Sony applies for motion-sensitive controller patent

Yesterday, Sony applied to the United States Patent Office (USPTO) for a patent on a “hand-held controller having detectable elements for tracking purposes.” The patent may well be the precursor to an optional accessory for the PlayStation 3 that could add full-motion tracking to that system.

Many people wondered if Sony was reacting to the Nintendo Wii announcement when they announced their tilt-sensitive Sixaxis controller so suddenly that even their third-party developers were caught off guard. Now, it seems as if Sony wants to complete the rest of the motion-sensitive equation. The patent application describes a controller that is sensitive to all kinds of motion:

In general, the detected and captured movements of the controller 110 are used to generate position and orientation data for the controller 110. Because this data is gathered on an image frame-by-frame basis, the data can be used to calculate many physical aspects of the movement of the controller 110, such as for example its acceleration and velocity along any axis, its tilt, pitch, yaw, roll, as well as any telemetry points of the controller 110.

For example, a plunging downward gesture of the controller 110 may be defined as one command, a twisting gesture of the controller 110 may be defined as another command, a shaking gesture of the controller 110 may be defined as another command, and so on. In this way the manner in which the user 108 physically moves the controller 110 itself is used as another input for controlling the game, which provides a more stimulating and entertaining experience for the user.

The controller uses four LEDs to capture this motion, but in a twist from Nintendo’s sensor bar configuration, the LEDs are mounted on the controller itself. A camera mounted next to the player’s television set takes many pictures of the four LEDs every second, and this data is used to calculate the position and velocity of the controller.

Sony has been working on such a feature for a while now. For people who didn’t like having to choose between a system with next-gen graphics and one with full-motion control, Sony’s new controller may fill in the gap. However, the Wii still has the nunchuck attachment and extra features such as force feedback that the new PS3 controller will still lack. Given the price disparity between the PS3 and Wii, Sony’s real intentions may not be competing with Nintendo at all, but giving users reasons not to purchase Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console instead. Will Microsoft retaliate with a motion-sensitive controller of its own?

News source: ARSTECHNICA


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