I was curious to see what patents Sony had on controller developments that may be used for the PS4, this link is to a published patent for one of the patent applications Sony may have for the upcoming PS4 (link to patent). In this blogpost, I will discuss some of the features of the controllers presented in the patent application, and do a claim analysis of the current pending claims to see what features of the controllers Sony is trying to protect.

As a note, I was also curious to see what patent applications Nintendo may have on their Wii U controller, this is a link to a recent blogpost I had reviewing one of Nintendo’s published patents US20130109473 on the Wii U gamepad controller (link) and this is a link to Nintendo’s patent application in case people were interested in viewing other patents.

FIGURE 1 of the patent application is reproduced below. Below the FIGURE is an excerpt from the patent application.

FIG. 1 illustrates a perspective view of a controller 10 for interfacing with an interactive program, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention. The controller 10 includes a main body 12 and extensions 14 a and 14 b. The extension 14 a and 14 b are configured to be held by the user’s left and right hands, respectively, and thus function as handles or handle portions to enable secure gripping of the controller by the user. On the top surface of the main body 12, there are included various input devices, such as buttons 16, joysticks 18, and directional pad 20. Also shown is the top portion of a 3D control bar 22 which extends through the main body of the controller from top to bottom, and is described in further detail below. A speaker 24 is provided for playing sounds which provide feedback to the user.

Additionally, the controller 10 includes a touch panel 26 defined along the back side of the main body which faces the user when the controller is held in a conventional position. The touch panel 26 is oriented in a substantially vertical fashion and situated between the extensions 14 a and 14 b so that a user holding the controller by the extensions can readily use the touch panel with the thumb of either hand. The touch panel 26 utilizes a touch-sensitive technology (e.g. resistive, capacitive, etc.) to detect touch gestures. In the illustrated embodiment, the touch panel 26 also has a slight outward curvature from top to bottom which provides a tactile sensation by virtue of its shape that enables the user to readily determine the approximate vertical position of their thumb on the touch panel based on feeling alone.

I think it is pretty cool that the controller includes a touch panel on the front of the controller. Not totally sure how you would use it, I assume you would use your thumbs to control it. The speaker is also a cool feature, hopefully the controllers have a headphone jack so you can plug them in when you wife/roommates don’t want to hear you gaming.

FIGURE 11A of the patent application is reproduced below along with an excerpt of the patent application.

A speaker 114 is provided for allowing audio ouput to occur at the controller, which can enrich a user’s gameplay by allowing certain audio to be presented through the controller rather than in conjunction with the rest of the audio output of the video game. For example, ambient sounds from a virtual environment of a video game might be presented through normal audio mechanisms (e.g. as part of the video output of the video game) whereas audio from communications (e.g. a phone call, radio communication, etc.) are specifically presented through the controller speaker 114. When multiple players are engaged in gameplay, audio for a specific player can be routed to the controller being operated by that player. In this manner, players of a multiplayer game can each receive audio that is specific for them, and easily discern that such audio is intended for them, even when engaged in gameplay in the same local gameplay environment.

The controller device 100 includes a touch-sensitive pad 116 to facilitate touch-based input. An options button 118 can be configured to provide access to various options, which may be specific to a game console, a cloud gaming platform, a specific video game, or some other context. A share button 120 can provide access to a sharing interface for sharing a user’s gameplay to a social network, such as sharing screenshots or video clips of the user’s gameplay, or initiating live streaming of the user’s active gameplay. In one embodiment, the share button provides access to buffered video of the user’s recent gameplay, from which the user may select a portion or a screenshot for sharing to a social network, such as a gaming social network or other social network.

In this embodiment, the touch pad is placed on the front of the controller. Once again, I am not sure how easy it would be to use it while playing games in the conventional sense, but I can see circumstances where it would be cool for mini-games. There “share” button is fairly cool, but more of a novelty as I assume clicking on “hot buttons” at the same time would have the same effect, and I am not sure how easy it will be to press the button while actually gaming.

FIGURE 14 of the patent application is reproduced below along with an excerpt of the patent application.

Scene C illustrates an exemplary application that can be executed by the game client and server processing module. For example, in one embodiment game client 1102C allows user C to create and view a buddy list 1120 that includes user A, user B, user D and user E. As shown, in scene C, user C is able to see either real time images or avatars of the respective user on monitor 1104C. Server processing executes the respective applications of game client 1102C and with the respective game clients 1102 of users A, user B, user D and user E. Because the server processing is aware of the applications being executed by game client B, the buddy list for user A can indicate which game user B is playing. Further still, in one embodiment, user A can view actual in game video directly from user B. This is enabled by merely sending processed server application data for user B to game client A in addition to game client B.

FIGURE 14 appears to be a fairly standard gaming network. It is pretty cool to see that the PS4 will include social networking features and buddy lists. This may make it easier to organize multiplayer.

The following is a representative independent claim of the noted PS4 patent application. The patent claims are the most important feature of a patent application. To infringe on the patent another device or system must include EACH AND EVERY limitation as recited in the claims.

1. A controller for interfacing with an interactive application, comprising:

a housing defined by a main body, a first extension extending from a first end of the main body, and a second extension extending from a second end of the main body, the first extension and the second extension for holding by a first hand and a second hand of a user, respectively;

an input device positioned along a top surface of the main body;

a touch-sensitive panel defined along the top surface of the main body.

As can be seen from this claim, it is a fairly broad claim. The “housing” portion of the claim seems to describe a standard controller housing, and the input device seems to be your standard “buttons.”

The only novel portion of the claim seems to be the “touch-sensitive panel” along the top surface of the main body. This claim appears to be very broad, and will probably not be allowable in view of the PS3 controllers (the claims can be amended). This is because what is a touch sensitive panel? In my opinion, the buttons themselves may be a touch-sensitive panel, because they are touch sensitive, and some of the buttons such as the “start” and “select’ buttons are in panel form. I believe this claim may be allowable if Sony further clarifies what is meant by “panel.” But more so, I am interested to see how they use the touch sensitive panel in their games!