Sony's been spotted patenting a "User-Driven Three-Dimensional Interactive Gaming Environment" - technology that works like Kinect.
The patent was filed on 26th October 2011, by PlayStation Eye creator Dr Richard Marks. The patent was published on 16th February 2012.
The patent waffles on about a "depth sensing device"; "a three-dimensional camera" that uses "controlled infrared lighting" to scan an area.
"With the increased processing capabilities of today's computer technology, new creative methods for interacting with computer systems have become available," the background to the patent reads.
"There is a need for enhanced systems and methods that allow interaction in a three-dimensional environment. The methods should allow user interaction without requiring additional equipment, such as arm coverings or gloves. In addition, the method should not require overly burdensome processing ability and should have the ability to function in real-time, thus providing the user with a natural computer interaction experience."
The patent doesn't specifically describe a device, more what such a device could achieve.
There's only one reference to gaming beyond the title, and one reference to PlayStation.
"Cost down, 60Hz, fewer issues, higher res. And those are all very achievable, just not at this moment."Sony R&D man Anton Mikhailov, in November 2010, on the obstacles Sony needed to clear before revisiting Kinect-like tech
"Embodiments of the present invention provide real-time interactive gaming experiences for users. For example, users can interact with various computer-generated objects in real-time. Furthermore, video scenes can be altered in real-time to enhance the user's game experience. For example, computer generated costumes can be inserted over the user's clothing, and computer generated light sources can be utilised to project virtual shadows within a video scene. Hence, using the embodiments of the present invention and a depth camera, user's can experience an interactive game environment within their own living room. "
"The processing system 174 can be implemented by an entertainment system, such as a Sony.RTM. Playstation.TM. II or Sony.RTM. Playstation.TM. I type of processing and computer entertainment system. It should be noted, however, that processing system 174 can be implemented in other types of computer systems, such as personal computers, workstations, laptop computers, wireless computing devices, or any other type of computing device that is capable of receiving and processing graphical image data."
Picture FIG. 1D below illustrates this.
The timing of the patent, October 2011, suggests Sony developed this idea after Kinect launched, in November 2010. Back then, Sony said it had turned down Kinect-like tech for PlayStation.
Sony research engineer Anton Mikhailov explained to Eurogamer, however, that Sony would look again at Kinect-like technology if a few things changed. "Cost down, 60Hz, fewer issues, higher res," he summarised. "And those are all very achievable, just not at this moment."
"I feel it's a case of early tech," he added. "The same thing happened to the Wii. The Wii started out with accelerometers. They hit that point right where accelerometers started to become cheap, but still at that point they weren't very good. When Sony looked at that idea it said, 'We're not so sure about it.'"