After persuading the world to retreat into the private universe of the Walkman, Sony is going one step further: it has disclosed that it is branching out into the paranormal. The Japanese corporation, the leading innovator in consumer electronics, admits it is researching into alternative medicine, spoon-bending, X-ray vision, telepathy and other forms of extra- sensory perception (ESP).
The Sony ''Institute of Wisdom'' was founded in 1989 at the instigation of the company's founder, Masaharu Ibuka, and Akio Morita, its charismatic former chairman. The company believes it has proved the existence of ESP, and is considering the possibility of machines that would enable us to communicate telepathically - the Sony Spookman, as it is likely to be known.
"Mr Ibuka and Mr Morita have long felt that there's more to science and technology than what is repeatable, universal and objective," a spokeswoman said. "Some people have the ability to perceive beyond the five senses. This research is intended to investigate how this happens and why."
A sub-division of the Institute, Extra-Sensory Perception Excitation Research (Esper), has worked with more than 100 possessors of ESP. Subjects were presented with two black plastic containers, one of them containing platinum, the other empty. Psychic individuals were able to ''see'' the platinum seven times out of 10. Much of the research focuses on the mysterious spiritual energy known as ki, which forms the basis of a great deal of traditional oriental medicine.
The company has already devised one product, the Pulse Graph, based on a prototype developed by a South Korean holistic doctor. It is claimed to have a 20 to 30 per cent success-rate in diagnosing diseases such as liver cancer.