- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
This application claims priority from provisional application 60/685,157, filed on May 27, 2005, the provisional application explicitly incorporated in full into this application.
1. Field of the Invention
This invention pertains generally to gaming machine cabinets found in establishments such as Nevada-style and Amerindian casinos, Amerindian bingo halls, and the like. More particularly, the present invention discloses a novel ergonomically designed gaming machine.
2. The Prior Art
Gaming machine cabinets have had certain traditional or standard configurations, typically categorized as one of uprights, slat tops, or bar tops. These machines are found in casinos, Amerindian bingo halls, bars, and the like. Examples of upright gaming cabinets with top boxes are seen in U.S. Design Pats. D458,971 and D496,407. U.S. Pat. No. 6,820,875 shows an upright style gaming cabinet which has been divided into a system component box and a monitor box. U.S. Pat. No. 5,813,914 shows a typical slant top gaming machine combined with a top box. Bar top machines typically have flat, or slightly upraised, upper surfaces where the player views the screen looking down through a glass top or cover. This allows for the constant cleaning needed in a bar environment, as well as the need for waitrons and customers to reach over the gaming machine for drinks, food, etc.
Upright cabinets have a main display device centered in the upper body of the cabinet, below which is a player control area. The control area is attached so as to slope down and forward from the display area. The control area is just large enough for the controls (usually a button deck), typically being 4″-6″ proud of the display. Some uprights add a small bolster in front of the control area continuing at a downward slope to providing some hand support, but no arm support (see, e.g., U.S. Pat. No. 6,886,896, FIG. 2, or U.S. Pat. D450,094). This configuration requires the player to sit either straight up or to lean back, away from the gaming machine (see, e.g., U.S. Pat. No. 6,638,166). A player sits in an erect position with very little (or no) back support and no arm support, with their arms and hands extended toward the control area controls while assuming a “lean-back” posture. When this is done for extended periods of time, player discomfort takes over and a player may be induced to “take a break” from play in order to stretch or relax. It is often at this juncture that a player will assess his current situation and decide to leave a machine in favor of another or to leave the casino altogether.
Slant top machines typically have a cabinet where the player display area includes a video monitor such as a CRT or LCD display that slants up and away from the player. The angle between horizontal and the display started out around 15 degrees, and has been moved gradually to about 30 degrees. The typical slant top slot machine has a control area in front of the slanted display, and often includes a molded single-level armrest that provides a player with some wrist support. Players at such a machines sit in a slumped forward position with their head and neck facing downward (towards the slanted display), and wrists on the gaming machine. When this is done for extended periods of time, player discomfort in the shoulders and neck results and a player may be induced to leave.
Gaming machines are usually positioned less than one foot from adjacent machines. Some units are often closer together with some installations using machines that actually touch one another. Players are often distracted by the sound and images from nearby games, which, if attractive enough, sometimes draw them away from the game they are playing. These distractions serve to minimize “seat time,” the time a player spends playing a particular gaming machine without interruption. In some cases, a player who has left a slot machine is actually enticed to leave the casino or to participate in another activity less profitable for the establishment. In addition, the close proximately of the existing game cabinets do not allow any form of security for personal items.
- BRIEF DESCRIPTION
Efforts to correct the shortcomings of existing gaming machine designs have been limited to alternate foot arrangements (e.g., U.S. Pat. No. 6,637,844) and alternate player input device placement (e.g., U.S. Pat. No. 6,638,166). There is further need for improved ergonomics in gaming machines.
Disclosed herein is a gaming machine that has a novel ergonomic cabinet design. The new design includes a monitor that is substantially vertical (less than a 30 degree incline from absolute vertical), combined with a player deck or player area that extends outward from the cabinet's front. The player deck includes an area for player input controls, space for smaller personal items, and space for a player to comfortably rest their arms, elbows, or wrists as the play games. The deck is configured to allow a player to play games while leaning into the gaming machine (inclined forward), if they choose. This is extremely novel compared to existing cabinets with substantially upright displays, where a player has to lean back (away from the machine) in order to shift positions.
One embodiment of the player deck will be substantially horizontal, but that is not a requirement. There are numerous ways of providing an area that is usable to place small person items which is not flat and may not be strictly horizontal when viewed from the side. The ergonomic and useful player advantages may be embodied in any design which provides a player area where small items can be placed so that they are stable (won't roll onto the floor). The stable area may comprise a portion of the player deck instead of all of it.
In addition to the player deck having enough depth to properly distance the player's eyes from the monitor and to allow comfortable resting of body parts on the player deck, side panels are provided that block peripheral vision and some noise. The side panels may also be used to channel sound from the gaming machine, further engulfing a player in the gaming experience.
- BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The side panels and player deck also provide security for personal items not previously found in gaming machines; it will no longer be possible for a passerby to casual take personal items from a player. To take a personal item on the player deck and between the side panels, a potential thief is going to have to directly confront the player. This will effectively discourage subtle or passive thieving. Additional security is provided by making it difficult for casual observers to discern players entering PIN codes and the like.
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a gaming cabinet in accordance with the present disclosure.
FIG. 2 is a top view of a gaming cabinet in accordance with the present disclosure.
FIG. 3 illustrates display angle in accordance with the present disclosure.
FIG. 4 illustrates a perspective and side view of a further embodiment of a gaming cabinet in accordance with the present disclosure.
- DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
FIG. 5 illustrates steps in providing a gaming cabinet in accordance with the present disclosure.
Persons of ordinary skill in the art will realize that the following description of the present invention is illustrative only and not in any way limiting. Other embodiments of the invention will readily suggest themselves to such skilled persons having the benefit of this disclosure.
Referring to the drawings, for illustrative purposes the present invention is shown embodied in FIGS. 1 through 5. It will be appreciated that the apparatus may vary as to configuration and as to details of the parts without departing from the novel concepts disclosed herein. Methods may vary as to details, partitioning, repetition, step inclusion, and the order of the acts, without departing from the novel concepts disclosed herein.
Referring now to FIG. 1, the gaming machine cabinet 100 includes player control area 102 (shown as a button deck, but can be any player input devices) with flat area or player deck 104. Player deck 104 may be used for drinks, ashtrays, food and any personal items that would be convenient to place in easy reach such as wallets, money, gaming chips, or pocketbooks. Armrest 106, shown as a stepped armrest, allows resting of arms, elbows and/or wrists while maintaining finger access to player input devices 102, players' possessions in player deck 104, and any other areas on or near the frontal area of gaming machine 100. Armrest 106 may be any configuration intended to enable comfortable resting of elbows, forearms, and wrists, etc. Gaming machine 100 enables this novel layout due to the space provided between the front of screen 114 to the outer edge of armrest 106. In one embodiment this distance measures approximately 24 inches, with almost 17 inches of that space usable by a player (this includes player input area 102, player deck 104, and armrest 106). In the embodiment shown the areas are substantially flat, but other embodiments are fully contemplated such as having armrest 106 at varying angles relative to player deck 104, button deck 102 at varying angles relative to player deck 104, and player deck 104 in any configuration that provides the needed space to allow comfortable resting of arms, elbows, or wrists on the player deck bolster or armrest while interacting with the game input devices, and preferably allowing placement of small person items. The player deck needs to have enough depth to allow, and preferably encourage, a slightly forward leaning position while using the gaming cabinet.
Also shown are typical gaming machine peripherals including bill acceptor 120, printer 122, card reader 124, and player tracking system and display 126 (preferably Bally Gaming And Systems' iView™ product). These devices are placed so that a player can see and, in most cases, operate them while resting his/her arms and/or wrists on armrest 106 of cabinet 100. Any set of gaming peripherals may be used with the gaming machine disclosed herein; shown is one exemplar embodiment.
Above player deck 104 is large color display 114. In one embodiment the display will be an DTV flat panel display having an aspect ratio of 1 6×9, such as 32″ LCD display mounted in landscape mode (positioned with its longer axis parallel to the deck areas). The flat panel display is preferably a high resolution LCD display, although lower resolutions may be used. Also illustrated is touch screen 116. Any touch screen technology may be used. The preferred embodiment of display 114 uses flat panel display technology (any type of flat panel technology may be used), as their use allows the gaming machine to have an overall depth, front-to-back, similar to gaming machines already in use. This gives the ergonomic cabinet described herein a footprint approximately equal to gaming machines already on casino floors. Although preferred, it is not required to make use of the ergonomic designs disclosed herein.
A wide display using DTV's aspect ration of 1 6×9, such as a 28″ LCD or 32″ LCD flat panel display, has several advantages. It allows for simultaneous display of pay tables with the normally sized game play displays, reducing the need for a player to switch to help screens. A wide display can be logically divided into two or more viewing areas that can be used for showing different images. One viewing area will always include the primary game while the others can include the aforementioned pay tables and/or bonus games, player tracking information, special promotions, or just entertaining visual sequences. A wide screen also has the desirable trait of consuming significantly more of a player's peripheral vision than a standard screen, reducing visual distractions from the sides.
In one embodiment display 114 is slightly angled from vertical. Looking now at FIG. 3, shown is gaming machine 300 with top box 302 and substantially flat player deck area 306. Also shown is angled display 304 (although shown with solid lines, the display is behind the end panels of gaming machine 300). Angled display 304 is shown projected out of gaming machine 300 with its inclination angle indicated by diamond 308. In one embodiment, the inclination angle is set at 4 degrees. It is expected that the inclination angle will typically be set from 0 degrees to 10 degrees, with most embodiments between 4 and 7 degrees. The inclination angle helps with anti-glare, as well as accommodating players having differing torso lengths and the occasional player who plays while standing.
This allows a player to rest their arms on the player deck area and look slightly down at the screen while seated, the inclination of the screen matching a natural inclination of the head in a restful position with arms resting on the player deck. This prevents neck and eye strain and makes it easy (comfortable) to make use of the screen. The display is set back from the player deck/control deck area at an ergonomically sound visual distance which allows a player to lean slightly forward and be both comfortable and completely immersed in the game. These factors all help a player to tune-out distractions from any nearby activity, such as a passing patrons and waitrons and nearby games.
Returning to FIG. 1, peripheral vision distractions are further reduced by side panels or wings 118. Wings 118 help visually enclose the player so they can be engulfed by the game experience. In some embodiments wings 118 will be substantially flat, while in other embodiments wing 118 will have an internal dimension that encloses audio projection devices 120. In some embodiments the speakers are mounted inside the gaming machine cabinet 100 and one or more audio channels are used to carry the sound to openings in the wings 118. In other embodiments additional audio input devices (not shown) in the form of one or more microphones and output devices in the form of speakers or similar projection devices may be coupled to the gaming machine for the purposes of actively canceling out distracting sounds from the surrounding environment using “cone of silence,” “beamed” sound or wave cancellation techniques. For example, samples taken from microphones positioned at various places on the cabinet 100 will be analyzed along with sounds known to be emanating from the game itself. Appropriate inverted signals will be issued from the sound cancellation devices to help prevent auditory player distractions.
Foot rest 110 is lower and flatter (7 to 10 degrees) than on existing gaming machine cabinets, promoting a forward leaning position rather than the typical backward lean of traditional upright gaming machines (traditional upright gaming machine footrests are angled around 25 degrees). In some embodiments, the foot rest 110 is illuminated for safety and security. An illuminated graphic area 112 may also be provided below armrest 106 providing enhanced security for items the player may position near her/his feet.
Continuing on with FIG. 2, shown is a schematic top view of gaming cabinet 200. 202 is the top of the cabinet, and 206 represents the monitor inside the cabinet. The player input deck or input area is area 214, with a first deck or player area generally indicted by 218, and a second player deck or player area generally indicated by 220. The entire deck is indicated as player deck 210, with cupholder 212 in player area 218. Bolster or armrest 216 is expected to be a resilient, firm but pliable molding attached to the front of player deck 210 and being a part of player deck 210. Molding 208 (one on each side, as shown) is designed to contain bill acceptors, ticket printers/readers, players card readers, and similar I/O devices. Bezel 204 is designed to help draw a player's attention to the screen, in one embodiment being black and sloped from the outer edge of the cabinet to the edge of screen.
The top view of gaming machine cabinet 200 illustrates one aspect of the novel layout of the cabinet. Screen 206 is mounted vertically or at a slight angle, and is set back from the outer edge of bolster 216 by a substantial distance. In one embodiment, this distance is approximately 24″, with the player deck (with bolster) being approximately 17″ in depth. This novel arrangement, including a vertical or near-vertical screen with a player's deck having substantial distance between the screen and the edge of the bolster, provides significant ergonomic improvements for players.
FIG. 4 shows another embodiment of a gaming machine in accordance with this disclosure. Shown is optional top box 400. Side panels or wings 402 are shown in a slim embodiment. These do not enclose sound projection devices, as disclosed in FIG. 1. Screen bezel 404 helps draw attention to the screen by being a dark color and being slanted in towards the screen from wing 402. Preferably all four sides of the screen will have similarly designed bezels.
Player deck 406 is molded as a single piece, including the upward extending portion near the screen enclosing player input devices such as bill acceptors, ticket printers/readers, player card readers, and the like. Player deck 406 then becomes substantially flat, extended away from the screen to the outer edge of the molded bolster. The substantially flat section is preferably 12″ or longer.
FIG. 5 illustrates novel aspects of the cabinet disclosed herein. Box 500 corresponds to the actions necessary to provide a wide screen display in the upper portion of a gaming cabinet, operably connected to internal logic devices to allow game play thereon. Included in the actions is mounting the wide screen with 0 to 10 degrees of tilt from vertical; one embodiment has 4-5 degrees of tilt. The screen is preferably an LCD high resolution display having an aspect ration of 16×9, from 27″-32″. The area around the screen is preferably a bezel, dark or black in color or backlit with colored lights pulsing towards the center, and slanted in towards the display from the edges of the mount area (sides, top, and bottom of the cabinet where the display is mounted).
Continuing with box 502, the cabinet is to provide, in front of the mounted display, an area that is designed to allow placement of small person items. It is intended that this area allow a person to place an item or items such as a wallet, chips, small handbag, coins, cards, bills, tickets, players cards, or a drink in front of them on the gaming machine cabinet. In one embodiment this will be a mostly flat area between the player inputs and the screen bezel area, from 4″-10″ deep. However, other configurations are fully contemplated, including without limitation providing additional depth, and/or forming a player deck area that is tilted towards a center area to guide spilled drinks, has a central flat area surrounded by a run-off area, or other configurations as functionally needed or as desired to create visual interest.
Moving into box 504, a gaming machine cabinet according to the present disclosure will be configured with a bolster or armrest at the outer edge of the player deck area. In one embodiment, the bolster will have more than one step or level (be multi-tiered), so that when resting an arm on the player deck, there is more than one contact point on which to rest, or, the player input devices are placed higher than the bolster so that a player's wrist does not need to twist as much to reach buttons, levers, etc. In another embodiment, the player deck area will be essentially flat and the edges of the player deck will have a resilient material attached thereon, to make a soft or compliant surface on with to rest elbows, arms, or wrists. A preferred embodiment is to further configure the player deck area so that a player may sit comfortably in a slightly forward leaning manner.
Continuing into box 506, also provided are side panels or wings which, in addition to purely decorative aspects, may also be configured to provide added privacy and visual focus. Visual focus is enabled by cutting off peripheral vision. When the player is seated in a slightly forward leaning position, the wings help cut off peripheral vision by extending visual cut-off past the ends of the main cabinet to the ends (edges) of the wings. Coupled with the overall cabinet design disclosed herein, a player may have most of their field of vision, including all their primary vision and most of their peripheral vision, enclosed by the cabinet. This enables greater focus on the game, and provides a feeling of privacy to a player. It also makes it significantly more difficult for passer-bys to see what the player is doing, including entering PINs for cards or similar activities. In addition, any personal items place on the player deck will be almost completely protected by the player's body, coupled with the wings. It would be difficult for another patron to walk off with any possession on the player's deck. In another embodiment, the side panels will further have slidable, extendable panels or curtains. This will enable a player to cut off their peripheral vision almost entirely, and will further protect their privacy and personal items from causal snatchers.
As used herein, “player controls,” “input controls,” “input devices” and similar phrases refer to the controls a player will use while playing a game of chance (poker, reels, bingo, keno, etc.). This will typically be a button deck or button area located on a portion of the player deck, having one or more buttons used for on-going game play. Any type of player input devices are contemplated in combination with the player deck of the presently disclosed cabinet. This explicitly includes embodiments where the player controls may be touchscreen technologies on the main display, and where it is possible to have the ergonomic gaming cabinet disclosed herein having a player deck with no player input devices.
Although the description above contains certain specificity, the described embodiments should not be construed to indicate the scope of the invention; the descriptions given are providing an illustration of certain preferred embodiments of the invention. The scope of this invention is determined by the appended claims and their legal equivalents.