for internal projects

Sony has announced a new crowdfunding initiative focused on giving employees a platform to share internal projects, without investment from the company.

It is a new move to hopefully bring Sony out of the dark ages, by allowing employees the freedom to develop their own products. Sony CEO Kaz Hirai has been critical in this change, offering employees more free time to work on out-of-office projects.

The platform is called First Flight, currently featuring two completed projects, the FES e-ink watch and MESH smart DIY kit. The FES e-ink watch was shown off months before the crowdfunding site went live, in November, and has attracted a lot of media attention.

The MESH smart DIY kit is a small set of sensors and an iPad app. It offers a simplistic way to work with electronics and engineer a system to work based on these MESH blocks, connecting everything through drag and drop on the iPad app.

There is one other project currently at 137 per cent with 6.8 million yen (£35,000), called the HUIS smart remote controller. The goal of the project is to create a remote controller that changes depending on the product it is meant to be controlling, meaning it changes the button layout from the TV to the DVD player.

All three projects are only available in Japan, and Sony has no plans to launch First Flight in other regions.

Even though these are all smart ideas, Sony might start surging into a state of independent projects without any major oversight. Fragmentation due to one system overriding another could be a problem, for example the HUIS smart remote controller not being shipped with Sony TVs, despite being a more useful controller than the standard.

Companies in Silicon Valley normally allow employees to work on projects in free time, with Google allocating 20 per cent of an employee’s time to off topic projects. Facebook and Twitter have similar free time systems in place, hopefully allowing employees to build the future of the company.

Sony’s program seems a little more inventive and unsure, which may lead to Sony pursuing multiple markets on the back of a successful Kickstarter; not the best plan.

The whole idea of asking consumers for money on unfinished projects is quite shaky as well, considering Sony will need to build trust for multiple successful crowdfunded projects. Consumers have already backlashed against attempts by large companies trying to get involved in Kickstarter, with Shenmue 3 the most recent example.