A host of patent applications for the Nintendo Switch have been published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, showing off new and unmentioned features of Nintendo's latest console. The patent applications in question include numbers 15/178972, 15/178991, 15/179011, 15/178984, and 15/179022, all filed on June 10, 2016 by Nintendo and all published on December 15, 2016. Since patent applications have to be rather detailed, Nintendo is laying it all out on the table.
Most of the good stuff is included in patent application number 15/178984, which outlines the "Supporting device, Charging device and Controller System". Early figures included with the patent application show the basic use of the Nintendo Switch, featuring the main console, the detachable Joy Cons, and the home dock. The Switch speakers are on the bottom front of the main unit and an ambient light sensor shared the bottom-left of the system (sections 0132-0133).
In section 0131, the patent application confirms that the Nintendo Switch will have a capacitive multi-touch screen on the primary device.
Sections 0149 through 0154 cover the top of the Switch, which includes a slot for the game cards, with a cover like the PlayStation Vita. Next to that slot is the headphone jack. On the far left of the top is a power button, which turns the system on and off with a long press, or puts the system into Sleep mode with a short press. Next to the power button are the volume up and down buttons. The rest of the top is taken up by a sizable vent for system heat.
Hopping to the bottom of the Switch in sections 0155 through 0161, we're looking at a USB connector in the middle, which looks to be USB-C type. On the bottom right of the system is a slot for additional storage memory and looking at the size of the slot, it's likely that the Switch will use MicroSD here. Like the game card slot, there's a cover for the SD card slot. Four vents at the bottom draw air into the system. Finally, there's the system's kickstand, which starts at the bottom and covers part of the Switch's rear.
The following diagrams and sections cover the Switch Joy Cons. It wasn't made clear in previous showings, but the Joy Cons do indeed have two shoulder buttons (L, ZL, R, and ZR). The Analog Sticks have click buttons activated by pressing down, according to section 0166. It's worth noting that the controller sections talk about the system being rather flexible, stating that "there is no particular limitation on the number of operation buttons". It's possible (and likely) that publishers can release game-specific Joy Cons.
The left Joy Con includes a Record button underneath the face buttons (section 0168), which is for saving screenshots. There's no detail about saving video with the Record button. On the Right Joy Con, the same spot includes a Home button for the Switch (section 0196). The Minus and Plus show on the Joy Cons are actual buttons, by the way. Nintendo's application points to the Minus being Select and the Plus being Start, but seemingly the buttons are flexible.
Oddly enough, when a Joy Con is disengaged from the Switch, there are actually additional L and R buttons where the Joy Con comes into contact with the system (section 0180). A pairing button allows players to joined a Joy Con to a specific Switch, or reset the Joy Con completely when long-pressed. There's also a power LED in four segments in-between both buttons, showing each Joy Con's power level. When attached to the primary Switch device, these additional buttons and the power LED are inaccessible. The Joy Cons communicate with the Switch through Bluetooth when detached.
The right Joy Con also includes an IR camera on the bottom of the unit (section 0211 and 0451), used to capture hand movements and gestures. This will likely allow touch-screen functionality to be reproduced when the Switch is docked. The internal diagram of the Joy Con functions also shows the NFC reader residing in the right Joy Con (section 0450).
Multiple Joy Cons can be paired to a Switch, as the diagrams show two players with two Joy Cons each playing in split-screen and four players with a Joy Con each, playing in four-player split-screen.
The Switch Dock is covered in sections 0380 through 0390. The Switch itself can be placed in the Dock in a front-facing or rear-facing direction, according to section 0384. This again points to a USB-C connector. The Dock also includes a Power button for the system, working like the primary power button on the Switch. The Dock has three USB ports, according to section 0464.
Internal diagrams for the Switch itself show an acceleration sensor and angular velocity sensor, meaning the Switch itself can register player movement (sections 0411 and 0412). Likewise, the Joy Cons have similar acceleration and angular velocity sensors, as well as vibration for force feedback.
Later in the application, Nintendo talks about alternate Joy Cons. In sections 0658 through 0665, Nintendo talks about these alternate controllers and shows off a few different versions. One replaces the face buttons with a directional pad, while another replaces the analog stick with a directional pad. Another illustration shows a symmetrical button-analog stick configuration for the Switch itself.
"As described above, in the present embodiment, there may be provided different types of controllers having different functions and/or arrangements. Then, a user can use any of the different kinds of controllers by attaching the controller to the [main unit]. Thus, it is possible to provide a portable device with which it is possible to change the [controller] in accordance with, for example, user preference or the content of the application," says Nintendo in the patent application.
Finally, Nintendo shows off the Joy Con Grip accessory. The detached Joy Cons can be slotted into the grip for a better play experience. The Grip itself can pass power to the Joy Cons if it's plugged in to a power source, making it a good charging accessory for your home-based Joy Cons. The Joy Cons themselves don't have any other way to receive power if they're not attached to the Switch or the Grip.
There may be more nuggets of information in the patent applications, but this covers most of the major stuff. As I find out more, I'll add that information here. You can find each application by searching the US Patent and Trademark Office for the application numbers above.
It's worth noting that these patents confirm earlier reports made by Let's Play Video Games, who have correctly called a good deal of Switch information ahead of time.