Patents filed by Sony and Microsoft suggest both companies may be planning to take touch screen technologies in interesting new directions, with potential applications for future game platforms.
A set of several Sony Computer Entertainment patents, first found by Akihabara News
and filed last October, describe a device in which "the visual display is disposed on a front side of the case and the touch pad is disposed on a back side of the case."
According to one patent for a "hand-held device with two-finger touch triggered selection and transformation of active elements,"
the two sides are "slidably connected to each other ... in a hinged configuration," with the touch-sensitive side able to distinguish a "two-fingered touch" from that of a single finger.
According to the patent, this dual-screen solution improves on prior touch screens on which "the user's fingers often obscure the part that is to be selected making selection difficult."
This matches closely with recent, widely reported rumors that Sony's next PlayStation Portable will contain such a back-mounted touchscreen.
Microsoft, meanwhile, filed a patent application this week for a "light-induced shape-memory polymer display screen"
that can add tactile textures to existing, flat touch-screen technologies.
According to the patent, a "topography-changing layer" activated by ultraviolet light will sit atop a touch-sensitive display screen, so that, for example, the device "may provide a tactile reinforcement that [a region of the screen] is currently serving as a virtual button."
The lack of tactile feedback has been a major impediment for many games on current touchscreen devices such as the iPhone, especially for those that try to use the touch screen to emulate a standard directional pads and buttons.
Microsoft hasn't announced any potential applications for such shape-memory touchscreens, but the patent itself suggests the company may be focused on applying it to its Microsoft Surface computing environment.