This week the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Microsoft that reveals that they're thinking of introducing an Xbox-like gaming controller that could be split in two so that each half can be clipped onto future Surface tablets and Windows phones.
Microsoft's invention relates to a set of reconfigurable clip-on modules for mobile computing devices includes two or more modules and at least one of the modules has an input button or other control and at least one of the modules could communicate with the computing device without needing to be connected to it via a wire.
The input button is mapped to a user input in a program, such as a game, which is running or displayed on the computing device to which the modules are clipped. In an embodiment, user inputs via the buttons or other controls on the clip-on modules are mapped to user inputs in a game running on the device, which may be a touch-screen device, and the mapping between user inputs via the buttons and user inputs in the game may change dependent upon the game being played, user preference, or other criteria.
In Microsoft's patent FIG. 9 noted below we're able to see a schematic diagram of a games controller #902 which comprises of two halves noted as numbers 904 and 906. When separated, the two halves could be attached around the periphery of a touch-screen device such as a tablet computer noted in the second patent figure below as #908.
Each half of the gaming may communicate wirelessly with the touch-screen device.
Microsoft notes that "It will be appreciated that the shape of the games controller shown in FIG. 9 is by way of example only and the games controller may be of any shape. Depending on the size of the touch-screen device and the games controller style, the size of each half may not be much smaller than the touch-screen device to which they attach, e.g. if the touch-screen device is a smartphone rather than a tablet.
Natural User Interface Options
Further into the patent application, Microsoft notes that "Optionally the input control may use Natural User Interface (NUI) technology which enables a user to interact with the computing-based device in a natural manner, free from artificial constraints imposed by input devices such as mice, keyboards, remote controls and the like.
Examples of NUI technology that may be provided include but are not limited to those relying on voice and/or speech recognition, touch and/or stylus recognition (touch sensitive displays), gesture recognition both on screen and adjacent to the screen, air gestures, head and eye tracking, voice and speech, vision, touch, gestures, and machine intelligence.
Other examples of NUI technology that may be used include intention and goal understanding systems, motion gesture detection systems using depth cameras (such as stereoscopic camera systems, infrared camera systems, RGB camera systems and combinations of these), motion gesture detection using accelerometers/gyroscopes, facial recognition, 3D displays, head, eye and gaze tracking, immersive augmented reality and virtual reality systems and technologies for sensing brain activity using electric field sensing electrodes (EEG and related methods).
Clip-On Gaming Controllers for Windows Smartphones
Microsoft's patent FIG. 1 shows two schematic diagrams of sets of reconfigurable input/output modules attached around the periphery of a touch-screen device.
Microsoft's patent FIG. 3 noted below shows schematic diagrams of various different attachment mechanisms.
Microsoft filed their patent application back in Q1 2013. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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