The US Patent & Trademark Office recently published a patent application from Sony revealing the company's latest advances in a future head-tracking headset. Sony's patent application illustrates a camera-based head tracking system which tracks a gamer's head using specialty illuminated glasses for future PlayStation video game play. Parts of the system will first appear in the upcoming Sony PS4. This will possibly allow the system to evolve into a headset sometime in the 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 his or hands or wear. Further input technologies involve a camera, usually mounted on top of a television, tracking a user's body, including tracking his or her head, 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 they could clear a virtual bridge.
Three-dimensional (3-D, or 3D) televisions help immerse users in events happening on their display screens. For such 3-D televisions, a user sometimes dons 3-D glasses. Earlier 3-D glasses included red and blue lenses for discerning an anaglyph. Shuttered 3-D glasses have lenses that rapidly and alternatingly switch between being opaque and transparent in synchronization with a display that rapidly shows left and right images.
Other types of 3-D presentation technology exist. Many are similar in that they present a separate two-dimensional image to a viewer's left eye and a separate two-dimensional image to the viewer's right eye either contemporaneously or very rapidly (e.g., at 60 Hz) in order to trick the viewer's brain into interpreting the stereoscopic images as a 3-D environment.
Video games utilizing 3-D display technologies can immerse a player in a game through the use of 3-D effects on the screen. Furthermore, video game consoles with body tracking can use 3-D effects to coordinate a player's actual movements in the real world with their virtual movement in a displayed virtual world. Head tracking can be critical for games that render based on where a user's head is. For example, as a user steps toward the television in his living room, a video game console can render a 3-D virtual pyre on the television so that it appears like the user is moving closer to it.
In the end, tracking the location, orientation, and movement of a viewer or other user's head can be important for some video games, especially those that use head-tracking to render 3-D objects closer to the user. There exists a need in the art for more robust head tracking that is not too expensive for average consumers.
Sony's Specialty PS Gaming Glasses with Mini-Prisms
Sony's patent relates to devices, systems, and methods for camera-based head tracking that a user can wear in the form of a pair of glasses such as 3-D glasses for a 3-D television.
Their next generation headset in the form of glasses uses a light and a light guide, including a hollow, fiber optic, transparent or translucent foam with a light-conveying interior, such as a light guide plate (LGP) that conveys and disperses light through the frame.
The light can be carried from the lights to all corners of the frames in order to increase visibility of the glasses to a tracking camera. The lights can optionally be turned brighter or dimmer depending on competing ambient light. Staggered retro-reflector strips can also be mounted on the glasses with reflective backsides that help reflect light back into the LGP.
A color camera can then be used to not only track a position of the glasses but also determine the wearer's head angle by identifying the color refracted and reflected by mini prisms. The change in colors observed by a camera can be used to determine the rate of change of the angle (or higher derivatives) of the wearer's head without determining the absolute angle of the wearer's head.
Technical advantages of the methods, devices, and systems include robust head tracking using glasses that are visible in a variety of lighting conditions. The glasses can be inexpensively mass produced. Some frames could fit over existing prescription glasses as they do in a theater.
Additionally, variable lighting on board the glasses offers less distraction to the user in low light situations and reduces power requirements. The LGP can extend the lighting to all corners of the glasses frames so that its geometry is more pronounced and easier to pick up by the camera. Retro-reflectors not only reflect ambient light, but their reflective backs can increase the efficiency of the LGP by reflecting light back into the LGP. Prisms and the colors they refract and reflect can be used for angle or other orientation measurements. Such prisms can also refract and reflect near-infrared light, which can often be picked up by charge-coupled device (CCD) cameras.
Mini prisms can be affixed to the glasses in order to refract and reflect a predetermined color in one predetermined orientation while refracting and reflecting a different predetermined color at another predetermined orientation. Lenticular printing or plastic with angular mesmerism can be used instead of or in addition to mini prisms. In another embodiment, the rate of motion of the user's head can be determined by the amount of change of color over time.
Sony's patent FIG. 1A noted below illustrates 3-D glasses in accordance with this invention. Although non-3-D glasses can certainly be used, this description will focus on 3-D glasses. 3-D glasses can shutter between transparent and opaque states in sync with a 3-D display, such as a 3-D television.
The frame includes a light guide and light guide plate (LGP) that consists of transparent-to-translucent material such as polymethyl methacrylate that conveys light from four embedded LEDs that shine into the LGP.
Sony's patent FIGS. 4A and 4B illustrate 3-D glasses with mini prisms.
Head Tracking System for Future PS Video Games
Sony's patent FIG. 6 illustrates one of the key features of their new 3D glasses, the head tracking system for a future PS peripheral. The player can use a conventional game controller to play a video game and/or use only their body movements to control the game. The camera (#620 noted below) seated on a television (like a Kinect system) will be able to capture the user's position and movements and feed them into a future PlayStation game console.
As a player swings their head to the action in the game, the camera tracks the player's head using the illuminated glasses. The game console sends a wireless signal to the glasses to adjust the lights embedded in the glasses. The tracked head movements can be used as inputs to the game, to render 3-D images.
The basics of the system will already be in place with the upcoming PS4. The system will include a built-in tracking system in the new controller as noted in blue above. It will work in sync with the new PlayStation Camera. Whether Sony will eventually evolve this system into a future headset is unknown at this time.
The US Patent and Trademark Office published Sony patent application earlier this month. Sony originally filed their patent application under serial number 260701 back in Q3 2011.
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