If Google's quiet submission of a patent application back in 2010 is any indication, the company may want you to keep your hands off their Android smartphones and tablets in the future. Which could be a good thing.
Last week, the 2010 patent application was made public and suggests that the company may be exploring motion-detecting technology, possibly akin to Microsoft's Kinect. According to CBS MoneyWatch, the application describes "technology that turns a mobile device's camera into a motion-input system." From the application:
A method of controlling a portable electronic device including an image capturing device, the method comprising: detecting, via the image capturing device, motions of an object over the image capturing device; determining a type of the detected motions using timing information related to the detected motions, the timing information comprising duration of at least one of the detected motions; and controlling the portable electronic device based on the determined motion type.
Of course, a touch-free Android device capable of interpreting hand gestures into software commands is only one interpretation of what this type of technology could herald. Google's invested in so many different types of media at this point that, looking ahead, this patent application could just as easily hint at a future plan to become involved in the video game industry.
This proposed technology by Google could simply be meant for a touch-free Android smartphone or tablet, but it could just as easily be intended to be used with a new generation of video game controller. The language in the patent application brings up mobile phones but only as an example of how input is received by interfaces. To wit, see 0059 in Detailed Description:
Although the user device shown in FIGS. 3A-B is a mobile phone, with the system may include other portable electronic devices that have built-in cameras.
Curiouser and curiouser.
Unfortunately, the images depicting what the technology might look like that were attached to the original application don't appear to be accessible on the patent site anymore. Getting a glimpse of how Google visualizes this technology could have been an illuminating source.
But lets piece together the mosaic of odd clues and see what kind of picture we can conjure:
Considering that Apple, Google's chief rival in the mobile device industry, has now declared its intent to explore the possibilities in the gaming industry, Google might not be far behind from testing those waters itself.
Last April, Video Games Blogger reported that Google was looking to hire a Game Console Software Engineer for their YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, CA. The job description read, "as a Software Engineer developing the next generation game console."
Adding to this purely hypothetical assembly of details, Google recently consolidated Android Market, Google Music, and Google eBookstore all into Google Play. The reasoning for the change reflects Google's previous utilization of broad, generic words as proper names for their services (Google Docs, Google Maps, Google Translate, etc.), but it might be more linguistically revealing than previously thought. When we listen to music, we say we play it; additionally, we play movies when we begin to watch them.
And video games?
We play them.
Or, should I say we Play them?
If that's the case, rebranding the wing of Google's media services to Play could seamlessly include a division of video games.
So maybe we could see a Google gaming system that features a new console and incorporates games from Play's inventory in the future? I have no idea. As mentioned, this is purely a fun moment of speculation and all of this could be as reliable as crop circle proofs.
But a video game controller that doesn't use buttons and d-pads but, rather, can simply interpret hand gestures as commands? Microsoft's enjoyed copious amounts of fanfare for Kinect, so it's obvious that there's a market for such innovative gadgetry. People clearly love that style of motion-sensor platform. People clearly love games. So then, fix your antennae toward the future to see where any of this goes. Anybody else have any speculations on what Google could be planning with small-scale touch-free technology? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below.