Earlier this year, at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Sony announced that its virtual reality headset for the PS4 would launch in October 2016. At GDC, Sony also demonstrated the social aspect of its VR systems, in which multiple players interacted with each other in a virtual reality environment.
Last week, on May 12, the USPTO published Sony’s patent application, Sony Computer Entertainment’s U.S. Patent Appl. No. 14/996,163 (the ‘163 application). The ‘163 application is simply entitled “Head Mounted Display,” claims priority to a provision filed in June 9, 2013. The “inventive concept” of the claims here appears to be rendering a player’s hands into the virtual reality scene, as shown below in claim 17 (emphasis added).
17. A method for operating a head mounted display (HMD), comprising,
providing the HMD having a head attachment portion and a viewing module coupled to the head attachment portion, the viewing module including an inner side having a view port into a screen configuring for rendering a virtual reality scene, and an exterior housing;
providing a communications module for exchanging data with a computer system, the computer system is configured to generate the virtual reality scene for the screen;
providing a depth camera integrated into the viewing module and oriented to capture depth data of an envrionment in front of the exterior housing; and
processing, by the computer system, the depth data captured by the depth camera to identify hands of a user wearing the HMD in the environment, wherein the hands are rendered into the virtual reality scene, the hands being tracked such that movements of the hands appear as movements of virtual hands extending into the virtual reality scene.
As evident from the claims, the rendering of the virtual hands relies upon data captured by a depth camera located on the HMD. This is interesting because the depth camera appears to be technology that Sony developed as early as 2011 in response to Microsoft’s Kinect technology. More information about Sony’s depth camera can be found here and here.