By Michael Fontanini / December 11th, 2015
Nintendo has filed a new patent for a controller that is literally made of a screen, and could potentially be part of the Nintendo NX. The patent was submitted by five employees of Nintendo, and there is actually some circumstantial evidence that Nintendo might be planning to actually make this. For one thing, Nintendo has previously been linked to this type of technology. Last year, the Japanese news agency, Kyodo, reported that Nintendo would be the first customer of Sharp’s new Free-Form Displays. These displays are actually IGZO LCD panels that can be made into a plethora of different shapes. Mass production of these displays was reported to be planned for some time in early 2016. Nintendo also merged their console and handheld divisions nearly three years ago.
A more recent report by the Wall Street Journal said that Nintendo’s mysterious upcoming platform, the NX, might be composed of a console and a mobile device that can work independently or in tandem with the console itself. Of course, this thing wouldn’t be Nintendo’s first controller with a screen either. The 3DS is essentially a very specialized controller with two screens built into it and the ability to fold closed. And of course the Wii U Gamepad is a controller with a touch screen built into it, but it only works in tandem with the Wii U and not independently.
The patent for this potential Nintendo NX controller made of a screen, describes the elliptical front face of the controller as being a touch screen. The touch panel would cover the majority of the display, and might be resistive or capacitive. It has a couple of holes punched out where the analog sticks will be and some shoulder buttons on the top of the controller. The patent says the screen could be either LCD or OLED and even says that it would be possible for this controller to use the 3DS-style glasses-free 3D technology. In other words, this screen might be able to do 3D just like the screen on the 3DS can do. There is a card slot on the top of the controller between the shoulder buttons, and it has a built-in speaker as well.
Nintendo’s new patent also lists some cool use cases for this technology. One idea is ambient fire effects around the analog sticks. Another is displaying arrows around the sticks as a guide of which direction the player should push the sticks. Of course, that would be unnecessary in most games, but could be useful in some games. Another idea mentioned is to display Japanese hiragana characters around the analog sticks to aid in text entry. While these are all gaming uses, the patent also mentions some possible non-gaming uses for this controller. It suggests the idea of displaying a web browser in the middle of the screen, with controls around the right analog stick and some smart-phone style status information around the left stick. It says all of this would rotate if you turn the controller on its side, too.
Is this controller really a part of the upcoming Nintendo NX, though? It might indeed be, but there is no guarantee. This was pointed out in the comments of the previous Nintendo Patent I reported on earlier this week, too. There is a real possibility that the things from both of these patents will find their way into the Nintendo NX, even if these aren’t specific designs that are planned for said system. Only time will tell us for sure, but I look forward to seeing what Nintendo comes up with.
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