Sony Patents Idea’s For New Control Devices

by ps3iso on October 13, 2012

Sony seem to be going some phase of weird patent ideas, the first one i am going to post about, is a device that you use with your tongue or mouth, whilst the immature child inside of me thought it funny at first, i soon realised this is probably aimed more at people with disabilities or gamers who are paralysed, that leads me onto the second patent, which is a device that gets hot or cold:

TONGUE TRACKING INTERFACE APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR CONTROLLING A COMPUTER PROGRAM

Abstract
A tongue tracking interface apparatus for control of a computer program may include a mouthpiece configured to be worn over one or more teeth of a user of the computer program. The mouthpiece can include one or more sensors configured to determine one or more tongue orientation characteristics of the user. Other sensors such as microphones, pressure sensors, etc. located around the head, face, and neck, can also be used for determining tongue orientation characteristics.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION
Embodiments of the present invention are directed to control interfaces for computer programs and more specifically to control interfaces that are controlled by the tongue.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
There are a number of different control interfaces that may be used to provide input to a computer program. Examples of such interfaces include well-known interfaces such as a computer keyboard, mouse, or joystick controller. Such interfaces typically have analog or digital switches that provide electrical signals that can be mapped to specific commands or input signals that affect the execution of a computer program.

Recently, interfaces have been developed for use in conjunction with computer programs that rely on other types of input. There are interfaces based on microphones or microphone arrays, interfaces based on cameras or camera arrays, and interfaces based on touch. Microphone-based systems are used for speech recognition systems that try to supplant keyboard inputs with spoken inputs. Microphone array based systems can track sources of sound as well as interpret the sounds. Camera based interfaces attempt to replace joystick inputs with gestures and movements of a user or object held by a user. Touch based interfaces attempt to replace keyboards, mice, and joystick controllers as the primary input component for interacting with a computer program.

Different interfaces have different advantages and drawbacks. Keyboard interfaces are good for entering text, but less useful for entering directional commands. Joysticks and mice are good for entering directional commands and less useful for entering text. Camera-based interfaces are good for tracking objects in two-dimensions, but generally require some form of augmentation (e.g., use of two cameras or a single camera with echo-location) to track objects in three dimensions. Microphone-based interfaces are good for recognizing speech, but are less useful for tracking spatial orientation of objects. Touch-based interfaces provide more intuitive interaction with a computer program, but often experience latency issues as well as issues related to misinterpreting a user’s intentions. It would be desirable to provide an interface that supplements some of the interfaces by analyzing additional characteristics of the user during interaction with the computer program.

Abstract
Methods and systems for providing thermal feedback are presented. In one embodiment, a controller for interfacing with an interactive program includes an outer surface having a plurality of first surface regions and one or more second surface regions. The second surface regions are arranged in an alternating and adjacent fashion with the first surface regions. A heating source is coupled to the plurality of first surface regions, and a cooling source is coupled to the second surface regions. A thermal controller is provided for determining when to activate the heating source to heat the first surface regions and when to activate the cooling source to cool the second surface regions, based on thermal trigger data generated by the interactive program. It is within this context that embodiments of the present invention arise.

BACKGROUND
1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to methods and systems for providing thermal feedback via a controller device interfacing with an interactive program.

2. Description of the Related Art

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. The game console is designed with specialized processing hardware, including a CPU, a graphics synthesizer for processing intensive graphics operations, a vector unit for performing geometry transformations, and other glue hardware, firmware, and software. The game console is further designed with an optical disc tray for receiving game compact discs for local play through the game console. Online gaming is also possible, where a user can interactively play against or with other users over the Internet. 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 is in this context that embodiments of the invention arise.

SUMMARY
Embodiments of the present invention provide methods and systems for providing thermal feedback via a motion controller interfacing with an interactive program. It should be appreciated that the present invention can be implemented in numerous ways, such as a process, an apparatus, a system, a device or a method on a computer readable medium. Several inventive embodiments of the present invention are described below.

In one embodiment, a controller for interfacing with an interactive program includes an outer surface having a plurality of first surface regions and one or more second surface regions. The second surface regions are arranged in an alternating and adjacent fashion with the first surface regions. A heating source is coupled to the plurality of first surface regions, and a cooling source is coupled to the second surface regions. A thermal controller is provided for determining when to activate the heating source to heat the first surface regions and when to activate the cooling source to cool the second surface regions, based on thermal trigger data generated by the interactive program.

In one embodiment, the outer surface is defined on a handle portion of the controller to be contacted by the skin of a user when holding the controller. In one embodiment, simultaneous activation of the heating source and the cooling source produces a thermal grill illusion when the handle portion of the controller is held by a user. In one embodiment, the heating source and the cooling source comprise at least one thermoelectric device.

In one embodiment, the thermal controller determines a level of activation for the heating source and a level of activation for the cooling source based on the thermal trigger data generated by the interactive program.

In one embodiment, a controller for interfacing with an interactive program and providing thermal feedback from the interactive program is provided. The controller includes a first thermoelectric device having a first externally exposed surface that is heated when the first thermoelectric device is activated; a second thermoelectric device adjacent to the first thermoelectric device, the second thermoelectric device having a second externally exposed surface that is cooled when the second thermoelectric device is activated; and a third thermoelectric device adjacent to the second thermoelectric device, the third thermoelectric device having a third externally exposed surface that is heated when the third thermoelectric device is activated. The controller further includes a thermal controller for determining when to activate the first, second, and third thermoelectric devices based on thermal trigger data generated by the interactive program.

In one embodiment, the first, second, and third thermoelectric devices are defined in a handle portion of the controller, the handle portion oriented to be contacted by the skin of a user when holding the controller. In one embodiment, simultaneous activation of the first, second, and third thermoelectric devices produces a thermal grill illusion when the handle portion of the controller is held by a user.

In one embodiment, the controller includes a first insulator defined between the first thermoelectric device and the second thermoelectric device; and a second insulator defined between the second thermoelectric device and the third thermoelectric device.

In one embodiment, the controller includes a lamp for radiating colors correlated to the activation of the first, second, or third thermoelectric devices.

In one embodiment, a method for providing thermal feedback to a user operating a controller is provided. The method initiates with receiving thermal trigger data. A plurality of first surface regions of the controller are heated based on the thermal trigger data. One or more second surface regions of the controller are cooled based on the thermal trigger data, wherein the second surface regions are arranged in an alternating and adjacent fashion with the first surface regions.

In one embodiment, heating the plurality of first surface regions and cooling the one or more second surface regions includes activating at least one thermoelectric device.

In one embodiment, the method further includes tracking a position of the controller, and generating the thermal trigger data based on the tracked position of the controller.

In one embodiment, simultaneous heating of the first surface regions and cooling of the second surface regions produces a thermal grill illusion when the skin of the user contacts the first surface regions and the second surface regions.

In one embodiment, the method further includes illuminating a lighted portion of the controller, the illumination generating a color based on the thermal trigger data.

In one embodiment, a method for providing thermal feedback to a user operating a controller is provided. The method initiates with executing an interactive application. Thermal trigger data is then generated, the thermal trigger data determining a level of heating and cooling, respectively, for a plurality of alternating and adjacent surface regions of the controller. The thermal trigger data is then transmitted to the controller.

In one embodiment, generating the thermal trigger data includes determining a current location of a virtual object within a virtual environment, the current location being correlated to a predefined thermal feedback configuration.

In one embodiment, the method includes tracking a position of the controller, wherein the thermal trigger data is generated based on the tracked position of the controller.

In one embodiment, simultaneous heating and cooling, respectively, of the alternating and adjacent surface regions produces a thermal grill illusion when the skin of the user contacts the alternating and adjacent surface regions.

In one embodiment, the method further includes generating light trigger data based on the thermal trigger data, the light trigger data determining a color to be displayed by a light source of the controller. The light trigger data is transmitted to the controller.

Other aspects of the invention will become apparent from the following detailed description, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, illustrating by way of example the principles of the invention.

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