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Tuesday, 12 February, 2002, 10:28 GMT
Legal fight over vibrating joysticks
Gaming at home
Doctors wants a warning over vibrating joysticks
Microsoft and Sony are facing a lawsuit over their use of sensory technology for video games.

California-based company Immersion Corporation claim the two companies have infringed their patent on their tactile feedback technology, otherwise known as haptics.

The system allows the player to feel explosions, gunfire and the strain of a steering wheel via joysticks and other peripheral devices.


The development and licensing of our haptic technology is the foundation of our business

Immersion chairman Bob O'Malley

Immersion said Sony and Microsoft, in manufacturing their own video game peripherals, have infringed the company's patents.

The company said it has been manufacturing haptic devices since 1993 and it holds more than 150 patents.

Microsoft is behind the Xbox, while Sony have produced the massively successful PlayStation.

Immersion said they had tried to reach a settlement with the two firms, but decided it needed to sue in a federal court to enforce its patents.

'Enforce'

Chairman Bob O'Malley said: "The development and licensing of our haptic technology is the foundation of our business.

"After extensive attempts to settle this infringement issue through negotiations, we decided to file the suit to enforce our intellectual property rights."

Vibrating game controllers hit the news last week, when doctors called for them to carry health warnings after a teenager developed a painful condition known as hand-arm vibration syndrome.

The 15-year-old boy spent seven hours a day playing computer games and particularly enjoyed those using the vibration mode on the control device.

He visited hospital with a two-year history of painful hands, which became white and swollen when exposed to the cold and then red and painful on warming.

Warning

Doctors say his symptoms are typical of the hand-arm vibration syndrome seen in industrial settings when people repeatedly use tools such as chain saws and pneumatic drills.

At the time Sony said it had never received any feedback or complaints about hand-arm vibration syndrome after 61 million sales world-wide of PlayStations I and II.

It stressed that there was occasional, but no constant vibration during any games on either console.

Nick Sharples from Sony Computer Entertainment Europe said: "Given the vast number of people who have had these games and the lack of reports of any problems, perhaps it's not necessary to have the warnings.

"If people read the manuals they will see there's already various guidance on usage already."

See also:

01 Feb 02 | Health
Vibrating games health warning
29 Apr 00 | Education
Video games 'valid learning tools'
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