Although the DS Lite was revealed just weeks ago and won't hit the market until later this year, Nintendo may be already planning future versions of its popular dual-screen handheld.
Earlier this month, Mario factory patent publication #20060025218 was released by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The filing in question relates to a "game apparatus utilizing touch panel and storage medium storing game program."
While that may sound like the DS's touch screen panel and DS cartridges, the technology in question appears to be for a more advanced version of the console. First off is the hardware form factor shown in the first diagram of the patent publication, which looks much different than either the current DS or the forthcoming DS Lite. Since the patent was originally drafted in July 2004 and filed in July 2005, it is possible it could be a prototype for the DS or DS Lite, as often patents feature conceptual mockups of hardware rather than the final design.
However, the functionality described in the patent publication goes one step further than that of the current DS, which can only recognize one point of contact on its touch screen. Noticeably absent from the hardware schematic are the X and Y buttons featured on the current DS and the DS Lite. Instead, the device outlined in the publication replaces the buttons with "a touch panel on which at least two pointing positions are simultaneously detectable." Numerous diagrams illustrate the functionality, showing a player controlling a spaceship on the top screen by placing and moving two fingers on the touch screen below.
Using at-times dense language, the patent publication also describes how a player would control the top-screen action with two fingers on the touch screen. "In response to an operation of the touch panel by a player, coordinates values of the detected two points are detected, and at least one of a distance between the two points and an angle of the line connecting the two points is calculated," reads the patent.
Diagrams included in the patent publication show how players can control a spaceship's speed and bearing by moving their fingers further apart and changing their angle. The publication describes this functionality as follows: "Furthermore, change amounts of the distance and angle between the two points are calculated. A movement parameter such as a travel speed and a turning angle is set on the basis of at least one of the calculated distance and angle, and the movement of the character such as travel and turning is controlled on the basis of the movement parameter."
Another theory regarding the Nintendo patent publication was that it is for technology that will be incorporated into a peripheral for the company's next-generation Revolution console. However, Nintendo had not responded to requests for comment on the publication as of press time.