Nintendo has always danced to a tune all its own. Refusing to accept the status quo in the often relentless inevitability of the gaming world has lead to both incredible successes (introducing natural motion with the Wii) to abject disasters (the Virtual Boy), in either case though the Japanese gaming giant usually intrigues with its innovation.
Now, a patent just published (albeit filed in March) in the US indicates Nintendo’s possible targets for pushing immersive boundaries in gaming. The patent details a system which utilises glasses and a tracking camera, mounted above the gaming display which aims uses gaze tracking to alter the image presented to the user.The system seems to suggest tracking based both on a users head position and their gaze direction, with the rendered view altering in relation to those positions to give the illusion for the user of 3D depth. More than that though, the patent details interactive benefits and enhancements such as dodging virtual projectile travelling towards the user in 3D space by merely moving one’s head.
The technology and its desired effect seems to share strong commonalities with the now famous experimental videos posted by Johnny Lee which, ironically, used a reverse Wii-mote and sensor bar system to render a 2D view relative to the user’s head position, adjusting the viewing pane to give an illusion of 3D depth. The videos probably give a good idea of the effect Nintendo desires, albeit enhanced further by tracking gaze as well.
The patent’s extensive background detail also gives examples of immersive enhancements that could join this eye-tracking technology to enhance a player’s connection to the game world. Clearly Nintendo recognise that relying on merely static 2D displays, as featured in the Nintendo Wii-U or even the autostereocopy found in the company’s handheld 3DS will cut it for gamers in the near future.
Nintendo has commented recently on its interest (or lack thereof) in virtual reality, citing the technology as interesting but too solitary at present. Although Nintendo’s famous Shigeru Miyamoto did make his way over to Oculus VR’s stand to try out the DK2 at the E3 Expo recently.
Patents sometimes give insight into a company’s technical direction, but more often than not it’s merely the sign of them exploring all avenues they can to find something they feel works for them and their audience. But Nintendo would be foolish to dismiss virtual reality entirely as a viable avenue for them. And personally, a VR Zelda with camera mechanics similar to Lucky’s Take, the 3D platformer published by Oculus VR, sounds pretty damned awesome!