CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED PATENT APPLICATION
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
This application relates to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/655,165, filed on Feb. 22, 2005, entitled_REAL ACTION NETWORK GAMING SYSTEM.
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates generally to methods and apparatus for playing interactive games or participating in interactivities using a distributed computer system and, more particularly, to methods and apparatus by which a user engages in an interactive game or activity that involves each participant remotely controlling a physical object to effect movement and/or communication related to the game or activity. In one implementation of the present invention, the system and method of the present invention enable each user to remotely control a physical object such as a toy race car and observe the actual movement of the object on a display to remotely participate in a race in substantially real time. In another implementation, the system and method of the present invention enable each user to remotely control and communicate through an object such as an animal or human robot to interact with other robots similarly remotely controlled by other users.
2. Description of the Prior Art
The Internet is a vast computer network having many smaller networks that span the world. A network provides a distributed communicating system of companies and individuals that are interconnected by various electronic communication links and computer software protocols. Because of the Internet's distributed and open network architecture, it is possible to transfer data from one computer to any other computer worldwide. In 1991, the World Wide Web (Web or WWW) revolutionized the way information is managed and distributed through the Internet.
The Web is based on the concept of hypertext and a transfer method known as Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) that is designed to run primarily over a Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) connection that employs a standard Internet setup. A server computer may provide the data, and a client computer may display or process the served data. TCP may convert the messages into streams of packets at the source, then reassembles them back into messages at the destination. Internet Protocol (IP) handles addressing, assuring that packets are routed across multiple nodes and even across multiple networks with multiple standards. HTTP protocol permits client systems connected to the Internet to access independent and geographically scattered server systems also connected to the Internet.
The Web dispenses with command-line utilities that typically require a user to transmit sets of commands to communicate with an Internet server. Instead, the Web is made up of millions of interconnected Web pages, or documents, which can be displayed on a computer monitor. Hosts running special servers provide the Web pages. Software that runs these Web servers is relatively simple and is available on a wide range of computer platforms, including personal computers (PCs). Equally available is a form of client software, known as a Web browser, which is used to display Web pages as well as traditional non-Web files on the client system.
A Web page is static when it requires no variables to display information or link to other predetermined Web pages. A Web page is dynamic when arguments are passed which are either hidden in the Web page or entered from the client browser to supply the necessary inputs displayed on the Web page. Common Gateway Interface (CGI) is a standard for running external programs from a Web server. CGI specifies how to pass arguments to the executing program as part of the HTTP server request. Commonly, a CGI script can take the name and value arguments from an input form of a first Web page that is to be used as a query to access a database server and generate a Web page with customized data results as output that is passed back to the client browser for display. Client-side browsers, for example, Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer, provide efficient graphical user interface (GUI) based client applications that implement the client-side portion of the HTTP protocol. One format for information transfer is to create documents using Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). HTML Web pages are composed of standard text as well as formatting codes that indicate how the page should be displayed. The client-side browser reads these codes in order to display the page.
Traditionally, in the interactive network gaming industry, games have been virtual in nature. For example, a gaming customer registers and logs on to a gaming Web site to enable the customer to control the movement of an animated character, for example. The customer pays the provider of the game, typically by credit card.
Accordingly, a problem addressed by the present invention is how to implement an interactive network gaming system that is not a traditional virtual gaming model based on animation but instead enables a gaming customer to participate in a real action gaming experience by remotely manipulating a physical object. Another problem addressed by the present invention is providing for automated payment to the game provider, and when a credit card is used by the gaming customer, the credit card issuer as well.
Consequently, there is a need to enable gaming customers to achieve the goal of real action gaming by empowering them to participate in games in which the movement or interaction between physical objects can be remotely controlled. Moreover, easy-to-use interfaces and devices for participating in interactive gaming involving remote control of physical objects are also needed.
Furthermore, there is a need to incentivize goods and services providers to provide remote real action interactive gaming as an extension to what has traditionally been local gaming activity by appropriately compensating the providers. Consequently, there is a need for a real action interactive gaming process over the Web or Internet, whereby the providers of games or other interactive activities will be compensated.
It would also be desirable to provide a process and network for displaying movement or other activities involving physical objects comprising a user-friendly interface. It would additionally be desirable to provide a real action gaming capability in a manner that is interactive to improve the ability of the gaming customer to remotely control movement or other interactivity of a physical object. Furthermore, it would be desirable to employ interactivity with the gaming customer to optimize the efficiency of participation.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The real action interactive gaming process and system in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention is targeted at solving the foregoing problems by approaching the problems in a unique way to provide desired participation in games involving the movement or other interaction of physical objects by gaming customers and compensation to game providers easily and efficiently, including interaction with the customers resulting in a user-friendly, interface to control physical objects employed in the game or other activity.
It is a general object of the present invention to provide a method and apparatus for gaming that satisfies a set of gaming needs that are not presently satisfied by existing virtual games.
It is another object of the present invention to provide such a method and apparatus for providing a real action game through an interactive dialog with a user.
It is a further object of the present invention to provide such a method and apparatus under software control for employing the responses by the user during the interactive dialog to control a physical object in an efficient manner.
It is an additional object of the present invention to satisfy a high level of interest in real action games and a willingness to pay significant fees to play them.
It is an additional object of the present invention to include the capability to account for payment of fees from the gaming customer to the game provider upon beginning participation in a real action game.
Accordingly, the present invention provides an embodiment of a new concept in interactive games. One embodiment of the system and method in accordance with the present invention implements an exciting new concept in games that can be played over the Web or Internet. In comparison to known interactive games available over the Web or Internet, the games provided by the various embodiments of the present invention are not computer generated virtual games but instead are actual real games and real activities that can be played in substantially real time over the Web or Internet.
Considered in more detail, the apparatus and method in accordance with the preferred embodiment of the present invention provide a new concept in games that can be played over the Web or Internet referred to as the real action Internet gaming system (“RAIGS”). For example, the apparatus and method of the present invention enable a user to engage in an interactive game or activity that involves each participant remotely controlling a physical object to effect movement and/or communication related to the game or activity. In one implementation of the present invention, the system and method of the present invention enable each user to remotely control a physical object and observe the actual movement of the object on a display to remotely participate in a game or other activity in substantially real time over a computer network. The apparatus and method in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention create a real action gaming environment through an interactive session by the gaming customer with a game provided over the Web or Internet by a game provider.
The creation of real action gaming by selecting from a host of suppliers and vendors has substantial advantages compared to simply having virtual gaming Web sites. Thus, the apparatus and method in accordance with the present invention enable other goods and services providers to create selected gaming environments for gaming customers.
The business model in accordance with the present invention affords monetary incentives to game providers and other goods and services providers. The providers can also be automatically compensated upon participation in a game or other activity by the gaming customer.
Considered in more detail, the present invention provides a method and apparatus for effectively and efficiently enabling a gaming customer to request a game or other activity and retrieving and displaying the movement of a physical object remotely controlled by the gaming customer on a user interface on a computer display or other monitor. One embodiment of the present invention provides an interactive procedure to facilitate a gaming customer's search for available games and other activities in which the gaming customer can participate. The interactive procedure provides a dialog to narrow the search to facilitate retrieval of a game of interest to the gaming customer and to more efficiently converge on the game of interest to the user.
A Web site may be established by one embodiment of the method and apparatus in accordance with the present invention as a resource to gaming customers for access to delineate the offering of games and other activities that are available at the game provider level. There is a plurality of game and other activity providers from whom games and other activities may be selected, and hence the community of providers is a complex community of potentially varied suppliers and vendors, including direct and indirect competitors who compete either in the same games or activities or provide alternatives to gaming customers.
The real action gaming system in accordance with the various embodiments of the present invention consists of software that runs on a computer system to access an interactive game or other activity at the request of the gaming customer. The real action gaming system focuses on making access to and participation in a game or other activity a user-friendly and efficient operation for the gaming customer.
One primary feature of the real action gaming system in accordance with the various embodiments of the present invention is enabling interaction with the user participating in a game or other activity to remotely control a physical object over the Web or Internet. The user is also able to easily view movement of the physical object on a display or other monitor. The user is further able to effect other transactions, for example, paying the provider of the game or other activity such as effecting payment by credit or debit card.
Additionally, various embodiments of the method and apparatus in accordance with the present invention provide accounting for compensation to the provider of the game or other activity upon participation by the gaming customer. One embodiment for accounting is based on a payment to the provider of the game or other activity by credit card, for example, which is preferably the Web site accessed for access to the game or other activity, but may be an independent accounting Web site. Finally, another embodiment is based on involving a credit or debit card issuer to automatically process the gaming customer's payment, to pay the agreed amount to the provider of the game or other activity by a charge to that gaming customer's credit or debit card account, which may include deduction of a service charge accessible against the provider of the game or other activity for handling the accounting, and to pay the provider the remainder. This implements a multi-tiered business model.
The real action gaming system and associated user interface in accordance with the preferred embodiment of the present invention do not require any extraordinary skill or sophistication on the part of the gaming customer in order to effectively access and participate in a game or other activity. Also, the user interface provides an interactive dialog to guide the user to locate information of interest to select a game or other activity that is available. The user interface provides a dialog to aid the gaming customer participating in an interactive game or other activity involving the remote control of a physical object over the Web or Internet. The gaming customer's selections and entries of information during the interactive dialog are also employed to select a game or other activity in which to participate and to effect payment by the gaming customer, enabling an efficient income-generating value-added service for the provider of the game or other activity to provide the gaming customer.
The games and other activities can be adapted to be played through user interaction with a distributed computing system over the Web or Internet, which is described in more detail below. For example, the system may comprise an Internet capable “Dreamcast” video console commercially available from Sega. These consoles enable gaming customers to play an exciting new type of game. This is a powerful tool to promote the sale of these consoles as consumers will be very interested in playing these new games. The games can also be made to be played with the use of other devices that are connected to the Web or Internet, including, but not limited to, cellular phones, PAD devices, and portable computers.
The real action gaming system in accordance with various embodiments of the present invention satisfies a set of gaming needs that is not presently satisfied by existing virtual games on the Web or Internet. In addition, market research indicates that these games will potentially generate over $50,000,000 in online gaming fees in just the first three years of their launch. Other economic benefits that may be expected from this real action gaming concept and which are further explained below include: a significant increase in the share of the gaming market by the provider of games and other activities due to new markets that this concept will tap; increase in sales of other software products offered by the game provider by using a special Web site set up for this concept as a portal to draw gaming traffic to its other products; and high market value (estimated at over $100,000,000 within three years' time) of any new division or subsidiary that is established to provide real action gaming due to high valuation of unique Web sites that have high traffic.
- BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING
The foregoing and other objects, features, and advantages of the present invention will become more readily apparent from the following detailed description of various embodiments.
The various embodiments of the present invention will be described in conjunction with the accompanying figure of the drawing to facilitate an understanding of the present invention. In the figure, like reference numerals refer to like elements. In the drawing:
- DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
FIG. 1 shows a diagram of the real action network gaming system in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.
The following definitions are adopted for the purpose of the following description of the embodiments of the real action gaming system in accordance with the various embodiments of the present invention.
Gaming Customer: The term “gaming customer” refers to a person or other entity who participates in a game or other activity and who may pay for participation in a game or other activity provided by a provider of games or other activities or a goods and services supplier or vendor.
Goods and Services Suppliers and Vendors: The term “goods and services suppliers and vendors” refers to companies or individuals that provide goods and/or services to gaming customers to whom the goods and services are provided.
Real Action Gaming System: A technology in accordance with the various embodiments of the present invention developed to provide interactive games and other activities to gaming customers and for participating in games and other activities that involve the remote control of a physical object.
The following describes the use case scenarios for the real action gaming system in accordance with the present invention. The following generally summarizes the system requirements.
The system requirements that are needed to implement one embodiment of the real action Web or Internet gaming (RAIG) system are described below in appropriate sections which describe those particular games or activities. As shown in FIG. 1, the system requirements cover the hardware and software and set-up facilities to implement the RAIG system. The system requirements that comprise the hardware and software needed to implement the RAIG system exist commercially and are technically as well as economically feasible to implement. One or more digital video cameras 12 linked to a computer 14 at the site of the game or other activity are provided to video the ongoing game or other activity. The cameras 12 video the action and are connected to the computer 14 at the site of the game or other activity to preferably transmit the video in real time to a special RAIG Web site 16 via the Web or Internet 18. The RAIG Web site 16 comprises computer hardware and software to implement the different live action games or other activities. Participants with a Web or Internet connection 18 having a computer 20 with a display or monitor able to handle video are already widespread and may access the RAIG Web site 16 to choose a game or other activity in which they want to participate. In summary and in general the system hardware requirements are as follows.
An average home computer is capable of playing RAIG system games or other activities. On the one hand, a high speed Internet connection is preferably provided to play games that need fast response such as remote car races. On the other hand, a slower Internet connection such as a 56K modem is sufficient to play other games that do not need a fast immediate response, for example, games such as flag planting and pitching a baseball. Additionally, a microphone and speakers may be required for some games, and a keyboard and sometimes a joystick or other game device 22 (e.g., a game pad) to play certain games are required. The venue or locale of the games or other activities is typically an already existing site such as a remote control race car track 24 shown in FIG. 1 or boating site, as well as other gaming and entertainment sites that preferably already provide remote controlled games or other activities employing remote controlled physical objects but at which gaming participants are present rather than connected over the Web or Internet.
In accordance with one embodiment of the RAIG system in accordance with the present invention, a main Web site is provided for operating the RAIG system for convenience and by way of an example in which one entity can apply the RAIG system concept. The Web site is typically accessed by a typical gaming customer logging on to participate in a game or other activity. The RAIG system allows people to play actual (not virtual) games interactively in real time over the Web or Internet. The gaming customer logs on with his or her user name and password and selects a game, for example, a race car game or other activity that has an associated software program to execute the processes needed for the gaming customer to participate in the game. The gaming customer may play the race car game, for example, from his or her home or at an arcade connected to the Web site sending the signals from the home computer or arcade computer over the Web or Internet to the RAIG Web site, which then routes the signals to the game venue. The RAIG system can alternatively be configured to employ a commercially available game console such as the Internet capable Sega Dreamcast console, for example, rather than the computer 20 and game device 22.
The software requirements are as follows. All the software to play the different games or orchestrate the other activities is preferably located on the main RAIG Web site. The software operates each game or other activity including transmitting the signals sent by the gaming customer from his or her home computer or the arcade computer to the game venue computer and sending back to the gaming customer the visuals from the game site. The software handles all the gaming customer's information, log in, and the like, and may maintain statistics of each gaming customer's scores and rank, as well as handling other matters related to playing the RAIG system games such as payment.
At the game destination, for example, at a race car track venue, is the computer 14 which transmits the gaming customer's signals through a remote control device 26 (transmitter) coupled to the destination computer. The signals are transmitted to the physical object being controlled such as a race car 28, thus allowing the gaming customer to control the race car on the actual race track over the Web or Internet. The remote control device 26 may be a commercially available remote control device modified to receive signals from the computer at the gaming venue and used to control the race cars at the race track. At the race track or other destination of different RAIG system games, one or more commercially available remote Web cams 12 are installed to video and transmit the view of the race track or other venue to the destination computer and back to the gaming customer over the Web or Internet, thus allowing the gaming customer to race his or her car or participate in some other activity involving movement of a physical object.
Other games employ other physical devices and objects and materials that may be used to play different games with the RAIG system, including fishing rods, remote controlled boats, remote rocket launchers, games found in arcades such as table hockey, skeet shooting rifles, board games, entertainment park activities (for example, water pistol balloon filling), wish fulfilment devices such as a flag planter, a pitching device, etc. All of these devices and games would all be accessible at the main RAIG Web site, which would allow a gaming customer the ability to remotely control and participate in those actual real action games and in those other activities over the Web or Internet in real time.
Various examples of RAIG games and other activities will now be described in more detail. One example of an actual Web or Internet game is actual remote controlled race car races.
Participants from anywhere in the world can control an actual motorized or electric mini (toy) race car from their home computers or game consoles and race other people from across the globe on an actual race track set up for racing such cars. This has never been done before and would place the gaming provider at the forefront of the world gaming industry. The actual locale with the set-up to manage the car races already exists and has been found to be satisfactory for this purpose. Additional game features may include city teams where each city has one car. The residents of each city can participate and be members of their team. They can vote and decide who will be the driver, as well as who will be back-up driver, team president, etc. This participation model will draw a great deal of traffic to the RAIG Web site.
Because there are existing hobby race track sites, capital investment needed to implement the RAIG system will be minimized. Modifications required are to set up the video cameras and the remote control devices to control the race cars linked to an onsite computer which is in turn connected by the Web or Internet to the RAIG Web site and thence to the home computer or game console of the gaming customer. Cost and revenue forecasts indicate that the investment would be quickly recouped.
Some reasons for the expected success and profitability of this game are that:
- Gaming customers are willing to pay to race a car over the Web or Internet as they are already used to paying significant amounts to race cars (purchase of a car, batteries, etc.) at existing hobby race tracks.
- Hobby race track sites are not always close to interested racers.
- With the RAIG system, gaming customers would not have to buy an expensive car or travel long distances to a competitive race track club.
- Gaming customers can race people from different countries.
- Racers can play from the comfort of their homes.
- Only a low investment is required. The RAIG Web site could lease the track or enter a revenue sharing arrangement with the race track owner, where the race track owner would receive a percentage of revenues generated by his or her track in exchange for managing the site and the races. Such a method would additionally reduce upfront set-up costs. The actual game would be an extension from virtual racing simulations such as Sega Sports CART presently sold for the Dreamcast console. A cross promotion strategy may also provide high synergies to boost sales of simulation games.
The race car game may also be accessed in an arcade connected by the Web or Internet to the RAIG Web site. Because of the quick response time needed for car racing, these races preferably have a fast Web or Internet connection at both the uploading and downloading sides. Therefore, these car races may be best implemented in an arcade environment or in a special game centre that can be offered as a franchise to reduce investment. The games would be played on an arcade computer with a large screen that already exists at reasonable prices. This computer would be connected to a fast Web or Internet connection such as a T1, a DSL, or ATM line. An arcade game like this in an arcade would be a unique and exciting phenomenon and would be an instant hit with the new Internet generation. It would also be very profitable because it would provide the additional benefit of being in an arcade environment in which people are already accustomed to paying for game play. It should be noted that this race car game can also be easily played from a home PC as long as it has a fast Internet connection which are widespread today.
In addition, the investment would not be very large for each arcade computer set-up and would be considerably less than for an average arcade game. Additionally, gaming customers would have the option of playing different games from the same computer. Alternatively, a particular game that is played can be rotated at regular intervals, by just linking to different software. It should be noted that most of the other games and activities that will be described below can be easily played from the gaming customer's home.
Additional games are also contemplated. One such game is bass fishing. The RAIG system can actually allow a gaming customer to fish from the luxury of his or her office or home. What executive wouldn't like to try that sometime on a nice warm day when he or she is thinking about doing some relaxing fishing. He or she can simply access the RAIG Web site and rent an actual fishing rod and fish in a real lake or river. The fishing rod with hundreds of others will be placed in different locations around a beautiful lake or along a stream. The gaming customer simply clicks on a key on his or her computer or game console to cast the line. He or she can then go back to work or linger a bit taking in the landscape sent by the Web video camera. While back at work, a remote sensor will notify the gaming consumer when a fish is on the line. He or she will then reel in the fish by clicking on another key. In addition, a service may be provided to deliver the gaming customer's catch on ice to him or her. The gaming customer can then show the fish at his or her office or home and even cook the fish and enjoy the fish at a meal. The real action fishing experience is quite feasible and profitable, and surveys of people document that the fishing concept appeals to them.
Surveys and feasibility and profitability research show that there are many other games with high profit potential. They include the following.
Another game is boat races. The boat race is similar to race car races but smaller response time is required. The remotely controlled boats and sites already exist, and so the RAIG system would be inexpensive and easily implemented. The RAIG system may provide international long term competitions to draw more traffic and generate sustained long term cash flows.
Yet another game is an automobile crash derby. There is a great deal of interest in being able to participate in an actual crash derby. Participants can purchase inexpensive remote controlled cars online and enter the event. The winner moves on to other competitions. Winners' circles, tournaments, and prizes can be incorporated.
A further game is rocket launches. Gaming customers as well as rocket hobbyists can launch an actual model rocket at a distant launching pad for a fee and view the rocket ascend. He or she can, in addition, download the video of the launch onto his or her computer's hard disk or to a writable CD ROM for future viewing and showing to friends. He or she may also easily e-mail a video file to whomever he or she wants. Again, rocket launching is expected to prove profitable because of the small investment required, as the launch site and launches are to be managed by the site's owner. Additionally, launching rockets is anticipated to generate high revenues as people are already accustomed to paying significant fees for launching rockets.
The RAIG Web site may also have conventional but actual board games to allow gaming customers the opportunity to play games on real boards, including such games as Monopoly™, chess, checkers, and other games. The RAIG Web site would cater to a large market of game players who would prefer to play with distant people on actual boards instead of on virtual ones on which they are forced to play at present. These people want to experience actual physical movement of pieces on actual boards. They are not psychologically satisfied with the virtual playing of such games, as their experience is playing with actual game boards. Research shows the above to be true and reveals that the market for such actual gaming is large. Moreover, the investment is low as many of these games already exist in virtual forms.
The RAIG system is also conducive to implementation as actual entertainment park activities. For example, the RAIG Web site can allow gaming customers to have online access to an actual entertainment park. They may play competitive games such as a water pistol balloon filling game, and other games and activities that are already automated or can be automated with minimal investment. The preferred games include ones that:
- allow multiple players to participate in order to maximize game revenues;
- are already automated, thus allowing easy connection to the RAIG Web site and minimal investment to set up;
- allow for tournaments, and a learning curve, which generate long term gaming revenues and increased Web site traffic;
- accommodate forming teams around each actual player, which would also increase revenues and traffic to the Web site;
- one does not have easy access to entertainment park activities; and
- one normally pays a fee to play such entertainment park activities, so people will be willing to pay a fee here also.
The RAIG system can also incorporate arcade games. Some arcade games such as table hockey may be connected to the RAIG Web site allowing one-on-one games as at present, or multiple player teams, for example, one person per hockey player. Each player can signal to his team mates that he or she would like a pass by causing his helmet to light, for example. This popular but basic game is quite popular because of the real action that many people still crave. Available at the RAIG Web site, this game would be quite popular and profitable. In addition, it lends itself well to tournaments and competitions.
The RAIG system also accommodates third-party game development and management. As indicated above, one option to develop new games and keep the original investment to a minimum is to enable third-party development of new games. Any person or entity having a race track or other already existing game site, that wants to be part of the RAIG Web site, can arrange to become a game provider. They would be required to manage the game venue and the daily events taking place, in exchange for a percentage of revenues generated from using that game site, for example. Research of goods and services suppliers and vendors has been conducted, and this concept has been found to be quite feasible. The software needed for the game may also be open to third-party development. Goods and services suppliers and vendors simply have to place the Web video cameras and remote control devices linked to a computer at each site and handle the traffic from the RAIG Web site. It is also contemplated that the investment can be further reduced by having the site owner set up and handle the Web video cameras and onsite computer functions so that the RAIG Web site simply manages the RAIG Web site and marketing.
The RAIG system may also be configured to allow participation in war games to start a simulated war or enable a gaming customer to at least defend his or her nation against a hostile enemy. A gaming customer can actually be part of an army and control his or her own remote controlled military vehicle. Employing existing tanks and jeeps with infrared laser beam guided weapons and receptors that are programmed to count hits, gaming customers can have two or more armies engage in a realistic play war resulting in counted fatalities, destroyed vehicles, and a victor at the end of the battle. This is all technically and economically feasible as these war games actually take place at certain hobby clubs. To minimize cost and investment, the RAIG Web site may enter an arrangement with the owner of the club to manage the battle venue for a percentage of revenues, for example. A computer to manage remotely controlled devices and Web video cameras is connected over the Web or Internet to the RAIG Web site to the scene to enable the gaming customers to participate.
Below is an example of an implementation of one embodiment of the RAIG system for war games. In the following war games example, gaming customers from different locations on the globe can control in substantial real time over the Web or Internet actual remote control tanks, jeeps, or other vehicles and engage each other in actual battle in a common location with real winners and losers. Each person would control his vehicle or artillery device and be part of an army. Typically, there would be two armies with each army having approximately 10 persons or more battling each other on a common physical terrain. The remote military vehicles would include current off-the-shelf remote controlled tanks and jeeps that can fire actual airsoft bb's and move on the terrain as the vehicles battle each other. The terrain of the battle site would be ground and sand with pits and other small obstacles. Each army has its fortress with five targets on its side of the field. To emerge victorious, an army must achieve an objective such as shooting down the five targets on top of the enemy's fortress. The tanks and jeeps are allowed to shoot each other and ram each other into the pits. Below are more details as to implementation. Alternatives are possible.
- 1) Physical location: approximately 100 feet by 100 feet square. Preferably, the terrain is flat hard earth.
- 2) Web video cameras: One or two high quality digital video cameras for live streaming video of the battle scene mounted at elevated level. An example is a StarDot netcam digital Internet camera with integrated Web server which can send the video to the Web or Internet where it will be sent to the players PCs, appearing on their monitors as a substantial real time viewing of the battle scene and their vehicles. Some details are IP addressable, built in Web server. The Web video cameras provide up to 640×480 resolution with easy set-up.
- 3) Remote controlled battle vehicles: One example is the Panzer Giant airsoft RC Battle tank which is off-the-shelf for approximately $100. This tank has a working gun turret which fires small pellets up to 28 yards. The size is two-and-one-half feet. Another vehicle is the Military truck which is also off-the-shelf such as the remote control airsoft Military truck which has revolving gun turret and fires bb's.
- 4) Users need an average home PC with a Web or Internet connection to play. A fast connection such as a DSL connection is preferred for better video. A joystick such as the Logitech Dexxa joystick with a cable interface type and six buttons is optional.
- 5) Game Server Portal: Players' control signals are sent from their PC keyboards, joysticks, or game pads over the Web or Internet to the main “game server portal” located on the Web, which in turn redirects the signals to an on-site computer located at the game site (here the war games location). The “game server portal” is where gaming customers register as members; enter credit or debit card information; where members' statistics are listed, bulletin boards are provided, etc., and where members go to select which game they wish to play. In this case they select war games and then which nation's army they wish to join and which vehicle they wish to control.
- 6) On-Site Gaming Computer: As mentioned above the players' control signals are sent from their PC's to the “game server portal” which then redirects the signals to the “on-site gaming computer” (hosted on a game server) and located at the war game site. The “on-site gaming computer” then converts these control signals to specific radio frequency control signals that are then transmitted by radio frequency transmitters to the remote controlled vehicles causing them to move or fire their weapons in battle.
- 7) Once one army wins, the game ends and the results are declared on-line, and the statistics are imputed to the “game server portal.” Points are counted and tournaments held where others battle each other and the winners battle each other in quarter and semi finals through the final battle for the championship.
These war games played over the Web or Internet would be popular for the following reasons:
- their high action level;
- their team involvement and cooperative component;
- they allow people the luxury of playing them from the comfort of their homes or the excitement of an arcade;
- players can build armies with other players from anywhere in the world;
- war games are already popular among the youth and middle aged market segments;
- there is a large untapped market for war games among gaming customers who would like to play this type of game but find the physical sites too far away; and
- gaming customers are already willing to spend significant amounts to play this type of game.
Another application of the RAIG system is wish fulfilment. The RAIG Web site can be applied to another field which is expected to be groundbreaking and very profitable, namely, the RAIG Web site can be employed to allow people to do things that they really wish they could do but can't for different reasons including distance or cost. For example, the theme could be, for example, “What would you like to do today?” Thus, the RAIG Web site can basically function as a wish fulfilment Web site. For example, the RAIG system can be applied to allow participants to:
- Plant a Flag in the Sahara Desert or upon Mount Everest. One flag planting device would not require a very large investment. A printer would print the name of the gaming customer on the flag. One would see his or her flag being planted.
- Pitch a Ball at Wrigley's Field. An existing remote controlled pitching machine can be connected to the RAIG system via the Web or Internet. The investment would not be large and would lend itself to volume business due to the short duration of each pitching event.
- Drop a Penney in a Certain Distant Well. The penny dropping mechanism already exists and would be controlled remotely by a gaming customer through the RAIG Web site. Thus, the investment would be minimal. The use of third-party management and multiple machines would keep the cost low and increase the capacity for gaming customers and thereby increase revenues.
- Shout into the Grand Canyon, and Hear an Echo. Very little investment would be required, and gaming customers would find the activity fun. The small investment of a speaker system and microphone would draw a large amount of traffic to the RAIG Web site, and the activity could be provided for a nominal charge.
- Anyone for Skeet Shooting? This game would lure executives in the office and allow the RAIG system to provide an entry into this potentially lucrative executive entertainment market, composed of professionals and businessmen who are willing to pay significant fees to play executive style games. Tournaments by company, and other tournament ideas with sponsorship potential, are possible and potentially lucrative. A section of the RAIG Web site, or another Web site, may be dedicated to executive entertainment, which would include skeet shooting and other actual entertainment. A fast corporate Internet connection would be best for this activity.
Additionally, analysis shows that the RAIG system integrates very well with products produced by toy companies, such as Sega Toys, specifically, adapted versions of the “Poo-chi” robot dog and humanoid toy robots (“BOTS”) and should be very successful and profitable if applied to them. For example, visualize the following robotic toy scenarios when the RAIG system is applied to robotic toys. It would expand the scope of the robotic toy industry and further place the toy company at the forefront of robotic toys.
Imagine friends controlling a Web or Internet adapted W-BOT over the Web or Internet and racing their friends' BOTS in real time, seeing the actual action as it unfolds at a real location using Web video cameras to catch all the action. Gaming customers would enter into different events that are limitless, including obstacle courses, picking up blocks competitions, and the like. The RAIG system can also continue the theme of communication that is being displayed by the present BOTS; for example, one person can communicate over the Web or Internet to the other person's BOT which transfers one's feelings and emotions and message in real time to a receiver implanted in the friend's BOT. In actuality, the RAIG system would be employed to create a robotic message and communications zone in which people can communicate with each other in real time, also expressing emotions, over the Web or Internet, as will be described in more detail below.
- 1) The RAIG system can create a toy farm or robot village in which all the humanoid robots and Poo-chis or other animals are located. A gaming customer would access the Web or Internet and log in to a special Web site, e.g., www.RobotVillage.com. Once at the site, the gaming customer may select from a list of robots such as which Poo-chi or humanoid BOT he or she wants to control or which game he or she wants to play. One could select a humanoid robot like W-BOT and choose to enter a robot race with other robots controlled by other gaming customers from around the world. Visualize racing a dog or humanoid robot against 5-10 others remotely controlled by others from across the globe in real time. Such a Web site would be very exciting and profitable. As mentioned, a gaming customer could choose from a list of activities such as:
- a) Communicate with someone: A selection would bring the gaming customer into a private chat room with BOTS that one can use to communicate with the other party. A Web video camera would show all the action, and the messages would be seen live and transmitted over the Web or Internet.
- b) Community building activities: One selects a robot to be part of a family of robots. For example, one gaming customer chooses the baby, and in that special family room there are other robots already placed. For example, someone from England selects to be the older brother, and from Japan, someone selects to be the father, etc. Subsequently, the gaming customers can move the robots around the family room, including a play kitchen, TV room, and the like. The masters of the robots can communicate with each other and (by a remote transmitter implanted in his or her BOT and controlled in real time by the master over the Web or Internet) the master of the BOT can turn the TV on and off, and conduct other activities such as make the BOT move and talk with the other BOTS. The action would last, say, 10-15 minutes, and would be satisfying. The activity would finally provide a means for people to cause actual action and movements over the Web or Internet as opposed to presently where mostly everything is virtual (non-real), leaving that basic human need for actual movement and contact unsatisfied. And, it is evident that whenever a presently unsatisfied basic need can be satisfied, as here, there lies the potential for a very profitable opportunity.
- c) Another exciting activity is for the current owner of an already purchased BOT (with the aid of a Web video camera that can transmit the actions and emotions of his or her BOT located at his or her home in front of a Web video camera) over the Web or Internet to his or her friend's computer monitor allowing live real time communication. One can talk to his or her BOT and tell it what to say to his or her friend, i.e., his BOT might say “How are you?” The message is then transmitted including the sound (picked up by the microphone attached to the computer) to his or her friend's BOT as the sound is transmitted over the Web or Internet and reproduced by the speaker at the friend's home. The other BOT then responds on behalf of his master “I am fine.” This activity is very inexpensive and would provide an exciting avenue over the Web or Internet to enhance communications between friends utilizing an already existing and popular BOT robot.
- d) The list of potential activities that can be played over the Web or Internet with these BOTS is limited only by the imagination.
Market research shows that people are willing to pay significant fees to be able to play these kinds of games over the Web or Internet. The revenues can be generated in different manners. A monthly membership fee may be charged to join the RAIG Web site, and monthly fees may be charged which give one the right to use the robots for a certain amount of time. There can be basic to deluxe packages with the latter providing more time and/or access to more types of robots. Fees of $10-$30 a month would be acceptable and could result in significant revenues, and the revenues would be continuous as opposed to only a one-time purchase of the BOT. One can also buy BOTs, which would be showcased at the center, thus leading to multiple BOT purchases per consumer. Lastly, one may promote the sale of the BOTs over the RAIG Web site resulting in increased exposure and sales, and it is roughly estimated, due to the present popularity of robotic toys, that the robotic embodiment can generate approximately $100-$150 million of revenues starting the second year of the launch. Revenue growth of between 20-35% is expected for following years as more games and activities are added. The popularity of this concept should have a spillover effect (cross-promotional effect) and increase the sales of the actual BOTs, as the robotic embodiment would provide the gaming customer with the ability to test and play with robots, which should encourage purchases of the robot at a later stage.
It would be relatively inexpensive to set up such a Web site and set up the activity centers containing the BOTs. To adapt the BOT, one would implant into the current models or future models produced specifically for this embodiment a receiver to receive messages and commands sent from a gaming customer's computer over the Web or Internet. A transmitter at the location would convey the signal to the BOT. This technology all exists and is quite inexpensive. In addition, the onsite Web video cameras that transmit over the Web or Internet presently exist and are inexpensive. Costs of the RAIG system for the robotic embodiment are estimated to be about 10-20% of revenues such that the net present value (market value) is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars.
The RAIG system supports various business models for interactive gaming over the Web or Internet with a central operating Web site. There are several options in order to maximize the profits and value of the business. Three basic approaches that apply to real action Web or Internet gaming are as follows.
One business model is to generate net cash inflows and profits by generating revenues either by charging game participants monthly subscription fees to participate in games or other activities, or by selling the software on line for each game or activity. Gaming customers would download the software for a particular game or activity and then participate. In addition, the RAIG Web site can benefit from the high traffic at the site to sell other products and games. Banner advertising, links, and the like, can also be used to generate cash flow. Even T-shirts, etc., can be sold to this new and large community of players and fans.
A second business model is to set up the RAIG Web site as a separate division or subsidiary of a gaming entity and use it to maximize traffic (eyeballs) to the site, from game players and viewers. A Web site that can generate a great deal of traffic draws interest from major portals such as Microsoft Corp., Yahoo!, and AOL who actively seek out and pay top dollar for such high traffic sites. Thus, other Web sites may be willing to pay a substantial sum (roughly in the hundreds of millions of dollars) to acquire such a division or to merge it in an already existing gaming network for several reasons:
- The high traffic the Web site is generating would be very attractive as an acquiring entity would want to direct those (eyeballs) to its networks and services. This is substantiated by the experience of “Hotmail”, the free e-mail service that was bought by Microsoft Corp. for four hundred million dollars for the high traffic generated by that Web site. And Hotmail is just one acquisition out of a list of over 2,600 technology acquisitions completed in 1999, with over 300 of them worth over one hundred million dollars.
- The eyeballs would be considered “very sticky.” That is, the people watching the games would spend time on the Web site and be involved at a higher level than with most sites. Portals favour sticky eyeball traffic.
- The RAIG Web site would draw attention as eyeballs would see it as something new that must be added to the portfolio of Web services that they want.
A third business model is to set up the RAIGS system as a new entity and have in mind the possibility of an IPO. An IPO would lend itself well for this business due to:
- potential high brand name recognition;
- perception of the RAIG Web site as an innovator;
- perception of the RAIG entity as a firm that will be able to make the business very profitable in gaming entertainment; and
- an Internet business such as this has a high perceived market value.
The RAIG system and Web site support high forecasted profits. Some reasons and estimates indicated by market research and cost benefit analysis are low game development costs and upfront risk due to third-party development. Even if an entity is established to set up each RAIG site (Web video cameras, computer, etc.) the estimate is less than three months to profitability assuming just moderate game success. Almost all game revenues after that point in time will be profits. It is estimated that these new games should generate tens of millions of dollars in online gaming revenues with a high profit margin from subscription fees (not including potential for software sales), during the first three years after launch. Sales and profits should steadily but rapidly increase as the RAIG Web site develops and the market expands.
While the foregoing description has been with reference to particular embodiments of the present invention, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that changes in these embodiments may be made without departing from the principles and spirit of the invention. Accordingly, the scope of the present invention can only be ascertained with reference to the appended claims.