Saturday, July 09, 2005

Haptic patent

Nixlax on this Moz La Punk post came up with this link to an Espacenet page, Espacenet being a European patent database. The patent specifies a Haptic feedback device with button forces, its abstract reads as follows:
A haptic feedback control device, such as a handheld remote control or handheld game controller, for controlling a graphical object within a graphical display and for outputting forces to a user. A housing includes a button, wherein the user engages the button with a finger. The button is depressible along a degree of freedom by the user. An actuator applies forces to the user through the button along the degree of freedom. A sensor detects displacement of the button along the degree of freedom when the button is depressed by the user. A process, local to the device, controls the actuator to generate the forces upon the button in the degree of freedom to provide a tactile sensation to the user contacting the button.

There is no mention of Nintendo, but (just to fuel some speculation) the controller shown in one of the pdf documents looks uncannily like the N64 controller. I´ve extracted the image for you.

I cannot find the matching entry with the US patent office. However, one of the inventors mentioned, Erik Shahoian, seems to work for Immersion Corporation. At least, there is this document on their server written by him. A google search on this name also returns a number of other patents dealing with haptic devices. There is this one called Low-cost haptic mouse implementations and this one entitled Vibrotactile haptic feedback devices. Obviously this person seems to be very active in researching haptic applications that could be used with videogame consoles.

Now, Immersion is apparently not tied to Nintendo - at least not officially - but Immersion has sued Sony and Microsoft for their use of a rumble feature in their controllers. They have not sued Nintendo. Some say that Nintendo´s patent predates Immersion´s, others suspect some kind of cooperation. Well, maybe here it is.


MSG said...

The Picture looks like the Controller from Nintendo 64

Falafelkid said...

Yup. That´s what I wrote in the post. You DID read it before commenting, didn´t you? ;P

Anonymous said...

hey falafelkid
Two questions.
Number 1: I know the patent was found in a European database, so is this Immersion company European?
Number 2: Do you think you could use you cool press skills to get an interview with these people?

Anonymous said...

Anybody remember that steering wheel controller that was released about the same time as f-zero. I am pretty sure I remember that logitech made it and that logitech is a partner or subsidiary or something of immersion... so Nintendo and immersion might actually have some history.

Anonymous said...

This is me from above... I found this link which talks about what I was talking about.

Falafelkid said...

Anonym 1: It´s a US company. Good idea to contact them, I should try and ring them up Monday.

Anonym 2: Cool info there! You´re absolutely right about the Logitech-Immersion connection. They are listed as partners. So are EA by the way (what are they doing in the hardware business???)

MSG said...

No i didnt. I saw the pic end everything was clear for me, so im sorry ;)
Didnt sound interesting for me.

Falafelkid said...

Intersting enough to post here, though ;P

Anonymous said...

MS purchased Immersions R&D several years ago. Thus the big lawsuit against Sony.

Takeshi_Kovacs said...

was reading about this on
and a anonymous poster replied that he found a corresponding patent on the us patent website, with the same details and date, but supposedly it was nintendo that filed it , not immersion... only one problem , the link he gave was for some patent about the gameboy.. so i went looking for this new patent and have yet to find it.., just wondering as anyone else come across this patent on the US patent office page?

CountChocula said...

Danke Falafelkid!

Falafelkid said...

@Anonym: You´re right. Good info, there. Microsoft does hold a 10% stake in Immersion Corporation. Here´s the source (from 2003):

"Immersion has signed a $26m licensing deal with Microsoft, settling its lawsuit with the software giant and giving Microsoft a 10 percent stake in the firm.

In February 2002, US-based Immersion filed a lawsuit against Microsoft and Sony for patent-infringement, for use of its haptic, or touch, technology. While litigation against Sony is ongoing, Microsoft's decision to spend $26 million to license Immersion's technology effectively ends the legal fight between the two.

Immersion's haptic technology is used in a variety of devices, including mobile phones, PDAs, medical equipment and automotive gear. In video games, for example, haptic technology will make a controller vibrate in a specific way when a virtual machine gun is fired or when safe is picked. Immersion alleged that Microsoft and Sony were using its tactile technology, without a licence, in their Playstation and Xbox games consoles.

But under Monday's agreement Microsoft will now be able to use Immersion's technologies in its operating systems, handheld devices, computing platforms and other current products and services, and in those it develops in the future.

"Microsoft recognises the importance of haptic technology to consumers, the value of Immersion's patent portfolio in this space, as well as Immersion's role as a leading supplier of haptics," Microsoft's director of business development Barry Spector said in a statement, acknowledging the increasing complexity of human interaction with digital technologies.

In addition to the $26 million payment to Immersion, Microsoft will lend the company $9 million in convertible debenture, or unsecured debt that can be converted into stock over a specified period of time, in this case 48 months."

10% is not all that much, though. This stake would not prevent Immersion from exclusive projects with Nintendo, I guess.

@Chocula: Anytime. Nice name btw. ;)

Anonymous said...

Hello guys. :)

Thx for a really good read btw!

I just want place a comment about the controller (D-pad). I guess some of you might know this already, but the cross-shaped directional controler was invented by the late Gunpei Yokoi of Nintendo Ltd. Since the 1980s when it was shoosen to be used on Famicom System and most of the company's game machines into present time, it have been a inovention patented by Nintendo ever since.

Therfore I think the picture with the N64-shaped design could be from Nintendo itself.

I also think that Nintendo is doing the right thing to not show or reveal any major hints on their upcomming controller for the Rev. Becourse if we watch back what happend with all most of Nintendo's inoventions for their game mashines - the design and the specefic funktions on them where "borrowed" and used by other game-realted companys. And I think also why they want to keep it a secret as much as possible is that the devices and functionalites of their new controller might not have enuge
of patents to justiefy a open arm to the main puplic about the technologies included in their controller.

ok. That what I wanted to say. And I hope you guys can read. I know that I'm not so good in writing English. So I appoliges for that. :)


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