A number of new Nintendo patents have surfaced, the first interesting ones since July (see The ´Shade Tree´ and what lies underneath).
1. The Mii patent
The most intriguing one is entitled Line drawing image generating device, storage medium, and line drawing image generating method. It relates to a console being able to generate a black and white outline of a character within a scene, in order to produce an image that the user can then paint in again, for example:
In the present embodiment, the player selects a moving image when the game is started, and a reproducing process is performed for the selected moving image. The player is allowed to extract a currently displayed image as a still image by operating the controller 22 at any given time during reproduction of the moving images. The still image is extracted, and a line drawing is generated from the extracted still image. Then, the player enjoys freely painting the generated line drawing on the TV monitor 34.
It should be noted that the purpose of these images is not just painting them back in. Although that seems to be the only use mentioned in the text, it also mentions that the patent is not limited to this use.
The patent details the process of producing such an outline at great length. To illustrate this process and how it supersedes current methods, here is an example of an original image:
And this is what a standard process of calculating an outline on the basis of the above image would look like. The character is what the patent describes as "unnecessarily thickened".
The new method described in the patent is illustrated by two examples. Only the latter is the one specifically referred to above as well-suited for painting in. The former seems to have a different use.
It is natural to assume that this technology will somehow be used for the Mii avatars. But what kind of source material can be used remains a mystery. Will we be able to insert our favourite DVD movie (or at least a clip from it via SD card) and turn Samuel L. Jackson into a Mii avatar without having to undergo that lengthy selection process? Is there maybe a camera accessory coming out, after all? Or is this really about upgrading (or playing around with) the retro games provided via the Virtual Console? Well, your guess is as good as mine, so let´s hear them!
2. The pixel format patent
This one is entitled Graphics system with embedded frame buffer having reconfigurable pixel formats and has no graphics to help us understand just what it is about. As ever, the description helps:
The invention provides a combination of pixel formats for an embedded frame buffer that is particularly advantageous when used in systems designed for playing interactive 3D video games. The invention enables the embedded frame buffer to be reconfigured to and efficiently used in a variety of modes, including an anti-aliasing mode, a deflicker mode and a YUV (i.e. luma/chroma) mode, thereby increasing the flexibility of the system to support a variety of applications. The desired pixel format for each mode can be selected using, for example, a command to the graphics hardware on which the embedded frame buffer is provided.
In accordance with the invention, the copy pipeline is advantageously used to further process the data from the embedded frame buffer prior to storing the data in the external frame buffer. For example, the copy pipeline can be used to convert the data between a variety of useful formats to, for example, reduce the amount of memory needed to store the data, and/or provide the data in desired format for use in further processing by the graphics system. The copy pipeline can also be used to further process the frame data in a manner that improves the display quality and/or modifies the display characteristics.
Suerly, this patent deals with the flexibility of the hardware architecture. It notes that one kind of pipeline is not exclusively reserved for a specific purpose but can easily be reconfigured if hardware power is needed elsewhere. After all, Nintendo are masters of efficiency. Just look at the Gamecube producing graphics that are pretty much on par with Xbox at around half the clock speed and memory. But, again, help is needed in deciphering this patent, please.
Sources: US Patent & Trademark Office, US Patent & Trademark Office