A few days ago, Nintendo published a patent application describing a new type of analog stick, hopefully addressing the problematic sticks used in their Joy-Cons for the Nintendo Switch. The issue with these sticks has been their tendency to develop “Joy-Con drift,” which means they register movement in a specific direction even when the stick is not physically being moved.
The design now being patented incorporates a “resistance section using magnetorheological fluid.” This fluid can be made more viscous using a magnetic field, thus providing more resistance when the “operation element” (presumably the analog stick itself) is moved.
For the uninitiated, it sounds like the fluid could potentially be used to re-center the analog stick when released and perhaps even allow game developers to introduce specific resistance or feedback in the analog stick as part of gameplay mechanics. One hope is that this design would eliminate the risk of “drift” since it bears similarities to a Hall sensor, which doesn’t suffer from this problem.
However, a patented concept doesn’t necessarily guarantee it will be used, and Nintendo might have other plans for the controls in the Switch’s successor.