Forward-looking: With the next-gen console just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to be keeping your eyes on the US Patent Office. Filings don’t always get converted into future tech, but they are at least a good way to get an idea of what a company is thinking about or where it is headed technologically.
According to a filing with USPO, Sony might be working on a haptic glove accessory for the PSVR. It’s not a new concept. Contact CI, HaptX, the EPFL, and others are all working on gloves that can provide force feedback in virtual environments.
However, Sony’s tech seems to be somewhat different. While the patent application is for a glove, the haptic device itself can be used in other clothing including “a hat, footwear, pants or shirt.” It can also be mounted within the VR headset itself.
What this essentially means is that at some point down the road, Sony envisions a Ready Player One-like full body suit. For the short term though, the engineers seem focused on the glove aspect.
"The haptic device can be disposed in an article of clothing capable of being worn by a user such as a glove, a hat, footwear, pants or shirt. The haptic device can also be disposed in the head mounted display. "
The filing describes a variety of mechanisms to provide tactile sensations including compressed gas, an electric motor, a piezo-electric device, heating or cooling elements, or even phase changing materials.
According to Sony’s description of the glove, one or more of these mechanisms should be able to to provide accurate enough feedback to not only feel the shape of an object, but also the texture. It should also respond appropriately to the amount of pressure put on the virtual object. In other words, a baseball is going to feel different than a sponge when you squeeze it.
Again, keep in mind this is only a patent. Thousands of filings a year go unrealized. It is also just an application. It has not been granted by the USPO yet.