While no filed patent should be taken as a sign of things to come, a couple of new submissions from Sony have sent the internet into speculation mode. Will the next generation DualShock have a proper touch-screen, and will the PlayStation 5 be able to emulate and remaster older games on the fly?
The United States Patent filed about a month ago describes a standard DualShock 4 controller in achingly pedantic detail, which makes the inclusion of the word "touchscreen" all the more intriguing:
A controller for interfacing wirelessly with a computing device is provided, including the following: a housing defined by a main body, a first extension extending from a first end of the main body, and a second extension extending from a second end of the main body, the first extension and the second extension for holding by a first hand and a second hand of a user, respectively; a touchscreen defined along the top surface of the main body between the first extension and the second extension; a first set of buttons disposed on the top surface of the main body proximate to the first extension and on a first side of the touchscreen; and a second set of buttons disposed on the top surface of the main body proximate to the second extension and on a second side of the touchscreen.If this potential new controller was identical to the current generation's pad, we'd expect to see a word like "touch pad" rather than "touchscreen"; if that sounds like semantics, here's an example of the current generation's patent, notably submitted by the same three Sony inventors. If the inventors have noted the distinction, it's probably significant.
Elsewhere Sony have filed a patent for "remastering by emulation", which from the description appears to be a method by which an artist can upscale the visuals of a previous generation's title "on the fly" without directly touching the original game's code, simply by re-pointing the unique IDs of the original game's texture assets when they are called by the console. If this works and can be handled efficiently, it could signal the end of one controversial current-gen trend: remastering old games and re-selling the results at retail prices.
Whether these patents actually produce a product that Sony want to pursue is very much up in the air. Patents are filed all the time to protect the company rights even if a prototype never makes it to production. That said, both of these moves suggest that Sony is looking closely at its competitors. There's a chance that Sony are looking to leap-frog over the Nintendo Switch's portability and the Xbox One's emulation and visual enhancement tech, to create a PlayStation 5 that dominates the market.
The next couple of years are going to be very interesting indeed.