News Article

Sony Patents Universal Game Controller

Posted by Jon Wahlgren

Would work with all three current home consoles - including Wii

Owners of multiple consoles can attest to the clutter and occasionally annoying battery maintenance that comes with having several different controllers kicking around the house. Televisions, stereos and DVD players can all be programmed to use one remote control, but gamers are stuck with just the one proprietary kind.

Some may not find this to be a problem, but apparently Sony thinks it's enough of one to file a patent for a programmable universal game controller. Dug up by GoRumors, the US patent is for a touchscreen controller that could change button layout depending on what it's connected to. Here's how the patent puts it:

“A game console controller includes a hand-holdable housing and a touch sensitive liquid crystal display (LCD) on the housing. The LCD is caused to present, depending on what type of game console a user has selected, a controller key layout for a first type of game console or a controller key layout for a second type of game console. A key layout includes plural keys selectable by a user to input commands to a game console.”


With all the hubbub about the quality and accuracy of the on-screen touch controls found in many iPhone and iPod Touch games, it's tough to say who would want to experience potentially similar issues on their home consoles. Buttons provide tactile feedback and let you know where your thumbs are, something a flat touchscreen simply doesn't do.

A patent filing doesn't necessarily mean this will ever see the light of day. Still, it's a novel idea, but it's seeming less and less feasible as console makers move towards motion control and further differentiate themselves on how players interact with games; good luck replicating a Wii Remote or Sony's own Arc with that.


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User Comments (48)



Percentful said:

I don't think I'd like this. I like to feel the response of buttons when I use controllers.



JayArr said:

Hell Yeah!!! I would have to see how it looks, weight specs, etc. but the idea alone is genius.



V8_Ninja said: that even plausible? How could the the enemy of two game companies create a universal controller that would work with the consoles of those two other game companies? My mind is boggled at the logistics of that.



Brainhost said:

Weird how Microsoft and Sony have their consoles listed in the patent, but when it comes to Nintendo, it's not Wii... It's Nintendo. Would this reveal something?



Ren said:

sorry, I couldn't do an lcd touch screen in place of controller buttons. That'd be like the cheap 3rd party one with iffy buttons that the late guy always gets when you play 4-player on something. it's not really that much of an issue for me to just pick up a different controller since you have to get up to turn on the other console anyway. Get them together (Sony,MS, Nintendo) to work on a universal console, and I'll be impressed.



Terra said:

I'm honestly not sure what to think of this. The concept on it's own intrigues me but how they'd execute this is my main concern. We need more information



paulcmnt said:

This sounds good in theory but pressing buttons on touchscreens never feels good for me. I like old-school buttons. It's a lot harder to say which button you've pressed on touchscreens (even with some kind of rumble feedback); besides, it's quite often that you want to 'rest' your finger on a buttons without pressing it, in order to be ready to press it quickly when you need to — there's no way you can do that with touchscreen buttons.



Adam said:

What on earth is the point of using a touch screen? Just look at the 360, PS3, and Wii - Classic controllers. They all have, for the most part, the same buttons, and they all have two control sticks. I would love a universal controller. I hate the idea of exclusive anything. It benefits no one to force consumers to buy more and more hardware when all they want is the software, and companies don't make much on hardware anyway. But this is just play overthinking.



Machu said:

I think it's a dumb idea, but I'm sure Sony know what they're doing.



Bigdog said:

Yeah, I'm not optimistic about it. It's exactly why I don't like gaming on my Iphone because if you are not looking you can lose track of where your fingers are pressing. With this pad, the problem would be worse since, unlike the DS and Iphone, what you are playing is displaying on a TV, and not on the device you are holding.

But it looks cool, and there may be ways to work around this. This could be an incredible tech.



Wesbert said:

Sony's position thus far was that the PS3 would be the penultimate console which would make owning any of the others superfluous. So why should they create a tool that makes only sense if you own at least two or even all three of them? To them, that'd be like admitting defeat.
So I think it's either a fake, or Sony heard about some other company trying to develop such a thing (Bigben, Apple, Nokia maybe...) and secured this patent to prevent it from happening.
Although maybe they needn't have bothered. No buttons or analog sticks? Dream on...



LztheQuack said:

@7: The term "Wii" is trademarked by Nintendo. Therefore Sony could not legally put the name Wii in the patent without Nintendo's permission.



Burning_Spear said:

Agreed, a controller needs a tactile element that lets you quickly identify and press the correct controls without interrupting your view of the on-screen action. How could you do that with touchscreen controls?

Is there really a need for this?



SilentJ said:

I wouldn't mind a universal controller but I'd rather have actual buttons to press.



JonWahlgren said:

@lz: Id imagine Xbox is trademarked by Microsoft. Looking at figure 4 that's clearly not a Remote, looks more like a CC or SNES pad and clearly not the Wii's primary input. I think it's just for illustrative purposes.



edhe said:

Touchscreen based!? Sounds like a good idea in principle, but I think it would have to depend on how responsive the screen is to touch.

Nothing beats the tactile sensation of pressing a button (especially if it's pressure sensitive).

Also, touchscreens are expensive at best - and for one that would need to be adequately responsive would be like £60 with all the magic inside that allows it to be a programmable controller.



M00se said:

touchscreen based sucks. ipod touch controls are REALLY bad and this will be no better!



AVahne said:

i don't really see the point of it. PS and XBox controllers are basically identical, and those 2 are based on the SNES controller which Nintendo uses as the Classic controller now



Donatello said:

horrible idea. you need that tactical feeback with buttons.
Using the screen d-pad for the Iphone feels terrible if you ask me



Willy105 said:

This is a great idea.

Only problem is that this is Sony. Their controllers are not exactly what I consider the best option for gaming.



mnementh said:

@Panda - not really. Patents have to pass thresholds in order to be approved, and can also be challenged on those grounds even if they are approved. Sony's patent has to be novel, non obvious, useful, and if the idea can't work, it won't be a viable patent.



JonWahlgren said:

I think this one live up to all of those, no? I say "any crazy idea" loosely, sort of in reference to those horse saddle and football peripherals that Nintendo patented a little while ago.



ejamer said:

For what it's worth, touchscreens with tactile feedback are being developed. That doesn't mean they'll ever be any good or make a reasonable replacement for actual buttons... but it would make this odd idea more appealing.

And hey, why not patent it now when people think this is silly instead of waiting until it's too late? If this is a real patent, then congrats to Sony for having the nerve to follow up.



Mabbit said:

i would want this very much if i actually has a 360 and ps3, but i dont. so screw it!



Crunc said:

I don't know about this, but I do want universal controllers, especially for plastic instruments games. I hate being stuck on one console, especially when one console (the Wii in this case) gets the shaft on a game like Lego Rock Band.



mnementh said:

@Panda probably, initially, yes but Nintendo might make their own universal/LCD controller, and then Sony will want to take them to court, and Nintendo will say that it's not really a viable patent... Nintendo can win that.



almostnacho said:

I think it's clever, but only the LCD touchscreen I have a beef with. If you could interchange the button controls for each console, like Legos or something, that would be pretty sweet, too.



Ch3p3 said:

Hmmm yeah sound interesting, but who knows its just a rumors, this would be nice but its better wait for more info from Sony about this



KrazyKain said:

hmm touch screen controls? instant fail in my books, not interested.. i like the feedback of actually pushing a button in



MaxPlastic said:

Didn't they ever try the 'analog' controls on Mario 64 DS? Why would anyone want 'touch screen buttons' for a game like Mario Galaxy, Halo, or God Of War?



StarDust4Ever said:

THis would work in theory for a universal remote control device, seeing as how most people need to look at the remote or keyboard, anyway. But for fast-paced action games, there is no time to look down to see if your finger is on X, Y, A, or B before mashing the button. Also, button combos would be bust, as touching two places on the touchpad simultaneously will register a hit somewhere in the middle between your two styluses or fingers. Just try it on your DS, laptop, or iPhone.

This would be awesome for Universal remotes, though. Scan and record the original remote controls IR signal via a special sensor diode in the universal controller, then map that function to a button on a fully customizable controller template that mimics the original remote. A template for each remote could be selected, and would be displayed on the touchscreen. Then it could flawlessly mimic any remote control that doesn't require direct feedback from the device.

But as far as game controllers, I think this idea's pretty much a bust from the start. I also find it laughable that they got the A and B buttons on the Nintendo configs all screwed up. Folks, stick with the Madcatz and Nyko clones for extra goodies such as macros, turbo-fire, and textured grips.

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