Sony may not be showing up for this year’s E3, but there’s been a lot of activity around their gaming products and services. The most recent development is a patent filed by Sony for a “glove device,” which although not stated could potentially be for a VR experience using the accelerated hardware of the upcoming PlayStation 5.
Patents are ponderous legal documents, but here’s the gist: the glove is meant to give the user a sense of touch and feel when they’re interacting with the visual environment, using “haptic feedback” technology.
The patent describes the glove as “envelop[ing] said finger of the user that contacts the user interface device, and the haptic response processing module uses the haptic profile to impart changes to the haptic feedback based on a type of interaction detected.” It looks like there are multiple sensors around the glove itself to create an immersive, interactive experience.
It seems like Sony is thinking more along the lines of Ready Player One rather than Nintendo Power Glove. With the haptic feedback glove on, the player could ostensibly pick up items in the world of the virtual game in the same way they would with an item in real life. The virtual item would have a sense of weight and realness, making for more believable engagements with virtual reality. Especially exciting is the potential this glove has for VR games with weapons combat–how cool would it be to “feel” a responsive trigger or a hefty sword hilt while playing an action game? Or instead for the more peaceable among us, get to give your favorite virtual puppy a friendly scritch?
Although the patent is specifically for a “glove device,” Sony included language that this haptic technology could be applied to “a hat, footwear, pants or shirt.” This makes the tactile potential of a VR experience very deep, since the idea here is that these wearables would provide touch feedback when things happen to your character in PSVR, making it feel like the player is being touched, squeezed, or grabbed on their physical body.
The patent also shows that Sony is considering all kinds of potential methods to get this glove device operational. The document lists heating and cooling technology, motors, liquids, and compressed gas as possible ways to power the haptic feedback system. The patent doesn’t specify whether Sony plans to make this glove compatible with the current VR headset (which will be compatible with the PlayStation 5) or if they’re aiming for a PSVR 2.0 to debut on next-generation consoles.
With Sony promising an “immersive” and “seamless” PlayStation 5 experience, a VR glove or body suit is an exciting possibility. While nothing is confirmed, the idea isn’t without precedent–at SXSW in 2017 Sony’s Future Lab division showed off a prototype “synesthesia suit” for the PSVR version of the musical shooter Rez Infinite. Sony’s lead system architect Mike Cerny made it clear in the first reveal of the PlayStation 5 that VR is “very important” to Sony, and that VR will continue to be supported going forward.