CA2330072C - A microcontrolled backlit keypad assembly and method for a gaming machine - Google Patents

A microcontrolled backlit keypad assembly and method for a gaming machine Download PDF

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Publication number
CA2330072C
CA2330072C CA 2330072 CA2330072A CA2330072C CA 2330072 C CA2330072 C CA 2330072C CA 2330072 CA2330072 CA 2330072 CA 2330072 A CA2330072 A CA 2330072A CA 2330072 C CA2330072 C CA 2330072C
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Prior art keywords
keys
game
plurality
defined
illumination
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Expired - Fee Related
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CA 2330072
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French (fr)
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CA2330072A1 (en
Inventor
Tracy Powell
Mark Uihlein
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IGT Inc
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IGT Inc
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Priority to US09/476,143 priority
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Publication of CA2330072A1 publication Critical patent/CA2330072A1/en
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Publication of CA2330072C publication Critical patent/CA2330072C/en
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Classifications

    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • G07F17/3202Hardware aspects of a gaming system, e.g. components, construction, architecture thereof
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • G07F17/3202Hardware aspects of a gaming system, e.g. components, construction, architecture thereof
    • G07F17/3204Player-machine interfaces
    • G07F17/3209Input means, e.g. buttons, touch screen
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • G07F17/3225Data transfer within a gaming system, e.g. data sent between gaming machines and users
    • G07F17/3232Data transfer within a gaming system, e.g. data sent between gaming machines and users wherein the operator is informed
    • G07F17/3237Data transfer within a gaming system, e.g. data sent between gaming machines and users wherein the operator is informed about the players, e.g. profiling, responsible gaming, strategy/behavior of players, location of players
    • G07F17/3239Tracking of individual players

Abstract

A keypad assembly and method for use with a gaming machine including a keypad having a plurality of keys to input data, and a plurality of illumination devices operably coupled to a corresponding key for independent illumination thereof. A microcontroller device is coupled to the plurality of illumination devices for illumination thereof in a manner visually communicating information relating to a game accessible by the gaming machine.

Description

A MICROCONTROLLED BACKLIT KEYPAD
ASSEMBLY AND METHOD FOR A GAMINIG
MACHINE

TECHNICAL FIELD
This present invention relates, generally, to player tracking systems for gaming devices and, more particularly, relates to microcontrolled backlit keypad assemblies for player tracking systems.

BACKGROUND ART
As technology in the gaming industry progresses, the once traditional mechanically-driven reel slot machines have been replaced with electronic counterparts having CRT video displays or the like. These video/electronic gaming advancements enable the operation of more complex gambling games which would not otherwise be possible on mechanical-driven gambling machines. For example, in addition to reel slot machines, it is now common to observe stand alone or multiple platform video electronic games including Keno, Blackjack, Poker, Pal Gow, and all the variations thereof, in even the smallest gaming establishments.

These electronic game devices are also commonly interconnected to a host computer through a network system. One primary advantage of these networked gaming devices is the ability to collectively track the individual Player use of the gaming devices. Player tracking, for instance, allows the gaming establishment to monitor individual Player use for accounting and advertising purposes. Another benefit derived from these networked systems is the collection of accounting data such as the usage and payout of each gaming machine which allows the gaming establishment to immediately assess their profitability. Typical of such patented systems may be found in U.S. Patent Nos.: 5,470,079 to LeStrange et al.; and 4,283,709 to Lucero et al.

Generally, each participating Player is issued an individual player tracking card which incorporates a unique player identification code corresponding to the customer's account. Upon insertion of the player tracking card into a card reader at a respective gaming machine, the unique identification code is extracted from the card and transmitted to the host computer to commence tracking of the Player's gaming activity. Subsequently, the host computer updates the customer's account to reflect the new activity. In other systems, the player tracking card may be in the form of a SMARTCARD, a conventional debit card or a credit card which may require the manual input of a PIN or identification code. Such data is typically input through a keypad mechanism located near the card reader or the gaming machine.

As an incentive to participate in player tracking and/or returning to the gaming establishment, complimentary meals, rooms and event tickets are awarded to the Player based upon their use of the tracking card at the establishment. An example of such systems include U.S. Patent Nos.: 5,655,961; 5,702,304;
5,741,183; and 5,752,882 to Acres et al.; and 5,761,647 to Boushy. Moreover, such interconnected gaming has several other advantages which include competitive gaming machine play, and additional and more complex bonusing schemes which are generally progressive in nature.

Player participation is typically proportional to the level of the bonus jackpot.??
That is, the higher the level of the bonus jackpot, the greater the interest garnered in the bonus games. Accordingly, to entice participation, large luminescent display devices which display the level of the bonus are often located above or near the bank of eligible gaming machines. This is especially beneficial in progressive bonus schemes which continuously update the incrementally increasing jackpots.

While these Player enticement techniques are highly successful in most instances, such displays are not always within the view of the gaming establishment patron. Thus, potential Players which may otherwise be persuaded to participate, if informed, may not participate. Simply increasing the number of luminescent displays is not always feasible due to cost and space considerations. Accordingly, it would be desirable to provide an alternative method to inform potential Players of the current status of the game as an enticement to increase Player participation.

DISCLOSURE OF INVENTION
The present invention provides a gaming machine communication device for use with a gaming machine. The communication device includes a keypad mechanism having a plurality of keys to input data, and a plurality of illumination devices operably coupled to a corresponding key for independent illumination thereof. A microcontroller device is coupled to the plurality of illumination devices for illumination thereof in a manner visually communicating information relating to a game accessible by the gaming machine.

Accordingly, the illuminated keys of the keypad mechanism are employed as a means of communicating information to a potential Player preferably pertaining to a current status of the accessible game. For example the pattern, sequence or color of the illuminated keys of the keypad mechanism may indicate to a Player the level or amount of a jackpot.

In one embodiment, the microcontroller device is configured to independently illuminate each individual illumination device thereof depending upon the state of the current status. The keys, for instance, are preferably translucent for back lighting thereof, and the illumination devices are provided by Light Emitting Diodes (LED). The light emitting diodes are multi-color LEDs adapted to independently illuminate in one color in a first attract sequence corresponding to a first bonus level of the game, and illuminate in another color in a second attract sequence corresponding to a second bonus level of the game.
Alternatively, both colors may be illuminated to yield a third color which corresponds to a third bonus level.

In another aspect of the present invention, a keypad assembly is provided for use with a gaming machine to input data. The keypad assembly includes a keypad having a plurality of keys to input data; and a plurality of illumination devices each operably coupled to a corresponding key for independent illumination thereof. Each of the illumination devices are adapted to cooperate with a microcontroller device for independent illumination in a manner visually communicating information relating to the status of a game accessible by the gaming machine.

In yet another embodiment of the present invention, a gaming system includes a plurality of gaming machines, and a host computer interconnecting the gaming machines for an interconnected bonus game accessible from each gaming machine. The gaming system further includes a plurality of keypad mechanisms coupled to a respective gaming machine. In this configuration, each keypad mechanism includes a plurality of keys to input data, and a plurality of illumination devices each operably coupled to a corresponding key for independent illumination thereof. A microcontroller device is communicably coupled between the respective plurality of illumination devices and the host computer for illumination of the illumination device in a manner visually communicating information relating to the current status of the bonus game.

In still another aspect of the present invention, a player tracking system is provided for tracking Players of a plurality of gaming machines interconnected to a host computer. The tracking system includes a player tracking device adapted to monitor the game play of a Player, and a keypad assembly having a plurality of keys to input data for use in the player tracking device. A
plurality of illumination devices are operably coupled to a corresponding key for independent illumination thereof. The player tracking system further includes a microcontroller device coupled to the plurality of illumination devices for illumination thereof in a manner visually communicating information relating to the current status of a bonus game accessible by the gaming machine.

A card reader may be provided for reading a player identification card inserted in a card reader opening of the card reader. The keypad may further be arranged in a matrix, which when selectively illuminated, is representative of the state of the jackpot bonus scheme.

A method may be included in another aspect of the present invention for informing potential Players about a status of a game accessible from a gaming device. The method includes: providing a keypad assembly having a plurality of keys to input data, and a plurality of illumination devices operably coupled to a corresponding key for independent illumination thereof. The method further includes illuminating the illumination devices in a manner visually communicating to a potential Player the current status of the game accessible by the gaming machine.

This game may include the games resident on the gaming machine, of the interconnected bonus games which may also be accessed from the gaming machine. The method may further include independently illuminating each individual illumination device thereof depending upon the state of the current status. Before illuminating the illumination devices, the method may include communicating the current status of the game from the host computer to a respective microcontroller of each keypad assembly for illumination of the illuminating devices.

In accordance with another illustrative embodiment of the invention, there is provided a gaming machine communication device for use with a gaming machine. The communication device includes a keypad assembly having a plurality of keys to input data, and a plurality of illumination devices each operably coupled to a corresponding key of the plurality of keys for illumination of the key. The communication device further includes a microcontroller device coupled to the plurality of illumination devices for illumination of two or more keys from the plurality of keys in a preset sequence to visually communicate information relating to a current bonus level of a bonus game. The bonus game has at least two bonus levels and is accessible by the gaming machine.

In accordance with another illustrative embodiment of the invention, there is provided a keypad assembly for use with a gaming machine to input data. The keypad assembly includes a keypad having a plurality of keys to input data, and a plurality of illumination devices each operably coupled to a corresponding key from the plurality of keys for illumination of the key. Each illumination device is adapted to cooperate with a microcontroller device for illumination of each illumination device in a preset sequence to visually communicate information relating to a current bonus level of a bonus game. The bonus game has at least two bonus levels and is accessible by the gaming machine.

In accordance with another illustrative embodiment of the invention, there is provided a gaming system. The gaming system includes a plurality of gaming machines, a host computer interconnecting the gaming machines for an interconnected bonus game accessible from each gaming machine, and a plurality of keypad assemblies coupled to a respective gaming machine. Each keypad assembly has a plurality of keys to input data, a plurality of illumination devices each operably coupled to a corresponding key for illumination of the key, and a microcontroller device communicably coupled between the respective plurality of illumination devices and the host computer for illumination of each the illumination device in a preset sequence to visually communicate information relating to the current level of the bonus game.

In accordance with another illustrative embodiment of the invention, there is provided a player tracking system for tracking players of a plurality of gaming machines interconnected to a host computer. The player tracking system includes a player tracking device adapted to monitor the game play of a player, and a keypad assembly having a plurality of keys to input data for use in the player tracking device. The system further includes a plurality of illumination devices each operably coupled to a corresponding key from the plurality of keys for illumination of the key, and a microcontroller device coupled to the plurality of illumination devices for illumination of the two or more keys in a preset sequence to visually communicate information relating to the current level of a bonus game accessible by the gaming machine.

In accordance with another illustrative embodiment of the invention, there is provided a method of informing potential players about a bonus level status of a game accessible from a gaming device. The method includes providing a keypad assembly, proximate the gaming device, having a plurality of keys to input data, and a plurality of illumination devices operably coupled to a corresponding key for illumination of the corresponding key. The method further includes illuminating the illumination devices in a preset sequence to visually communicate to a potential player the current bonus level status of the game accessible by the gaming device.

In accordance with another illustrative embodiment of the invention, there is provided a method of attracting potential players to participate in a networked gaming system.
The method includes providing a plurality of gaming devices interconnected through a host computer for access to an interconnected game from each gaming device, and providing a plurality of keypad assemblies coupled to a corresponding gaming device.

Each keypad assembly has a plurality of keys to input data, and a plurality of illumination devices, each illumination device operably coupled to a corresponding key from the plurality of keys for illumination of the key. The method further includes illuminating the illumination devices in a preset sequence to visually communicate to a potential player a current bonus level of the game accessible by the gaming device.

Other aspects and features of illustrative embodiments of the present invention will become apparent to those ordinarily skilled in the art upon review of the following description of such embodiments in conjunction with the accompanying figures.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The method and assembly of the present invention has other objects and features of advantage which will be more readily apparent from the following description of the Best Mode of Carrying Out the Invention and the appended claims, when taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawing, in which:
FIGURE 1 is a top perspective view of a conventional gaming machine incorporating a keypad assembly constructed in accordance with the present invention.

FIGURE 2 is an enlarged top plan view of a keypad of the keypad assembly of FIGURE 1.

FIGURE 3 is a schematic representation of a player tracking system for a gaming machine which incorporates the keypad assembly of the present invention.

FIGURE 4 is a schematic representation of the keypad assembly of the present invention.

FIGURE 5 is a schematic diagram of the keypad assembly of the present invention.

FIGURE 6 is a fragmentary, enlarged side elevation view, in cross-section, of a key component of the keypad assembly taken substantially along the plane of the line 6-6 in FIGURE 2.

FIGURES 7A-7D are a series of top plan views of the keypad assembly of FIGURE 2 illustrating a sequence of illumination patterns corresponding to higher jackpot levels.

BEST MODE OF CARRYING OUT THE INVENTION
While the present invention will be described with reference to a few specific embodiments, the description is illustrative of the invention and is not to be construed as limiting the invention. Various modifications to the present invention can be made to the preferred embodiments by those skilled in the art without departing from the true spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims. It will be noted here that for a better understanding, like components are designated by like reference numerals throughout the various figures.

Attention is now directed to FIGURES 1-4, and 6 where a gaming machine communication device is illustrated for use with a gaming machine 30. The communication device includes a keypad assembly 20 having a plurality of keys components 25 to input data, and a plurality of illumination devices 26 operably coupled to a corresponding key for independent illumination thereof.
A microcontroller device, generally designated 36, is coupled to the plurality of illumination devices 26 for illumination thereof in a manner visually communicating information relating to a game accessible by the gaming machine 30.

Accordingly, the keypad assembly itself is employed as a visual aid to inform the Player or potential Player about particular information relating to the current status or state of a game accessible from the gaming machine. For example, the luminescent keys of the keypad assembly may be illuminated in a particular sequence or manner to inform the Player about particular details of the bonus jackpot game. Thus, the Player may then be enticed to participate in the bonus game through visual contact with the keypad assembly 20, as opposed to requiring direct viewing contact with the above-indicated large luminescent displays for persuasion.

In another example of use, the communication device of the present invention may be employed to indicated that a particular machine has recently awarded a jackpot within a predetermined number of plays, to indicate a "hot" machine.
For instance, the key components 25 of the keypad assembly 20 may be independently or collectively illuminated in an attract sequence to inform a potential Player that a particular gaming machine is still "hot". In contrast, the key components 25 may be independently or collectively illuminated in another attract sequence in the event that particular gaming machine has not awarded a jackpot within a predetermined number of plays. This may be employed to indicate a machine which has not delivered a jackpot in a while, and is thus ready to award one soon.

As is apparent from the above examples, the informational keypad assembly of the present invention may be applied to the independent games resident on a particular gaming device, and/or may be applied to the interconnected bonus games through the networked host computer.

The luminescent keypad assembly 20 of the present invention is particularly suitable for use with a player tracking system 28 which, in the gaming industry, is typically employed for tracking Players of a plurality of gaming machines 30.

Briefly, as shown in the schematic diagram of FIGURE 3, each gaming machine 30 is electrically interfaced to a central player tracking or host system computer 32 through a respective a player tracking module 31. The player tracking system 28 further includes card reader 21, keypad assembly 20 and a display device 33 which collectively allow the Player to interface with the system computer 32. Once the Player's identification is verified by either manual input of their PIN code, or through an issued player identification card 22 which itself incorporates a unique personal identification code, the keypad assembly 20 of the present invention will allow the player tracking module 31 to obtain information from the Player through key component presses and to assess the validation of the particular information through the visualization of the backlit key components 25.

Briefly, it will be understood that the details of the circuitry and electronics of the present invention, such as the microcontrollers, the application software, and the like, may be resident in any one of the keypad assemblies 23, the host system computer 32, the gaming machine itself, or a combination thereof.
However, for clarity and the easy of description, the present invention is primarily described in reference to the embodiment having the majority of the --componentry resident in the keypad assembly. Most of this componentry, however, may be adaptable for application with the system computer or the gaming machine with minimal design change.

FIGURE 3 illustrates that the player tracking module 31 further includes a player tracking controller unit 35 which generally performs the functions of communicating with the gaming machine, communicating with the system, verifying the card was read correctly, writing data to display. Operably coupled to this unit 35 is the keypad assembly 20 of the present invention which enables the Player to interface with the other components of the player tracking system 28 such as the card reader 21 and the host system computer 32.
The keypad assembly 20 includes an onboard microcontroller 36 which provides all scanning and decoding functions of the keypad component matrix, as well as control of the visual feedback of the individual keys. This microcontroller 36 further operates to interface the player tracking controller unit 35 with the keypad assembly 23 through a clocked serial interface (FIGURES 3 and 4). Thus, the keypad assembly 20 of the present invention is adaptable to interface with existing player tracking controller units through clocked serial connections, or with new versions of the player tracking controller units through ASYNC serial communications and 12C serial communications.

Referring back to FIGURE 2, the keypad assembly 23 preferably includes sixteen (16) key components aligned in a 4x4 matrix. It will be appreciated, of course, that a larger or smaller matrix may be employed. Preferably, keypad includes ten (10) conventional number key components 25', a "cocktail" key component 25" and an "attendant" key component 25"'. Four (4) programmable "function" key components 25"" may be included for optional functions and features such as the inquiry of information relating jackpot bonus games, player tracking information or the like. Alternatively, the "cocktail"
key component 25" and the "attendant" key component 25"' can be replaced by the more conventional "*" and "#" symbols.

During conventional data input use, the key components 25 may be configured to illuminate and/or flash when pressed and/or not pressed, such as when the Player's Personal Identification Number (PIN) is being keyed-in through the keypad assembly 23. Briefly, and as shown in an exemplary schematic diagram of the keypad assembly 23 in FIGURE 5, the columns of the keypad matrix are scanned by embedded software and the row inputs are read in and decoded.
Column selection is performed by the use of two bits from port RA (RAO and RAI). These output ports are connected to one half of a 74HC139 2-to-4 decoder. As a binary pattern is presented to the input of the 74HC 139, one of the 4 outputs is driven low. This is the select for a column. As viewed in the schematic diagram, port RBO - RB3 are all tied to Vcc with a 10K resistor to assert a logic true condition until a key component 25 is pressed. When a particular key component 25 is pressed, the corresponding row is sinked to ground which causes a zero (0) to be read on the corresponding pin of port RB(RBO-RB3). Each of the column sinks is isolated with a diode, allowing any two key components 25 to be depressed simultaneously with full identification by the microcontroller 36. Should any more than two key components be depressed simultaneously, an invalid input will be yielded and should be rejected as invalid input.

The illumination devices 26, preferably Light Emitting Diodes (LED), are driven through a similar column selection as that of the keypad components.
As viewed in FIGURE 5, two bits of RA are used to control the other half of the 74HC139 decoder (RA2 and RA3). The output of the decoder is connected to a current sink. During reset conditions, the 74HC139 decoder is disabled to guarantee that a column of LEDs is not selected when the processor is not active. Port D (RDO-RD7) is used to drive the column source drivers for the LEDs, which therefore requires the LEDs to be multiplexed. The outputs of RD are connected to the red and green LED drive signals as follows:

RDO= RowOred RD 1 = Row 0 green RD2 = Row 1 red RD3 = Row 1 green RD4 = Row 2 red RD5 = Row 2 green RD6 = Row 3 red RD7 = Row 3 green To provide the desired visual feedback function, each key component 25 is backlit by a respective illumination device 26 which is operably connected to the microcontroller 36 of the validation device 27 for on/off operation thereof.
As best viewed in the cross-section of FIGURE 6, each key component 25 preferably includes a flexible translucent or transparent cover 37, such as silicone rubber or the like, which is formed to house the illumination device therein. Upon illumination, the light generated by the illumination device 26 radiates out of the top of the cylindrical column and through the translucent cover 37 to provide the backlit visual illumination.

In the preferred embodiment, each illumination device 26 is provided by a conventional Light Emitting Diode (LED). Advantageously, these LEDs reduce power consumption and generate substantially less heat than incandescent lights. Moreover, LEDs have a longer life span, and require less maintenance as well. Preferably, these LEDs are tri-color-type LEDs capable of illumination in red, green or yellow. Other colors may be employed, however. Additionally, since each multi-color LED is individually addressable, the 4x4 matrix may be illuminated in predetermined patterns, as well as multiple color schemes.

Using a set of animation tables residing in code ROM, the individually addressable LEDs can be collectively flashed or illuminated in a patterned or colored attract sequence which corresponds to a particular status of a game.
Depending upon the current status or state of a game, the central host computer . '32 or the player tracking controller 35 may communicate with each microcontroller 36 of each keypad assembly 20 to send instructions about which animation mode to display. Such an attract sequence may be automatically activated during non-use of the keypad or when the card reader is in non-use. Upon detection of use of a key component closure or insertion of an identification card, the microcontroller 36 can abort the attract sequence.
Additionally, more than one animation mode may be included depending upon the circumstance, such as during bonus play.

The communication device 10, therefore, utilizes these attract sequences to animate the keypad components 25 when the keypad assembly 20 is not in use.
These attract sequences are employed as a means to visually communicate information relating to the status or state of the games accessible at the gaming machine 30 (i.e., the games internally resident on the gaming machine and/or the bonus game accessible through the host computer). In this manner, at least one or a plurality of key components 25 can be illuminated upon the occurrence of a predetermined event. For example, upon the occurrence of a first event, such as the jackpot reaching or surpassing a first bonus level, the key components 25 may be illuminated in a first attract sequence and color scheme simulating a thermometer or the like (E.g., flash or illuminate the key components 25 in "yellow"). Upon the level of the jackpot increasing and surpassing a second bonus level, a second attract sequence may commence to change colors, and/or patterns (E.g., flash or illuminate the key components in "red").

As shown in the attract sequences of FIGURES 7A to 7D, the jackpot amounts may be expressed by flashing or illuminating the entire row of key components 25 either individually, simultaneously or in the same or different colors, or sequentially illuminate the key components from left to right or right to left.
By way of example, as shown in FIGURE 7A, a relatively small jackpot amount (a minimum first bonus level) may be expressed (the first attract sequence) by simultaneously illuminating the entire bottom row 38 of key components 25 (i.e., the "F4", "cocktail" "0" and "attendant" key components).
As the jackpot incrementally increases in value, upon surpassing or reaching a second bonus level, a second attract sequence may commence. As shown in FIGURE 7B, for instance, a second row 40 of key components 25 may be simultaneously illuminated (i.e., the "F3", "7" "8" and "9" key components) to indicate a lower middle range of jackpots.

Referring now to FIGURES 7C and 7D, once the jackpot incrementally surpasses or reaches a third and fourth bonus level, a third attract sequence and a fourth attract sequence may commence, respectively. Similar to the first and second attract sequences, the third and fourth attract sequences may include simultaneously illuminating the third row 41 (i.e., the "F2", "4" "5" and "6"
key components) and the fourth row 42 (i.e., the "Fl", "1" "2" and "3" key components) to indicate an upper middle range and top range of jackpots, respectively. Moreover, the third and fourth attract sequences may include different color schemes, such as in the color "red", while the first and second attract sequences may be in the colors "green" and "yellow", respectively. The fourth attract sequence, for example, may also include a composite or sequential pattern of illumination sequences from the first attract sequence (FIGURE 7A) through the fourth attract sequence (FIGURE 7D). In addition, this sequential pattern may change colors to simulate a thermometer reaching a higher level (E.g., "red").

In another example, the individual key components 25 may sequentially 5= illuminate from left-to-right and/or from right-to-left starting at the bottom row 38 and ending at any key component 25 at either the second row 40, the third row 41 or the top row 42, depending upon the level of the jackpot. Multiple color schemes may be applied as well.

Ancorporated in the keypad assembly 20 is software which performs the following functions for the keypad assembly 23. These functions include receive commands from and send key press information to the player tracking controller unit 35. Moreover, the keypad software further functions to acknowledge receipt of commands from the player tracking controller, decode and debounce key switch activation, and process commands received from the player tracking controller unit 35.

The control of all back lighting of keypad assembly 23, as executed by the microcontroller 36, is further operated by the keypad software. Briefly, each key component 25 can be lit when released and/or lit when pressed, and/or each key can be flashing when released and/or flashing when pressed. The keypad software further includes the set of the above-mentioned attract sequences which animate the key colors when the keypad is not in use. Attract sequences can be selected using the command language.

More specifically, in accordance with the attributes and subroutines, an attribute table resides in on-chip RAM which comprises 16 attribute bytes, each of which includes a 16-byte array residing in on-chip RAM which comprises 16 attribute bytes, each of which corresponds to one key component 25. The respective attribute byte for a key component determines whether the LED is illuminated when pressed, not illuminated when not pressed, the color of illumination if lit, and whether the respective LED is flashed when pressed and/or not pressed.

At a command interface, the commands are received from the host computer 32 via a clocked serial interface. Preferably, this is at rate of 9600 baud, but may vary in accordance with the state of the field. These commands include a define keypad attributes command, an attract mode command and a stop attract mode command. Each command is composed of an address (wakeup bit set) byte; a command code byte; a length of command byte, including address, 'command code, length byte, all data and both CRC bytes; an optional data byte;
a CRC low byte; and a CRC high byte. Furthermore, each byte of a command consists of a start bit, 8 data bits, a 9th bit called the wakeup bit, and a stop bit.
In a Keypad Status Reporting routine, whenever a key component 25 is pressed, an ASCII code corresponding to the key component is sent to the host system computer 32. If a command is being received from the host computer system when the key component is pressed, the ASCII code is not sent until command reception is completed. The keypad status reporting is handled by a main loop code, to be discussed below. A single-byte buffer will contain a key code if the interrupt service routine has detected a key closure. Another subroutine NEWK determines if the key closure is that of a new key component. In the event that the key closure is a new key, a subroutine ASCTRANS is called to send the ASCII code to the host system computer 32.
The single-byte buffer is then set to zero to indicate that it is ready to handle another key component.

During an initialization routine after a power-up, a subroutine INIT_PIC
commences to perform three initialization functions. These functions include the programming and initialization of the I/O ports, and the programming of a timer 0 to overflow every 10 milliseconds. Finally, the attribute table is initialized with default keypad attributes such as: off when the key component is not pressed; and a solid yellow illumination of the LEDs when a corresponding key component is pressed.

After initialization is complete, the main loop code accesses two subroutines.
A CK BUFFER subroutine checks if a new key component has been pressed.
A SENDKEY subroutine is then accessed to send the ASCII code to the host system computer. Secondly, a CK_COMMAND subroutine checks for a start bit from the host computer system. Should the start bit be detected, this subroutine subsequently receives a byte from the host computer system. If the "-byte received is the last byte of a command, the CK COMMAND subroutine interprets and executes the command.

Timer 0 is configured to continuously interrupt the microcontroller 36 at 10 ms intervals. During each interrupt, the keypad assembly 23 is scanned, and any backlighting is commenced or refreshed. Further tasks are preferably performed at this time include flash timing, and an attract mode animation, which are discussed henceforth.

During keypad scanning, each column of the keypad assembly 23 is scanned at 10 millisecond intervals by the Timer 0 interrupt service routine. A variable contains the column number currently being scanned, and is incremented at each timer 0 interrupt. The column number is used to enable a key column via the microcontroller output Port A. Key closures are then detected by reading the microcontroller input port B. When a key component 25 closure is detected, its code is stored in the single-byte key buffer, but only if the single-byte key buffer is 0. In the event the single-byte key buffer already contains a key code, this code will not overwritten. The main loop code will translate the key code into an ASCII code and send it to the host system computer 32. As previously described, single-byte key buffer is then set to zero which indicates to the interrupt service routine that another key code can be sent.

Immediately after the keypad scan, backlighting of the corresponding keypad LEDs commences in the key column being scanned. The keypad attributes are fetched from the attribute array and the LEDs are programmed with the appropriate color depending on whether a key component is pressed or not. If the key attribute indicates flashing, and the flasher bit is "OFF", the corresponding LED is turned off.

As above-indicated, flash timing of the keypad assembly commences during each interrupt interval. A subroutine BLINK is accessed which complements all the flasher bits in the keypad attribute table. This is preferably performed about every 116`x' interval, which yields a flash interval of about 1.2 seconds.
Another predetermined number of intervals may be employed of course.

In an attract mode, the key component LEDs are animated using a set of animation tables which reside in code ROM. Each frame of the animation sequence consists of four (4) bytes. Each byte contains the 2-bit color code for four (4) key lights. The frames are preferably advanced every thirty-two (32) Timer 0 interrupt periods for an animation speed of 320 ms per frame.

To determine which animation table to use, depending upon the gaming event or occurrence, an animation mode is downloaded from the central host computer 32 or the player tracking controller 35 to the keypad microcontroller 36. A subroutine ANIMATE is preferably called every twenty-one (21) timer 0 interrupt periods to advance the frame. The ANIMATE subroutine retrieves the next frame from the animation table and employs this data to override the keypad attributes. Upon detection of a key component closure, the attract mode is aborted.

In accordance with another aspect of the present invention, a method is provided for informing potential Players about a status of a game accessible from a gaming device 30 including providing a keypad assembly 20 positioned proximate to or on the gaming device 30. The keypad assembly 20 includes a plurality of keys 25 to input data, and a plurality of illumination devices 26 operably coupled to a corresponding key 25 for independent illumination thereof. The method further includes illuminating the illumination devices 26 in a manner visually communicating to a potential Player the current status of the game accessible by the gaming device 30.

The method preferably includes the step of independently illuminating each individual illumination device 26 thereof depending upon the state of the current status. This is performed by illuminating a respective LED in one color in a first attract sequence corresponding to a first bonus level of the game, and illuminating the respective LED in another color in a second attract sequence corresponding to a second bonus level of the game.

In yet another aspect of the present invention, a method is provided for attracting potential Players to participate in a networked gaming system including: providing a plurality of gaming devices 30 interconnected through a host computer 32 interconnecting the gaming devices 30 for access to an interconnected game from each gaming device 30, and providing a plurality of keypad assemblies 23 coupled to a corresponding gaming device 30. Each keypad assembly 20 includes a plurality of keys 25 to input data, and a plurality of illumination devices 26 operably coupled to a corresponding key for independent illumination thereof. The method further includes illuminating the illumination devices 26 in a manner visually communicating to a potential Player the current status of the game accessible by the gaming device 30.

In the preferred embodiment, before illuminating the illumination devices 26, the present invention includes communicating the current status of the game from the host computer 32 to a respective microcontroller 36 of each keypad assembly 20 for illumination of the illumination devices 26.

Although the foregoing invention has been described in some detail for purposes of clarity of understanding, it will be apparent that certain changes and modifications may be practiced within the scope of the appended claims.
For instance, although the specification has described a keypad assembly and card reader on gaming machines, such interface may be used on other casino stations as well. For example, a pad assembly of the type described above may also be used with blackjack or craps tables. Further, the systems of this invention are not limited to conventional casino gaming machines and stations, but may include other machines such as amusement machines, televisions, vending machines, etc. In addition, the reader will understand that the terminals as describe herein can be with gaming machines that are not necessarily located in a casino or connected to a LAN. Thus, in some embodiments, the gaming machines incorporating the keypad assembly of this invention may be stand-alone machines located in bars, drug stores, or other establishments.

Claims (40)

1. A gaming machine communication device for use with a gaming machine, the communication device comprising:

a keypad assembly having a plurality of keys to input data;

a plurality of illumination devices each operably coupled to a corresponding key of the plurality of keys for illumination of the key; and a microcontroller device coupled to said plurality of illumination devices for illumination of two or more keys from the plurality of keys in a preset sequence to visually communicate information relating to a current bonus level of a bonus game, the bonus game having at least two bonus levels and accessible by said gaming machine.
2. The communication device as defined in claim 1, wherein said microcontroller device is adapted to sequentially illuminate the two or more keys.
3. The communication device as defined in claim 2, wherein said microcontroller device is adapted to collectively illuminate the two or more keys.
4. The communication device as defined in claim 1, wherein said two or more keys are translucent for back lighting thereof, and said illumination devices are provided by Light Emitting Diodes (LED).
5. The communication device as defined in claim 4, wherein said light emitting diodes are multi-color LEDs adapted to illuminate said two or more keys in one color in a first sequence corresponding to a first bonus level of the game, and illuminate said two or more keys in another color in a second sequence corresponding to a second bonus level of the game.
6. The communication device as defined in claim 5, wherein said light emitting diodes are further adapted to illuminate said two or more keys in a third color in a third sequence corresponding to a third bonus level of the game.
7. The communication device as defined in claim 1, wherein said illumination devices include multi-color Light Emitting Diodes (LED) adapted to visually communicate the game information.
8. The communication device as defined in claim 7, wherein said plurality of keys is arranged in a matrix of rows and columns, and said microcontroller device is adapted to:

illuminate two or more LEDs that illuminate a first row of plurality of keys in a first sequence corresponding to a first bonus level of the game, and illuminate two or more LEDs that illuminate a second row of the plurality of keys in a second sequence corresponding to a second bonus level of the game.
9. The communication device as defined in claim 8, wherein said illumination devices include multi-color Light Emitting Diodes (LED) adapted to illuminate the two or more LEDs in a first sequence corresponding to a first bonus level of the game, and a second sequence corresponding to a second bonus level of the game.
10. The communication device as defined in claim 1, wherein said microcontroller is resident on the keypad assembly.
11. A keypad assembly for use with a gaming machine to input data, the keypad assembly comprising:

a keypad having a plurality of keys to input data; and a plurality of illumination devices each operably coupled to a corresponding key from the plurality of keys for illumination of the key, each said illumination device being adapted to cooperate with a microcontroller device for illumination of each said illumination device in a preset sequence to visually communicate information relating to a current bonus level of a bonus game, the bonus game having at least two bonus levels and accessible by said gaming machine.
12. The keypad assembly as defined in claim 11, wherein said two or more keys are translucent for back lighting thereof, and said illumination devices are provided by Light Emitting Diodes (LED).
13. The keypad assembly as defined in claim 12, wherein said microcontroller device is adapted to illuminate the two or more keys in a first sequence corresponding to a first bonus level of the game and illuminate another two or more keys in a second sequence corresponding to a second bonus level of the game.
14. The keypad assembly as defined in claim 13, wherein said plurality of keys is arranged in a matrix of rows and columns, and said two or more keys are arranged in a first row, and said other two or more keys are arranged in a second row.
15. A gaming system comprising:
a plurality of gaming machines;

a host computer interconnecting said gaming machines for an interconnected bonus game accessible from each gaming machine;

a plurality of keypad assemblies coupled to a respective gaming machine, each said keypad assembly having a plurality of keys to input data, a plurality of illumination devices each operably coupled to a corresponding key for illumination of the key; and a microcontroller device communicably coupled between the respective plurality of illumination devices and the host computer for illumination of each said illumination device in a preset sequence to visually communicate information relating to the current level of the bonus game.
16. The gaming system as defined in claim 15, wherein each said microcontroller device is configured to illuminate the two or more keys depending upon the current level of the bonus game.
17. The gaming system as defined in claim 16, wherein said microcontroller device is adapted to illuminate the two or more keys in one color in a first sequence corresponding to a first bonus level of the game, and illuminate another two or more keys in another color in a second sequence corresponding to a second bonus level of the game.
18. The gaming system as defined in claim 17, wherein each said microcontroller is adapted to download the first and second sequences from the host computer.
19. A player tracking system for tracking players of a plurality of gaming machines interconnected to a host computer comprising:

a player tracking device adapted to monitor the game play of a player;

a keypad assembly having a plurality of keys to input data for use in the player tracking device;

a plurality of illumination devices each operably coupled to a corresponding key from the plurality of keys for illumination of the key; and a microcontroller device coupled to said plurality of illumination devices for illumination of the two or more keys in a preset sequence to visually communicate information relating to the current level of a bonus game accessible by said gaming machine.
20. The player tracking system as defined in claim 19, further including:

a card reader for reading a player identification card inserted in a card reader opening of the card reader.
21. The player tracking system as defined in claim 19, wherein said microcontroller device is configured to illuminate the two or more keys depending upon the current level of the bonus game.
22. The player tracking system as defined in claim 21, wherein said keys are translucent for back lighting thereof, and said illumination devices are provided by Light Emitting Diodes (LED).
23. The player tracking system as defined in claim 22, wherein said microcontroller device is adapted to illuminate the two or more keys in one color in a first sequence corresponding to a first bonus level of the game, and illuminate another two or more keys in another color in a second sequence corresponding to a second bonus level of the game.
24. The player tracking system as defined in claim 23, wherein said microcontroller device is further adapted to illuminate another two or more keys in a third color in a third sequence corresponding to a third bonus level of the game.
25. The player tracking system as defined in claim 24, wherein said key components of the keypad assembly are arranged in a matrix.
26. A method of informing potential players about a bonus level status of a game accessible from a gaming device comprising:

providing a keypad assembly, proximate the gaming device, having a plurality of keys to input data, and a plurality of illumination devices operably coupled to a corresponding key for illumination of said corresponding key; and illuminating the illumination devices in a preset sequence to visually communicate to a potential player the current bonus level status of the game accessible by said gaming device.
27. The method as defined in claim 26, further including:

illuminating the two or more keys depending upon the current bonus level status.
28. The method as defined in claim 27, wherein said keys are translucent for back lighting thereof, and said illumination devices are provided by multi-color Light Emitting Diodes (LED); and said illuminating further includes illuminating the two or more keys by illuminating a respective LED in one color in a first sequence corresponding to a first bonus level of the game, and illuminating another two or more keys by illuminating a respective LED in another color in a second sequence corresponding to a second bonus level of the game.
29. A method of attracting potential players to participate in a networked gaming system comprising:

providing a plurality of gaming devices interconnected through a host computer for access to an interconnected game from each gaming device;

providing a plurality of keypad assemblies coupled to a corresponding gaming device, each keypad assembly having a plurality of keys to input data, and a plurality of illumination devices, each illumination device operably coupled to a corresponding key from the plurality of keys for illumination of the key; and illuminating the illumination devices in a preset sequence to visually communicate to a potential player a current bonus level of the game accessible by said gaming device.
30. The method as defined in claim 29, further including:

before illuminating the illumination devices, communicating the current bonus level of the game from the host computer to a respective microcontroller of each keypad assembly for illumination of the illumination devices.
31. The method as defined in claim 30, further including:

illuminating each illumination device depending upon the current bonus level.
32. The method as defined in claim 31, wherein said keys are translucent for back lighting thereof, and said illumination devices are provided by multi-color Light Emitting Diodes (LED); and said illuminating further includes illuminating the two or more keys in a first sequence corresponding to a first bonus level of the game, and illuminating another two or more keys in a second sequence corresponding to a second bonus level of the game.
33. The method as defined in claim 32, wherein said illuminating further includes illuminating a third row of key components in a third sequence corresponding to a third bonus level of the game.
34. The method as defined in claim 32, wherein said key components of the keypad assembly are arranged in a matrix of rows and columns, and said first sequence includes sequentially illuminating a first row of key components, and said second sequence includes sequentially illuminating a second row of key components.
35. The communication device as defined in claim 8, wherein said first sequence includes sequentially illuminating the keys of the first row, and said second sequence includes sequentially illuminating the keys of the second row.
36. The communication device as defined in claim 35, wherein in said matrix, said first row of keys is located below said second row of keys.
37. The communication device as defined in claim 35, wherein said microcontroller device is adapted to collectively illuminate a third row of keys in a third sequence corresponding to a third bonus level of the game.
38. The communication device as defined in claim 37, wherein in said matrix of said keys, said first row of keys is located below said second row of keys, and said second row of keys is located below said third row of keys.
39. The keypad assembly as defined in claim 14, wherein said microcontroller device is adapted to collectively illuminate an entire third row of keys in a third sequence corresponding to a third bonus level status of the game.
40. The keypad assembly as defined in claim 39, wherein in said matrix of said keys, said first row of keys is located below said second row of keys, and said second row of keys is located below said third row of keys.
CA 2330072 2000-01-03 2001-01-02 A microcontrolled backlit keypad assembly and method for a gaming machine Expired - Fee Related CA2330072C (en)

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AU3947002A (en) * 2000-10-23 2002-05-27 Color Kinetics Inc Systems and methods for digital entertainement
US20050162016A1 (en) * 2003-10-15 2005-07-28 Payment Protection Systems, Inc. Vehicle disablement system user interface

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US6409595B1 (en) * 1999-10-29 2002-06-25 International Game Technology Lighted keypad assembly and method for a player tracking system

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