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Sony envisions universal controller for game consoles

Company files a patent application describing a single controller that works with numerous video game consoles--both present and past.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

Sony universal controller
A look at Sony's vision for a universal controller. Sony

Sony has filed a patent application for a universal game controller that will work with any game console.

This certainly isn't something I was expecting.

The patent application was filed in August 2008 and was officially made public on Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The application describes a "universal game console controller that has an LCD presenting, depending on what type of game console a user has input, a controller key layout for a first type of game console or a controller key layout for a second type of game console."

Sony's device includes an LCD on its face that would give people the option of choosing their desired controller. Upon doing so, they could control all the on-screen action with the device's touch display, rather than use a respective game console's standard controller.

In the application, Sony describes its own controller for the PlayStation 3. The new controller's layout would include all of the PS3 controller's buttons, including the L3 and R3 buttons, which can currently only be used when a gamer presses down on the thumb sticks.

The patent filing also describes the Xbox 360 controller, meaning its universal controller apparently could work with Microsoft's console.

"The second layout includes, in a row from left to right, a 'previous menu' key, an 'exit' key, and a start key, keys X, Y, A, and B being presented in a box-like or cruciform-like arrangement on a right part of the display," the patent application reads.

Aside from today's consoles, Sony's controller might take us back to the old days of gaming.

"This document describes an adaptable or universal game controller which can be used to emulate the controllers of popular game consoles, such as, without limitation, the PlayStation made by Sony, a controller made by Nintendo, X-box game controllers made by Microsoft, Amiga CD-32 controllers, Atari Jaguar controllers, Gravis Gamepad controllers, Sega controllers, and Turbographics controllers," Sony writes in the application.

Unfortunately, this is just a patent application. But if Sony were to build a game controller that works with practically any game console, I'd be in line to pick one up.

Clarification at 8:40 a.m. PST: The story has been updated with the details of when the application was filed versus when it was actually made public.