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Sony’s PS5 DualShock 5 controller wants to know how much you sweat

The next-gen controller could come with Apple Watch-grade tech built-in — and something more.

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Sweaty palms are an inherent side effect of every intense gaming session, but the PlayStation 5’s DualShock 5 controllers might be able to sense your white-knuckling and alter the game you’re playing on the next-gen system. Is this an innovative and helpful new feature, or the next invasive step towards compromising the privacy of gamers?

A Sony patent application filed to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on February 20 revealed that the company has thought of developing a controller with built-in sweat and heart-rate sensors. This data could then be used to deliver “biofeedback” or an in-game response to how frantically gamers are mashing the DualShock.

The patent document states that this combination of detectors could be used to assess how a user is feeling. It gives an example of how certain levels in horror games could be toned down to keep players nervous but not terrified to the point where they stop playing.

The image shows an embodiment in which controller 100 has been fitted with a pair of sleeves 110 and 120 that fit over the arms of the controller 100. The sleeves 110 and 120 comprise sensors that are suitable for measuring [electrodermal activity] via a user's hands.USPTO

“It is advantageous to be able to detect when a user is becoming increasingly frightened [while playing a horror game] and to modify in-game parameters (such as number of enemies, type of enemies, environmental lighting levels, or the sounds which are played to the user),” reads the application. “So as to reduce the intensity of the gaming experience and put the user more at ease.”

The blueprints show that both sweat and heart-rate sensors could be housed in the DuelShock’s sleeves. All of the patent imagery appears to use a DualShock 4 controller, but Sony could easily build them into the the PS5’s controllers. Previously filed Sony patents have also mentioned the possibility of adding biometric sensors into DualShock controllers.

A separate application published by the USPTO on November 21, 2019 briefly mentioned the future PlayStation controllers could be used to “record data including ... skin moisture, heart rhythm, and muscle movement.” The February 20 patent seems like an evolution of that idea, suggesting that Sony is actually focusing on making biofeedback controller a reality.

The increased size of the portions 130 and 140 relative to the sleeves 110 and 120 may allow for the use of larger and/or a greater number of sensors. This may improve the accuracy of measurements, due to an increased contact area with the user's skin.USPTO

Many of the world’s biggest tech companies file copious amounts of patent applications every year simply to lock down concepts, no matter how farfetched they might be. A majority of them don’t ever become actual products. But biometric sensing has come up in many Sony patents, suggesting that the company could be pushing to add the tech into the upcoming DualShock 5.

The PS5’s controller has already been revealed to come with haptic motors, which will be able to deliver district vibrations for various in-game occurrences, like driving on a dirty road or getting punched. The DualShock 5 will also be upgraded to have “adaptive triggers,” which offer multiple levels of resistance depending on what gamers are using them to control.

Sony’s next-gen controller already sounds like something out of a sci-fi flick, so a sweat detector could up the ante even further. What other data might Sony try to collect from gamers when the PlayStation 5 launches later this year?

Sony's PlayStation 5 will be released before the end of 2020.

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