Sony Patent Suggests Interactions Based On Player Reaction Time

Recently published patent from Sony Interactive Entertainment discusses "changing response window for interactive content" in games based on the player's reaction time "to preserve the intended experience."

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Sony Interactive Entertainment,  formerly known as Sony Computer Entertainment and owned by Sony Group Corporation, is currently one of, if not the most noteworthy, video game and digital entertainment companies to exist. With subsidiaries like Naughty Dog, Guerilla Games, and Santa Monica Studio under its name, the company has released some of the most recognized and cherished video games in the entire video game industry, including Marvel’s Spider-Man, God of War, Demon’s Souls, and more.

With so many achievements and acclaim that the company has received over the years, it comes as no surprise that it is constantly trying to innovate even more and compete with other video game and digital entertainment companies, like Xbox Game Studios. As such, Sony Interactive Entertainment has been publishing numerous rather promising patents recently, one of which discusses a technology that changes the “interactive content” in games based on the reaction time of players “to preserve the intended experience” if the “intent was correct.”

Earlier today, we came across a recently published patent from Sony Interactive Entertainment, filed in March and published only a few days ago, titled, “CHANGING RESPONSE WINDOW FOR INTERACTIVE CONTENT USING USER’S REACTION TIME.” According to the patent, “Sensors including eye tracking sensors (212), accelerometers and other motion sensors (210), and muscle sensors (208) identify (302) the timing gap between a computer game object appearing on the screen, the user shifting his attention to the object, and the user taking action in response to the object. If the user’s reaction time falls outside of an expected window but the intent was correct, the game adjusts (312) its outcome to preserve the intended experience.”

Block diagram of an example system including an example in accordance with present principles. | Source: World Intellectual Property Organization

The patent, which was published under World Intellectual Property Organization, mentions a feature in games or the console itself that changes the behaviour of the interactive content in-game, such as enemies and obstacles, according to the reaction time of the player, considering that the intention is correct. “The outcome may be altered at least in part by altering a response window to allow the player more time to choose an action in response to an in-simulation event, or by delaying damage to a simulation character associated with the player, or by invalidating damage to a simulation character associated with the player, or by expanding a hit region around a simulation character from a first region outside of which a hit is not registered to a second region outside of which a hit is not registered, with the second region being larger than the first region and a hit being registered inside the second region.”

In any case, any of the combinations mentioned in the patent can be used in correspondence with the reaction time of the player within a certain situation. For instance, if the player is in combat with an adversary and they are unable to evade an attack in time, the feature could cause the damage inflicted upon the player to be reduced so as not to diminish the experience. Furthermore, this is corroborated by one of the detailed drawings mentioned in the patent.

Figure that schematically illustrates adjusting or invalidating a strike against the user’s character and expanding a hit zone around an enemy character. | Source: World Intellectual Property Organization

According to the description of the drawing, “a game character 500 associated with the player or user is being attacked in the computer simulation by an adversary character 502 wielding a weapon 504. The player may have reacted correctly but too late to deflect the attack, in which case the game is altered from the player character 500 dying or being severely incapacitated to being afflicted with a lesser injury, such as a flesh wound as indicated at 506.” Hence, the implementation of the feature during in-game combat situations is clear.

However, this isn’t all, as the feature also works for the opposite; when the player attacks an adversary, in which case, if the attack is missed by the player in a small hit-zone, the hit-zone is enlarged for present or future events so as to make it more manageable for the player to surpass an obstruction. “In Figure 6, an enemy character 600 in the simulation may be emulated as being killed or severely wounded if the player successfully attacks the character 600 within a relatively small hit zone 602. The player may have reacted correctly but too late or too inaccurately to implement the attack within the hit zone 602, in which case the game is altered by, for future events or for the present event, enlarging the hit zone to the larger size 604 shown in Figure 6,” states the patent.

Additionally, Sony Interactive Entertainment doesn’t seem to discuss any software implementation of the feature but rather through the use of certain hardware, such as sensors, including eye tracking sensors, accelerometers and other motion sensors, and muscle sensors, “The controller 202 in Figure 2 can have a variable difficultly setting that communicates with the simulation to alter game state. Essentially, the player intent and decision being made is identified (such as by detecting a muscle spasm using the biometric sensor 208, or eye tracking using the camera 212, etc.) and the game selectively altered accordingly.” Of course, this may also work for virtual reality (VR) hardware.

An example game system consistent with present principles that may use any or all of the components discussed in the patent. | Source: World Intellectual Property Organization

“Finger tracking on controller may be used prior to button push or joystick move to track the pose of the player’s hand in real-time as an indication of correctness of reaction or response. A see-through camera and/or capacitive sensor may be used for this purpose,” it mentions. “The system can transparently learn what the player’ s reaction time is, make it part of the player’ s profile, and then scale the handicap that future games accord the player based on that.”

In this case, “handicap” refers to a part of a player’s profile for cooperative online games, which will match the player with other such players that have the same or similar reaction times during online multiplayer sessions. Furthermore, the “handicap” may also vary according to the time of the day, such as during the morning, when the player is the most alert and the exhaustion of the player due to fatigue or any such issues.

It’s yet to be seen how Sony Interactive Entertainment is to implement this technology into its video games and consoles, but the feature does seem rather intriguing and will particularly assist new players and those that aren’t too fond of complications in video games (ahem, FromSoftware). While, theoretically, the patent does showcase a promising technology, how exactly it will come to fruition (if it all), only time will tell.

What do you think about this? Do tell us your opinions in the comments below!

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