Microsoft tries to patent a working 'Magic Wand' for Xbox 360

With this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (better known as E3) less than two weeks away, speculation has been steadily increasing about the big game companies' announcements. One of the major topics of chatter has been updated controller schemes, and entries for both the PlayStation3 and the Xbox 360 in the Wii-like motion controller category.

The latest application for a patent for such a device to come to light was filed by Microsoft in November 2007. Attributed to Chief Experience Officer James "J" Allard, it covers the architecture of a multi-sensor control environment.

The application says, "The architecture can include a variety of I/O components such as keys/keypad, navigation buttons, lights, switches, displays, speakers, microphones, transmitters/receives, or substantially any other suitable component found in or related to conventional user-interfaces...[It] can also include or be operatively coupled to a set of sensors such as accelerometers, gyroscopes, cameras, range-finders, biometric sensors and so on. One or more sensor can be utilized to determine an orientation of the wand, wherein the orientation can relate to or include the position of the wand, the direction of focus of the wand (or a targeted environmental component) as well as a gesture or recent trajectory of the wand. Based upon the orientation of the wand, the architecture can determine a suitable instruction, which can be transmitted to the targeted environmental component and result in a change in the state of the targeted environmental component. "

Without a doubt, the best part of the application is its explanation of the choice of "Magic Wand" as a patent name. It says, "It is readily apparent that a number of communities or demographic segments are enamored with the idea of magic." To which it references by name Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Dungeons & Dragons. However, it says, "even the most pragmatic individual would have trouble arguing against the merits or utility of, say, a magic wand that actually worked to control or communicate with objects."

Just imagine reading this patent application if the Wii didn't already exist.

Last week, The Wall Street Journal "confirmed" the existence of a camera-based controller similar to the old EyeToy, but purportedly capable of headtracking that can give gamers "more accurate control over games than earlier game cameras did." The peripheral would come from local Redmond startup 3DV Systems, which Microsoft has been courting for acquisition since February.

In late April, Variety Magazine blogger Ben Fritz cited "a good source" as having seen a working prototype device based upon a Sony patent application for a Wiimote-like motion controller from May 2006. Fritz, too expected a new peripheral to be shown off at this year's E3.

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