Nintendo Switch may support head-tracking mobile VR

Nintendo may use its new Switch tablet handheld to power mobile VR similar to Samsung's Gear VR headset.

Published Dec 15, 2016 1:02 PM CST   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 11:57 AM CST
8 minute read time

Nintendo's new Switch console-and-handheld hybrid tablet may dock into a head-mounted display to simulate virtual reality, similar to Samsung's Gear VR headset.

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The United States Patent and Trademark Office just made public a new batch of Nintendo Switch patents, giving us a look at what the future may hold for Nintendo's new console-and-handheld hybrid. Although the patents were filed in June 2016, they unload a metric ton of potential new info, much of which we are sifting through already, but one of the most impressive mentions is how the Switch might be used to simulate virtual reality, augmented reality, or even mixed-reality gaming and entertainment.

The patent mentions a "HMD accessory" that would dock the Nintendo Switch's 6.2-inch 720p tablet to simulate virtual reality experiences. The HMD has wide-viewing angle lenses to magnify images, thus creating VR immersion.

As the Switch has accelerometers to "calculate the movement/and or attitude of the HMD accessory," the Switch's VR experience would afford head-tracking capabilities. The patent notes that the Switch's detachable JoyPad controllers could then be used as inputs to interact with said images/experiences, as well as the JoyPad Pro controller.

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Here are quotes from the patent concerning the Switch's VR HMD:

The information processing system may include an accessory to which the main unit 2 can be attached. An HMD accessory can be used as a so-called HMD (head mounted display) with the main united attached.

FIG 60 is a diagram showing an example HDM accessory to which the mainu unit 2 can be attached. An HMD accessory 230 shown in FIG 60 includes a housing 213 and belts 232a and 232b. One

Thus the housing can be mounted on the head of the user by connecting together to two belts around the head of the user. Note that there is no particular limitation on the mechanism for allowing the HMD accessory to be mounted on the head of the user.

As shown in FIG 60, the housing 213 includes two openings 231a. The openings 231a are located so as to face the eyes of the user while the housing is mounted on the head of the user. Although not shown in the figure, the HMD accessory includes a lens provided in each of the openings.

The housing includes an insertion slot for receiving the main unit. The main unit can be attached to the HMD accessory if inserted in this way. If the main united is attached so that the display is facing the openings, the display can be viewed through the lenses.

Note that the HMD accessory may present images of a wide viewing angle to a user by enlarging the viewing angle of the images on the display through the lenses. This can enhance the sense of immersion for a user looking at the images.

The main unit can calculate the movement/and or attitude of the HMD accessory.

Note that the predetermined process, for example, is a process of controlling a virtual camera for producing images to be displayed on the display based on the movement and/or attitude of the HMD accessory, and more specifically is a process of changing the line-of-sight direction of the virtual camera depending on the attitude.

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Nintendo has already confirmed it's officially researching VR, and I postulated that the Switch (then called the NX) would power Nintendo's VR push.

"I heard VR was a hot topic at #E3, so I went to check it out. It was on display, but it wasn't what I expected. We're also researching VR, so we have the core technology. Long play sessions are an issue. We want to release something that can be played for long periods, carries value, and is affordable. We want parents to feel at ease," Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto said at a company meeting in 2016.

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Furthermore, Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima has already affirmed the Switch will have a "wide array of hardware add-ons and accessories," so I really think that the Switch will have its own easy slot-in mobile-based VR HMD.

Could you imagine playing the Switch in a VR environment with customized JoyPad controllers?

These are exciting times people! Nintendo is back on the map in a big new way, and we'll be sure to keep you updated with all the news and info we glean from the patents.

One thing to note is that not everything in these patents will be included in the final hardware. There's no 100% guarantee that the Switch will have a VR HMD, so nothing has been confirmed.

If you find something in the patents we missed, be sure to let us know in the comments!

The Nintendo Switch launches in March 2017, and check below for a massive list of everything we know about the console so far.

Everything we know about Nintendo Switch so far:

Derek joined the TweakTown team in 2015 and has since reviewed and played 1000s of hours of new games. Derek is absorbed with the intersection of technology and gaming, and is always looking forward to new advancements. With over six years in games journalism under his belt, Derek aims to further engage the gaming sector while taking a peek under the tech that powers it. He hopes to one day explore the stars in No Man's Sky with the magic of VR.

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