Apple Mobile Device Controller Patent Revealed

We all know that iPhone platform devices are capable mobile gaming devices. There are some real gems in the App Store that take particular advantage of the iPhone’s unique capabilities, with more on the way. Apple knows it too — they’ve long been advertising the iPod touch specifically as a game machine. An Apple patent application that was made public on April 1 may indicate that Apple wants to take iPhone gaming to an even higher level.

First filed back in 2008, the patent in question, US20100081505, is entitled ACCESSORY FOR PLAYING GAMES WITH A PORTABLE ELECTRONIC DEVICE. The abstract follows.

Circuits, methods, and apparatus that provide user interfaces for playing games on portable electronic devices. One example provides a game accessory having input controls for playing video, audio, and other types of games. The game accessory can have input controls, such as buttons, joysticks, and D-pads. Another example provides a game accessory having a thumb pad or keyboard. Other possible features include microphones, cameras and camera lenses, speakers, a second screen, rumble, and motion detection. The game accessory may have a recess sized to fit the portable electronic device. Inserts or removable adapters can be used to fit portable electronic devices having different sizes. The portable electronic device can be held in the accessory using sliding covers, clips, or other engaging members. In other examples, the accessory can communicate with another accessory for head-to-head game play. The accessory may include circuitry for power, identification, and authorization.

The patent basically details enclosures or sleds of various configuration into which a mobile device can be inserted, enabling use of the device with several different types of attached or wirelessly-connected peripherals. In the most basic form, simple enclosures (both landscape- and portrait-oriented) featuring integrated D-pad and button sets are detailed. From there, things get much more elaborate, including integrated keypads, cameras, accelerometers, rumble-packs — even a second display.

In other embodiments of the present invention, it may be desirable to include a second screen on the accessory. In such a situation, where the screen of the portable electronic device is a touchscreen, the touchscreen may be used to receive commands and instructions from a user and to provide first graphics, while the second screen provides second graphics.

The iPhone, with its accelerometers, multitouch display, and powerful processing hardware is certainly a platform where non-traditional games can thrive — and have. But there’s no disputing the fact that certain types of games — old-school shooters, for instance — suffer from the lack of physical controls. iPhone OS 3.0 enabled the use of such external devices. Will it be Apple that brings these gaming accessories to market for dedicated iPhone gamers?

Visit Patently Apple for a easy-to-grasp layout of the patent with additional images.

Reading the description of the devices in the patent may, for some readers, bring to mind the iControlPad device, long in development, which we first covered back in May 2008. News of Apple’s patent has come as surprise to the iControlPad team, causing great concern. Team member Craig Rothwell has been tweeting about the situation (@craigix) and is in the process of approaching Apple on the matter.