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From Wireless To Slip Rings: 5 Zany Videogame Patents

Wii Remotes and Kinect aside, video game controllers remain the same. Do a little digging through Google Patents, however, and you'll find the way we control video games today could have been just a little zanier.

James Dalzell, Blogger

August 23, 2017

5 Min Read

Ask just about any video game tragic, and they'll tell you that the go-to place for the latest exciting, zanny, and at times downright crazy video game technology is the likes of E3, GDC, and PAX. You remember the Wii U GamePad, right? The Wii Remote and that now-legendary waggle? How about Microsoft's wireless full-body Kinect or Playstation's *absurd* launch prices? 

Ah, the list of crazy videogame *stuff* just goes on and on and, well, on! 

The future of video game technology isn't the only place you'll find the crazy announcements, though. In fact, gaming's past has more than its fair share of oddities to share! And when I say oddities, I'm talking some pretty funny stuff. How does an inflatable vehicle sound? Take that, driving sims! Maybe a glove that protects you from the hours of punishment your hands undergo while playing Peggle or Candy Crush Saga? Has a nice ring to it! 

The history of videogames is littered with the corpses of crazy patents. Here are five of my favourite! 

1. Uncover secrets with this crazy controller

Patent #US 6475083 B1

DLC. We all know it. The sometimes-great, often-good, and at-times downright deplorable, the ability to pay for - or unlock - additional content isn’t anything new if this patent from 2000 is anything to go by. With an altogether vague name - ‘Unlocking secrets of video games’ - the patent detailed a process by which users could unlock game content with certain perihperals. If this sounds an awful lot like Disney Infinity, Skylanders, or Amiibo, you’re not far off. 

We’re not just talking a different looking controller like a Wii Mote vs a 360 Gamepad, either. Apparantly this patent aimed to create a “strong synergy between the game and the matching video game controller” that would inspire players to match a given - and no doubtedly proprietary, premium-priced - controller with a game. 

As far as marketing ploys go, this one sounds like a doozy! 

2. The beginning of the end for cables

Patent #US 6684062 B1

Wireless controllers are an everyday part of videogaming these days, whether it’s the Dualshock 4 or the Steam Link controller. But that hasn’t always been the case. It can be easy to forget just how recently videogame conbtrollers still had us tethered to consoles and ensured we were kept sitting, cross-legged, in front of our televisions.

Back in 2000, a ‘wireless game control system’ patent was filed for a then-new kind of videogame controller: a wireless one! More complex and decidedly more convoluted than our current day press-and-plays, the wireless controller would work with a base tranceiver to send and receive messages and data between the console and controller.

Apparently the patent boasted “significant advntages in the areas of latency, reliability, power consumption, and cross platform compatibility”.

A launching pad to today's wireless video gaming perhipherals? Perhaps! 

3. Here fishy, fishy, slip ring fishy

Patent #US 8579707 B2

Who wants to go fishing?! It turns out, a whole lot of you. Not only are fishing videogames absurdly popular (heck, Final Fantasy XV's fishing mini-game was one of its most talked about features when it finally hit store shelves!), they’ve spawned more than their fair share of peripheral-based patents.

The ‘Angling joystick and gaming device having same’ patent, filed in 2000, is just one of these examples. Using a slip ring to enable full freedom of movement and rotation, the patent discusses an imitation fishing reel, a receiver unit, and an orientation unit to fully simulate the feeling of casting a rod out into the water with your dad on a lazy sunday afternoon spent fishing.

Ok, so maybe it doesn’t mention that last bit, but what it does include is a ‘force-adjusting device’ which would mean the game wouldn't just track every flick of the fishing rod, but also provide force feedback and tension when reeling in that catch. 

Trust me, the patent was *this* big!

4. It's a driving sim, but not as you know it!

Patent #US 08210534 B2

With the rise and rise of the videogame sim in recent years - here’s looking at you Farming Simulator - the quest for the holy grail of full videogame immersion continues apace. We have HOTAS setups for flight sims and TrackIR for military sims, while the racing scene has its fair share of racing wheels and pedals. But that’s not all!

We’ve all seen those crazy racing sim setups before. You know the ones. With the full-sized car, gutted of its driving internals, and fitted with racing wheels and windscreen-sized screens for the full virtual racing experience. But how about an inflatable car? 

This “Inflatable vehicles for simulating driving for use with video games“, filed as recently as 2010, is an inflatable Mario Kart inspired Go Kart which includes a functioning steering wheel that, when connected to a game controller, “controls the video game when the steering wheel or handle bar is manipulated like a real life equivalent thereof”.

If this all sounds a lot like Mario Kart’s Wii Remote gimick, you wouldn’t be too far off. 

5. You’ve heard of the power glove, but what about the protective glove?

Patent# US 4519097 A

The other items in our list have all been fairly recent, but what would a list of possible-videogame-tech be without a throwback to the mid-80’s?

Filed in 1983, the “video game protective glove” patent has all the hallmarks of a 80’s ideal of what technology may look like one day. Featuring “VELCRO hook and loop fasteners to fit various size hands”, the glove leaves the tips of your fingers exposed for all your Street Fighter inspired button mashing, while keeping your fingers free of the abrasions, calluses, and bruises that undoubtedly arise from those 72 hour gaming sessions.

A solution for a non-existent problem? Perhaps, but it’s still damn hilarious to see! 

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