Sony Plans On Revamping Sound Feedback With Proposed Ultrasonic Haptic Patent

Haptics is a rapidly growing topic in the gaming industry, thanks to the popularity of virtual reality and gamers’ desire to feel their virtual environment as intensely as they see and hear it.

The usage of haptic feedback significantly but subtly improves immersion. At the moment it mainly affects console games. Because of its huge appeal, console developers are in fierce competition with each other when it comes to haptic technology. The most recent example is Sony.

Important takeaways:

  • In a recently published patent, Sony introduces ultrasonic haptic interface technology.
  • The goal is to increase immersion so users can engage more fully with virtual reality.
  • The implementation allows for higher coverage over longer distances, allowing a user to extend an appendage to a larger area.

A recently released one Sony patent appears to encourage tactile feedback in sound. The patent that is said to be for a “Haptic interface in the air with ultrasound”, seems to take cues from augmented and virtual reality to increase the player’s sense of immersion in the sound.

As suggested by the patent, allows for deployment bridging longer distances and provides a greater variety of interactions, allowing a user to expand an appendage into a larger workspace while offering multiple points of immersive sensation or interaction without sacrificing user convenience related to such interaction.

With the introduction of PlayStationMove and Virtual Reality has taken immersive gaming to a whole new level. The PlayStation 5 title Astro’s playroom is known for allowing every sound and movement to be felt and heard through the speakers and controller.

It puts everyone participating in the game in a situation where a gust of wind or the sound of skates scraping on the ice can be felt just a few feet away.

According to the patent description, users playing VR or other similar games feel more immersed through touch. Sounds in specific regions can help players feel more connected to the story or evoke a stronger emotional response.

Within the scope of the invention, Sony describes the invention as being more specifically concerned with using ultrasonic energy to provide users with tactile sensations in the air while interacting with things in an immersive computing environment using their hands (or other body parts).

This figure from the patent illustrates a multi-array ultrasound system for providing airborne tactile hepatic feedback
This figure from the patent illustrates a multi-array ultrasound system for providing tactile haptic feedback in air

People playing VR games would get a better sense of their in-game environment by using this technology. In-game collisions with walls, for example, generate an ultrasonic current that gives the player the impression that they are actually touching the wall. The patent claims that this will allow wider application of such technologies.

“There is a need in the art for an airborne haptic interface that conveys a level of realism equivalent to that implemented through an immersive computing experience without the need for complex physical installations or other custom venues.”

Perhaps Sony’s ultrasonic haptic invention will achieve its goal and allow individuals to experience virtual reality at home better than in an amusement park or other similar setting. But for now, we can only observe if Sony ever develops such a technology.

To update: The patent has since been removed from the official Scribd website and is no longer available.

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