CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
- STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT
- BACKGROUND—FIELD OF INVENTION
- BACKGROUND—DESCRIPTION OF PRIOR ART
This invention relates to exercise machines and computer games, and in particular to the control of computer game actions via the operation of a resistance-type exercise machine.
Physical exercise using traditional exercise machines is a worthwhile but tedious endeavor, one that would clearly benefit from introduction of an aspect of game-playing or competition. Computer games, particularly video games, are often intensely interesting, but provide little constructive benefit beyond their inherent entertainment value. An exercise machine as compellingly entertaining as a video game would be a highly desirable product, but past attempts to marry the two technologies have fallen considerably short of that goal. A fundamental problem is that interesting video games require multiple degrees of freedom, and therefore multiple control signals, while exercise machines typically involve a single repetitive movement. Further, the prior art devices have primarily involved aerobic activities such as stationary bicycling, rowing, and walking or running on a treadmill, and not resistance-type strength-training exercises such as weight lifting, even though it is widely accepted that resistance exercise, and especially weight training, offers significant health benefits not achievable by aerobic exercise alone.
Manufacturers of exercise equipment have incorporated video displays into stationary bicycles, rowing machines, treadmills, and other machines involving simple repetitive action, but these have typically involved video representations of the bicycling, rowing, or other motion being performed by the user. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 4,278,095 discloses a video display associated with a cycling or rowing machine, wherein the video display portrays (for example) a person rowing a boat at a speed proportional to the speed at which the user is performing the exercise. In a related vein, U.S. Pat. No. 5,667,459 discloses an exercise machine incorporating a video display that shows both a video object representing the user and a ‘shadow object’ representing the exercise goal, so that the user is encouraged to exercise at a sufficient rate to make the video object representing the user remain in the domain represented by the ‘shadow object’. U.S. Pat. No. 5,149,084 describes a similar approach in the context of a stepping machine exerciser, with a video display showing icons representing the user's actual performance and the desired target performance. Additional controls may be added to allow the user to navigate through the simulated environment; for example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,890,995 discloses a bicycling simulation apparatus, using a stationary bicycle with a moveable handlebar and providing a simulated environment in which the user can maneuver, controlling speed via pedaling rate and direction by ‘steering’ with the handlebar. More generally, U.S. Pat. No. 5,462,503 describes the incorporation of a ‘steering mechanism’ in an exercise machine so as to allow the user to navigate a simulated environment. In a similar vein, U.S. Pat. No. 4,735,410 discloses a rowing machine apparatus allowing the user to control a moving video image, and additionally to steer the image around obstacles via differential movement of the oars.
Although innovations such as these may succeed in making activities such as stationary bicycling, rowing, and stair-stepping somewhat less monotonous, they are inherently limited in their ability to provide mental stimulation, because the underlying exercise motion consists of the same movement repeated over and over, and the only significant game parameter controllable by the user's exercise movements is the speed at which the activity is performed. Another drawback is that a computer simulation of a repetitive exercise movement may not seem much more entertaining than the underlying exercise movement being simulated.
It is, of course, possible to attach an ordinary video game with an ordinary video game controller to a stationary bicycle, treadmill, or other exercise device that does not otherwise occupy the hands, allowing the user to entertain himself or herself by playing the video game while exercising. U.S. Pat. No. 4,637,605, for example, discloses an exercise bicycle with video game controls mounted on the handlebars. Several prior art devices have expanded on this concept by monitoring some measure of the user's exercise rate and using this to affect the play of the game. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,001,632 discloses an exercise machine in which the user's heart rate controls the difficulty level of the associated video game, so that the game becomes more difficult if the user allows his or her heart rate to fall below target levels. U.S. Pat. No. 5,947,868 contemplates the use of a hand-held video game player while performing exercise, with one or more of the game parameters (such as speed, striking force, energy level, lifetime, game level, etc.) controlled by monitors that measure the user's exercise performance (such as pulse rate, exercise rate, distance traveled, time exercised, etc.). U.S. Pat. No. 6,179,746 discloses a device that monitors the user's exercise rate (such as the pedaling rate on a stationary bicycle) and allows the user to play the video game only when exercising at or above a predetermined rate. U.S. Pat. No. 5,839,990 discloses a device for using an exercise bicycle to play racing-type video games, in which the speed at which the player pedals the bicycle controls the braking, coasting, and acceleration in the video game. U.S. Pat. No. 4,542,897 discloses an exercise bicycle combined with a video game in such a way that the user's pedaling operates an electric generator, which must be turned at a predetermined rate in order to activate the video game.
A few prior art devices have taken the approach of scaling up a joystick-type video game controller so that control of the game requires larger movements, thereby providing at least some exercise benefit. U.S. Pat. No. 4,630,817 discloses what amounts to a joystick similar to those in standard use for controlling video games, but of a much larger size, requiring correspondingly large movements and thereby providing exercise. U.S. Pat. No. 5,805,138 discloses a similar apparatus having a ‘riser member’ with a height approximating the user's seated height, which the user would operate, while seated, as a computer input device. U.S. Pat. No. 4,512,567 combines this approach with an exercise bicycle, adding handlebars that can be both rotated and moved forward and back, with these movements, as well as the pedaling speed, being used to control a video game. Such devices do not, however, provide a meaningful program of resistance exercise, for at least two reasons. First, because they require the user to continuously grasp a single control lever, they allow a limited repertoire of movements, exercise relatively few muscles, and fail to significantly exercise the specific large muscle groups normally targeted in weight training. More importantly, the orientation and range of movement of the control lever does not correspond to the full natural range of motion of the muscles being exercised, making it impossible to apply enough force for meaningful resistance exercise, failing to exercise the muscles in question through their full range, and risking injury by encouraging movements that potentially place inappropriate lateral loads on joints and tendons.
Another approach seen in the prior art involves controllers that control a video game via multiple foot-actuated sensors. The user obtains aerobic exercise by stepping on the appropriate sensors in a sequence. For example, U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,139,261 and 5,076,584 describe a video game controller consisting of a planar matrix or floor mat containing sensor units for controlling a video game by stepping or pressing on the sensor units. U.S. Pat. No. 4,720,789 discloses a floor controller with weight sensitive pads, allowing the user to control a video game by stepping on the pads corresponding to the desired inputs. U.S. Pat. No. 6,227,968 discloses a dance game in which the user responds to the game by attempting to step on designated sections of a floor panel in a particular sequence and rhythm, as prompted by a video display. U.S. Pat. No. 5,507,708 discloses a stair-stepping exercise machine having, instead of the usual two pedals, multiple pedals, so that the user can control a video game by choosing which pedals to depress.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
None of the prior art devices have succeeded in achieving the desirable goal of providing an entertaining video game, having a sufficient number of distinct inputs to make choice of the sequence of inputs a significant part of the game, with each input controllable by biomechanically sound resistance exercise movements.
The present invention facilitates a novel method of resistance-type exercising, whereby the user is enabled to play a (prior art) computer game or video game by performing a variety of resistance exercise movements, and, by the sequence of movements performed, control the play of the game. This method of performing resistance exercise is enabled by an apparatus having a plurality of independently moveable actuator levers or handles, each of whose range of motion corresponds to a large muscle movement of the user's body, and each of which is coupled to a resistance suitable for exercising the corresponding muscle or muscle group in a biomechanically appropriate way. Sensors detect the movement of the actuator levers, and produce signals that are used as inputs to control the play of the game.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
By providing separate, independently moveable actuators, each corresponding to a different control input of the computer game, and each coupled to a resistance, the present invention allows play of computer games of much greater complexity and entertainment value than devices which provide for only a single repetitive movement, and avoids the need for extraneous controls that are unrelated to the desired exercise. Since the range of motion of each actuator is made to correspond generally to the natural range of movement of a target muscle or muscle group, the present device allows the performance of proper resistance exercises targeting particular muscles or muscle groups, in such a way as to avoid subjecting the user's joints and tendons to potentially harmful loads, and in such a way as to exercise the targeted muscles or muscle groups over their entire range with resistance forces sufficiently great to allow the user to obtain benefits equivalent to those obtained by performing standard weight lifting exercises. By motivating the user to perform a variety of resistance exercise movements in a sequence that is determined by the play of the computer game, the present invention also offers an improvement over ordinary resistance exercise machines and weight machines, which typically require the user to perform exercises in ‘sets’ consisting of multiple repetitions. In contrast to the prior art devices, which involve aerobic-type exercise, the present invention provides an entertaining means of performing resistance exercise, which is known to offer significant health benefits not obtainable by aerobic exercise alone. In particular, resistance exercise, which involves exercising the large muscles of the body through their full ranges of motion against sufficient resistance to produce muscle fatigue after a reasonable number of repetitions (on the order of approximately 10 to 100), has been found to improve muscular strength, reduce body fat, increase muscle mass, improve bone density, and protect against muscle and joint injuries, in ways that aerobic exercise alone does not.
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a preferred embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the same embodiment showing the movement of the actuators.
FIG. 3 is a detail perspective view of the rowing actuator of the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 1.
FIG. 4 is a detail perspective view of the bench press actuator of the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 1.
FIG. 5 is a detail perspective view of the French curl actuator of the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 1.
FIG. 6 is a detail perspective view of the latissimus dorsi pulldown assembly of the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 1.
FIG. 7 is a detail perspective view of the military press actuator of the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 1.
FIG. 8 is a detail perspective view of the bicep curl actuator of the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 1.
- DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
FIG. 9 is an electrical diagram of the sensors comprising the detector means in the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 1.
FIGS. 1 through 9 reflect a preferred embodiment of the invention apparatus, in which there are six actuators 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 and 80, each shown separately in FIGS. 3 through 8, and each providing a range of motion corresponding to a well-known weight training exercise, and each coupled to a resistance consisting of removable weight plates, allowing the resistance force applied to each actuator to be individually determined by attaching one or more weight plates of the desired weights. The support body upon which the actuators are mounted is the support frame assembly 11. Each actuator is mounted to the support body via pivot bolts 35, 44, 54, 64, 75, and 85, respectively, allowing the handle 36, 45, 55, 62, 76, 86 portion of each actuator to move through a range of motion determined by the geometry of the actuator and support body. FIG. 2 indicates by arrows the directions of movement of the six actuators, and shows the location of the pivot bolts 35, 44, 54, 64, 75, and 85. In this embodiment, a bench 90 is provided to support the user in a seated or reclined position. Four of the six actuators 80, 40, 70, and 30, corresponding to four of the allowed exercise movements (military press, row, biceps curl, and latissimus dorsi pulldown respectively), are positioned in such a way as to be operable by the user from a seated position on the bench 90, facing forward (the rightward direction in FIG. 2). The other two actuators 50, 60, corresponding to the other two allowed exercise movements (bench press and French curl, respectively) are positioned in such a way as to be operable by the user from a reclined position on the bench 90. Referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, the user would be seated on the rightward end of the bench, facing rightward; the user may then recline backward on the bench to access the bench press actuator 50 and French curl actuator 60. Mercury switch sensors 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, and 29 are mounted in such a way as to detect the movement of the respective actuators, and the outputs of the sensors are interfaced to the inputs of a standard computer video game (in this embodiment, a falling-blocks game similar to the familiar game Tetris), in such a way that each actuator controls a particular aspect of the computer game. The game output is displayed on the screen of a computer monitor (not shown) situated in a position convenient for viewing by the user from either a seated or reclining position on the bench 90.
The method by which the user operates the apparatus consists of repeatedly selecting one of the six allowed exercise movements so as to perform the desired operation in the computer game, and performing the movement selected. If the selected movement is one of the two operable from a reclining position, and the user is currently in a seated position, the user must recline on the bench before performing it. If the selected movement is one of the four operable from a seated position, and the user is currently in a reclined position, the user must return to a seated position to perform it. In this way, the user obtains the benefit of abdominal exercise from repeatedly reclining and returning to a seated position, in addition to the resistance exercise obtained from performing the selected actuator movements.
In this embodiment of the invention apparatus, the actuators and support body are entirely constructed of steel tubing of standard size (1.5 inch for major load bearing support members, 1 inch for handles and certain other members) and wall thickness (0.125 inch) appropriate for the anticipated loads.
The support body for this embodiment as seen in FIG. 1 has a rear frame assembly 12, a front frame assembly 16, an upper longitudinal frame member 20, and a lower longitudinal frame member 21, with a pair of diagonal frame braces 22 for improved rigidity. The rear frame assembly 12 is constructed from two vertical members 13, an upper horizontal member 14, and a lower horizontal member 15, which are welded into a rectangular unit with the vertical members 13 extending downward to serve as the rear legs of the support frame assembly, and upward to serve as the attachment point for the latissimus dorsi pulldown actuator 30. The front frame assembly 16 is similarly constructed, with two vertical members 17, an upper horizontal member 18, and a lower horizontal member 19, welded into a rectangular unit with the vertical members 17 extending downward to serve as the front legs of the support frame assembly. The upper longitudinal frame member 20 is bolted at one end to the upper horizontal member 14 of the rear frame assembly 12 and at the other end to the upper horizontal member 18 of the front frame assembly 16, extending forward a short distance beyond the front frame assembly 16 so as to serve as the attachment point for the rowing actuator 40. The lower longitudinal frame member 21 is bolted at one end to the lower horizontal member 15 of the rear frame assembly 12 and at the other end to the upper horizontal member 19 of the front frame assembly 16. A pair of diagonal frame braces 22, each extending from the upper part of the rear frame assembly 12 to the lower part of the front frame assembly 16 on the same side, provides additional rigidity, and also serves as a convenient lower limit stop for the range of motion of the bench press actuator 50 by limiting the downward motion of the weight support members 53. Bolts are used instead of welds to attach the longitudinal frame members 20 and 21 and the diagonal frame braces 22 to the front frame assembly 16 and rear frame assembly 12 so as to allow the apparatus to be readily disassembled for moving.
The latissimus dorsi pulldown actuator 30 is constructed as shown in FIG. 3 as a welded unit having a rear longitudinal member 31 for supporting the weight plates 39, a horizontal member 33 connecting the rear longitudinal member 31 to a pair of vertical members 34, each of which are connected to forward longitudinal members 32, at the forward ends of which are mounted the handles 36 by which the user may pull the actuator in a downward direction against the resistance provided by the weight plates 39. The weight plates 39 are secured to the rear longitudinal member 31 by a threaded weight securing bolt 37 welded thereto, and a weight securing nut 38 threaded upon the latter. The complete actuator is mounted to the support body 11 by a pair of pivot bolts 35 (secured with nuts) extending through the vertical members 34, and through the upper part of the vertical members 13 of the rear frame assembly 12, thereby allowing the latissimus dorsi pulldown actuator 30 to pivot around the pivot bolts 35, with the range of movement limited by the horizontal member 33 engaging the vertical members 13 of the rear frame assembly 12. The arrow in FIG. 3 indicates the direction of movement of the latissimus dorsi pulldown actuator 30.
The military press actuator 80 is constructed as shown in FIG. 4 as a welded unit having a longitudinal member 81 extending forward from the mounting point, connected at the forward end to a crossbar 83, from each end of which a diagonal bar 84 extends forward and downward, to which the handles 86 are affixed. Via the handles 86, the user may, from a seated position on the bench 90, move the military press actuator 80 in an upward direction against the resistance provided by the weight plates 89. The weight plates 89 are secured to the forward portion of the longitudinal member 81 by a threaded weight securing bolt 87 welded thereto, and a weight securing nut 88 threaded upon the latter. The military press actuator 80 is mounted by a pivot bolt 85 (secured with a nut) extending through the longitudinal member 81 and through the pivot support bracket 82, which is welded to the upper surface of the longitudinal frame member 20, allowing the military press actuator 80 to pivot around the pivot bolt 85. The downward range of movement of the military press actuator 80 is limited by the longitudinal member 81 resting upon the upper surface of the upper longitudinal frame member 20. The arrow in FIG. 4 indicates the direction of movement of the military press actuator 80.
The biceps curl actuator 70 is constructed as shown in FIG. 5 as a welded unit having a pair of longitudinal members 71 connected by a cross brace 72, with a pair of weight support members 73 extending upward and outward and a pair of handles 76 extending inward from the longitudinal members 71, by which the user may, from a seated position on the bench 90, move the biceps curl actuator upward and rearward against the resistance provided by the weight plates 79. Weight plates 79 are secured to the weight support members 73 by threaded weight securing bolts 77 welded thereto, and weight securing nuts 78 threaded upon the latter. The biceps curl actuator 70 is mounted by a pair of pivot bolts 75 extending through the rearward end of the longitudinal members 71, through spacers 74, and through the mid-area of the longitudinal members 51 of the bench press actuator 50 and secured with nuts, allowing the biceps curl actuator 70 to pivot around the pivot bolts 75. The downward range of movement of the biceps curl actuator 70 is limited by the weight support members 73 engaging the longitudinal members 51 of the bench press actuator 50. The arrow in FIG. 5 indicates the direction of movement of the biceps curl actuator 70.
The rowing actuator 40 is constructed as shown in FIG. 6 as a welded unit having a horizontal member 41 extending rearward along the upper longitudinal frame member 20, a bifurcated gusset 43 attaching the horizontal member 41 to the vertical member 42, and a pair of handles 45 attached to the lower end of the vertical member 42, by which the user may pull the actuator in a rearward direction against the resistance provided by the weight plates 48. The weight plates 48 are secured to the horizontal member 41 by a threaded weight securing bolt 46 welded thereto, and a weight securing nut 47 threaded upon the latter. The rowing actuator 40 is mounted by a pivot bolt 44 extending through the gusset 43 and through the forward end of the upper longitudinal frame member 20 and secured with a nut, thereby allowing the rowing actuator 40 to pivot around the pivot bolt 44, with the range of movement of the rowing actuator 40 limited by the horizontal member 41 engaging the upper longitudinal frame member 20. The arrow in FIG. 6 indicates the direction of movement of the rowing actuator 40.
The bench press actuator 50 is constructed as shown in FIG. 7 as a welded unit having a pair of longitudinal members 51 connected by a cross brace 52, with a weight support member 53 extending outward and a handle 55 extending inward from each longitudinal member 51, by which the user may, from a reclined position on the bench 90, push the bench press actuator 50 in an upward direction against the resistance provided by the weight plates 58. Weight plates 58 are secured to the weight support members 53 by threaded weight securing bolts 56 welded thereto, and weight securing nuts 57 threaded upon the latter. The bench press actuator 50 is mounted to the support frame assembly 11 by a pair of pivot bolts 54 extending through the forward ends of the longitudinal members 51 and through the vertical members 17 of the front frame assembly 16 and secured with nuts, thereby allowing the bench press actuator 50 to pivot around the pivot bolts 54, with the range of movement of the bench press actuator 50 limited by the weight support members 53 engaging the diagonal frame braces 22. The arrow in FIG. 7 indicates the direction of movement of the bench press actuator 50.
The French curl actuator 60 is constructed as shown in FIG. 8 as a welded unit having a pair of longitudinal members 61 connected by a cross-member/handle 62, which serves as both the mounting support for the weight plates 67 and as the handle to be grasped by the user, by which the user may, from a reclined position on the bench 90, rotate the French curl actuator 60 upward and forward against the resistance provided by the weight plates 67. Weight plates 67 are secured to the cross-member/handle 62 by threaded weight securing bolts 65 welded thereto, and weight securing nuts 66 threaded upon the latter. The French curl actuator 60 is mounted by a pair of pivot bolts 64 extending through the forward ends of each of the longitudinal members 61 and through the adjacent diagonal frame brace 22 and secured with nuts, thereby allowing the French curl actuator 60 to pivot around the pivot bolts 64. The downward range of movement of the French curl actuator 60 is limited by a positioning spacer 63 extending downward from the cross-member/handle 62 and engaging the lower horizontal member 19 of the rear frame assembly 12. The arrow in FIG. 8 indicates the direction of movement of the French curl actuator 60.
In this embodiment of the invention, movements of the actuators are detected by mercury switches affixed to each actuator. A mercury switch consists of a non-conductive tube containing a pair of electrical contacts at one end, and containing a small quantity of liquid mercury which is free to move inside the tube under the influence of gravity; when the tube is tilted in such a way that the mercury rolls to the end of the tube having the electrical contacts, the mercury makes a conductive electrical connection between the contacts, closing the switch. The mercury switches 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, and 29 are affixed to each actuator in such a position that when the actuator is in its rest position, the mercury switch affixed to it is in the open position; when the user moves the actuator through its intended range of movement, the orientation of the mercury switch rotates causing the switch to close. In this embodiment, there are six actuators, which are used to control the action of a (prior art) failing-blocks video game similar to Tetris running on an ordinary personal computer. The mercury switches are electrically connected as shown in FIG. 9 to the four joystick fire button inputs of a standard PC joystick port connector 94. (As shown in FIG. 9, since there are six actuators and a standard PC joystick port has only four fire button inputs, two of the actuators have double switches 26, 27 affixed to each, so that movement of either of these actuators causes two of the fire button inputs to be triggered simultaneously.) The mercury switch 29 affixed to the military press actuator 80 is electrically connected between pin 2 of the standard PC joystick port 94, corresponding to joystick port button 1A, and pin 4 ground. The mercury switch 28 affixed to the biceps curl actuator 70 is electrically connected between pin 7 of the standard PC joystick port 94, corresponding to joystick port button 2A, and pin 4 ground. The mercury switch 25 affixed to the rowing actuator 40 is electrically connected between pin 10 of the standard PC joystick port 94, corresponding to joystick port button 1B, and pin 4 ground. The mercury switch 24 affixed to the latissimus dorsi pulldown actuator 30 is electrically connected between pin 14 of the standard PC joystick port 94, corresponding to joystick port button 2B, and pin 4 ground. The double mercury switch 27 affixed to the bench press actuator 50 is connected so that one pole of the switch is between pin 2 of the standard PC joystick port 94, corresponding to joystick port button 1A, and pin 7, corresponding to joystick port button 2A, and the other pole of the switch is between pin 2 and ground; in this way, when the user moves the bench press actuator 50 through its range of movement, pins 2 and 7 are grounded simultaneously, firing the button 1A and 2A inputs simultaneously. Similarly, the double mercury switch 26 affixed to the French curl actuator 60 is connected so that one pole of the switch is between pin 2 of the standard PC joystick port 94, corresponding to joystick port button 1A, and pin 10, corresponding to joystick port button 2A, and the other pole of the switch is between pin 2 and ground; in this way, when the user moves the French curl actuator 60 through its range of movement, pins 2 and 10 are grounded simultaneously, firing the button 1A and 1B inputs simultaneously. Thus, in this embodiment of the invention, the interface means consists of an ordinary 15-pin PC joystick port connector to which the mercury switch detectors are directly connected by wires.
The activation of the fire button inputs are readily detected via software commands in the game program as modified, and used to control the game. The computer game or video game itself is not claimed as part of the present invention, and one of the advantages of the present invention is that it can be used as an input device to play a variety of commercial and public domain games, including without limitation PC games and console games. (As used herein, ‘computer game’ is intended to embrace computer games of any description, including without limitation PC games and console games such as Nintendo, Sega, Sony PlayStation, and Microsoft XBox and their successors, and refers to both the hardware and software, including video or virtual reality display, if any.) It may, of course, be desirable to modify the program code of the game used, so as to better match the six available exercise movements to the controllable aspects of the game; to slow the rate of movement of the game to a degree more compatible with large muscle exercise movements; to add features to the game such as periodically changing which exercise movements correspond to which game inputs so as to avoid overuse of particular movements; to add outputs displaying exercise-related results, such as the number of repetitions performed of various movements; to add features to the game making scoring depend on performing particular movements in a particular desired sequence, so as to make the game more interesting and/or motivate the performance of particular exercise goals; and/or to make other modifications to the game for the purpose of providing a more interesting entertainment or exercise experience. For the embodiment of the invention described here, a freely available open source version of a falling blocks game similar to Tetris, written in the Microsoft QBasic programming language, was used, and the program code of the game itself was modified to read the fire button inputs and control the game accordingly. The program code was further modified to provide six distinct inputs rather than the usual (for Tetris-type games) four. In the game as modified, one input (military press) moves blocks to the right; another (biceps curl) moves Z and I shaped blocks to the left; a third (latissimus dorsi pulldown) rotates shapes to the right; a fourth (rowing) rotates shapes to the left; a fifth (bench press) causes shapes to drop immediately; and the sixth (French curl) moves shapes other than Z and I shapes to the left. (Since moving shapes to the left is the most common movement in this game, it is convenient to divide that movement between two actuators, so that over the course of a complete game a disproportionate number of repetitions of one exercise can be avoided.) It has been found through experimentation that over the course of a complete game (typically approximately 250 individual actuator movements), with the foregoing mapping of actuators to game inputs, the repetitions are divided approximately equally among the six actuator movements.
- CONCLUSIONS, RAMIFICATIONS, AND SCOPE
In this embodiment of the invention, the resistance means consists of ordinary metal weight plates such as are widely used in weight lifting. A typical beginning distribution of weights for a normal adult male user of average size and in reasonable physical condition would be: military press actuator, 20 kg (44 lbs); biceps curl actuator, 15 kg (33 lbs); French curl actuator, 12 kg (25 lbs); bench press actuator, 35 kg (77 lbs); latissimus dorsi pulldown actuator, 35 kg (77 lbs); and rowing actuator, 35 kg (77 lbs). The resistances provided by these weights are intended to be lower than the maximum amount that the user could lift, so as to allow the user to comfortably perform the number of repetitions needed for play of a computer game using the invention (for this embodiment, typically 250 to 350 repetitions over the space of approximately 30 minutes). Many choices of weight are of course possible, depending on the user's exercise goals; as the resistance is increased, typically the number of repetitions that can be performed decreases. (However, one of the advantages of the present invention is that by performing a variety of movements in an unpredictable sequence, instead of sets of numerous repetitions of the same movement, muscles used in one movement are rested briefly while the user is performing other movements, allowing the use of stronger resistance than would otherwise be feasible.) For large muscle exercise, as contemplated by the present invention, it is thought that resistances corresponding to at least approximately one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of weight are necessary to achieve the benefits of meaningful resistance exercise.
It will be seen that the present invention, by providing multiple actuators accessible to the user, each controlling a different aspect of the game, and each having a range of movement corresponding to the natural range of the target muscle group, overcomes both the problem that normal resistance exercise is too repetitive to provide enough separate control signals for interesting game play, and the problem that a single control lever with multiple degrees of freedom does not allow meaningful resistance exercise because of the potential for potentially injurious movements, and because the allowed movements do not correspond to the full range of movement for the muscles to be exercised.
The description of the preferred embodiment herein is quite specific and detailed; these details should not be construed as limitations on the scope of the invention, but rather as exemplification of one preferred embodiment. Many variations are possible, some of which will now be mentioned; accordingly, the scope of the invention should be determined not by the embodiment described in detail above, but by the claims and their legal equivalents.
The actuators can take any form as long as they provide a way for the user to interact with the actuator for the purpose of moving it, and are mounted in such a way as to provide the appropriate range of movement. In the embodiment described herein, all of the actuators were designed to be grasped by the hands, and therefore have handles. Obviously, other variations of the kinds commonly seen in use with resistance exercise machines are possible, including without limitation stirrups for the feet and padded contacts for pushing with the forearms, ankles, or other parts of the body. The shape and makeup of the actuator, and the means of attachment to the support body, are likewise capable of many variations, limited only by the need to restrict the motion of the actuator to a biomechanically appropriate range and to provide sufficient mechanical strength. For example, instead of using lever-type actuators mounted on pivots, it would be possible to use other combinations including without limitation actuators mounted to slide in a slot or on a track, actuators comprising a piston or slide moving in a cylinder, actuators mounted to rotating cams, and various combinations of the foregoing.
The resistance means may comprise any of a large number of possible ways of applying resistance to the motion of a machine part, including without limitation weights moving on a slide and connected to the actuators by cables or chains; hydraulic resistance devices such as hydraulic or pneumatic rams; elastic resistance devices such as springs or elastic cords or bands; friction resistance devices such as friction clutches, and devices applying electromagnetic resistance, such as electric motors or solenoids. It is also possible to make the resistances more easily adjustable than by exchanging weight plates, and/or to make the resistances variable in a prescribed way over the range of motion of the actuator or over the course of a game, so as to better optimize the exercise; with appropriately controllable resistance, it would even be possible to make the resistance depend on the play of the game.
The detector means may comprise any of the universe of possible ways of detecting the movement of a mechanical part, including without limitation microswitches, magnetic switches, pressure switches, variable resistors, optical detectors and photoelectric detectors, and electronic camera devices coupled with movement detection software. It is also possible to modify the detector means so as to detect both the extension of the actuator to its fully extended position and its return to its unextended position, so as to require the user to perform full extensions and full returns in order for the actuator to function. It is possible to use variable resistors or other detector components providing a range of outputs corresponding to a range of actuator positions, rather than the simple binary detector described above.
In the preferred embodiment described in detail above, the actuators are designed to provide a range of motion approximately the same as that of a standard weight lifting exercise. For example, the military press actuator 80 is designed to be moved by the user over a range of motion and against a downward resistance similar to that which the user would experience while performing a military press exercise with an ordinary barbell. It is important that the ranges of motion of the actuators be made to correspond to biomechanically appropriate movements by the user. In particular, for sound resistance exercise, movements should preferably exercise muscles over their entire natural ranges of motion, should apply a resistance force sufficient to fatigue the muscles being exercised after a reasonable number of repetitions but without straining or tearing, and should avoid unnatural, unbalanced, or lateral loads on joints. Within these constraints, there are of course many possible ranges of motion that could be appropriately used.
In the preferred embodiment described in detail above, the detector means (consisting of mercury switches) is interfaced to the computer or video game via an ordinary 15-pin joystick port connector. It is of course necessary for the detector means to communicate with the computer or video game in a manner that the computer or video game hardware and software is capable of receiving. One of the objectives of the present invention is to allow its use with the full gamut of commercially available computer and video games, perhaps with minor modifications to the games (although games specifically designed for use with the invention may also be used). For example, it would be a simple matter to interface the detector means with a commercial video game console such as a Nintendo machine, Sony PlayStation, or the like via the standard interface connector for the console; commercial console games could then be played, perhaps with minor software modifications to better map the exercise movements to the desired game parameters and/or to slow the clock speed of the game to a rate compatible with the invention apparatus. Many PC games a keyboard and/or mouse as the user input device; the detector means may be interfaced to these inputs. It would also be possible to connect the detector means to a more sophisticated interface means, perhaps comprising a microprocessor running appropriate software, that would convert the raw detector signals into input signals for a console game, thereby achieving the desired mapping of exercise movements to game movements without the necessity of modifying the game software. It is also possible, using detector means that report a range of outputs indicating the actual positions of actuators, to interface to game inputs requiring proportional signals, such as mouse or proportional joystick inputs, and thereby to control games requiring such proportional inputs.
In the preferred embodiment described in detail above, the support body consists of a tubular metal frame. The support body may be any structure, of any composition, suitable for attaching the actuators. In the preferred embodiment described above, a bench is attached to the lower longitudinal member of the support body, providing a place for the user to sit or recline while performing exercise using the invention. It would be possible to dispense with the bench by using a combination of actuators such that they would be accessible from a standing position. Other supports for the user are also possible, including a bench that would be moveable and/or adjustable to allow the user to access the actuators more readily. For some exercise movements, it may be desirable to provide straps or other restraints to allow the user to exert full force on the actuators without moving his or her body. It is also possible to modify the actuators, and/or their attachments to the support body, so as to allow the ranges of motions to be adjustable to accommodate users of varying sizes or to provide variations in the exercise movements.
The details of the implementation of the variations just described are straightforward and will be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art.