Last month we reported on a recent Sony patent regarding the use of gaze based technology in future gaming. Today we present you with a really wild idea that's a creative offshoot of gaze technology. A gamer wearing the magnetized contact lenses will be tracked by certain role playing games (RPG) on a next generation gaming console so as to put the gamer right into the action at a much higher degree of intimacy. Next generation gaming as envisioned by both Sony and Microsoft definite paint a cool gaming future.
Sony's Patent Background
Video games have become more immersive as technology progresses. Video game consoles are often produced with state-of-the-art processors, extremely fast memory, and high-end graphics cards. Input controllers have evolved from simple knobs, joysticks, and button-based controllers to accelerometer-enabled controllers that a user can swing in the user's hands or simply wear. Further input technologies involve tracking all or part of a user's body, including tracking the user's head or other facial features, torso, arms, and legs. Users can control such video games by simply moving their bodies or parts thereof. For example, a player of a skateboarding game can duck down so that he or she clears a virtual bridge.
Accordingly, what is desired is to solve problems related to tracking a user or parts of a user's body using contact lens.
Sony's Specialized Magnetized Contact Lenses
Sony's most recent invention relates to gazing technology which was first touched on in October. In this latest gaming related patent application filing, Sony continues with methods, systems, computer-readable media, and articles of manufacture that relate to eye gaze tracking using contact lenses. The contact lenses could be used both for gaming and viewing 3D information on a television.
According to Sony, eye gaze may be tracked using magnetic sensors and magnetized contact lenses and/or using video-based sensors and reflective contact lenses. In one embodiment, magnetic sensors may be placed on a video game console or near the head of a user of a video game console to track the location and polarization of magnetized contact lenses.
In another embodiment, video-based sensors may be used to track the location of reflective contact lenses transparent to normal light and reflecting one or more portions of the electromagnetic spectrum.
In further embodiments, magnetic sensors and video-based sensors may be used in combination to track a magnetized contact lens with one or more reflective patterns, provide blink detection, and track multiple users. Other video-based sensors may be used to locate the head position of a user and prune noise from other magnetic or other light sources. Additionally, tracking information from contact lenses of both eyes may be used to improve accuracy.
Magnetized and reflective contact lenses may be utilized to browse menus of computer applications, control virtual characters of video games, select-drag-manipulate objects, and perform other trained or learned actions responsive to a user's eye movement or eye gaze. In further aspects, magnetized and reflective contact lenses can be used in any application that can benefit from eye and/or gaze tracking.
In various embodiments, contact lenses are provided for viewing 3D information.
The Advantages of Eye Tracking Contact Lenses
One of the advantages of using contact lenses for eye tracking and viewing 3D information is that they are more practical (i.e., smaller, light weight and easy to carry around) compared to some peripherals used for eye gaze tracking or for 3D information viewing. For example, glasses typically used for 3D information viewing or head-mounts typically used for eye gaze tracking can be complex and cumbersome.
In addition, contact lenses can offer highly accurate eye tracking information at low cost. For example, when contact lenses are used for eye gaze tracking, the performance can be better than the one that can be achieved with a camera-based eye tracking solution. Also, compared to camera-based solutions which require expensive high-resolution cameras, contact lenses can offer low cost solutions which make them more suitable for consumer products.
Accordingly, in various embodiments, a combination of marker-based and marker-less eye tracking techniques using contact lenses provide interacting with or controlling objects or menus of a video game, a projected visual user interface, an augmented virtual reality user interface, or the like.
When contact lenses are used for eye gaze tracking, the performance can be better than the one that can be achieved with a camera-based eye tracking solution.
In one embodiment, a user may be outfitted with a magnetized contact lens that may be tracked by one or more magnetic sensors positioned on or near a video game console or the user's head. In another embodiment, a user may be outfitted with contact lenses configured for reflecting one or more portions of the electromagnetic spectrum that may be tracked by one or more cameras.
Sony's Patent FIG. 7 is an illustration depicting magnetized contact lens that may be configured to produce a magnetic field having a magnetic pole (720). In various embodiments, the contact lens has the magnetized particles embedded while other embodiments have the magnetized particles affixed to one or more outer surfaces of contact lens. In some aspect, magnetized contact lenses can optionally be designed such that they can be worn on top of a regular contact lens which a user might be using for improving his/her vision.
In FIG. 12, Sony states that the contact lens includes circular bands 1210, 1220, and 1230. Each of the circular bands is configured to reflect IR or NIR light.
Sony's patent FIG. 9 is an illustration depicting glasses that may be worn by a user having one or more sensors configured to track magnetized contact lenses. In this example, magnetic sensors 910 and 920 are embedded into or on the frame of glasses. In patent FIG. 10 we see an illustration depicting magnetic sensors 1010 and optional magnetic sensors 1020 that may be worn around the neck of a user for tracking magnetized contact lenses. Sony lists 18 Honeywell magnetic sensors candidates that could be utilized in their invention.
As usual, Sony doesn't provide us with a clue as to a timeline that we might see this come to market. But it's safe to say that Sony needs to take gaming to the next level and ideas like these could add some buzz. On the other hand, I'm just not sure that parents will want their kids poking their eyes with specialty gaming contact lenses with magnetized polarity and materials like these: "ferromagnetic material, including neodymium-iron-boron, FeCoB, FeCoNiB, an alloy material comprising iron, nickel and/or cobalt, at least one element selected from the group consisting of Fe (iron), Co (cobalt), Ni (nickel), Ti (titanium), Zn (zinc), Cr (chrome), V (vanadium), Mn (manganese), Sc (scandium), and Cu (copper). Neodymium-iron-boron alloys are preferred as they generally produce the strongest magnetic fields." Are you going to take a chance that these materials near your kid's eyes will be safe long term? I think the "optional glasses" will end up being the safe route. For now that's a future marketing problem, what counts at this very moment is that Sony has a pretty cool idea that could advance gaming and putting players more directly into the game.
Sony's patent was filed in May 2011 and published by the US Patent and Trademark Office in Q4 2012.
Side Note: Game Rentals Have to Return to Market
I love some of these ideas that have come from both Sony and Microsoft of late. But the industry is in a bad slump because outlets like Blockbuster and other outlets have gone bust due to services like iTunes, Netflix and others. In my area, renting a game is no longer an option. While I don't mind the odd purchase, games are way too expensive to gamble on. In my case I've gone from renting 10-12 games a year down to buying 2 or 3. The lack of local access to renting games is hitting game developers like Eurocom hard. They've gone from 200 employees to 50 – which is all but a death spiral.
Online gaming isn't ready for primetime in the general RPG space and who knows when we'll be able to get game rentals like we do with movie rentals from iTunes or Xbox Live. Is it just me or is access to top brand video games for rent gone to hell? Agree or disagree – send in your comments and insights.
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