Earlier this month another Microsoft patent was published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office revealing some of their work on Xbox's next gaming controller (likely coming to Project Scorpio) and more importantly, advancing Xbox gaming on Surface tablets and haptics on PC mice.
Microsoft to Advance Haptic Feedback for the Xbox Game Controller & Surface Tablets
Microsoft's patent filing notes that Vibro-tactile haptics technology are found in a wide number of currently-available consumer electronic devices--e.g., such as tablets, smart devices, game controllers, smart phones and/or mobile phones--that provide a rumble feedback in silent mode for a phone, feedback from a fixed sensor button for a touch screen, or for improving a gaming experience by providing specific feedback on a gamepad/game controller that is correlated to what may be happening on a screen.
Microsoft's invention covers systems and methods for creating multiple haptic zone responses for electronic devices.
Suitable electronic devices are embedded with a number of haptic elements that are spaced along the surface of the device. In one aspect, the number of haptic elements is sufficient to have at least one haptic element proximal in a grip zone of a user. During operation, the device may receive user interaction information (e.g., user location, pressure etc.) and indications to deliver a haptic response to the user, possibly depending on the execution of an application where haptic response is appropriate. The device determines a desirable number of haptic elements to energize depending upon the user interaction information and the set of haptic elements define a dynamic set of user interaction zones in which to deliver the haptic response.
Microsoft's patent FIGS. 12A, 12B, and 13 depict the placement of haptic elements on other I/O devices (Xbox controller #1200 and PC mouse #1204 respectively). In these examples, haptic elements #1202 in the controller and in the mouse may be spaced along the border of these devices--e.g., with a similar density to a tablet/laptop (2-5 haptic elements in the distance of a user's hand length), as these objects tend to be placed in a user's open hand.
Microsoft's patent FIGS. 17A and B show a front view and a perspective view, respectively, of a mouse 1700 that has four different haptic zones (1702a, 1702b, 1702c and 1702d) that substantially partition the surface of the mouse.
Microsoft's patent FIGS. 20A and B show front view and a rear view of a game controller 2000 respectively. On the front surface, there may be haptic zones (2010a, 2010b, 2010c and 2010d) that may deliver different haptic experiences to the user hand or portions thereof (2002, 2004 and 2006). The rear surface may comprise two haptic zones (2010e and 2010f) or more zones, as desired.
Future Surface Tablets
Microsoft notes in their filing that Multiple haptic zone feedback may be embedded, mated and/or otherwise employed in the housing of a number of different device platforms--e.g., tablets, laptops, smart devices, mobile devices, smart phones, game controllers, remote controllers, mouse, stylus pens for smart devices, wearable devices, I/O devices and/or other devices in which a user may hold or otherwise receive a haptic response.
Each of these devices may include a housing (e.g., a form factor) that has surfaces (e.g., a front side, rear side, edges or the like) with which users can interact--for example, hold, grip, balance or the like. As mentioned, individual haptic elements that are embedded and/or mated to the surfaces on and/or in the housing of such devices--and make up such multiple haptic zones--may comprise any number of haptic technologies, e.g., such as electromagnetic motors/rumblers, Eccentric Rotating Mass (ERM) vibration motors, Linear Resonant Actuator (LRA) vibration motors and/or piezo structures.
Microsoft's patent FIG. 1A is one embodiment of an exemplary device comprising ambient multiple haptic zones.
Microsoft's patent FIG. 2 illustrated below depicts yet another gaming example #200 comprising a wartime game--in which the haptic elements #104 may assume different feedback intensity levels--and/or be partitioned into zones (e.g., 202a, 202b, 202c, 202d and 202e), if commanded and/or desired by haptic driver module #116 (in FIG. 1 above).
In this gaming interaction scenario (e.g., a "First Person Shooter" game), gun feedback, haptic-based radar for searching ammo (204a and/or 204b) and other game artifacts, feedback from sides for easier determining enemy position are also possible. For example, in zone #202e, the user may "feel" the presence of an enemy that is nearby with a mid-to-high haptic feedback level.
Zone #202a may interpret ships in the distance with a moderate vibration. Zone 202c may be interpreted as the user's gun environment--and may deliver a haptic response appropriate as to whether the user is currently firing the gun at the time.
Zone #202b may be an "ammo" zone in the distance (as denoted by ammo icon #204b, which may be rendered on the screen in the distance)--and to give the user a discriminating sensation may give the user a wave sensation; but a low frequency (as the ammo is in the distance).
PC Gaming on Surface Tablet with Haptic Keyboard
Microsoft's patent FIG. 10 illustrated above depicts another example of a tablet/laptop #1000 that may employ a keyboard 1004 that may in turn be either attached (e.g., as with a laptop) or detachable (e.g., as with a tablet). Keyboard #1004 is shown in a transparent view (i.e., with front cover removed)--in order to show that haptic elements #1006 may be attached and/or mated to the keyboard, to provide a haptic experience to the user while using the keyboard.
Haptics Added to the Surface Pen
Today the Microsoft Pen has two buttons for right-click and erase. Microsoft's patent filing notes that two buttons could be added to their pen that are haptics related.
Microsoft notes that "Haptic responses may be delivered and associated with whatever image and/or video is being rendered to the user at the time. For example, in FIG. 13, if the user is able to "pop" one of the bubbles rendered on screen Surface tablet screen, then the device may command a haptic response to the user's hand via the Microsoft Surface Pen. The device may know how and in which manner the user is interacting with the device. For example, sensors (that may be co-mated with haptic elements) may inform the device that the user is holding the controller, the mouse and/or the stylus at any given time. The device may be able then to deliver the desired haptic response at the proper time to the specified I/O device.
In one aspect, a stylus with haptic feedback may be used as an accessibility mechanism. In this example, it may be desirable for a blind person who cannot see the information on the screen--to employ the stylus to provide feedback related to the information presented on the screen at that position.
In another example, it may be desirable for a blind user who may want to understand a map or the like presented on the screen. In such a case, the blind person may get a different haptic feedback if the stylus is placed on water than if the stylus is placed on land. This mechanism may be used in combination to audible feedback as well.
Microsoft's latest gaming patent was filed back in June 2014. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time – though it's likely to appear some time in 2017 and 2018.
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