As new types of input devices change the way we interact with our video games, Sony Computer Entertainment America filed a patent that would track users' laughter and emotional output when playing a video game or watching other types of media.
In short, it's a system that "...asks and answers such questions as: What makes people happy? What makes them laugh? What do they find interesting? Boring? Exciting?" according to the filing.
The system would collect a user's emotional output -- such as laughter, a smile, or a yawn -- via a microphone and/or a camera, for example. The feedback would then be tied to metadata "at a time reference level in the media presentation," in order to track the kind of response a player or viewer would elicit at a specific point in a presentation.
The patent also said the system could implement a 3D camera system, specifically naming the ZCam by 3DV, which has since been purchased by Sony rival Microsoft. A 3D camera in the emotion tracking system would recognize the shape of an individual's head and use that as a reference point for detecting facial expressions, the patent said. It could also sense multiple individuals, for example, giving each other a high five.
While the patent's title indicates that the invention is a laugh detector, the filing goes on to say that the invention would ideally be able to sense other emotions, such as sadness, excitement, anger, boredom, and so on. Emotions from a wide group could be tracked via a network as well.
The patent doesn't go into specifics beyond what the system would do beyond tracking users' emotions, but one could imagine how future games might evolve in real-time in order to accommodate, or even exploit, a users' electronically-perceived emotions.