A Sony patent reveals that a new DualSense could feature revamped analog sticks that use hydraulics for precision input.
Both the PS5 and DualSense had their fair share of issues after launch. A lawsuit is currently underway, alleging that the console was released with a known defect. Meanwhile, DualSense hasn’t escaped issues of drift with a US law firm that filed a class action lawsuit against them last year (via IGN (opens in new tab)). This appears to have been deprecated, with the relevant pages being removed from the company website (opens in new tab). However, controller migration issues (and being sued over them) could be a thing of the past for Sony.
Subway (opens in new tab) spots a patent (opens in new tab) filed by Sony for a controller with “a folding control stick that uses liquid”. The fluid in question is non-Newtonian – think cream, ketchup, quicksand. Or for that matter, something that isn’t a condiment, dessert, or mini death trap. It is a fluid that changes viscosity with force. So the ketchup becomes more intense when you shake, for example. While you can fill a pool of cream and wade through it without drowning, it turns out perfectly fine in this Episode Brainiac: Science Abuse (opens in new tab).
The section of the patent that dives into the background of the invention distinguishes joysticks, analog sticks, and thumbsticks. It analyzes the comfort and portability of each, before concluding:
“The stick is more user-friendly than the analog stick and is smaller than a joystick, but it’s still not very portable. The tip of the stick sticks out from the surface of the controller and can be easily grabbed [in] clothing or other thin materials that make the thumb prone to breakage.
“It is within this framework that embodiments of the present invention arise.”
The diagram above is a folding proportional rod without the presence of a non-Newtonian fluid. In this case, the shaft is retracted into the body of the stick and both can rotate freely together around a center of rotation within the body of the controller.
The figure below is the diagram illustrating the inclusion of non-Newtonian fluids in the controller. The shaft of the stick “includes a fluid interface” the entire body has a cavity filled with a non-Newtonian fluid.
If the user wants to retract the stick, “slow pressure can be applied to the shaft of the stick” to “displace the non-Newtonian fluid in the reservoir.” A quick, hard push from the other side will have the opposite effect.
“Due to the nature of the non-Newtonian fluid, a rapid application of pressure to the shaft of the rod will cause the viscosity of the non-Newtonian fluid to increase and the fluid will not displace.
“Therefore, during use the shaft of the thumb stick will not retract into the body of the stick because the pressure during use is not applied slowly enough to displace the non-Newtonian fluid.”
But what does this mean for practical, day-to-day use of a new and improved PS5 DualSense?
With the updated analog sticks, the DualSense’s input controls could be greatly improved. Sticks are usually used for movement and aiming, so these could be made much thinner.
They can also be used to shoehorn in additional “entry buttons” given the folding aspect of the design. And they could offer an improved range of motion and control in sports games, flight simulators and the like.
What this will mean for current games that use L3 and R3 inputs – especially if it’s in a way that compensates for how these new analog sticks work in terms of speed and power – we don’t know. But we can’t see Sony releasing a DualSense Pro that isn’t compatible with the PS5’s current catalog of titles.
Of course, having a patent doesn’t mean we’ll see the idea materialized into a physical product. But it’s interesting to see what the minds at Sony cook up regardless.