It’s very likely that people who follow patenting news have encountered Sony’s recent patent application, which proposes a method and system to effectively convert inanimate objects into PlayStation 5 controllers. The system uses a camera to serve functions of “object detector” and “object pose detector.” The combination effectively tracks motion-based contour and pixel detection, follows it up by detecting object poses when held by the user, and generates inputs based on the pose. The patent application uses a banana as an example, but Sony states that anything can be used to input controller data, from pens to coffee mugs.
Sony proposes multiple uses for this technology in the patent, such as the usage of inexpensive objects as controllers and the ability to add in more people into multiplayer mode, something often restricted by the limited number of controllers available with a single person.
It is, however, more plausible that Sony is patenting this technology so as to prevent competitors from exploiting it. Console controllers are complex creations, ergonomically designed so as allow the user to access multiple function buttons at the same time. We must also remember that Sony’s current console controllers feature not just button-pushing, but two joystick-like apparatuses for motion control, something that would seem somewhat hard to replicate on a common household object. With the increasingly complex controls and expertise required to play most of the popular games these days, it’s not likely for such technology to replace the current controllers.
What this patent does allow, however, is allow Sony to claim a myriad of very interesting technologies. Sony’s wording makes it so that the claim is for “any passive non-luminous object” paired with a camera-based object detection service. This (if granted) effectively prevent competitors from further developing the idea of alternative input variations for gaming controllers, and allows Sony relatively safe ground to continue developing related technologies in the field.
Video games are a very lucrative business area, especially since the digital distribution of games became commonplace. It’s estimated that the console industry alone is expected to have a global market value of about 30 billion dollars. It is no great surprise why Sony, and every other major video game maker, is trying to acquire as much market advantage as possible. The cultural impact of video games is staggering. Gaming has become more accepted with younger families and now often serves as a vehicle for family bonding in both industrialized nations and higher-income households. In addition, players continue to demand more and more innovations with each passing game- better visuals, more innovative controls —more novelty, in effect. Sony might or might not have plans to use the published patent application as described, but it can certainly use more of an advantage in what’s likely to be a highly competitive, ever-growing market.
Author: Varsha Valsaraj, Legal Associate at PA Legal.
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