The focus seems to be primarily on force-feedback.
In December, Microsoft filed four new patents (1, 2, 3, 4) for tech to be used in controllers that all seem to be hinting at significant new improvements to be made in Xbox controllers down the line (via Windows Latest). The focus of all four patents, collectively and individually, seems to be on implementing force feedback tech in Xbox controllers, moving away from the haptic feedback that has been implemented in console controllers for over a decade now.
The summary section of each patent seems to indicate that this is something that will be limited in application to the triggers in a controller, but each patent later on goes on to detail the potential advantages and uses in interesting ways. For starters, the patents explain that in providing resistance and tension as opposed to simply vibrations, force feedback controllers would provide more immersion as opposed to haptic feedback controllers.
“Although a vibrator can provide feedback in the form of vibration, a vibrator cannot adjust any other user-perceived state of the trigger, such as a resistance/tension, return speed, and/or a length of travel/rotation,” the patents explain. “Moreover, a vibrator cannot dynamically change the user-perceived state of the trigger based on varying conditions, such as a parameter of a computing device/video game, or user preferences.”
A greater level of immersion is, in fact, something that each of the patents delves into quite a bit, which is something that will be achieved through dynamic triggers that change their position through force feedback based on the in-game situation.
“Such a motor-driven, force-feedback trigger configuration enables the user-perceived state of the trigger to be dynamically adjusted in any suitable manner based on any suitable conditions,” the patents explain. “For example, the user-perceived state of the trigger may be changed based on a parameter of a computing device or an application executed by the computing device, such as a game parameter of a video game. In one example, the user-perceived resistance of the trigger is dynamically adjusted to correspond to characteristics (e.g., pull length, pull weight) of different virtual triggers of different virtual weapons. In another example, the user-perceived state of the trigger may be dynamically adjusted based on different user preferences. Such dynamic control of the user-perceived state of the trigger may increase a level of immersion of a user experience.”
Force feedback is something that has slowly but surely been growing in popularity over the years, and definitely seems like the next step forward for controllers in terms of potential improvements. It’s very likely that Microsoft might want to implement something like this in their controllers for the next generation of Xbox- though, as is the case with any patent, there’s no guarantee that this is something that will see the light of day anytime soon.
In related news, not too long ago, Microsoft filed another patent for an Xbox controller with removable and attachable buttons- read more on that through here.