Sony reinvents the joypad

Sept 18 2007

We're all waiting for the new Dual Shock 3 controller to be (shock!) unveiled at this week's Tokyo Game Show. But after a little digging, we've uncovered info suggesting that Sony isn't limiting itself to mere rumbling. It has bigger ideas to work on.

Thanks to the wonderful public database of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, we've located an intriguing document filed by Sony back in September 2006. Buried within the interminable bureaucratic wordage are two high-potential projects: Voice-active consoles and pressure-sensitive buttons.

Voice-active consoles? The intention seems to be to use microphones housed on a console with voice-recognition software, for actions like analysing your voice to match you with a game's character, or recalling your personal config settings at the sound of your voice. There's even a suggestion that noise-making gizmos could be packaged in cereal boxes, with the specific noise they make triggering an unlockable item in-game.

Then there's some crazy talk about GPS positioning and speaker/microphone paradigm locators. But we can't say we really understood what it meant.

As for pressure-sensitive buttons, it's not exactly a new idea. The Dual Shock 2's buttons were somewhat analogue - ever noticed you could rev slowly in GT3 using the X button? But Sony's new technology idea would create buttons that, according to the patent, have three distinct stages of input. And it would also work with the D-pad, giving us a viable alternative to using occasionally squiffy analogue sticks. Or, as above, in a dance mat-ish thing.

Our eyes struggle to make full sense of the patent document, but it also seems to suggest that analogue sticks would be enhanced by this technology. In case you think we're just being big lummoxes, here's a sample quote:

"The input device of claim 4, wherein the first, second, and third control signals are proportional to the amount of pressure detected along the associated first, second, and third axes."

Clearly, this is not text meant for reading by anyone with a love of word-play, Shakesperian prose or imagination. But Sony isn't the only company with big ideas for videogame controls...

Ben Richardson is a former Staff Writer for Official PlayStation 2 magazine and a former Content Editor of GamesRadar+. In the years since Ben left GR, he has worked as a columnist, communications officer, charity coach, and podcast host – but we still look back to his news stories from time to time, they are a window into a different era of video games.