Sony Patents 3D Virtual Reality Controller

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. via California inventor Tyler Jon Daniel has been assigned patent rights to a “Hand-held computer interactive device” (Patent no. 0070075966) that can manipulate objects on a display via a glove-like device that transmits the absolute coordinates of the fingers as well as providing “tactile feedback” in the form of vibration. They’re pretty hung up on the whole vibration thing too, given the document uses the term “vibrator” no less than fourteen times. Tee hee.

Arguably the most thrilling part of the read is the paragraph wherein Sony takes the legal equivalent of a knowing wink at the audience.

“Receiver 106 is in communication with device 108 which is controlled by the signals transmitted to the receiver from input device 100. In one embodiment device 108 can be a computer, or a game console which can be manufactured by any company. For purposes of example, the game console may be a PLAYSTATION.TM. game console

“Purposes of example.” You sly dog. Accordingly and appropriately, this leaves you to wonder whether Sony intends for this to be “Sony’s answer to the Wii remote”, a peripheral specific to a few games, or a precautionary patent that never materializes outside of their R&D facilities.

If it’s intended to be a Wii remote clone, then Sony is in for yet another unpleasant surprise. The Wii’s appeal and focus lies largely in its accessibility, friendliness, and ease of use, with the Wii remote used primarily as a tool to simplify and familiarize game interaction. A device such as the PlayGlove (that’s my word now and you can’t have it), while potentially awesome and no doubt the weapon of choice for b-movie computer hackers from the year 2099, is not any of those things – accessible, friendly, easy to use, or respected by Fred Savage. Whether something like this would even appeal to the Sony fanbase is questionable as well – most people belonging to that demographic have been mocking “gimmicky motion controls” for long enough that it’d be silly to support what is essentially an extension of the same concept. And if it’s questionable to that lot as to whether the Wii can break free from the “gimmick” label, I remain vigorously skeptical that an accessory could succeed where an entire console could not.

If it’s only for a handful of games or an application suite, then it’s likely to be written off as a gimmick there as well – Apparently the only accessories in this industry that you can develop without earning that label are shaped like revolvers.

We’ll see where it goes, but my money’s on “not far.” Which is a shame, because this is a rockin’ idea, all things considered. What’s your take – Is this an attempt from Sony to capitalize on the explosive success of the Wii and its remote? Or something less sinister?

[Thanks, Ek-o]