Deep inside Sony HQ in the Minato district of Tokyo, there's a secret room jammed full of the company's top technology. Part theme park and part walk-in safe, it's the kind of place you expect to find inside most big tech brands' offices, but almost never do.
The two sets of doors are usually closed to outsiders, as well as most Sony employees. But I was among a small group of journalists allowed to pass into what Sony calls The Square.
It's not what I expected.
The reception area -- with its slate panels, moody lighting and "The Square" writ large on the walls in elaborate cursive -- feels like the entry to a high-end spa. But instead of being shown to baths and saunas, guests are guided to one tech-fueled experience after another. If you prefer gaming and semiconductors to facials and yoga, this is all the resort you'll need.
Each subset of the Sony empire is represented here.
I'm invited to relax in a leather armchair and listen to hi-fi recordings of the Sony Philharmonic Orchestra -- kind of like a massage for the ears. After watching a welcome video that dances across 50 feet (15 meters or so) of screen real estate, I'm allowed to explore Sony's room of tech toys -- but under careful supervision. That makes sense because, along with a movie theater and a fake soccer stadium (Sony United-branded gear included), The Square contains some real treasure.
I see Sony's cameras filming a soccer match and shooting an 8-foot-high replica of New York's Times Square inside a dedicated studio. I stare at props and costumes from Sony Pictures' movies, like "The Amazing Spider-Man."
And I get to amuse myself, too. Augmented reality lets me "play" and interact with adorable robots that appear to be in the room with me; motion sensors let me swipe through Sony's interactive music library. This is gesture-tracking tech I've never seen before from the company, and it would be a perfect fit for Sony's PlayStation VR.
Many of Sony's products are staged to reveal how the company expects us to use them. It makes me feel as if I'm wandering through a high-end Ikea showroom. At one point, I recline on a leather sofa while immersed in a projected 4K video of blue whales gliding through a pale sea. Surrounded by tchotchkes, like an action figure of Will Smith from "Men in Black" and artfully placed piles of books, I almost feel like I'm at home.
My group gathers in semidarkness around the Glass Sound 360-degree speaker, shown at CES in January. A filament emits warm light, sort of like a candle, while acoustic guitar plays through the cylindrical speaker. The sound vibrates through the glass with impressive clarity. Perfect for a dinner party, don't you think?
The Square could have been a museum decked out with Walkmans. Instead, it's a celebration of the company's vision of the future.
It's also pure geeky fun.