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SCE Patents Controller That Can Get Hard or Soft, Rough or Smooth, “Triggering Multiple Human Sensations”

January 24, 2013 Written by Sebastian Moss

With rumors swirling about the DualShock being dropped, biometrics being used or the PS Move getting overhauled, we’ve dug into a series of incredible Sony Computer Entertainment patents that describe an almost sci-fi sounding controller. Read on to learn about the most advanced, most bizarre and most sexual controller you can possibly imagine.

As ever, it’s important to note that a patent doesn’t mean something will release, especially when it’s this clinically insane. However, the four patents we delve into share something very special – SCE is not listed as an assignee, which makes them unusually hard to find (we almost missed them). Instead the patent only mentions the inventors – who are all SCE R&D employees – and the artwork is still clearly from Sony, with the PS3 pic recycled from previous patents. Additionally, one of the inventors was previously discovered to have listed the PS4 on his LinkedIn, but later it was claimed that it was a typo. Either way, this controller idea is so utterly unique that it’s fascinating.

Back in October of last year, it was discovered that Sony had patented a controller that could heat up or cool down (originally published on Kotaku). These four patents are the next level of this – they go over the same heating and cooling methods (although in greater detail), but they also go on to discuss how the controller could get hard or soft, rough or smooth, and help to trigger “multiple human sensations”. Yes, you read that right.

The four patents are available here, here, here and here, so feel free to browse them if you wish, although we’ve collated all the salient points below. All of the patents were filed in 2011, but published today. With the patents repeating each other a few times, we’ve focused on the features and describing them with quotes and images from all four patents, rather than splitting it up. The patents all use a PlayStation Move to demonstrate designs, but the fine print notes it is a placeholder and could be swapped with any controller.

Click on any image to fullscreen.

The Background – Why Sony thinks these features are important:

As audio visual devices such as gaming platforms, smart phones, tablets, televisions, etc., provide a higher level of interactive experience to a user of such audio visual devices, there is demand for providing more real-time sensations to a user of such audio visual devices.

…An example of known real-time sensations is the vibration of a gaming controller. Vibrations may be generated when, for example, the user of the gaming controller encounters an undesired event associated with an audio-visual game while playing the game—car driven by a user when the car slides off a road causing a vibration of the remote controller held by the user. However, such real-time sensations provided to a user are not rich enough (i.e., lacks triggering multiple human sensations) to immerse the user into the interactive experience.

Heating up:

A heating and cooling ability was previously patented, but this time it shows how a thermal source and logic unit would be placed in the bottom of the controller:

More importantly, it shows a set of possible temperature ranges for the controller, with a rather uncomfortable 125F suggested:

Softly softly:

But it’s with the hardness-softness control that things really get interesting. The patents detail several types of folded material that could give it a texture, including the Origami-fold Miura-Ori:

This folded material would then be wrapped around the controller, with a “push-pull” mechanism on the inside dictating how far edges stick out, and so how rough they are. Alternatively, prongs could be placed:

Yet another embodiment disuses using a pump that is “configured to provide sensations of hardness-softness to a user via the controller.” We kid you not. Oh, and it has a reservoir that stores “an inflating material” that expands to “cause a sensation of hardness.” I can also “suck the inflating material from the cavity to the reservoir to deflate the cavity to cause a sensation of softness.”

Most embodiments discuss “a fabric with interleaved memory metal”, where “adjusting a tension level of the interleaved memory metal to pull the fabric” causes it to harden.

A further distinction is made between simple hardness and softness compared to roughness and smoothness, with “texture sensation settings”.

Ok, um, well… What about the Games?

Yeah, it’s bizarre, we know. But they at least described some game-related plans:

For example, in one embodiment a user holding the controller is a character of an interactive game… [moving] towards a first context of the game which represents a hard surface (e.g., the character walking on a concrete surface), the first trigger signal is generated by the executing gaming program that is transmitted to the controller held by the user. The controller then causes the first region of the controller in contact with the user’s hand to harden to provide a sensation of hardness to the user.

Referring to the same example, in one embodiment when the character of the user moves to a second context representing a soft surface (e.g., the character walking in a desert with soft sand), the first trigger signal is generated again… the controller then causes the first region of the controller in contact with the user’s hand to soften to provide a sensation of softness to the user.

In one embodiment, the controller comprises a second region configured to be touched by the user and to provide real-time computer programmable temperature sensations to the user in response to a second trigger signal generated by the interactive program. In one embodiment, the controller comprises a second mechanism, coupled to the second region, to cause the second region to heat up relative to a third state and to cause the second region to cool down relative to a fourth state, wherein the first and the second regions reside on an outer surface of the controller, and wherein the third and fourth states represent thermals levels of sensations provided by the second region.

…A third context of the game which represents a hot surface or surrounding environment (e.g., the character is walking on a concrete surface in hot summer day)… the controller then causes the second region of the controller in contact with the user’s hand to heat up to provide a sensation of high temperature (hot concrete surface) to the user. In this embodiment, in response to the controller receiving first and second trigger signals, the controller provides both sensations of hardness and high temperature representing hot concrete.

…When the character of the user moves to… a soft surface (e.g., the character walking in a desert with soft sand at night)… the controller then causes the second region of the controller in contact with the user’s hand to cool down to provide a sensation of coolness to the user. In this embodiment, the controller provides both sensations of softness and cool temperature representing desert sand at night in response to the controller receiving first and second trigger signals.

Are you ready to feel “multiple human sensations”, maybe simultaneously? Or is this just too much craziness for you to be able to swallow? Let us know in the comments below.