Microsoft Patents Yet Another Game-Changer: 'Wearable Controllers'


You'd better start believing Microsoft is planning something big in the years to come. Forget perfunctory add-on motion controls for a moment, because a patent filed by Microsoft has been uncovered alluding to technology that may just break new videogame ground in the Xbox 720.

The company behind the Xbox and the Xbox 360 is definitely up to something in coming up with novel ways of interacting with a videogame. Just earlier this month, a patent filing spotted by Patently Apple revealed the company had visions of gamers' living rooms becoming a part of a games' 3D environment, using advanced projection technology to project environmental surfaces around the user.

Spotted by Patent Bolt, the latest discovered patent revolves around a 'Wearable Electromyography-Based Controller' that uses the readings from various Electromyography (EMG) sensors placed all over the body to “provide a muscle-computer interface for use in controlling or interacting with one or more computing devices or other devices coupled to a computing device.” Oh, say, the next-generation Xbox perhaps?

In full, the patent details how “a 'Wearable Electromyography-Based Controller' provides a physical device, worn by or otherwise attached to a user, that directly senses and decodes electrical signals produced by human muscular activity using surface Electromyography (sEMG) sensors.”

Of course, to suggest Microsoft is looking into such a technology solely for the purpose of upping the 'immersion factor' of its most popular videogames is naïve. The company must surely also be thinking about the larger picture, where the tech can be harnessed and be of genuine use in real-world situations; whether aiding control of prosthetic limbs or allowing users to interact with electronics without physically touching them (while driving, for example). Heck, even as a swish way to interact with Windows 8.

As detailed in point #139 of the patent filing, however, it's clear Microsoft's R&D department have at least considered the idea of the wearable controller finding a use in gaming. “The Wearable Electromyography-Based Controller is capable of being used for any of a number of purposes,” it says, “[including] interaction with...wired or wireless game controllers for interacting with game consoles or with video games operating on such consoles.”

The question is this: has the Xbox finally outgrown Kinect?

Richard Birkett