The patent mentions that, ideally, the robot would be “autonomous” to the point where it could sit beside you on the sofa of its own accord, rather than being placed next to the user. It’s also noted that the robot could play games with the player – the example given being the companion controlling the “opponent team of a baseball game being played by the user.”The patent describes the robot including a “feeling deduction unit,” an object control system that can detect and act upon the user’s emotions. The unit can evaluate “feeling indexes such as joy, anger, love and surprise” and will be complemented by a biological sensor that can track the user’s heart rate and sweating state. It doesn’t sound too far from another Sony patent, for a controller attachment that measures biological responses.
In the summary of the object, the patent notes that the robot has been created to usher in a “joint viewing experience” in order to motivate users to play games and react to them in absence of a face-to-face relationship with another person.
Sony explains the robot’s function in more detail later in the patent: “It is expected that the user’s affinity with the robot is increased and motivation for playing a game is enhanced by the robot viewing the gameplay next to the user and being pleased or sad together with the user. Further, regarding not only the game but also a movie, a television program, or the like, it is expected that the user may enjoy content more by viewing the content with the robot as compared to the case of viewing it alone.”The patent explains that the robot has a “love index” which will be affected by how the user speaks to the robot in moments of tension. When asked to be charged, if the player doesn’t charge the robot quickly it will evaluate that the player does not love it and will react in a similar fashion if it’s kicked around instead of being stroked, or if the user tells the robot that it’s being noisy. If it feels unpopular, it will no longer empathise with the player during gameplay, a conscious action made to make the user reflect on their attitude and treat the robot more kindly in future. It can also help to improve “life rhythm” and will tell users to go to bed.
The patent also describes a computer-generated version of this companion which can be experienced in virtual reality when the user straps on a head-mounted device. “A mechanism is proposed in which the content is reproduced in front of the user, and when the user turns sideways, the user may see how the virtual character is viewing the content together with the user,” the patent reads. So you can watch your virtual sympathy robot watching you play games if you want.
As with all patents, this may well turn out to be an idea Sony is tinkering with, rather than a product it intends to release imminently. For more on a Sony product that’s actually coming out, check out everything we learned about PS5 when its specs were revealed. If that’s not enough, check out how PS5 compares to Xbox Series X, why stock might be limited because of a higher price, and take a good hard look at its new controller, the DualSense.
Jordan Oloman is a freelance writer for IGN who welcomes our new fuzzy robot overlords. Tell him to go to bed on Twitter.