Microsoft Patented A "Magic Wand" Controller...Back in 2007


Posted May 18, 2009 - By Stephen Johnson

Microsoft Patented

I'm sure you're aware of the rumors that ubiquitous electronics company Microsoft plans to reveal a motion-sensing controller that works through a webcam at this year's E3. But the current system may not be the first movement control scheme the company has investigated. There were rumors of the Microsoft Newton a few years ago,and today, it looks like some confirmation has come to light.

A patent request filed back in 2007 reveals that Microsoft at least considered the idea of a motion-controller. Dubbed the "Magic Wand," Microsoft's controller idea seems a lot like a souped-up Wiimote. The Wand was conceived to contain accelerometers, gyroscopes and other goodies, both to allow players to control a game and allow other, more esoteric uses. Examples: An on-board camera and biometrics would allow your controller to "recognize" you, and a receiver and transmitter would allow the ability to talk to other people using the wand.

Here's how the patent application describes the wand: 

an architecture that can facilitate rich interaction with and/or management of environmental components included in an environment. The architecture can exist in whole or in part in a housing that can resemble a wand or similar object. The architecture can utilize one or more sensor from a collection of sensors to determine an orientation or gesture in connection with the wand, and can further issue an instruction to update a state of an environmental component based upon the orientation. In addition, the architecture can include an advisor component to provide contextual and/or comprehensive guidance in an intuitive manner

Another interesting descriptions of the machine's capabilities:

Displaying a holographic data display or interface;displaying a holographic representation of the avatar;generating a 3-D model of an environment proximal to the housing that includes the set of environmental components in respective positions that correspond to corporeal locations; oremploying at least two cameras from the set of I/O components for determining a 3-D position of the housing.

Microsoft has not commented on any of this, but if you read between the lines here, a narrative begins to form. Here's my educated guess as to how the whole thing went down: The Wii is launched and shocks everyone with its amazing sales. A year later, Microsoft patents Wii-like technology with the idea of hopping on the Wii-train. The ideas are big, as are the players (names listed on the patent include J. Allard and Andy Wilson, one of the creators of Microsoft Surface).  But, for some reason, Microsoft stops development on the project before anything is out on the market. Maybe the company realizes that it will be too expensive to actually produce, or market research suggests people don't really want it, or it just doesn't work. But I think the  most likely scenario is Microsoft realizes that it could get much of the function of a "magic wand" without the actual wand part, by utilizing nifty, new Webcam style technology. So it purchased the company that has already done it on a PC, and plans to bring the new scheme to the 360.

One thing is for sure, though: On June 1st Microsoft is holding its annual E3 press conference, and we'll know whether or not the company plans to put out a motion controller. You'll be able to watch it live, right here on G4, along with the rest of our massive E3 coverage.


Microsoft Patented A "Magic Wand" Controller...Back in 2007


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