Sony Computer Science Laboratory (CSL) Paris director Luc Steels describes the facility as “a scientific lab, but not all innovation is based on science and not all science leads to innovation.” The lab was inspired by the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in its establishment as a place where researchers can exercise their creativity with an unusual degree of freedom, rather than being forced to rigidly adhere to a corporate mandate to develop strictly commercial products. “[It’s] probably for prestige and advertising purposes, but nevertheless, it’s unique and great that a big corporation will put some of their profit to identify people they consider the smartest in the field and let them come up with new ideas,” notes Emory University professor Philippe Rochat. Steels says Paris is an ideal locale for the lab, given the richness of its culture as well as its reputation as a hub of scientific research that is attractive to potential employees as well as visiting academics. Steels’ previous experience includes the directorship of the University of Brussels’ Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and his work with emotional speech synthesis technology that is now used in Sony’s QRIO humanoid robot. Among the facility’s six researchers is Atau Tanaka, who develops musical systems that make listening a vehicle for social interaction by integrating mobile technology and peer-to-peer networking. Another project of note at Sony CSL Paris focuses on unique search engines for digital music libraries.
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