Examining the Guts of the Nintendo Switch

Last month, Nintendo filed a patent for the functionality of the Switch. In preparation for the opening of the floodgates on the 12th of this month, let’s examine what we know about the Switch, including these patents. Note that the information here may not be final, but this is coming from Nintendo, so it’s going to give us a good idea of what we’re going to get.

The Main Unit


As we know, the Switch will feature a main unit that contains the actual guts of the console. It will also feature a display that is confirmed to be a touch screen. Interestingly, the patent specifies that “in the present embodiment, the touch panel is of a type (e.g., the capacitive type) that enables a multi-touch input.” It goes on to say, “there is no particular limitation on the type of the touch panel, and the touch panel may be of a type (e.g., the resistive type) that enables a single-touch input.”

This means that Nintendo is possibly going to be switching up the touch screen from the resistive touch screens they have been using since they were introduced in the Nintendo DS. Capacitive touch screens, such as the screen of the iPad, enable multi-touch input at the expense of being able to use normal stylus pens. However, it seems they were still on the fence at the time of this filing, since they left the window wide open to stick with resistive type.

The main unit will include a magnetic sensor that detects when there is a magnet in close proximity to the screen. The intended use of this sensor is to detect the presence of a cover on the switch, confirming that Nintendo may be intending to release some sort of protective cover for the device.

The main unit will also have an ambient light sensor that will be used to change the brightness of the display depending on the current lighting of your environment. Users of the New Nintendo 3DS system will be familiar with this feature.

The main unit itself will also include an acceleration sensor and an angular velocity sensor, confirming that the gyro controls from the Wii U’s gamepad will indeed be returning to the Nintendo Switch.

Some other, more mundane characteristics of the Nintendo Switch include the following:

  • Power button – The system’s power button sounds like it may work similarly to an iPhone. The description states that a short press of the button puts the system into “sleep mode,” while a long press will fully turn the system off.
  • Volume buttons
  • Cartridge slot
  • Earphone jack
  • Cradle connection port – The patent specifies that this port may be a USB-type connection port, implying that they may be ditching the proprietary connectors of the past.
  • SD port – The patent specifies that this is intended for storage, so nothing remarkable here.
  • Kick-stand
  • Speaker holes and Air vents

The Joy-Cons


One of the main draws of the Switch is its removable Joy-Con controllers. Surprisingly, the left Joy-Con and the right Joy-Con are not made equally, and have different features, which is fascinating.

The Left Joy-Con will feature a Share button. The patent describes the process of how pressing this button will save screenshots to the system’s storage. Perhaps we will get similar functionality to the Playstation 4’s share button? Here’s hoping. When attached, you have your typical inputs, namely a control stickfour directional buttons and a minus (select) button, as well as and ZL trigger buttons.

However, you will be very pleasantly surprised to learn about what else is here. When you detach the controller from the main unit, it reveals hidden shoulder buttons that exist on the top while holding the Joy-Con horizontally. This is huge-it greatly increases the possibilities in the games that can be played in this mode. Additionally, this top side includes a pairing button and four LEDs that could possibly tell the user which player they are (1 through 4) or the remaining battery life.

The Joy-Con will include its own acceleration and angular velocity sensors, meaning that it will be able to have gyro-controls while detached from the main unit. Last, but certainly not least, it will have a vibrator for your rumble needs.

With that covered, let’s move on to the Right Joy-Con. On the surface, it has a lot of the same features as the left Joy-Con. It has an analog stickA, B, X and buttons, a plus (start) button, and and ZR triggers. When detached, it also has hidden shoulder buttons and a pairing button. It also has its own gyro controls and vibrator. However, the right Joy-Con will also be the place of the home button.

Want something really good though? The right Joy-Con will also have an NFC Sensor, meaning that Nintendo is holding on to Amiibos! But that’s the small thing! The right Joy-Con also has an Infrared Sensor that allows it to act as a pointer much in the same manner as a Wii Remote. That’s awesome-more versatility is great! But the thing is that Nintendo is presenting a bunch of other uses for this sensor.

The IR sensor is also intended to be able to detect a player’s hand movements, allowing for the possibility of gesture-based control. I’m not certain how this will work, but Nintendo describes how this could work in detail. The IR sensor can also be used as an authentication method to lock your Nintendo Switch, by-and this sounds CRAZY to me-by detecting the vein patterns in a player’s hand. Last, but not least, Nintendo can also use the IR port to detect the player’s heartbeat. Holy hell.

The Cradle


The Nintendo Switch’s cradle is also one of its main draws. You can dock it, and all of a sudden it is now a full home console. When docked, the cradle redirects the image and sound to the TV via HDMI. The dock will charge the system’s battery The dock will have a sleep button that will put the console into sleep mode. While the cradle will not add any additional processing power, docking the system will change it from “portable mode” to “console mode.” Basically, while in “portable mode,” the system will be slightly less powerful in order to control battery life and heating, and this will be unlocked while in console mode, where battery life is not a concern.

Switch VR


One of the most exciting sections of the patent is the inclusion of an HMD, meaning that Nintendo is experimenting with VR support for the Switch. The Switch is a perfect fit for this. Since the Switch has an on-board screen and gyro sensors, it merely needs a headset that it can be inserted into. This could potentially make the Switch an even more affordable VR solution than the Playstation VR. There aren’t many more details here, except that they mention that the Joy-Cons can be used separately during VR.

When examining the Switch, we can see that this is truly going to be a remarkable device. My hype is through the roof right now, and I can’t wait for the release of the system in March.




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