Sony Computer Entertainment America has filed a patent application, number 20090195392, which could lead to a PlayStation controller that knows when you are happy, sad or just plain angry.
The patent application is officially for a 'laugh detector and system and method for tracking an emotional response to a media presentation' has an abstract which reads "Information in the form of emotional responses to a media presentation may be passively collected, for example by a microphone and/or a camera. This information may be tied to metadata at a time reference level in the media presentation and used to examine the content of the media presentation to assess a quality of, or user emotional response to, the content and/or to project the information onto a demographic. Passive collection of emotional responses may be used to add emotion as an element of speech or facial expression detection, to make use of such information, for example to judge the quality of content or to judge the nature of various individuals for future content that is to be provided to them or to those similarly situated demographically. Thus, the invention asks and answers such questions as: What makes people happy? What makes them laugh? What do they find interesting? Boring? Exciting?"
Is it just me, or is anyone else having some difficulty in contemplating exactly how this technology, assuming it even works, could be used to enhance the video gaming experience? It appears that a camera and microphone would be used to monitor your reactions during a game, but other than possibly mapping your emotions to an in-game character I cannot grasp any real use for it. I'm not even sure that I want my game characters to be feeling the emotions that I do as I play. That is kind of taking immersion a little far, no? Actually, no, says my son who tells me the notion of your character becoming more aggressive in a game if you get angry is 'well cool' apparently. My daughter, meanwhile, thinks it would be nice if the characters in her platform games got bouncier as she got happier. Shows what I know.
Siliconera reckons that while the patent focuses on laugher it can also "identify other emotions such as sadness, excitement, anger, joy, interest, and boredom. For example, boredom may be detected if a user is looking away from the presentation, yawning, or talking over the presentation." Actually, that could be useful, if the game senses I am getting too bored maybe it could switch itself off and save me doing it.
Actually, what I think is happening here is that SCEA has just lost it, and put some mad scientist type in charge of research and development. After all, only recently it filed a patent for a method of controlling video games using coffee cups. Maybe all that sales pressure from the Wii and Xbox 360 has finally become too much for poor old Sony.
Or maybe it is just feeling left out of the really stupid patents club, after seeing the likes of Amazon getting one for giving reviewers a badge, the now infamous Page Up Page Down patent granted to Microsoft and, of course, not forgetting the Nintendo Bouncy Cushion Controller for the Wii that I was reporting on just the other day.