Sony patents odd VR foot controller with giant trackballs

We’ve seen generations of hand-operated PlayStation controllers, but what about a peripheral designed for your feet? Sony’s latest patent is just that.

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Sony’s latest VR patent (US20230398438) is a little unconventional. It’s a controller that gamers can operate with their feet, kind of like some sort of inverse Roll & Rocker from an alternate universe. The device is essentially a big trackball with a housing outfitted by bearings, complete with “inertial measurement units” like an accelerometer or gyroscope.

The document describes the device as a “controller apparatus includes two or more balls having a size sufficient for a human to manipulate with a single foot.”

So who is this odd foot controller for exactly? The patent makes a use case for VR, mainly users who don’t have enough free space in their homes to facilitate virtual reality play.

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The patent’s description offers a more thorough explanation:

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) is becoming a more popular medium for home entertainment. VR and AR control currently is limited to room scale movement control or sitting control. In room scale movement control the VR or AR user interfaces with a VR or AR program by moving about a room. Room scale movement control is limited by the size of the user’s room and therefore users with small rooms are not able to fully utilize this feature and programs have a hard limitation to the size areas and must use tricks to allow further movement of the user beyond the room size limitations.

Sitting control generally uses a hand-held game controller to control movement within the VR or AR program. A user may control movement in the AR or VR program with one or more joysticks, directional pads or handheld motion controllers. These controllers are limited by being held by the user’s hands or manipulated by the user’s fingers. The necessity for joystick or directional pad movement control limits the number of inputs available for AR or VR programs.

Also, for some users, joystick or directional pad movement control may seem unnatural or imprecise compared to room-scale movement.

Additionally in computer applications, control is generally limited to hand-held game controllers, mice, keyboards and joysticks. While some applications such as racing games and flight simulators may allow the use of foot operated pedals these inputs are application specific and are not usable for general application control.

It is within this context that aspects of the present disclosure arise.

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