With the launch of Sony’s Playstation VR less than two months away, Sony continues to be busy on the patent front with respect to virtual reality. Earlier today, two patent applications assigned to Sony Computer Entertainment, each entitled “Magnetic Tracking of Glove Fingertips,” were published by the USPTO. The full patent application can be seen here.
While Sony has filed patents for a similar technology in the past, these new patent publications (originally filed in February 2015) relate to a “magnetic tracking system to track fingertips and knuckles … that capture hand/finger pose.”
As seen in FIG. 4A (right), Sony’s application describes a glove interface object having a plurality of emitters and proximity sensors. The proximity sensors (404a-e) are located at the fingertip portions/areas of the glove, and are configured to “generate data indicating distance/proximity” to the emitters (422a-c) located on the wrist. The application goes on to describe the wrist portion as a “bracelet that surrounds the user’s wrist when the glove … is worn.”
“The emitters are defined by electromagnets, and the proximity sensors are defined by magnetic sensors such as Hall effect sensors.” A Hall effect sensor is a type of magnetic sensor used to detect a magnetic field. (In an alternative embodiment, Sony’s application also describes a glove system in which the emitters are defined by ultrasonic emitters and the proximity sensors are defined by microphones capable of detecting ultrasonic frequencies.)
As further described in the application, the glove will include a controller for powering and operating the sensors and emitters and communicating with the gaming console. The controller can be configured to control the activation of the emitters and the reading of the proximity sensors in a time division multiplexed arrangement.
Obviously, Sony’s published patent applications do not necessarily mean that a commercial product will ever see the light of day. However, it can be a good indicator of where Sony is spending its R&D dollars when it comes to virtual reality. And with the timing of these multiple patent application filings, as well as the length and specificity of each application, it is not completely far-fetched that Sony has its own version of a ‘Powerglove’ in the works for the PSVR.