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Sony Patents Matrix-Like Game Technology 532

howman writes "Reuters is reporting that Sony has been granted 2 patents, both describing 'Method and system for generating sensory data onto the human neural cortex'. These are patents 6,729,337 and 6,536,440. The patents go on to 'describe a technique for aiming ultrasonic pulses at specific areas of the brain to induce sensory experiences such as smells, sounds and images'. The story was first broken by New Scientist magazine." Commentary also available via Ars Technica.
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Sony Patents Matrix-Like Game Technology

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  • by Gadzinka ( 256729 ) <rrw@hell.pl> on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:43AM (#12164715) Journal
    No, it's perfectly good from business angle:

    1. patent some idea
    2. wait for someone to build some device implementing this idea
    3. profit

    Noticed, there is no "unknown" step between 2 and 3?

  • by Cyclotron_Boy ( 708254 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:50AM (#12164785) Homepage
    Patents are not the same thing as a full proof of operability. Basically, a patent is intended to cover current capability and any future expansion of a given technology. This is why there are so many patents for things that don't exist now, but might in the future if a particular technology is advanced/developed. It is interesting to me that the public at large assumes that if a technology is patented that it automatically means it is scientifically proven. Herbal supplements [cockeyed.com] that might claim to do any number of things might also be patented, but that just means the process or composition is patented, not that the claimed benefit is proven.

    In short, while Sony may have patented the technology, it will be a long time before we have UT2k4 on a neural link.

  • by Cyn ( 50070 ) <cyn.cyn@org> on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:56AM (#12164842) Homepage
    No, it was to give them a temporary monopoly since they (theoretically) spent all that time/money developing it - since it should not have been something that is plainly obvious from existing knowledge/technologies.

    In fact, originally (in the US, from 1790) a model was required to demonstrate how it functioned, but that requirement was removed in 1870.

    I would argue that maybe you don't have to actually build one, but you need to throw down a lot of proof that you know it could work, and if things don't work out that way then you haven't yet patented whatever you've just created, and you need to patent the proper method.
  • Re:PS9 (Score:2, Informative)

    by Rude Turnip ( 49495 ) <[valuation] [at] [gmail.com]> on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:57AM (#12164862)
    The parent is referring to a TV commercial from Sony that talks about the PS9, which works by interfacing with your brain. It was really a commercial for the PS2 in the end, but it was a cute idea.
  • by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @10:11AM (#12164993)
    You seem to have a poor understanding of what prior art is. Don't feel bad; most people do. Prior art is a previously existing technology which has been publicly available at the time that an invention was made (either through published papers or through being sold in the marketplace). Prior art (much like patents) inherently involves a description of how to do something, not just the idea of doing it. The Matrix details nothing about exactly how it works, and the idea is nowhere near original to the Matrix anyway (with plenty of precedent in the sci-fi subgenre known as cyberpunk).

    Furthermore, even if it did matter, the version in the Matrix uses direct insertion of a probe into the brain, presumably to directly electrically stimulate it. This method uses sonic pulses (and probably can't actually be made to work with the necessary precision). There is more than enough difference in the design to matter for separate patentability.

    Remember the story about Sony losing the lawsuit over the DualShock controller to Immersion? If you read the comments, you might've come across the fact that Nintendo doesn't have to worry about Immersion's patents. While Immersion patented attaching an unbalanced weight to a spinning motor for creating vibration in a controller, Nintendo patented building an unbalanced weight into a spinning motor to create vibration in a controller. This subtle difference is all that was needed to make these separate inventions.

    No, if sonic stimulation could ever work, this is a good enough patent to place a land grab on it. It's a novel method of neural stimulation with no precedent that I'm aware, and even if there is, it's unlikely that anyone has tried to use it to enhance a game yet. This sounds pretty solid to me. It does open up the field for other patents about how to actually get sonic neural stimulation to work, but if it ever does, Sony has a claim to using it in a game.
  • by mamladm ( 867366 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @10:41AM (#12165278) Homepage
    The requirements for patentability are simple ...

    1) the invention has to be novel
    2) the invention must not be ovious, there has to be an inventive step
    3) the specification has to be detailed enough for persons skilled in the art to carry out the invention, that is to say, build the apparatus

    These requirements are perfectly sufficient if they are properly enforced.

    requirement 1 means, no patent is to be granted if there is prior art

    requirement 2 means, no patent is to be granted for something that is obvious

    requirement 3 means, no patent is to be granted for concepts or ideas, nor for applications that are too fuzzy to be pinned down to an actual implementation

    The problem with the patent system today is that the patent offices are hopelessly understaffed to ensure that these requirements are actually enforced and consequently there are too many patents which are not novel, obvious or fuzzy or any combination thereof.

    If a requirement to produce a working prototype was introduced, it would make things even worse because the already overworked patent examiners would now also have to examine the prototype and there would likely follow a tendency to grant any application as long as the prototype appears to do what the specification says it does. The result would be even more non-novel and obvious patents.
  • Re:Hmmm.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Aumaden ( 598628 ) <Devon@C@Miller.gmail@com> on Thursday April 07, 2005 @10:47AM (#12165328) Journal
    The patent law changes pretty much dropped depth charges on the submarine patent scam. Patents used to be valid for 17 years from the issue date. So companies would hold off on filing the last document until their invention was widely used. Then:

    1 file the last document,
    2 get the patent, and
    3 profit!

    This workked so well because until that last document was filed, the patent number wasn't issued, making submarine patents all but impossible to look up.

    Now the patent lifespan is 3 years longer, but the clock and the visibility of the patent starts as soon as the first document is filed.

  • Such Gibberish.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Illserve ( 56215 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @10:52AM (#12165372)
    I am a Neuroscientist.

    There is no way in God's Green Earth that you can transnsmit a meaningful signal to the brain wirelessly through the skull. They even say it themselves in the article that you can't even target *groups* of neurons.

    It's about the laws of physics. The fields just spread too much to allow you to target neurons.

    Maybe with vast (!!!!) improvements in technology, we could selectively activate a region of the brain, making someone feel a particular way (happy, sad, horny, religious), but it would be sloppy, dangerous and need to be tuned to a particular individual.

    Under NO conceivable circumstances within the universe that we currently live could you uninvasively transmit any detailed information, through the skull as the article (and presumably the patent) implies.

  • Re:question (Score:5, Informative)

    by Aumaden ( 598628 ) <Devon@C@Miller.gmail@com> on Thursday April 07, 2005 @11:02AM (#12165448) Journal
    The legislation took until the late 80's because the industry fought vehemently against airbags and passive restraints. NHSTA wanted initial deployment of them in 1973 with further safeguards by 1975.

    A interesting read: Frontline: nixon & detroit: inside the oval office [pbs.org].

  • Already been done (Score:2, Informative)

    by aweiland ( 237773 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @11:21AM (#12165630)
    I've seen this before many times on TV where it's actually been done in a lab. So they've patented experiments other people have already done?

    The History Channel had a show on UFOs where they used techniques excatly like this to show that various magnetic fields on the brain can induce strange hallucinations.
  • Re:Already been done (Score:2, Informative)

    by SlayerDave ( 555409 ) <elddm1NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday April 07, 2005 @11:30AM (#12165722) Homepage
    Wrong. The Sony patent is for a method using ultrasonic waves, not a magnetic field. And yes, magnetic fields fields are commonly used to study the brain, e.g. TMS, MRI, and fMRI.
  • by deadhammer ( 576762 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @11:59AM (#12166020)
    I'm attending the same university that Dr. Persinger teaches at (Laurentian University, Sudbury ON), and although I'm not a neurochem student, I think I've got the basics. It uses radio waves mostly (although there are ultrasonic waves that enter into it somehow). His theory is that the sum total of a bunch of stimuli that normally wouldn't affect us because they're too weak can have drastic effects on us, and that helmet is proof. It's kind of scary, it can give you the impression that you're in the presence of God and change the way you percieve things through your senses. Like LSD, but without scorching your brain. Can't wait to try it out (I wonder what the liability waivers look like for volunteer testing...)
  • by cortex ( 168860 ) <neuraleng@gmail.com> on Thursday April 07, 2005 @12:13PM (#12166155)
    I am also a neuroscientist. One who has been working in neuroprosthetics for several years and who is on patents for neural prosthetic technology that actually exist. The parent is absolutely correct. Any information broadcast into cortex would be very crude and likely also unpleasent. David Brindley (the god father of visual neural prosthetics) found that patients would not tolerate the crude visual input from the few electrodes that he used. <sarcasm> However, it is nice to know thatI don't have to actually do build anything or do experiments anymore. </sarcasm>
  • Don't you watch CSI? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Wiseazz ( 267052 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @01:30PM (#12166982)
    Rape is not about sex.

    Just sayin'
  • Re:Lawsuits (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 07, 2005 @04:43PM (#12169475)
    In some archaic societies, they even used female genital mutilation for that reason.

    The male form is Circumcision [wikipedia.org].

    When your mom and pop decided to do that they didn't think they just nicked a good chunk of your sex pleasure. Damn.
  • Re:Lawsuits (Score:3, Informative)

    by siliconjunkie ( 413706 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @05:25PM (#12169841)
    Perhaps you might enjoy this site: The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement [vhemt.org]. Then again, after re-reading your post, maybe you already have enjoyed that site.

Information is the inverse of entropy.