In a recent patent application published by the US Patent and Trademark Office, we see that Sony has been working on a new hybrid PlayStation controller. The proposed hybrid gaming controller is described as integrating Sony's current "Move Motion Controller" accessory into this future controller. The new controller is additionally described as being able to split into two distinct parts for the gamer's right and left hands. This way games that require the gamer to engage in a fistfight could do so naturally with each part of the controller acting as the gamer's fists. Another example could be where one half of the controller could be used as a shield while the other half used as a sword. If you happen to be an enthusiastic gamer, then I'm sure you'll be able to use your imagination to envision other gaming scenarios for this future hybrid controller. While the hybrid controller could be viewed as a simple and natural evolutionary move on Sony's part, one has to keep in mind that Sony has several major patents for varying future gaming console components and/or concepts on the drawing board. Which of their advancements will eventually surface in the next PlayStation is anyone's guess at this point in time. Yet with "ultra-high definition" televisions displayed at CES this past week with resolutions that will blow Sony's Blu-ray 1080p standard out of the water, we should at least expect Sony to address these next-generation resolution advancements at E3 this summer.
Sony's Patent Background
The video game industry has seen many changes over the years. As computing power has expanded, developers of video games have likewise created game software that takes advantage of these increases in computing power. To this end, video game developers have been coding games that incorporate sophisticated operations and mathematics to produce a very realistic game experience.
Example gaming platforms may be the Sony Playstation, Sony Playstation2 (PS2), and Sony Playstation3 (PS3), each of which is sold in the form of a game console. As is well known, the game console is designed to connect to a monitor (usually a television) and enable user interaction through handheld controllers.
As game complexity continues to intrigue players, game and hardware manufacturers have continued to innovate to enable additional interactivity and computer programs. A growing trend in the computer gaming industry is to develop games that increase the interaction between user and the gaming system. One way of accomplishing a richer interactive experience is to use wireless game controllers whose movement is tracked by the gaming system in order to track the player's movements and use these movements as inputs for the game. Generally speaking, gesture input refers to having an electronic device such as a computing system, video game console, smart appliance, etc., react to some gesture made by the player and captured by the electronic device. It's in this context that embodiments of the invention arise.
Sony's Hybrid Separable Motion Controller
Sony's invention provides patent embodiments that provide methods and systems for a hybrid separable motion controller interfacing with an interactive program such as a video game. Several inventive embodiments of the present invention are described below, though Sony isn't limited by these them.
Cutting to the chase, Sony has created a hybrid controller as noted below in patent FIGS. 1A and 1B. Sony has in affect merged their regular PS3 gaming controller with a Sony "Move Motion," controller. The redesigned configuration will allow the gamer to separate the game controller into two halves when action in a game demands more interactivity such as a fistfight, for example, where each half of the controller will act as your right and left fists as illustrated in patent FIG. 9 below.
Although the patent figures are illustrating the two kinds of controllers merged into one for illustrative purposes, I suspect that Sony will further refine their technology so that the blue bulbs at the end of the controller will be miniaturized and non-distracting. Otherwise this will be a design drawback that could hurt their future gaming platform. I trust that Sony is up to the task.
Sony's patent figure 6 note above illustrates just one of several designs presented in Sony's patent filing regarding the mechanics of how the two halves of the controller will come together and separate quickly and easily as the game requires.
At a different stage of the video game, shown at FIG. 9B below, the gamer engages in a fistfight in one part of the game. In order to independently control the movement of the gaming character's arms and fists, the gamer will be able to quickly separate the controller into two halves. The gamer will be able to freely move the two halves in a wholly independent fashion so that they could naturally swing their arms as if in a real fight in order to take down an enemy.
New Interactive Gaming Zones
Sony's patent FIG. 11 noted above illustrates several possible modes of operation that may be triggered when a gamer transitions a controller from a connected configuration to a disconnected configuration. For example, in one embodiment, when the controller (#10) is separated into two halves noted above as parts #12 and #24 in the very top graphic. Once disconnected into two halves, various interactive zones noted as areas #210, 212, and 214 are immediately defined.
The locations of the first controller half #12 and second controller half # 24 is independently tracked once separated. When operated within the zone 210, the first or second controller halves control the firing of a weapon. However, when the gamer holds the first or second controller halves in the zone 212 and presses a trigger, then the weapon is reloaded.
In other words, the gamer just has to extend their arms out to zone 212 like a quick snap-back action in order to load a weapon quickly rather than pressing an assigned button. I like that idea – though you might have to have some room to do that in as it would be very easy to smack anyone close to you in the head by using such a gesture.
New Lateral Gaming Zones
In another embodiment, the separation of the two controller halves triggers the initiation of various lateral zones. When the controller transitions to the disconnected configuration, shown as "Zone A" in patent FIG. 11 above, the controller immediately redefines the normal operation of the two halves.
Additonally, when the gamer moves one of the controller halves into transition "Zone T" as noted in patent FIG. 11 above (Middle graphic), haptic feedback will be provided to the gamer so that they're made aware that one or both halves of the controller are transitioning into a different zone.
From there, various games will provide different functionality to the controller halves as the gamer extends their arms into Zones B and/or C. While Sony informs us of these future zones, they never truly define what the zones will produce by way of new functionality.
Sony's patent FIG. 7 noted above is a schematic diagram showing components of a hybrid separable motion controller; FIG. 10B illustrates roll, pitch, and yaw of a controller in a disconnected configuration. It also illustrates how the hybrid controller will require a specialized camera to capture the motion of the new hybrid controller.
Sony already has such a motion camera called the "Eye Camera" that works with their current gaming accessory called the "Move Motion Controller" which is now being designed right into this future hybrid controller. Games should be backward compatible with the hybrid controller.
At the End of the Day
At the end of the day it's a little difficult to predict when or if Sony will ever introduce this hybrid controller into the market due to the fact that they have shown to have several different research teams experimenting with a wide range of new PlayStation ideas. In 2012 we covered five new Sony gaming patents covering such things as Video Gaming Glasses (one and two), Video Gaming Contact Lenses, Gaze, Gestures & Brainwave controls and finally one covering nerve sensors and specialized cameras. Which of these inventions Sony will act on in the future is unknown at this time.
In November, CNET's ranking placed the Playstation 3 in the number one spot for gaming consoles and many other websites agreed. Yet all gamers know that the console market is going to change sometime in the 2013-2014 timeline. The changes will undoubtedly be dramatic while having to change how games are distributed. With many DVD Movie and Gaming shops like Blockbuster going out of business around the world, average consumers are finding it difficult to find rental sources.
I personally went from playing ten video games in 2011 down to three in 2012 because I had to buy them. Even with trading old games for new at Best Buy you end up paying about thirty bucks out of pocket just to play a game versus only paying six to eight bucks for a weekly game rental in 2011. Hopefully we'll see game-rental services built right into to future consoles from the major three OEM's (Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony) because the purchase-only option will kill the gaming industry. Only time will tell how that plays out.
Innovation found in gaming patents certainly provided us with some entertaining moments in 2012, especially reading about Microsoft's vision for the future. In the end, it isn't a secret that Sony wants to breathe new life back into their wilting brand and the PlayStation could be a huge part of that comeback. Whatever Sony has in store for the PlayStation will be in-part be revealed during the E3 conference being held in Los Angeles June 11-13, 2013.
Sony's patent application was originally filed under serial number 115770 in Q2 2011.
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