US20080015064A1 - Talking toy ball having impact data sensor - Google Patents

Talking toy ball having impact data sensor Download PDF

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Publication number
US20080015064A1
US20080015064A1 US11/474,574 US47457406A US2008015064A1 US 20080015064 A1 US20080015064 A1 US 20080015064A1 US 47457406 A US47457406 A US 47457406A US 2008015064 A1 US2008015064 A1 US 2008015064A1
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Prior art keywords
ball
impact
audio signal
method according
electronics module
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Abandoned
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US11/474,574
Inventor
Webb T. Nelson
Simeon E. Tiefel
Mark J. Chernick
Original Assignee
Nelson Webb T
Tiefel Simeon E
Chernick Mark J
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Application filed by Nelson Webb T, Tiefel Simeon E, Chernick Mark J filed Critical Nelson Webb T
Priority to US11/474,574 priority Critical patent/US20080015064A1/en
Publication of US20080015064A1 publication Critical patent/US20080015064A1/en
Application status is Abandoned legal-status Critical

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    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B43/00Balls with special arrangements
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63HTOYS, e.g. TOPS, DOLLS, HOOPS, BUILDING BLOCKS
    • A63H5/00Musical or noise- producing devices for additional toy effects other than acoustical
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B71/00Games or sports accessories not covered in groups A63B1/00 - A63B69/00
    • A63B71/06Indicating or scoring devices for games or players, or for other sports activities
    • A63B71/0619Displays, user interfaces and indicating devices, specially adapted for sport equipment, e.g. display mounted on treadmills
    • A63B71/0622Visual, audio or audio-visual systems for entertaining, instructing or motivating the user
    • A63B2071/0625Emitting sound, noise or music
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B71/00Games or sports accessories not covered in groups A63B1/00 - A63B69/00
    • A63B71/06Indicating or scoring devices for games or players, or for other sports activities
    • A63B71/0619Displays, user interfaces and indicating devices, specially adapted for sport equipment, e.g. display mounted on treadmills
    • A63B71/0622Visual, audio or audio-visual systems for entertaining, instructing or motivating the user
    • A63B2071/0625Emitting sound, noise or music
    • A63B2071/063Spoken or verbal instructions
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B2220/00Measuring of physical parameters relating to sporting activity
    • A63B2220/80Special sensors, transducers or devices therefor
    • A63B2220/803Motion sensors

Abstract

A toy ball assembly and its method of operation. The toy ball assembly speaks or otherwise communicates with the person playing with the toy ball assembly. Within the toy ball assembly, an electronic module is provided. The electronics module holds a battery, an activation switch, a processor, an impact sensor, an audio signal memory and a speaker. The electronics module is encased deep within the center of a high-bounce ball. Channels are formed into the material of the high-bounce ball to provide unobstructed access to both the activation switch and the speaker. The impact sensor provides an impact signal to the processor each time the ball impacts a surface. Utilizing the impact signal, the processor selects an audio signal from the audio signal memory. The speaker receives and broadcasts the selected audio signal.

Description

    BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • 1. Field of the Invention
  • In general, the present invention relates to toy balls. More particularly, the present invention relates to toy balls with internal sensors that detect impact forces experienced by the balls.
  • 2. Prior Art Description
  • Balls, in various forms, have been a favorite toy of children for many centuries. During this long history, balls have been created in countless forms using a wide variety of materials. For example, a tennis ball has a different structure and is made from different materials than is a baseball or a golf ball.
  • Most balls have an intended use. For instance, baseballs are used in the game of baseball; soccer balls are used in the game of soccer. Only a small percentage of balls that are sold every year are just general use balls having no intended purpose other than a child's play. The present invention is directed to such a general use toy ball.
  • One of the most popular general use toy balls is known in the toy industry as high-bounce balls. High-bounce balls are made from dense, highly resilient polymers. This enables the ball to reutilize over ninety percent of its kinetic energy after impacting a hard surface. A high-bounce ball therefore has the ability to bounce to nearly the same height from which it is dropped. This enables high-bounce balls to bounce for long periods of time. It also enables high-bounce balls to bounce very high if thrown against the ground with force.
  • A high-bounce ball depends upon its large mass of resilient polymer to rebound efficiently from an impact. A high-bounce ball must, therefore, be solid or have a very thick shell in order to retain its rebound characteristics. The requirement of such a thick shell structure has limited the ways high-bounce balls can be designed. If a ball is not made with the required thick shell, or if the ball is not made from the right type of resilient polymers, then the ball will not have the bounce characteristics of a proper high-bounce ball.
  • In the toy industry, high-bounce balls have been molded in a variety of different colors and patterns to make the high-bounce balls more visually appealing to children. The change in color does not effect the bounce characteristics of the ball. High-bounce balls have also been molded with objects inside of them. Again, the purpose is aesthetics to increase the visual appeal of the high-bounce ball. Since the object is embedded deep inside the high-bounce ball, the embedded object has no appreciable effect on the bounce characteristics of the high-bounce ball.
  • Other than to change the visual appearance of a high bounce ball, the technology of the high-bounce ball has remained stagnant for decades. The same is not true for other types of balls. Many other types of balls have incorporated microelectronics technology to make the balls more interesting, if not better. For instance, talking modules have been added to some prior art toy balls, so that the balls can make sounds. Such prior art balls are exemplified by U.S. Pat. No. 5,375,839 to Pagani, entitled Impact Sensitive Talking Ball. However, such technology cannot be readily added to high-bounce balls. High-bounce balls are commonly thrown against hard surfaces with the full force of the thrower. Any part of an electronics module that is exposed on the surface of the high-bounce ball would be quickly broken from such impacts. Furthermore, if part of an electronics module were to be exposed on the impact area of the high-bounce ball, the high-bounce ball would not bounce as expected.
  • Electronics have been added to balls that are intended to experience extreme impacts. Such high tech balls are typically used in golf. For example, golf balls exist with internal sensors that measure impact. The data is transmitted to an external computer using radio signals. Such prior art golf balls are exemplified by U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2005/0233815 to McCreary, entitled Method Of Determining A Flight Trajectory And Extracting Flight Data For A Trackable Golf Ball; and U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2005/0227784 to Corzillius, entitled Self-Recording Golf Ball, Golf Ball Cup, and Reading Device System.
  • Internal sensors, such as those used in golf balls, are used strictly for training purposes in helping a golfer improve his/her game. The sensor system is unpractical to add to a child's toy since the sensors are expensive, complex, and require an external signal reading computer. Furthermore, the use of such a sensor system in a toy ball would do little or nothing to improve the play value of the toy.
  • A need therefore exists for a system and method for adding an electronics module to the structure of a high-bounce ball, wherein the electronic module will not detract from the bounce characteristics of the ball and adds play value to the high-bounce ball. This need is met by the present invention as described and claimed below.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • The present invention is a toy ball assembly and its method of operation. The toy ball assembly speaks or otherwise communicates with the person playing with the toy.
  • Within the toy ball assembly, an electronic module is provided. The electronics module holds a battery, an activation switch, a processor, an impact sensor, an audio signal memory and a speaker. The electronics module is encased deep within the center of a high-bounce ball. Channels are formed into the material of the high-bounce ball to provide unobstructed access to both the activation switch and the speaker.
  • The impact sensor provides an impact signal to the processor each time the ball impacts a surface. Utilizing the impact signal, the processor selects an audio signal from the audio signal memory. The speaker receives and broadcasts the selected audio signal. Depending upon the operation mode of the toy, the broadcast audio signal may announce the velocity, bounce height and/or number of bounces experienced by the toy ball.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • For a better understanding of the present invention, reference is made to the following description of exemplary embodiments thereof, considered in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:
  • FIG. 1 is an exploded perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of the present invention;
  • FIG. 2 is a partially cross-sectioned view of the embodiment of FIG. 1;
  • FIG. 3 is a schematic of the electronics embodies by the present invention;
  • FIG. 4 is a block diagram showing the logic of a first computational subroutine;
  • FIG. 5 is a block diagram showing the logic of a second computational subroutine; and
  • FIG. 6 is a block diagram showing the logic of a third computational subroutine.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • Although the present invention system and method can be adapted for use in any type of molded toy ball, the present invention is particularly well suited for use with high-bounce balls. Accordingly, the exemplary embodiment shows a high-bounce ball. The use of the high-bounce ball is merely exemplary and is intended to represent the best mode contemplated for the invention. The use of a high-bounce ball, however, should not be considered a limitation on the use of the present invention in other ball types.
  • Referring to FIG. 1, there is shown a ball assembly 10 in accordance with the present invention. The ball assembly 10 includes two ball halves 12, 14. Each of the ball halves 12, 14 is identical in structure. Accordingly, both ball halves 12, 14 can be fabricated from the same cavity of an injection mold. Both ball halves 12, 14 are made from the highly resilient polymers of the types typically used in the production of high-bounce balls.
  • A semi-spherical relief 16 is formed in the center of both ball halves 12, 14. Accordingly, it will be understood that when the two ball halves 12, 14 are placed together, the semi-spherical reliefs 16 combine to form a central spherical cavity 20.
  • Each semi-spherical relief 16 has a maximum diameter D2 that is no more than half as large as the exterior diameter D1 of the ball halves 12, 14. In this manner, it can be assured that a thick layer of polymer material surrounds the central spherical cavity 20 throughout the toy ball assembly 10.
  • Two open channels 22, 24 extend into the toy ball assembly 10 and communicate with the central spherical cavity 20. The two open channels 22, 24 are defined by half channel reliefs 26, 28 that are disposed on the opposite ball halves 12, 14. The two open channels 22, 24 both have a maximum diameter that is less than ten percent of the exterior diameter D1 of the toy ball assembly 10. The use of small open channels 22, 24 is important in maintaining the bounce characteristics of the overall toy ball assembly 10. By having narrow open channels 22, 24, the open channels 22, 24 do not significantly detract from the bounce characteristics of the toy ball assembly 10 when the toy ball assembly 10 is impacted at or near one of the open channels 22, 24. Bounce efficiency decreases by only a couple of percentage points, which is usually unperceivable by the user.
  • An electronics module 29 is provided. The electronics module 29 is defined by a protective casing 30. The protective casing 30 is spherical in shape and fills the central spherical cavity 20 in the center of the toy ball assembly 10. The protective casing 30 is made of a hard plastic. Accordingly, any deformation created in the toy ball assembly 10 from an impact does not propagate through the protective casing 30.
  • A circuit board 32 is disposed inside the protective casing 30. The circuit board 32 contains a small speaker 34, an activation switch 36, batteries 38, an impact sensor 40 and at least once microchip 42 containing a computational processor and an audio signal memory. The protective casing 30 defines openings 43, 44 that enable the speaker 34 and the activation switch 36 to protrude outside of the confines of the protective casing 30.
  • Referring to FIG. 2, it can be seen that when assembled, the speaker 34 on the circuit board 32 aligns with one of the open channels 24 in the toy ball assembly 10. Accordingly, any sound produced by the speaker 34 can propagate outside of the toy ball assembly 10 in an unobstructed manner.
  • Similarly, the activation switch 36 aligns with one of the open channels 22 in the toy ball assembly 10. This enables the activation switch 36 to be pressed by a user by using a pen tip or similar object. The activation switch 36 remains deep enough inside the open channel 24 that it is never effected by impact deformations.
  • The impact sensor 40 can be an accelerometer, a vibration sensor, or even a sound sensor. The impact sensor detects large changes in acceleration, vibration, and/or sound that occur when the toy ball assembly 10 impacts a hard surface. Depending upon the nature of the impact sensor 40 selected, the impact sensor 40 may not only detects the occurrence of an impact, but may detect the severity of the impact. Thus, the impact sensor 40 may provide an analog signal that is proportional to the magnitude of the impact. For example, if the toy ball assembly 10 is dropped, it may experience a change in acceleration of 1-2 G's on impact. If the toy ball assembly 10 is thrown against a hard object, much higher impact forces will be detected.
  • The computational processor embedded in one of the microchips 42 receives signals from the impact sensor 40. The computational processor runs algorithms using the signal data received from the impact sensor 40. Three primary subroutines are run by the circuitry of the computational processor. The first subroutine utilizes a simple counting algorithm.
  • Referring to FIG. 3 in conjunction with FIG. 4, the details of the counting subroutine will be understood. As is indicated by Block 51, the computational processor 50 determines if a signal has been detected from the impact sensor 40. Preferably, the computational processor 50 determines if the impact signal generated by the impact sensor 40 is larger than some preset threshold. See Block 52. In this manner, the computational processor 50 will distinguish real impact events from simple ball manipulations in a child's hands.
  • If the signal from the impact sensor 40 surpasses the preset threshold, the impact signal is counted. See Block 54. The computational processor 50 then recalls an audio signal from a preprogrammed audio signal memory 53, which is a read only memory (ROM). The audio signal recalled corresponds to the count. See Block 58. The audio signal is then sent to the speaker 34 where the audio signal is broadcast. See Block 59. In this manner, the toy ball assembly 10 will count and broadcast the number of times it has been bounced. Thus, a child bouncing the toy ball assembly 10 will hear the words “one”, “two”, “three”, etc.
  • The selection of the counting mode subroutine and the resetting of the counting mode subroutine is done by selectively pressing the activation switch 36.
  • The second subroutine run by the computational processor contains a height calculation algorithm. Referring to FIG. 5 in conjunction with FIG. 3, the details of the second subroutine are detailed. The material of the ball halves 12, 14 (FIG. 1) is known, as are the thickness of these parts. The resiliency and bounce characteristics of the ball material can therefore be calculated or measured.
  • If the impact sensor 40 is capable of sensing the magnitude of an impact, then the computational processor 50 reads the signal from the impact sensor 40 in order to determine the impact magnitude. See Block 60. The intensity of the impact is then used with the known ball bounce characteristics to calculate how high the toy ball assembly 10 will bounce after experiencing that impact. See Block 62.
  • If the impact sensor 40 is an unsophisticated sensor that can just detect the occurrence of an impact, then the computational processor 50 calculated the time that elapses in between impacts. The time in between impact corresponds directly to the time the toy ball assembly 10 is in flight. Knowing the flight time for the toy ball assembly 10, an estimate of the height achieved by the toy ball assembly can easily be calculated.
  • Once the height of the toy ball assembly 10 has been calculated, the computational processor 50 then recalls an audio signal from the audio signal memory 53 corresponding to the calculated height. See Block 66. The audio signal is then broadcast for the child to hear. See Block 67. Consequently, a child who throws the toy ball assembly 10 against the ground may hear “one hundred feet” broadcast from the ball. The value broadcast is a calculated value for the bounce height of the toy ball assembly 10.
  • In FIG. 5, an optional subroutine is also shown. As is indicated by Block 68, the computational processor 50 can also calculate the speed of the toy ball assembly 10 at impact from the signal of the impact sensor 40. The speed at impact is directly proportional to the forces at impact. Consequently, calculating the speed of the toy ball assembly 10 from the impact data is a simple calculation. The computational processor 50 may then broadcast the calculated speed with or without the calculated bounce height.
  • Again, the selection of the height calculation subroutine or speed calculation subroutine is done by the selective engagement of the activation switch 36.
  • The last subroutine run by the computational processor 50 contains a novelty algorithm. Referring to FIG. 6 in conjunction with FIG. 3, the details of this subroutine are described. As is indicated by Block 70, the computational processor 50 determines the degree of impact from the impact sensor 40. The severity of the detected impact is used to select an audio signal from the audio signal memory 53. See Block 72. The audio signals in the audio signal memory 53 are all novelty words or phases that are intended to be encouraging or humorous. The selected audio signal is then broadcast through the speaker 34. See Block 74. For instance, if the impact sensor 40 detects a large impact, the computational processor 50 may broadcast the words “Wow” or “Good Throw”. If a mild impact is detected, the computational processor 50 may broadcast “You Stink” or “You Can Throw Harder Than That”.
  • Depending upon which of the subroutines is selected, there is a time delay in the broadcasting of the audio signal. If the toy ball assembly 10 is counting out loud, a short delay of perhaps 0.5 to 1.0 seconds may be used. For the other applications, the toy ball assembly 10 may be in flight for a few seconds after bouncing. The audio signal is therefore delayed by a few seconds to ensure that a child can catch the toy ball assembly 10 and hear the words that are being broadcast. It will be understood that the words and/or phrases to be broadcast are a matter of design choice.
  • Referring now back to FIG. 2, it will be understood that neither the speaker 34 nor the activation switch 36 are exposed on the exterior of the toy ball assembly 10. Consequently, neither of these objects can be directly impacted when the toy ball assembly 10 bounces. Furthermore, when a high-bounce ball is thrown against a hard object, the vast majority of deformation occurs only in the outermost 25% of the ball's structure. Consequently, by placing an electronics module 29 into the center of a high-bounce ball that is less than half the diameter of the high-bounce ball, more than 25% of the ball's resilient material surrounds the electronics module 29. The presence of the electronics module 29 in the high-bounce ball therefore has little adverse effect upon the bounce characterizes of the overall toy ball assembly 10.
  • Referring back to FIG. 1, a preferred method of manufacture for the toy ball assembly 10 can be detailed. To manufacture the toy ball assembly 10, the two ball halves 12, 14 are molded. The two ball halves 12, 14 are identical. The electronics module 29 is separately manufactured using traditional manufacturing techniques. The electronics module 29 is placed in between the ball halves 12, 14 in the proper orientation. The two ball halves 12, 14 are then bonded together, therein trapping the electronics module 29 in the central spherical cavity 20.
  • It will be understood that the embodiment of the present invention that is illustrated is merely exemplary and that a person skilled in the art can make many variations to the shown embodiment. For instance, the size of the electronics module, the size of the ball, the material of the ball, and the position of the open conduits can all be varied from what is described and illustrated. All such variations, modifications and alternate embodiments are intended to be included within the scope of the present invention as set forth by the claims.

Claims (19)

1. A method comprising the steps of:
providing an electronics module that includes a battery, a processor, an impact sensor, an audio signal memory, and a speaker;
encasing said electronics module inside a ball;
wherein said impact sensor provides an impact signal to said processor each time said ball impacts a surface, and said processor selects an audio signal from said audio signal memory based upon said impact signal, and
wherein said speaker receives and broadcasts said audio signal.
2. The method according to claim 1, further including the step of providing a conduit in said ball that aligns with said speaker in said electronics module, therein providing an unobstructed pathway out of said ball for sounds broadcast by said speaker.
3. The method according to claim 1, wherein said step of encasing said electronics module inside a ball includes providing an activation switch as part of said electronics module.
4. The method according to claim 3, further including the step of providing a conduit in said ball that aligns with said activation switch, therein providing unobstructed access to said activation switch.
5. The method according to claim 1, wherein said processor counts each said impact signal received from said impact sensor, therein creating a cumulative count.
6. The method according to claim 5, wherein said audio signal selected from said audio signal memory corresponds to said cumulative count.
7. The method according to claim 1, wherein said processor calculates bounce height from said impact signal received from said impact sensor.
8. The method according to claim 7, wherein said audio signal selected from said audio signal memory corresponds to said bounce height.
9. The method according to claim 1, wherein said processor calculates ball impact speed from said impact signal received from said impact sensor.
10. The method according to claim 9, wherein said audio signal selected from said audio signal memory corresponds to said ball impact speed.
11. A method of broadcasting impact information about a ball, comprising the steps of:
providing a ball containing an impact sensor that produces an impact signal, when said ball is impacted, that is proportional to how hard said ball is impacted;
detecting when said ball impacts a surface;
retrieving one of a plurality of audio signals from an audio signal memory depending upon said impact signal; and
broadcasting said audio signal from said ball.
12. The method according to claim 11, further including the step of calculating bounce height of said ball from said impact signal, wherein said audio signal identifies said bounce height.
13. The method according to claim 11, further including the step of calculating the impact speed of said ball from said impact signal, wherein said audio signal identifies said impact speed.
14. The method according to claim 11, further including the step of calculating cumulative impacts of said ball from cumulative occurrences of said impact signal, wherein said audio signal identifies said cumulative impacts.
15. The method according to claim 11, wherein said step of providing a ball containing an impact sensor, includes providing a ball containing an internal electronics module, wherein said electronics module holds said impact sensor and a speaker.
16. A novelty ball, comprising:
a ball structure of resilient material, wherein said ball structure has an external first diameter;
a cavity centrally defined within said ball structure, said cavity having a second diameter;
an electronics module containing a speaker
retained in said cavity;
a conduit descending into said ball structure to said speaker, therein providing an unobstructed pathway to said speaker.
17. The ball according to claim 16, wherein said electronics module further includes an impact sensor.
18. The ball according to claim 16, wherein said electronics module further includes an audio signal memory.
19. The ball according to claim 16, wherein said second diameter is no greater than half of said first diameter.
US11/474,574 2006-06-26 2006-06-26 Talking toy ball having impact data sensor Abandoned US20080015064A1 (en)

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