Is Sony Going to Launch Its Own ‘Powerglove’ for the PSVR?

PSVRWith 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 Sony Magnetic Gloveinterface 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.

Sony Files Shocking Patent Application for Monitoring and Counteracting Motion Sickness

Nausea.  Retching.  Headaches.  All-too-familiar symptoms for those unfortunate individuals who have experienced “virtual reality sickness” (and also, for those who have been to a Kenny G concert).  Often compared to motion sickness, or kinetosis, the condition can arise in a user when there is a disagreement between “visually perceived” movement and the vestibular system’s sense of movement.  In short, it is a major challenge for VR content developers, and also one of the reasons why several HMD companies have recommended that games run at a minimum of 90 FPS.

To deal with this problem, Sony has filed a patent application entitled132 “Motion Sickness Monitoring and Application of Supplemental Sound to Counteract Sickness.”  The patent application was originally filed on February 5, 2015 and published today.  To detect motion sickness, the application describes monitoring a user’s body motion, pupil motion, gaze, head motion, balance, or “by tracking facial expressions of the user that may indicate motion sickness (e.g., a gagging motion, sticking out the tongue, etc.).”

When motion sickneSony AMS FIG 2ss is detected, the system takes action by delivering “supplemental sound,” reducing the intensity of the game or vibrating the headset.  Sony’s application claims that supplemental sound has a therapeutic effect, and in particular, describes a system to deliver “bone conduction audio” by transmitting audible or ultrasonic sound waves through a portion of a user’s skull close to the ear.  These vibrations can be generated by a device incorporated into the strap of the HMD.

Sony’s application goes on to describe further embodiments for battling motion sickness including transmitting microwaves that are “safe for the inner ear,” infrared stimulation and “small electric shocks.”

The use of vestibular stimulation is a known technique to battle motion sickness in virtual reality environments (over fifteen years old), and some parties have already obtained patents for it. (See here and here.)  However, it will be interesting, to say the least, to see if Sony can eventually introduce this technology into its commercial PSVR headsets.  Until then, VR users will just have to keep a case of ginger ale handy.