Facebook Patent | Providing Temperature Sensation to a User Based on Content Presented to the User

Patent: Providing Temperature Sensation to a User Based on Content Presented to the User

Publication Number: 20190035234

Publication Date: 2019-01-31

Applicants: Facebook

Abstract

A controller including a temperature feedback mechanism is coupled to a client device. The temperature feedback mechanism is configured to be heated or cooled based on instructions received from the client device and contacts a portion of a user’s body. In various embodiments, the temperature feedback mechanism is a Peltier device integrated into the controller. Various applications executing on the client device may implement instructions that, when executed by the client device, heat or cool the controller coupled to the client device to augment other content presented by an application.

Background

This disclosure relates generally to presenting content via a user interface and more specifically to augmenting content displayed to a user by providing a temperature sensation to the user.

Increasingly, client devices present content to users representing a virtual environment allowing the user to interact with various objects within the virtual environment. Conventional client devices emphasize visual presentation of content to users so the users may see the virtual environment or see the users’ surroundings augmented with virtual content. Audio content may augment the visual presentation of content through speakers or other audio playback devices to enhance a virtual environment presented to the user.

However, content presented to users via a client device may benefit from providing additional sensory feedback to a user. For example, providing haptic feedback along with visual and audio data allows a user to become more fully immersed in the presented content. As an example, haptic feedback allows a user to more fully simulate interactions with virtual objects displayed to a user, allowing the user to more effectively interact with the presented content. Providing haptic feedback to a user may also allow a client device to expose a user to temperature changes that further increase the realism of content presented to the user by the client device. Traditional heat transfer interfaces rely on heat transfer such as conduction, diffusion, convection, and radiation. Accordingly, traditional heat transfer devices are often physically connected to an external heat source and heat sink and have a high thermal conductivity to conduct heat from the heat source to an external environment. However, in many applications, use of high thermal conductivity and an external heat source prevents traditional heat transfer devices from being easily wearable.

Summary

A client device presents content to a user via a display device, which may be included in the client device or coupled to the client device. One or more applications executing on the client device obtain the content presented via the display device. Additionally, the client device is coupled to a controller that includes a temperature feedback mechanism. A surface of the temperature feedback mechanism is configured to contact a portion of the user when the controller is in operation. Based on one or more characteristics of content presented by the display device, the client device provides instructions to the controller to modify a temperature of the surface of the temperature feedback mechanism contacting the portion of the user.

In various embodiments, the temperature feedback device included in the controller is a thermoelectric device configured to convert a voltage (or a current) into a temperature difference. For example, the temperature feedback device is a Peltier device configured to transfer heat between surfaces when a voltage is applied to the temperature feedback mechanism. For example, the temperature feedback mechanism comprises a surface configured to contact a portion of the user and an additional surface separated from the surface by a distance. Different types of conductors electrically coupled to each other in series couple the surface to the additional surface; however, the different types of conductors are thermally coupled in parallel. The conductors are selected so the different types of conductors have complementary Peltier coefficients. A voltage source is coupled to the additional surface and configured to apply a voltage to the additional surface that causes current to flow through the conductors and the conductors.

Depending on the direction of the current flow through the conductors and conductors, heat is transferred between the surface and the additional surface. Thus, when a voltage is applied to the additional surface, current flows in a direction between the conductors that directs heat from the additional surface to the surface, increasing a temperature of the surface. Conversely, applying an alternative voltage, which is reversed in polarity from the voltage, to the additional surface causes current to flow in an opposite direction between the conductors, which directs heat from the surface to the additional surface, decreasing the temperature of the surface. As the surface is configured to contact the portion of the user, modifying the temperature of the surface increases or decreases the portion of the user contacting the surface, allowing the temperature feedback mechanism to provide the user with sensations of hot or cold based on voltages applied to the additional surface by the voltage source.

Content presented to the user via the display device includes an object, or other portion of content, having a particular characteristic specifying application of temperature feedback to the user to whom the content is presented. In some embodiments, the presented content includes an object having a characteristic specifying a temperature of the object. For example, a characteristic of an object presented by the display device specifies a temperature applied to a portion of the user when the object is presented to the user. In some embodiments, the characteristic also specifies a location within the display device or a format in which the object is presented via the display device when the temperature is applied to the portion of the user. The presented content may alternatively include a characteristic specifying a sensation of heat or a sensation of cold to apply to the portion of the user when the object is presented by the display device allowing the characteristic to specify a relative temperature rather than a specific temperature applied to the portion of the user.

In other embodiments, an application presenting the content via the display device associates a characteristic of the user with temperature feedback. For example, the presented content is content items received from an online system maintaining connections between various users, and an application executing on the client device to present the content items associates temperature feedback with an affinity of the user to whom the content items are presented with an additional user associated with the content item by the online system. For example, if the user to whom a content item is presented has greater than a threshold affinity, determined by the online system, for an additional user associated with the content item, the application presenting the content item associates temperature feedback of heat with the content item. As another example, if the user to whom another content item is presented has less than an additional threshold affinity, determined by the online system, for another user associated with the other content item, the application presenting the content item associates temperature feedback of cold with the content item.

The application executing on the client device and presenting the content item determines a temperature based on the particular characteristic of the object. The client device transmits an instruction including the determined temperature to the controller. Based on the received instruction, the controller modifies a temperature of the surface of the temperature feedback mechanism contacting the portion of the user’s body. Based on the instruction, the temperature feedback mechanism applies a voltage to an additional surface that does not contact the portion of the user. Based on the applied voltage, heat is removed from the additional surface and directed to the surface contacting the portion of the user, which heats the surface contacting the portion of the user to provide the user with a sensation of heat. Conversely, the applied voltage removes heat from the surface contacting the portion of the user’s body and directs the heat to the additional surface, which cools the surface contacting the portion of the user to provide the user with a sensation of cold. Hence, the controller allows the client device to augment content presented by a display device with a corresponding temperature sensation for the user, increasing user engagement with the presented content.

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