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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 foobsr ( 693224 ) * on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:33AM (#12164627) Homepage Journal
    ... finally [].

    Now let us just hope that we ourselves do not conflict with any (coming) patent so that we can take full advantage.

    More seriously (?):

    Sony hasn't yet built a device that works based on the ideas presented in the patent, so this is all theoretical. In fact, according to the New Scientist, Sony hasn't even conducted any experiments to see if this works. Nonetheless, most of the reporting on this patent (see the Times Online and the original New Scientist peice) claim that some independent experts have said that the idea is plausible. There's no word yet on whether or not tinfoil will stop the ultrasonic brain rays.

    Strange. I bet there are some among the crowd here who have "theoretical ideas" that level up with SONY. IIRC, in ancient times it was necessary to present a working model (at least here in .de).

  • by hunterx11 ( 778171 ) <.hunterx11. .at.> on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:34AM (#12164630) Homepage Journal
    ...that Sony can patent something not only which they have not implemented, but which they do not even yet know how to implement?
  • Working proto-type? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:35AM (#12164640)
    Do they have this working or are they "patent-squatting"?
  • question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by R.D.Olivaw ( 826349 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:36AM (#12164654)
    Can someone enlighten me please.
    How detailed, exact and 'can be done with the current technology'a patent claim has to be in order to get granted? I mean they can't implement these patents now, can they?
    Can I just take say the teleporter and describe it as a commuting device that works by transforming matter into energy, beaming it and retransforming it back to get a patent for it?
  • Re:Hmmm.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Yartrebo ( 690383 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:40AM (#12164690)
    Because they want to be able to extract rents from whoever does make it possible for the next 20 years.

    My only question is why didn't they submarine these suckers.
  • by Zate ( 687440 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:41AM (#12164701) Homepage
    I can see it now.. walking past a McDonalds advertising sign and suddenly hearing that stupid jingle in my head and smelling and tasking Mickey D's Fries.. gonne be great to be bombarded with advertising like this.
  • by NetNifty ( 796376 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:42AM (#12164711) Homepage
    In that case I'd better patent adblock for brains!
  • Re:question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Yerase ( 636636 ) <> on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:49AM (#12164777) Homepage
    This is one of the fundamental flaws with the US patent system. You can get a patent on just about anything so long as you can write a plausible explanation for it (and "plausible" is all up to the examiner). If you can't honestly built the item you're proposing, then the patent office just gets your money for free. If one day someone else does, and you try to sue them for Patent Infrigement, then they can file a countersuit proposing that you don't know what you're talking about. At that point, it's up to the courts and generally the guy with the most money wins.
  • What happend? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Apreche ( 239272 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @09:56AM (#12164841) Homepage Journal
    What happened to the times when you had to actually invent something before you could patent it?
  • Re:Hazards? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tgibbs ( 83782 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @10:05AM (#12164929)
    If it works at all, there could be hazards, especially as this is not envisioned as something done for a few minutes as with a diagnostic ultrasound, but for hours on end, day after day. It might be worth the risk to address a medical problem with vision or hearing, but entertainment is another matter.

    There are known mechanisms by which excessive neural activity can potentially result in damage.

    I'm not going to line up to be the first to try this new technology. The prudent thing to do would be to wait ten or twenty years and see if the early adopters start turning up with dementia or stroke.

    By the way, researchers are already achieving interesting effects with transcranial magnetic stimulation, which is much further along, experimentally speaking. Indeed, some scientific equipment companies are selling ready-made devices for this purpose. At least it really does do something, although I haven't seen any practical (as opposed to research) applications.
  • by Felinoid ( 16872 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @10:06AM (#12164942) Homepage Journal
    The typical business modle of the day was:
    1. Build untill broke
    2. Secure funding (Protected by non-disclosure agreements)
    3. Patent
    4. Build.

    Patents were intended to protect you from having your device stolen AFTER you go into full production.

    When your entering into an agreement with individuals a non-disclosure agreement is more binding, more effective and easier to get.

    With shrinkwrap liccensing I'm supprised people haven't attempted a shrinkwrap non-disclosure.
  • Set of all sets (Score:3, Interesting)

    by obender ( 546976 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @10:08AM (#12164959)
    Could somebody patent the act of patenting and put an end to this? Or patent the act of suing people for all possible future patents? I am sure that if things like the one in the story can be patented you should be able to work out a paradox and halt the system.
  • Re:Lawsuits (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RicktheBrick ( 588466 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @10:38AM (#12165237)
    I wonder what the world will be like when simulated sex is so much better and easier to get than the real thing. I think the day will come when there is so many things that are "better than sex" that women will have to be paid to get pregnant. This will solve several problems such as sex with minors, rape, teenage pregnacy as all of these will take emormous effort compared to the simulated sex and have none of the consequences. I think we will need an incubator that can grow a human from conception to the point of birth in order to keep the human race from going extinct.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 07, 2005 @10:42AM (#12165291)
    I wonder if this device [] would constitute prior art?

    Or if they would just sue persinger for patent violation.

    Oh wait, Sony's patent uses ultrasonic waves, rather than magnetic pulses. Sorry, my bad.
  • Re:Patent on Vapor ? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Felinoid ( 16872 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @10:45AM (#12165306) Homepage Journal
    Would the comments from Elizabeth Boukis should be sufficant grounds for having this patent thrown out?

    Can I run out and get a patent on energy based wepons or faster than light engens?

    Or maybe I could patent using the next release of a Microsoft brand product in business or government?
  • Re:Lawsuits (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Felinoid ( 16872 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @10:48AM (#12165334) Homepage Journal
    People will still use the old method.
    It will be illegal for minnors to use the technology.
    People will (and in fact do now) have sex purely for procreation.
    There are marrage books that actually teach how to make sex not plesurable as it is a nasty thing that should only be used for procreation.
  • Re:Wheeeww (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Not_Wiggins ( 686627 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @10:55AM (#12165393) Journal
    At least with sound they don't have to stick a heavily wired icepick into my brain.

    Nor get any permission 'cause it could be done at a distance! Now I won't even need to turn my TV on to see commercials! Woo! 8)
  • Good idea SONY! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aonaran ( 15651 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @11:19AM (#12165605) Homepage
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but any invention can only be patented once.

    We should set up a charity to patent these sorts of "prophetic" inventions, so that when the day comes that they can actually be implemented the patents will have expired and the technology will be free of any restrictive licensing.

    I suggest these as starters:
    Cold Fusion
    Personal laser weapons
    Warp drives
    Jump gates
    Nanobot based immune systems
  • Strange Days (Score:2, Interesting)

    by LostCauz ( 121686 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @11:20AM (#12165620)
    This sounds more like the S.C.U.I.D. device from Strange Days than from anything from The Matrix

    imdb linkage: []
  • by MrJerryNormandinSir ( 197432 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @11:30AM (#12165726)
    There's something wrong here. Just reading the patent specifications for this technology leads me to believe this would become very addicting. Especially if someone doesn't have a life.

    I wouldn't want to alter realit for anything.
  • by back_pages ( 600753 ) <{ten.xoc} {ta} {segap_kcab}> on Thursday April 07, 2005 @11:39AM (#12165818) Journal
    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.

    You are absolutely correct. This concept is called "constructive reduction to practice". There are several ways of satisfying this concept, most preferably being a US patent application that complies with 35 U.S.C. 112. Other examples that would typically be accepted as constructive reduction to practice would be blue prints for a machine, source code for a software related invention, or the lab procedure to make a chemical compound.

    Many people who don't work around patents get caught up in whether or not "a person of ordinary skill in the art" actually could make and use the invention as disclosed in a patent application. Unfortunately for their arguments, this is an almost trivial condition to meet. If a person of ordinary skill in the art swears in an affidavit that he could reasonably make and use the invention, that's pretty much where this inquiry ends. Neither the courts nor the USPTO are interested in "Nuh-uh, Uh-huh" arguments about whether or not the patent application is fubared.

    The patent holder, on the other hand, does. If you try to litigate with a patent for insanity, the defense will tear you apart. You might be able to GET a patent with a silly affidavit, but you won't be able to ENFORCE it very well.

    In this case, it appears that Sony has disclosed an apparatus and claimed the method of using it. NOWHERE is it guaranteed to work well, which is one of the safest patents to issue. If it doesn't work well, the chances are REALLY slim that anybody is going to infringe it. This isn't legal analysis, but it looks to me like Sony has paid the USPTO to provide them with some really expensive wallpaper.

  • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @11:40AM (#12165831) Homepage Journal
    If it's overclocking you want, perhaps a better liquid to suspend them in would be coffee. Or Mountain Dew. Or Jolt Cola.
  • Re:Patent on Vapor ? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 07, 2005 @11:49AM (#12165931)
    I agree that this is pretty dumb and pervents people from doing the actual reaserch in this area. They already know that Sony will rake them over the coals in fees to use the patent, so why bother?

    Microsoft regestered a patent to transmitt data and power through the human skin last year, do you think they have this already? Nope.

    I think big companies are using the patent system the wrong way, and more stupid regulations will have to be made to stop them from doing this.

    I think with crazy futuristic ideas like this, the patent office should realize that this hasn't even been researched yet and tell Sony to go make a Sci-fi movie about it or something.

    This trend is going to KILL technology in the VERY near future. Except in places that don't have to follow our laws... Goodbye America as a superpower. Huh, would that be so bad?
  • by Winkhorst ( 743546 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @11:58AM (#12166015)
    Considering they haven't even done any experimention--this whole thing is just an idea of where their research MAY lead--one has to wonder if I can now patent any old idea that crosses my mind. Maybe I should patent a time machine in case I someday figure out how to do this...
  • And in other news... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dark_requiem ( 806308 ) on Thursday April 07, 2005 @12:16PM (#12166201)
    Microsoft today acquired a patent on time travel. Commenting on this development, Steve Balmer had this to say: "We don't know how to do it, but I'll be damned if I let someone else get credit when they figure it out. We had the idea first." Also, a patent for the flying car has been issued to General Motors. Company officials obtained the patent amid concerns that someone else might be able to develop the technology first, and then how would GM make money on it?

    Seriously, this is just another example of why the patent office should be eliminated in favor of private licensing agreements, contracts, and NDAs. Let the company worry about enforcing their IP rights, which has the added benefit of preventing them from "protecting" IP they don't have.

The primary function of the design engineer is to make things difficult for the fabricator and impossible for the serviceman.