A few weeks ago, we wrote about a Sony patent application for microtransactions. In that application, microtransactions, or in-game paid-for strategy guides, popped up during gameplay. Recently, Sony popped up in the news again for another interesting patent application that published on April 16, 2020. Like the rest of the world, Sony couldn’t have predicted COVID-19 and social distancing. However, Sony’s application describes a perfect addition to an isolated gamer’s room – the patent application claims an interactive robot companion.

Sony’s Interactive Robot Companion Can Sense User’s Emotions

The application describes the robot as being either physical or virtual. For example, the user can carry the robot to the sofa and physically sit next to the user. Alternatively, the user can wear a virtual reality headset, and the user interacts with a virtual representation of the robot. Regardless of its physical or virtual existence, the robot includes a “feeling deduction unit” used to sense the user’s emotions. Here is where the patent application gets particularly interesting – the robot can use a biometric scanner to sense the user’s emotional state. The robot’s processing unit then makes decisions for the robot’s interactions with the user, based on the detected emotional state.

U.S. Patent No. 2020/0114520

However, the application adds another layer to the bond between the user and the robot companion. The robot creates a feedback loop based on the user’s emotions, as well as the user’s treatment of the robot, to suggest attitude changes for the user. The patent application refers to this feedback loop as a “popularity rating,” through which the robot scores the user based on past actions. For example, if the robot requests a new battery charge, and the user fails to respond, the robot reacts negatively to positive emotions from the user in the future. As such, the user learns how to treat to robot based on the robot’s responses to the user’s emotions. The robot companion thereby creates a feedback loop helping the user to treat the robot with more compassion, informed by the robot’s internal popularity rating for the user.

Through Emotional Feedback Loops, the Robot Companion Attempts to Change User’s Attitude

Some of the strangest patent applications end up maturing into issued patents. Sony might not have any plans for its robot companion; however, the idea of a physical or virtual robot changing the attitudes of a gamer might not be so strange. During quarantine, the lack of human interaction may cause a jump to anger during online gaming. However, with the help of a robot companion, that user may be more mindful of others’ emotions, and might not be so quick to criticize fellow gamers. We’ll have to monitor the Sony patent application’s status to see if robot companions are available for purchase in the future.