Video game developers are always looking for new ways to give players a more immersive experience. But with several motion-controlled systems widely available and a viable virtual reality headset in the works, what else could be done to make games seem more realistic? Sony may have an unexpected answer with a recent patent that describes a controller that changes temperature between hot and cold to match in-game actions. With the controller giving "temperature feedback," the idea is that players would be able to more closely feel what their character feels, from getting hit with a fireball to traveling through a blizzard.
Sony's new patent outlines plans for a "Temperature Feedback Motion Controller" and depicts what looks like a Playstation Move controller that's been outfitted with thermal pads around the grip to generate hot or cold temperatures. Though it doesn't mention any specific technology for heating or cooling on such a small scale, the patent does present a lot of ideas for how changing temperatures could be applied to video games.
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As it's described, the proposed controller would use alternating surfaces connected to thermal modules for either hot or cold to recreate various temperatures. With these surfaces arranged in either a checkerboard pattern or as separate bands wrapped around the grip, the controller could adjust the intensity of each set to either raise or lower the temperature in the player's hand. The controller could also activate more than one set of surfaces at the same time for different effects, and the patent even specifically mentions maxing out both hot and cold to simulate a "painful or burning sensation" from a game enemy's attack without the risk of any actual pain or injury.
Additionally, the patent notes the controller could have colored lights that correspond to its temperature: blue for cold, red for hot, yellow for warm, etc. A small fan could also expel hot or cold air for an added sensation (to match the blast from an in-game explosion, for example). The controller wouldn't even need to be a standalone device, as Sony's patent also describes possibly containing the whole temperature feedback system into a "sheath attachment" that slides over an existing controller.
There are plenty of ways a temperature changing controller could be applied to a game, and the patent offers quite a few examples. Game environments with extreme temperatures, like icy caverns or roaring volcanoes, would easily be enhanced by mimicking the respective temperatures. The same could be said for when a character interacts with certain objects, like fire or running water. A game might even have a gun overheat as it's fired and then cool down, with the player feeling the shift in temperature. Or the controller could be used for a literal game of hot and cold, with the user's hands feeling warmer the closer they get to a hidden object in a game.
But the proposed controller doesn't stop at creating a more realistic gaming experience. The patent also describes cooling the controller when it detect sweaty hands or an increased heart rate in the player and heating it when it detects cold hands.
Unfortunately, Sony hasn't made any comment on the patent just yet, so we'll have to wait and see if this develops into a full-fledged product. On the whole, a temperature feedback controller sounds unorthodox, but could provide an incredibly rewarding experience if implemented properly. There's a lot of creative potential for such a device, which could be very enticing for game developers and gamers alike.
Source: Free Patents OnlineView gallery - 6 images