E.S.P. Exists: Inside Sony’s Corporate Research

Why would one of the world’s most successful and innovative technology corporations research a highly controversial subject and risky future product opportunity such as E.S.P. (extrasensory perception) and then – oh by the way – tell the world they proved it existed?

Huh… unlikely? What company and why isn’t this more widely known? That’s just what I thought. I came across this fun fact while searching for information to help me understand a strange series of events that had occurred six years ago this month. Coincidentally, I happened to be working for this company when I found out.

Described as “anomalous processes of information or energy transfer”, Psi phenomenon is a very controversial subject. On one side, scientists, physicists, and PhDs attesting to its reality, and on the other, their opponents who question the methods of study, the resulting data and testimonies.

knowledge is power

The monumental power of electricity, now well controlled, was at one time an anomalous process of energy transfer. Like electricity, arguably the most significant development in man kinds history from lightning strike to cell phone, things that seem impossible to dream of today often become the reality of the future.

What does electricity, a subject so obviously understood today, have to do with other anomalous processes such as having a thought about a loved one and then coincidentally receiving a call from them at the same time? How about those gut-feelings or intuitions that so many times has saved a life – or many lives – under highly unusual circumstances? What about those unsettling accounts of communication at the moment of a loved ones death with the loved one far away?

It’s understandable that for many of us the last example appears quite fantastic, but those gut feelings and intuitions have more to them than we realize. Imagine the idea that roughly only 200 years ago most of the world had no idea that lightning could one day, metaphorically speaking, be put into a bottle (the Walkman, Android, iPhone, etc.). Wielding electricity in this sense would have been considered magic.

What might have inspired us to attempt to attempt to wield lightning like Zeus atop Mt. Olympus?

Some suggest ancient discoveries of mystical or esoteric knowledge  as a good place to begin our hunt. Dr. Electricity himself, Benjamin Franklin, without any doubt studied the geometric sciences of man hidden in the archives of secret societies. He wasn’t the only one.  He was preceded by other seekers of secret wisdom: people like William Gilbert, John Dee and Francis Bacon, all of whom had close connections with Queen Elizabeth I and had significant impact on the world. It’s all about who you know, right?

The same goes for many other Earth changing individuals such as Copernicus, Galileo (remember what happened to him?) and Alexandria’s bold beauty, Hypatia (Remember what happened to her?). These greats reinterpreted ancient texts and delivered the hidden messages back to the world in new form. The who’s who list is long and impressive, with each giving credit to the ones who preceded them. It was Newton who said “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Researchers of the esoteric aren’t burned alive these days, but the same can’t be said of their professional lives: Many face career-destroying ridicule. 

psi world wide

In the 1970’s or thereabouts, the world was surprised to discover that the U.S. government (and many others) was investigated psychic phenomena, or  “Remote Viewing.” What magicians of an earlier age might have called “clairvoyance”, this hypothetical perceptive capability enables the viewer to locate and sketch structures, objects, people and more for intelligence purposes. It might sound crazy, but one remote viewer was given the Legion of Merit Award for his success and service to the US Government. Even Jimmy Carter espoused its success.

Having a skeptical perspective is very important to maintain an objective position, and the scientific method is an excellent way to ascertain the truth behind extraordinary claims. (Incidentally, Roger Bacon, an early proponent of the scientific method, was also very interested in mystical texts and a practicing alchemist. Could it be that many of our modern discovers aren’t so new after all?  To quote Ecclesiastes, “There is nothing new under the Sun.”)

My curiosity drove me to try remote viewing on my own. I expected nothing to come of it, but left my opinion at the door and, following the recommendations of remote viewers, meditated  prior to performing the required actions. The results were impressive: I was unprepared for the details that emerged in my sketches and how closely they mirrored the “target event”: the unseen photo the viewer is tasked with describing during a session.  I was driven to study the field for a very long time, considering the player’s involved and their credentials, funding sources, and claims. I was impressed by what seemed to be valid evidence for the remote viewing experience.

ground breaking

In the technology field, most successful industry leaders are driven by a burning desire to create and innovate. It’s the strongest motivation of all, perhaps even more than profit. This desire drives leaders to follow their muse to the extent that they can tolerate the risk that often precedes new discoveries. Sometimes it pans out and sometimes it doesn’t.

Being one the of the first to develop portable and highly useful (not to mention fun) technology, Sony Corporation is a technology power center. Many have followed in the company’s footsteps, hoping to recreate the success of leaders who built the brand on the basis of continuing evolution, expanding our perception of the world through art, sound, technology and great story telling. The Sony Playstation family of products alone demonstrates the company’s creativity and innovation.

Fearless pursuit of new possibilities by necessity requires a change of perspectives. Finding ways to measure anomalous energy transference – and to uncover a commercial application for it – was something to Sony took seriously. In the company’s labs, it was objectively and empirically researched for over a decade under the oversight of Sony Senior Researcher Yoichiro Sako.

I had originally found Sako-san’s contact information by searching through old patent filings and finding colleagues who worked with him. I then able to cross-reference this information and find in Sako-san in our internal email contact list. Searching this way was the only method of making contact – imagine asking innocently about that around the office.

After contacting Sako-San regarding the archives, I booked a flight to Tokyo.

meeting the master

I arrived at Sony HQ in the incredible city of Tokyo a week before I’d have access to the documentation.  Yoichiro Sako-san communicated with me through his friend and colleague Itaru Kawakami-san during this period. Sako-san himself was prevented from meeting with me due to an illness. I had been hopeful I would meet the man who inspired me so much, but access to the archives was exciting enough.

The day finally arrived and I made my way to the designated building in Sony Square and and checked in with reception. I was shortly greeted by Itaru-San who immediately struck me as a serious and intelligent person. He was very business-focused, but very generous with his time and patience.

He escorted me a short distance down several corridors until I was brought to a fairly large conference room. All of the furniture in the room had be placed against the walls to allow room for all of the research documents which were organized into thirty or so white boxes  lined up row after row. It was impressive, and frankly very daunting since I couldn’t read Japanese at all and spoke very little of the language!

Itaru-San introduced me to his colleague Mitsuru Takehara-san and then left me to explore the contents of these boxes on my own.

It seemed that these boxes had not been opened since the research was concluded. I felt the sincerity, the purpose and the adrenaline of the hunt to find out what’s going on with this phenomenon. The intent was palpable. The thought came to mind of all the other great individuals on the verge of discovery.

I spent the majority of the day investigating the contents of the archive and couldn’t believe my eyes. Page after page of experiments validating human extra sensory phenomena of various kinds, not to mention the correspondence from scientists and academics around the world who communicated with Sako-san expressing their encouragement of this research. I was in awe with the depth of the study. Many varieties of experiments were conducted under highly controlled conditions. In the cases below, a tiny piece of paper with an image drawn on it would be placed in the ear of the subject who then is able to produce the mirrored images by means other than sight:

The Experiments


The results are amazing, especially considering that some of the remote viewing experiments were conducted with children who demonstrated powerful abilities of what can only be described as clairvoyance, to use the common term. The data corroborated the memorable statement that  Sony spokesman Masanobu Sakaguchi had given to the South China Morning Post after the story about the company’s research broke:  “We found out experimentally that yes, ESP exists, but that any practical application of this knowledge is not likely in the foreseeable future.”

After approximately a decade of study the ESPER LAB program was shuttered

 I put this short video together of the day I spent with the archive.

Sako-san has written about his research and memories in the books below which were printed in Japan.

ESPER Lab Books


Is ESP real? Look back at the decades various corporations and government powers have spent researching ESP phenomena and decide for yourself. How would that happen unless there was something to it, otherwise they wouldn’t keep it up, would they?

Could that many people have been fooled for that long? The answer is simply no. Whatever is happening, I think that one day soon it will be understood to be just another fascinating aspect of nature. The borders of consciousness, like the frontiers of space and time, are far from being fully explored and mapped out.

Sounds like fun times ahead. Thanks for reading!

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39 Comments on "E.S.P. Exists: Inside Sony’s Corporate Research"

  1. Daniel Gill | Mar 5, 2013 at 1:07 pm |

    I can list numerous PlayStation games with psi phenomenon in them, along with their general theme.

    Dead Space — the Horror of Communion
    Demon’s Souls — Psi Vamp, Communion/Attunement (via a shrine maiden, Maiden in Black -like reiki)
    Jak & Daxter — Shinto all over the place.
    Beyond Two Souls — New game coming, not out yet
    Legacy Of Kain Soul Reaver

    just some obvious examples

  2. Thad McKraken | Mar 5, 2013 at 4:21 pm |

    Great post. I was completely unaware of the corporate research side of this equation until right now. The answer is the same from both camps. I can’t remember what Ivy League school it was, but they closed down their parapsychology wing like a decade and it got tons of negative attention in the press as being evidence that this stuff isn’t worth our time.

    But if you read the fine print, what the articles were actually saying was: we proved that humans can manipulate electronics with their minds, but we’re discontinuing this research because we can’t find a way to make money off of it.

    • Thanks Thad. That was Princeton University. I had referenced it in the article but had to edit some stuff out – the lab was call P.E.A.R. http://www.princeton.edu/~pear/

    • Thanks Thad. That was Princeton University. I had referenced it in the article but had to edit some stuff out – the lab was call P.E.A.R. http://www.princeton.edu/~pear/

    • David Metcalfe | Mar 5, 2013 at 11:20 pm |

      You may be thinking of the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab, which went on to spawn the Global Consciousness Project and Psyleron, there’s also an open source scholar initiative whose name escapes me at the moment. The GCP has been working with the Institute of Noetic Sciences on some projects, including testing mind/machine interfaces at Burning Man.

      Psyleron was developing products based on mind/machine interface with random number generators, including a synchronicity monitor. They appear to have shut down however, as their website is no longer available.

      Princeton, NJ was also home to Chuck Honorton’s Psychophysical Research Laboratories in the Forrestal Research Center, which was in operation from 1979 – 1989.

      The extent of negative and debunking press in this area did a lot to hamper any independent entrepreneurial endeavors after the grant funded, or institutionally supported initiatives were shut down. Although as a test Russell Targ does mention successful use of Associate Remote Viewing in judging the future movement of the stock market.

      • Thad McKraken | Mar 6, 2013 at 12:17 pm |

        Thanks David. I remember reading about that years back, wanting to revisit it and then not being able to find anything about it. It was Princeton then. So sad when people are only looking only at the applications of research and not the implications.

        • David Metcalfe | Mar 7, 2013 at 4:19 am |

          University of Virginia still has their division of perceptual studies active, and my friend Christine Simmonds-Moore is doing parapsychologically related research at University of West Georgia right now, as well as various university affiliated folks doing independent studies, so there is still some activity in the U.S. academy around these areas. The U.K. is where things are really active at the moment, however, at least in a more publicly facing way. They are doing a lot in anomalous psychology, and in the field of anthropology of consciousness.

      • David Metcalfe | Mar 7, 2013 at 4:00 am |

        Duke’s lab moved off campus a few decades ago, but is still very active as the Rhine Research Center ( http://www.rhine.org/ ). I was just there today visiting with the Rhine folks, and one of the research directors from the Monroe Institute.

  3. People
    thought the earth was flat for hundreds of years, they wouldn’t have
    believed that unless there was something to it, would they?

    • BuzzCoastin | Mar 5, 2013 at 7:24 pm |

      actually, no sailor or someone familiar with sailing ever thought the earth was flat
      the edumacation system of the West created that myth
      along with a lot of other bullshit to keep you under control

    • BuzzCoastin | Mar 5, 2013 at 8:24 pm |

      actually, no sailor or someone familiar with sailing ever thought the earth was flat
      the edumacation system of the West created that myth
      along with a lot of other bullshit to keep you under control

      • They DID however believe the sea was filled with monsters and that, say, killing an albatross would curse them. Oh… and sea farers may not have believed the Earth was flat, but the populace did. He said “people” not “sailors”. There’s that, too.

        You know the best ways to “keep someone under control”? Feed them fantastic stories about how imaginary super powers will save them so they don’t get the bright idea of seeing you pick their pockets while they wait and hope for something that won’t come. Ever. Tell them “education only makes you dumber. It’s a PLOT to hide the REAL truth; that superpowers will save you. Don’t listen to education.” Feed people wildly stupid conspiracy theories so they can waste our time on them.

        Those all work. They always have.

    • kowalityjesus | Mar 6, 2013 at 1:41 am |

      “Could that many people have been fooled for that long? The answer is simply no.” This is a refreshing notion that summons one to take stock in tradition.

      • No. No it isn’t. It’s an idiot’s argument. It begs us to accept that someone believing in a thing means it HAS to be real. That’s just monumentally stupid. Stupid is never refreshing.

        • kowalityjesus | May 8, 2013 at 10:48 am |

          historians cannot dispute that the widespread dissemination and success of the Christian religion in the first half of the 1st millenium defies rational explanation. You have no way to account for it, so you call anyone that points it out an idiot. Very transparent.

          • What’s not rational about it? The Bible is the most effective and resonant pastiche of myths ever compiled. Why wouldn’t most people find meanings in it?

          • Enric G Torrents | May 23, 2013 at 12:22 pm |

            plus it was adopted AND adapted as the empire’s credo, which made it the official religion on the vast Roman territory. Nothing supernatural about it, just politics and a fierce desire to fool and control the plebe with renewed intensity.

  4. BuzzCoastin | Mar 5, 2013 at 8:26 pm |

    the most interesting part of this story is
    people refuse to acknowledge their own ESP experience
    and are waiting for “science” to confirm it for them

  5. I’m looking forward to the hundredth monkey!

  6. I’m looking forward to the hundredth monkey!

  7. Haystack | Mar 5, 2013 at 9:52 pm |

    The fact that Sony (and the go’vt) researched psi is interesting, but it doesn’t grant the idea any more or less credibility–that’s kind of an argument from authority, isn’t it?

  8. Haystack | Mar 5, 2013 at 9:52 pm |

    The fact that Sony (and the go’vt) researched psi is interesting, but it doesn’t grant the idea any more or less credibility–that’s kind of an argument from authority, isn’t it?

    • Daniel Gill | Mar 5, 2013 at 11:46 pm |

      If this was any other country, or Microsoft, or whatever.. I wouldn’t believe it. but as a fan of PlayStation, and knowing the kinds of products that they like to support ,and knowing their company vision.. and being JAPANESE, if you know the least about Shinto or Shugendo, this is not outre territory for a Japanese corporation to be investigating. Businesses have a lot of interest in gnosticism and communion for company integration and wellbeing .

      • David Metcalfe | Mar 7, 2013 at 4:01 am |

        Haystack, I think Gene is arguing from having flown to Japan and looked at the research documents and archives. : ) Although they were in Japanese, so I suppose in a way it does fall back on authority.

  9. Daniel Gill | Mar 6, 2013 at 12:23 am |

    I’m convinced this is fake from the sensationalist way that it is being presented on youtube, with lack of clear photos of important documents. He had the whole room to himself, but he didn’t bring a camera that could take thousands of clear photos?

    That said, I wish it was real because it is Sony, and their games are not unmystical or pedestrian in any way, and I get the feeling that Sony being interested in flow and experiences for gamers and their sympathy generally that I dunno its hard to explain but I could see Sony doing this but not a lot of other companies .

    • Hi Daniel. I understand, I do… Thank you for your comments so far – especially regarding Shinto. Funny enough I share a birthday with the great Abe No Seimei!

      I can only add that the article/video was prepared without any reliance, further help or information from Sony – only what I personally saw and was able to make video of, etc. Please keep in mind most of it was in Japanese and I couldn’t read all of it. The video was longer originally but I felt people would be bored if it was not presented in an upbeat manner. The video is HD 1080 and thought it could be paused for clarity if desired. I gave it my best shot 😉 Considering the associated article length and brevity usually desired w/ write-ups such as this, it’s always a trade off.

      My personal goal was to highlight that this research occurred, not as an in depth analysis of the data. It was also originally included (as one big piece) with my personal experience article which is linked in this article and intentionally broad to emphasize the importance of keeping an objective perspective. Perhaps one day more will be available on the depths of the research and of others like it – like the kind that requires disclosure… Anything is possible. 🙂 All the best!

      • alizardx | Mar 7, 2013 at 1:27 am |

        Not convinced it’s fake, but your case would be much stronger if you showed verifiable evidence (links to newspaper or other periodicals, patent applications, research journals, etc.) that this in fact had actually happened. I probably could find it myself, but you’re making the extraordinary claim.

        Would not be surprised if it were true, but would like better verification than you provided.

        • David Metcalfe | Mar 7, 2013 at 4:04 am |

          I was just at the Rhine Research Center and everyone I spoke with remembered Sony’s research. Some of the active Remote Viewing folks remember it as well, so this is definitely not fake. It also parallels other commercial psi research that was going on at the time.

          You bring up a good point regarding linking sources and cultural memory, however, since most of the popular skeptical material often deals with Dean Radin or Daryl Bem, and ignores the rest of the field. So any attempt to provide more coverage of sources, outside of the researchers who happen to have had major news coverage recently, might help to bring a legitimate discussion to the table.

          • alizardx | Mar 7, 2013 at 9:40 am |

            Exactly. The lack of coverage of sources is why I’m not pointing people at your post.

          • Thanks for the info, I see where you’re coming from and thought between the photo’s of the actual books (if you look closely ESPER is on in English on the cover also), not to mention the department signs that was on the wall in the office in the video would be plenty of justification. It never dawned on me that anyone would think it was fake given the physical evidence presented above but live and learn… 🙂 I hear ya – the issue is that this news is not very well known in the states but certainly was in Japan/China when it was released. It’s the real deal, no doubt about it.

          • Think what you’re saying is probably true, it fits with other information I know. I’m not going to say in public that Sony was doing ESP research and point to an article where we simply have to ultimately take your word for it. All I’m asking for is sources I and anyone I refer to can check, they don’t have to be in English, Google Translation is approximate, but good enough.

          • Ian Clark | Nov 18, 2013 at 4:47 pm |

            ESP does exist. I know because I have suffered with it. It is nothing to do with the brain. It is about communication from one human to another of an emotional status, usually anxiety. It is transmitted in the electrical wave given off by the heartbeat.

  10. strange pre-knowing of texts/calls of a gf,/loved one,having a GUN pulled out on me TWICE in this bright city of sin,knowing it would happen with a sickening,POwerFULl feeling in the gut.A genuine,paranormal experience with a being who responded to a challenge…and,to TOP it all off. Two,U.F.O.s(extraterrestrial,no damn “swamp gas” in Vegas),at the same time,pull off a spectacular,aerial maneuver above my very eyes…Skeptics r understandable,but y so much ridicule of the
    very mention of these spectacular endeavors in science

  11. I feel dumber for having read this tripe. Wonder if you “psychics” knew I’d say that.

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