Nintendo Patents a Portable Console or Mobile Phone with Interchangeable Controls

on May 1, 2014 10:15 AM

Nintendo registered a patent for a definitely interesting concept. A portable game system with interchangeable controls that can be switched, for instance between a D-pad and an analog stick, as discovered by NeoGaf user Disorientator.

The concept is doubtlessly intriguing, and it’s described as follows:

An information processing device such as a game machine or a mobile phone is provided with an operation unit with one or more buttons, switches or the like for accepting operation by a user. A game machine, for example, is provided with a cross key, an analog stick, an operational push button or the like, to accept operation concerning a movement or an action of a character in a game, or operation concerning various games such as operation for selecting a menu. Furthermore, a mobile phone is, for example, provided with an operational push button on which a number, a letter or the like is written, and with a directional key or an analog stick for, e.g., four or eight directions, to accept operation concerning speaking, electronic mail transmission/reception or the like.

At the bottom of the post you can also see the schematics of the patent and a rather technical explanation for each, or you can read the full PDF detailing the patent here.

Of course the registration of the patent doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re looking at the 4DS or at the future of Nintendo consoles, as this kind of project may or may not see application in a real product (many patents sit in the archives for years, and some are never applied at all), but I’m sure I’m not the only one seeing this as a clever solution that could definitely lead to a more comfortable and customizable gaming experience.

It’s also very intriguing to see the patent explicitly mention mobile phones. But again, this shouldn’t be taken as a surefire confirmation that Nintendo is going to release its own mobile phones, most likely that’s not the case. The most probable possibility is that they’re just patenting a wider range of devices in order to own all the possible applications of this kind of control scheme.

That way, if another company was to use something similar on a mobile phone, Nintendo would still own the patent.

We’ll have to stand by and see if anything like this will actually make an appearance at E3 or down the line.

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In the game machine according to the present embodiment, other than the illustrated operation instrument 7, various operation instruments 7 having different structures may be attached to the attachment unit 4. In the operation instrument 7, an IC (Integrated Circuit) chip or the like having a wireless communication function is embedded. The game machine may determine the kind of the operation instrument 7 attached to the attachment unit 4 by performing wireless communication with the operation instrument 7. The game machine has a function of detecting operation performed by the user for the operation instrument 7 attached to the attachment unit 4. This allows the game machine to accept operation corresponding to the type of the operation instrument 7 attached to the attachment unit 4 and to perform game processing. In other words, the game machine may change the processing to be performed in accordance with the type of the operation instrument 7, when the operation for the operation instrument 7 attached to the attachment unit 4 is detected.

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Nine pressure sensors S1 to S9 are arranged in matrix of three by three at the inner surface 4d of the attachment unit 4. One pressure sensor S5 located at the center has a substantially square shape. Each of the eight pressure sensors S1 to S4, S6 to S9 on the periphery has a substantially rectangular shape. The pressure sensors S1 to S4 and S6 to S9 are arranged in a radial pattern with respect to the pressure sensor S5 at the center. The pressure sensors S1 to S9 are so arranged that the center of the operation instrument 7 corresponds to the position of the pressure sensor S5 when the operation instrument 7 is attached to the attachment unit 4. In FIG. 5, the operation instrument 7 is illustrated by a circular shape of a dashed-dotted line.Each of the pressure sensors S1 to S9 is connected to the operation detecting unit 15 through a signal line. Each of the pressure sensors S1 to S9 outputs a signal in accordance with an applied pressure to the operation detecting unit 15. The operation detecting unit 15 independently determines, based on the signals from each of the pressure sensors S1 to S9, whether or not a pressure is applied to each of the pressure sensors S1 to S9. The operation detecting unit 15 may further determine the intensity of the pressure applied to each of the pressure sensors S1 to S9.

 

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FIGS. 6A to 6D show example non-limiting schematic views illustrating other examples of the operation instrument 7. The operation instrument 7 illustrated in FIG. 6A has indication parts 7b so arranged to have a positional relationship in which four substantially circular parts respectively correspond to the apexes of a diamond. This operation instrument 7 is to accept substantially the same operation as that for the four push buttons 3c to 3f on the operation unit 3. The operation instrument 7 is used to accept operation for an action such as attacking or jumping of a game character, for example, or for deciding or canceling a selected menu item. Hereinafter, the operation instrument 7 will be referred to as “four push button operation instrument 7.” When the four push button operation instrument 7 is attached to the attachment unit 4, the operation detecting unit 15 detects operation using the four pressure sensors 
S2, S4, S6 and S8 corresponding to the arrangement of the substantially circular indication parts 7b. The game processing unit 32 accepts operation for the operation instrument 7 as the operation for each of the individual push buttons. The game processing unit 32 performs game processing in accordance with the operation for each push button.

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The operation instrument 7 illustrated in FIG. 6B has indication parts 7b of three substantial circles arranged in a straight line. The operation instrument 7 is to accept operation similar to that for the three push buttons. Hereinafter, the operation instrument 7 is referred to as “three push button operation instrument 7.” In the case where the three push button operation instrument 7 is attached to the attachment unit 4, the operation detecting unit 15 detects operation using three pressure sensors S3, S5 and S7 corresponding to the arrangement of the substantially circular indication parts 7b. The game processing unit 32 accepts the operation for the operation instrument 7 as the operation for each of the individual push buttons. The game processing unit 32 performs game processing in accordance with operation for each push button. fig6c18qq0

The operation instrument 7 illustrated in FIG. 6C is provided with one substantially circular indication part 7b. This operation instrument 7 is to accept operation similar to that for one push button. Hereinafter, this operation instrument 7 will be referred to as “one push button operation instrument 7.” In the case where the one push button operation instrument 7 is attached to the attachment unit 4, the operation detecting unit 15 detects operation using all the pressure sensors S1 to S9. The operation detecting unit 15 detects the operation for the operation instrument 7 when the application of a pressure to any one of the pressure sensors S1 to S9 is detected. It is, however, also possible for the operation detecting unit 15 to detect operation using, for example, 
one pressure sensor S5. The game processing unit 32 accepts the operation for the operation instrument 7 as the operation for one push button and performs 
game processing. fig6dmup1w

The operation instrument 7 illustrated in FIG. 6D has a structure in which an indication part 7b formed to represent a three-dimensional game character stands on the base unit 7a. The operation instrument 7 is to operate, for example, a specific character appearing in a specific game. Hereinafter, this operation instrument 7 will be referred to as “character operation instrument 7.” Several kinds of character operation instruments 7 may be prepared for different characters that appears in a game and may be operated. In the case where the character operation instrument 7 is attached to the attachment unit 4, which one of the pressure sensors S1 to S9 is used by the operation detecting unit 15 to detect operation depends on the content of a game. For example, in a game that uses the operation instrument 7 for moving a character, the operation detecting unit 15 may detect operation using four pressure sensors S2, S4, S6 and S8 as in the case with the cross key operation instrument 7. When operation for the operation instrument 7 is accepted, the game processing unit 32 performs game processing concerning a character corresponding to the operation instrument 7 attached to the attachment unit 4, for example, moving the corresponding character.

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 /  Executive News Editor
Hailing from sunny (not as much as people think) Italy and long standing gamer since the age of Mattel Intellivision and Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Definitely a multi-platform gamer, he still holds the old dear PC nearest to his heart, while not disregarding any console on the market. RPGs (of any nationality) and MMORPGs are his daily bread, but he enjoys almost every other genre, prominently racing simulators, action and sandbox games. He is also one of the few surviving fans of the flight simulator genre on Earth.