US20080200249A1 - Interactive promotional gaming system and method - Google Patents

Interactive promotional gaming system and method Download PDF

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Publication number
US20080200249A1
US20080200249A1 US12/034,643 US3464308A US2008200249A1 US 20080200249 A1 US20080200249 A1 US 20080200249A1 US 3464308 A US3464308 A US 3464308A US 2008200249 A1 US2008200249 A1 US 2008200249A1
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game piece
image
method
information
further
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Abandoned
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US12/034,643
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Aram Kovach
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Aram Kovach
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Priority to US12/034,643 priority patent/US20080200249A1/en
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    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • G07F17/3202Hardware aspects of a gaming system, e.g. components, construction, architecture thereof
    • G07F17/3223Architectural aspects of a gaming system, e.g. internal configuration, master/slave, wireless communication
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • G07F17/3225Data transfer within a gaming system, e.g. data sent between gaming machines and users
    • G07F17/3232Data transfer within a gaming system, e.g. data sent between gaming machines and users wherein the operator is informed
    • G07F17/3237Data transfer within a gaming system, e.g. data sent between gaming machines and users wherein the operator is informed about the players, e.g. profiling, responsible gaming, strategy/behavior of players, location of players
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • G07F17/3244Payment aspects of a gaming system, e.g. payment schemes, setting payout ratio, bonus or consolation prizes
    • G07F17/3255Incentive, loyalty and/or promotion schemes, e.g. comps, gaming associated with a purchase, gaming funded by advertisements
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • G07F17/326Game play aspects of gaming systems
    • G07F17/3272Games involving multiple players

Abstract

A method of participating in an interactive promotional gaming system. A participant obtains access to an image of a game piece, captures an electronic image of the game piece and transmits the electronic image to a predetermined information collector. The information collector decodes the received image of the game piece and compares the decoded image to a predetermined list for transmittal of results of the comparison to the participant. The participant receives the transmitted results of the comparison.

Description

  • This application claims priority to U.S. provisional patent application 60/890,938, filed Feb. 21, 2007, the contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference.
  • FIELD
  • The present invention relates generally to gaming systems and methods, in particular to promotional gaming systems and methods employed by business establishments to increase their customer loyalty and market share, help promote and sell products and services, and provide for simplified product registration.
  • BACKGROUND
  • Business establishments constantly seek to increase their customer base and increase repeat business. One way of accomplishing this is to offer prizes and rewards as incentives to customers through games, contests and sweepstakes. For example, a free gift may be offered to each patron, to be awarded when the patron enters the establishment. Similarly, incentive schemes to induce the purchase of particular products or services ordinarily award the same gift to each purchaser. Other schemes utilize an element of random chance. For example, in a so-called “match-and-win” promotion, tokens bearing differing indicia, such as different pictures or combinations of alphanumeric characters, may be distributed to prospective patrons. Different prizes are associated with some or all of the different indicia, and the prize associated with each indicia is posted or otherwise made known within the establishment. Thus, the prospective patron must enter the establishment to determine what, if any, prize he or she has won. Often, the various indicia include one or more rare indicia that are applied to only a few of the tokens and are associated with prizes of significant value, while other more common indicia are applied to the remaining tokens and are associated with prizes of lesser value or with no prize at all. Since only a few patrons will win prizes of significant value, the total value of prizes distributed in the scheme will not pose a prohibitive cost to the sponsor of the scheme. Nonetheless, the possibility, albeit remote, of winning a prize of significant value provides a powerful incentive to both repeat and prospective patrons.
  • Although games of this nature can be a useful marketing tool, they suffer from significant drawbacks. For example, the manufacture and distribution of the tokens can be costly. In addition, security measures must be employed to prevent persons involved in distribution of the tokens from culling out tokens associated with valuable prizes and diverting them to their own use. Such security measures add to the cost of conducting the game. Moreover, these games usually provide only minimal entertainment to the patron. After the patron has determined what prize he or she has won, the game is over insofar as they are concerned. The game thus has little value in inducing the customer to remain in, or revisit, the establishment. Furthermore, games of this nature typically are not integrated with any mechanism for compiling information about patrons entering the establishment, rendering the games useless for future targeted promotional efforts.
  • Other promotional schemes have been conducted using identical tokens, such as identical coupons printed in newspaper advertisements and coupons incorporated as part of packages for goods. Ordinarily, all of the tokens or coupons used in such a scheme entitle the person holding the coupon to the same value. For example, coupons may be printed in a newspaper offering a discount on a specific item of merchandise in a store. Similarly, packaged goods often carry coupons which either entitle the customer to a discount on current or subsequent purchase of the goods, or which may be redeemed for other merchandise. Many of these promotions involve redemption by mail, such as rebate offers. In such promotions the coupon or token may be imprinted with a machine readable code, such as a bar code. Where packaged goods are involved, the bar code may be a universal product code (UPC) or two-dimensional dot code used to identify the goods for inventory and sale purposes. Promotions of this nature generally do not provide any element of randomness. Accordingly, each consumer may acquire the same item of relatively small value by presenting or redeeming the coupon or token. Under this arrangement the consumer understands there is little chance to acquire a highly valuable prize, and thus the promotion has little entertainment value.
  • Despite the considerable effort that has been applied heretofore towards promotional schemes, there is still a need for further improvement.
  • SUMMARY
  • An interactive promotional gaming system and method is disclosed according to several embodiments of the present invention. In one embodiment a player uses a camera-equipped mobile phone to capture an image of a game piece provided by a business establishment. The mobile phone is then used by the player to transmit the image to an operator of the gaming system. The operator decodes the image, determines whether the player has won a prize, and then sends a return text message conveying the results to the player. The text message is sent to the same mobile phone used by the player to transmit the image to the operator.
  • An object of the present invention is a method of operating an interactive promotional gaming system. A participant obtains access to an image of a game piece, captures an electronic image of the game piece and transmits the electronic image to a predetermined information collector. The information collector decodes the received image of the game piece and compares the decoded image to a predetermined list for transmittal of results of the comparison to the participant. The participant receives the transmitted results of the comparison.
  • Another object of the present invention is an alternate embodiment of the method of operating an interactive promotional gaming system. A participant obtains access to an image of a game piece and obtains with a game piece converter a data string corresponding to an electronic image of the game piece. The participant then transmits the data string to a predetermined information collector for decoding the received data string and comparing the decoded data string to a predetermined list for transmittal of results of the comparison to the participant. The participant receives the transmitted results of the comparison.
  • Yet another object of the invention is an interactive promotional gaming system. The system comprises a tangible image of a game piece, a camera-equipped mobile phone, a predetermined information collector configured to receive an image of the game piece that has been captured and transmitted from the mobile phone, a decoder to decode the received image of the game piece, and a comparator to compare the decoded image to a predetermined list. A transmitter transmits the results of the comparison to the mobile phone.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • Further features of the inventive embodiments will become apparent to those skilled in the art to which the embodiments relate from reading the specification and claims with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:
  • FIG. 1 is a diagram of an interactive promotional gaming system and method according to an embodiment of the present invention;
  • FIG. 2A is an elevational view of a cup having a game piece imprinted upon an outer sidewall according to an embodiment of the present invention;
  • FIG. 2B is a top plan view of the cup of FIG. 2A with a game piece imprinted upon an inner bottom surface according to an alternate embodiment of the present invention;
  • FIG. 3 is a diagram of an interactive promotional gaming system and method according to another embodiment of the present invention;
  • FIG. 4 illustrates an interactive promotional gaming system utilized in connection with a vending machine according to an embodiment of the present invention;
  • FIG. 5 is an elevational view of a beverage can having a game piece imprinted thereon according to an embodiment of the present invention;
  • FIG. 6 is an elevational view of a container having a game piece imprinted upon a label affixed to the container according to another embodiment of the present invention;
  • FIG. 7 shows a newspaper having a game piece imprinted thereon according to yet another embodiment of the present invention;
  • FIG. 8 shows a floor sticker having a game piece imprinted thereon according to still another embodiment of the present invention;
  • FIG. 9 shows a vehicle information sticker having a game piece imprinted thereon according to yet another embodiment of the present invention;
  • FIG. 10 shows a computer screen displaying a game piece according to another embodiment of the present invention;
  • FIG. 11 shows an advertising flyer having a game piece imprinted thereon according to yet another embodiment of the present invention;
  • FIG. 12 shows an article of clothing having a game piece imprinted thereon according to still another embodiment of the present invention;
  • FIG. 13 shows a shipping label having a game piece imprinted thereon according to yet another embodiment of the present invention;
  • FIG. 14 is a diagram of an interactive translation system and method according to still another embodiment of the present invention; and
  • FIG. 15 is an information retrieval system and method according to yet another embodiment of the present invention.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • In the discussion that follows, like reference numerals are used in the various figures to represent like structures and functions.
  • The general arrangement of an interactive promotional gaming system and method 10 (hereafter generally “system 10”) is shown in FIG. 1 according to an embodiment of the present invention. In operation, a participant (hereinafter “player 12”) obtains a tangible game piece 14 from a business establishment 15 that is utilizing system 10 as a promotional device. In one embodiment game piece 14 is imprinted on an item purchased or otherwise distributed at a business establishment, such as upon an outer sidewall 15 of a beverage cup 16 like that shown in FIG. 2A. Player 12 captures an electronic image of game piece 14 with a camera-equipped mobile phone at 18 and utilizes a network 20 to transmit the image to one or more predetermined information collectors, such as a remote server 22 of an operator 23 of system 10. Predetermined data relating to the mobile phone used at 18 is captured and stored at 24. Such data may include, without limitation, the mobile phone number, demographic information and account information relating to player 12, such information being transmitted to operator 23 automatically and/or manually by the mobile phone and/or the player. Data transmitted to operator 23 by the mobile phone and/or player 12 at 18 may be linked to or matched with other data previously stored at 24 by the operator. Accordingly, data storage at 24 may include a conventional database or data warehouse.
  • The received image is then decoded at 26 with image-recognition equipment and/or a computer executing one or more associated computer programs to generate a corresponding output data string, such as a string of numeric or alpha-numeric digits having a predetermined length and sequence. The output data string is compared with a predetermined list of data strings at 28 to determine what action to be taken, if any, such as awarding a prize or some other premium to user 12. The comparison may be simply a check for matching data strings. Alternatively, the comparison may involve executing an equation or algorithm in which the data string is one of a plurality of factors, other factors including, without limitation, previous winners, date, time, geographic locations, player 12 demographic information, available prize/premium inventory, sales volume, and business establishment 15 information. The comparison of 28 may be accomplished using any known type of comparator, such as a computer executing one or more associated computer programs.
  • If no prize was won, as at 30, a text message indicating this condition is transmitted to, and received by, the mobile phone used by player 12 via network 20. If a prize was won, as at 32, a text message displaying redemption information is transmitted to, and received by, the mobile phone used by player 12 via network 20 and/or to the player's alternate electronic address of record. Player 12 may then redeem their prize at 34 by following instructions provided in the text message at 32. Redemption of the prize at 34 may be accomplished in any conventional manner including, without limitation, in-person at business 15, via postal/package services, and via electronic networks such as the internet.
  • The general arrangement of an interactive promotional gaming system and method 100 (hereafter generally “system 100”) is shown in FIG. 3 according to an alternate embodiment of the present invention. This embodiment is similar to system 10, except a player 12 lacking access to a mobile phone with a camera may also participate. In operation, a player 12 obtains a game piece 14 from a business establishment 15 that is using system 100 as a promotional device. In one embodiment game piece 14 is imprinted on an item purchased or otherwise distributed at a business establishment, such as upon an outer surface of a beverage cup 16, like that shown in FIG. 2A. Player 12 captures a visually perceivable electronic image with a game piece converter 38 located at business establishment 15 and made available to player 12. Converter 38 reads the image and, using image recognition equipment and/or a computer executing one or more associated computer programs, generates a source data string 40, such as a string of numeric or alphanumeric digits having a predetermined length and sequence. Source data string 40 corresponds to game piece 14 and provides user 12 with a visually perceivable representation of the data string, such as a video display and/or a print-out. Player 12 is also provided with contact information such as a telephone number or a network address for a network 20 for providing the data string to an operator 23.
  • Player 12 then utilizes a network 20 to transmit the source data string of 40 to one or more repositories, such as remote server 22 of the operator 23 of system 10 using the touch-tone pad of the telephone. Alternatively, player 12 may access a network address, such as an internet web page. Predetermined data is captured and stored at 24. Such data may include, without limitation, a telephone number or internet protocol (IP) address, demographic information and account information relating to player 12, such information being transmitted to operator 23 automatically and/or manually by the mobile phone and/or the player. Data transmitted to operator 23 may be linked to or matched with other data previously stored at 24 by the operator. Accordingly, data storage at 24 may include a conventional database or data warehouse.
  • The received source data string 40 is then decoded at 26 to generate a corresponding output data string, such as a string of numeric or alpha-numeric digits having a predetermined length and sequence. The output data string is compared with a predetermined list of data strings at 28 to determine what action to take next, if any, such as awarding a premium or prize to user 12. Alternatively, the received source data string may be compared with a predetermined list of data strings at 28 to determine what, if any, premium or prize user 12 has won. The comparison may be simply a check for matching data strings. Alternatively, the comparison may involve executing an equation or algorithm in which the data string is one of a plurality of factors, other factors including, without limitation, previous winners, date, time, geographic locations, player 12 demographic information, available prize/premium inventory, sales volume, and business establishment 15 information. The comparison of 28 may be accomplished using any known type of comparator, such as a computer executing one or more associated computer programs.
  • If no prize was won, as at 30, a text or voice message indicating this condition is sent to player 12 via network 20. If a prize was won, as at 32, a text or voice message containing redemption information is sent to player 12 via network 20. If the source data string of 40 is submitted to operator 23 by means of a computer, results 30, 32 may be conveyed to player 12 using conventional computer-based communications means, including e-mail, web page displays, pop-up boxes, and text messages sent to a predetermined mobile phone. Player 12 then redeems their prize at 34 by following instructions provided at 32. Redemption of the prize at 34 may be accomplished in any conventional manner including, without limitation, in-person at business 15, via postal/package services, and via electronic networks such as the internet. With the exception of the foregoing, system 100 operates in the same manner as system 10. Accordingly, details of the structure and operation of system 100 will not be reiterated here.
  • With reference to FIG. 2A, game piece 14 comprises a predetermined number of graphical symbols 36 having predetermined and stored characteristics. Such characteristics of game piece 14 may include, without limitation, the number, types, shapes, sizes and colors of symbols 36 as well as the spacing between the symbols. When viewed, the characteristics of game piece 14 offer no hint of the output data string decoded at 26 (FIGS. 1, 3) or the prize won, if any. Each symbol 36 may represent one or more unique corresponding numeric or alphanumeric characters (not shown), which may be pre-determined by the aforementioned characteristics. Alternatively, the characteristics of game piece 14 may be used as constants and/or variables in a mathematical equation or algorithm at 26 (FIGS. 1, 3) that generates a unique numeric or alphanumeric output data string comprising digits or characters of a predetermined length and sequence. Game piece symbols may also correspond with third party properties, such as motion pictures, toy characters, and so on from product tie-ins and cross-promotions.
  • With reference to FIGS. 1 through 3, game piece 14 may be presented to player 12 utilizing any visually perceivable media. Accordingly, game piece 14 may be placed on products, as in FIG. 2A, or in newspapers and magazines. Other media may include bottles and cans. Game piece 14 may also be incorporated into standalone coupons, or partially incorporated into coupons that must be matched with a particular product or in-store display to derive a complete game piece. Game piece 14 may also be presented in video form, such as being televised in television broadcast media during commercials or events sponsored by a business establishment utilizing the present invention as a promotional device.
  • With reference to FIGS. 1 and 3, in some embodiments of the present invention an image of game piece 14 may be captured at 18 using a mobile telephone having an integral camera. Alternatively, other devices may be interchangeably used to capture an image of game piece 14 including, without limitation, digital cameras and “web cams,” i.e., camera devices coupled to an internet-linked terminal.
  • Servers 22 (FIGS. 1 and 3) may comprise one or more conventional data servers in a sufficient quantity and arrangement to receive data from, and send data to, a plurality of players 12 simultaneously. If the number of players 12 is expected to be large, such as game pieces 14 associated with a sporting event, a sufficient number of servers 22 may be configured and ready to handle the anticipated traffic.
  • Data captured at 24 in FIGS. 1 and 3 may include information such as the mobile telephone number and other user-specific information of player 12. This data may be stored and associated with other information, such as known demographic information relating to player 12 including, without limitation, geographic location and products or services associated with game piece 14 submitted by the player.
  • Image data capture, as at 18 in FIG. 1, may be accomplished using any predetermined conventional format or standard, such as Media Management System (MMS) promulgated by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). Similarly, the game piece conversion, 38, of FIG. 3, may be accomplished using any predetermined conventional format or standard, such as Short Message Service (SMS) and other forms of text messaging. Alternatively, aural means such as voice calls and messages may be used to submit to operator 23 the source data string at 40 corresponding to game piece 14.
  • With reference to FIG. 1, image data is decoded at 26 in any conventional manner such as, without limitation, image-recognition equipment and software. The symbols 36 (see FIG. 2A) and their characteristics (as detailed above) are determined, then a predetermined algorithm or data listing is utilized to generate a corresponding output data string, such as a set of numeric or alpha-numeric digits or characters of a predetermined length and sequence.
  • With reference to FIGS. 1 and 3, the data string derived at 26 is compared to a predetermined list of prizes at 28 to determine whether player 12 has won a prize. In some embodiments of the present invention various criteria may be utilized in conjunction with a list of prizes in order to determine whether player 12 has won a prize. As used herein, “prize” may be used to describe a physical object, a discount, an award, a qualification or other premium offered as an incentive for consumer participation in the promotional process. Such criteria include, without limitation, date, time, the number of times a particular data string has been submitted by one or more players 12, prizes, geographic location, and so on. The criteria may be fixed by business establishment 15 and/or operator 23 of systems 10, 100 at the outset of the game, or may be re-configured by them periodically or upon the occurrence of certain events, in order to maintain a high level of interest on the part of players 12.
  • With continued reference to FIGS. 1 through 3, a number of conventional anti-fraud measures may be used to authenticate game piece 14 in any of its forms, including, without limitation, placing predetermined index and parity markings 44 with symbols 36 (see FIG. 2A). In embodiments of the present invention wherein game piece 14 is presented by means of broadcast television, additional measures may be utilized to ensure that the intended image is captured. For example, image capturing 18 of FIG. 1 may further comprise capturing any audio and/or video accompanying the display of game piece 14. This information may be transmitted to operator 23 in any conventional format, such as a digital and/or analog electronic format, to be matched by the operator to the audio and/or video actually accompanying the video presentation of game piece 14, thus authenticating the game piece.
  • As previously noted, the determination of a winner, as at 28 in FIGS. 1 and 3, may be fixed or may be re-configured by business establishment 15 and/or operator 23 at various times or based upon the occurrence of predetermined events and/or geographic criteria. Thus, a particular game piece 14 can be limited to a single game entry, or may be submitted a plurality of times depending upon the rules established by business establishment 15 and/or operator 23.
  • Network 20 of FIGS. 1 and 3 may comprise one or more cellular networks operating in partnership with operator 23. For example, certain networks may be selected as designated or exclusive networks to provide communications between player 12 and operator 23 in exchange for providing the operator with a monetary award for each such communication transmission handled by the network. Given the international reach of the present invention, both domestic and international cellular networks 20 may participate. Furthermore, various embodiments of the present invention network 20 may include a conventional telephone and a common carrier “land-line” telephone network. For example, any or all of a private branch exchange (PBX ), so-called “plain old telephone service” (POTS) and public switched telephone network (PSTN) may be employed. Computer-based networks using established protocols, such as the internet, may also be utilized for network 20. In fact, network 20 may comprise any combination of one or more of the aforementioned types of networks, as well as any other type of communications or data transfer network now known or later developed, within the scope of the invention.
  • With continued reference to FIG. 1, when the present invention is used in conjunction with commercial video broadcasts, viewers who record broadcasts will be motivated and encouraged to watch the commercials bearing game pieces 14 rather than skip them. Thus, advertisers and providers of digital video recording equipment, such as TIVO, provided by TiVo, Inc. of Alviso, Calif., may provide monetary awards to operator 23 of the present invention for video presentations of game piece 14. In exchange, operator 23 may promote the recording equipment to players 12.
  • In some embodiments of the present invention partnerships and alliances may be formed between operator 23 and one or more mobile phone manufacturers. Such manufacturers may increase their sales by providing phones having features that are desirable to players 12 such as, for example, high-resolution cameras. Similarly, operator 23 may recommend particular mobile phones produced by partner manufacturers to players 12, further driving demand for the mobile phones.
  • In some embodiments of the present invention partnerships and alliances may be formed with broadcast-to-internet equipment and service providers, such as SLINGBOX provided by SLING MEDIA of Foster City, Calif. Players 12 may utilize such equipment and services to obtain game pieces 14 generated through broadcast television media. Of course, this capability is expected to drive demand for the equipment and services. Operator 23 may recommend the equipment and services to players 12, further driving demand for the equipment and services.
  • In some embodiments of the present invention partnerships and alliances may also be formed with any or all of production studios, broadcast networks and advertisers. For example, the present invention may be utilized during sponsored programs and events in order to promote the programs, events and/or products and services offered or advertised by business establishments in connection with the programs and events. Examples include, without limitation, situation comedies, dramas, serial programs, sporting events and concerts.
  • Player data collected, associated and stored at 24 (FIGS. 1, 3) may be utilized in various ways. For example, text messages or other communications may be periodically sent to players 12 informing them of incentives such as “secret sales” and sub-contests limited to current players. Similarly, targeted sub-contests may be directed at all current players 12, or certain players based on such criteria as time periods (e.g., lunchtime specials offered by a business establishment), player and/or business establishment locations, types of previous purchases and demographic information relating to the players.
  • It should be noted that a plurality of either or both of gaming systems 10, 100 of FIGS. 1 and 3 may be conducted by one or more operators 23 at any given time, the various systems being directed at any desired predetermined target market such as, without limitation, players, events, regions, products, venues and establishments.
  • The invention disclosed herein may be utilized in various aspects of commerce, within the scope of the invention. Several examples are provided below. These examples are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended to be limiting.
  • In some embodiments of the present invention gaming system 100, shown in FIG. 3 and described in detail above, may be incorporated into standalone systems such as vending machines. For example, with reference to FIG. 4, system 100 may be incorporated with a beverage vending machine 50 wherein game piece 14 is placed on the products vended thereby. A game piece converter 38 may be incorporated into the vending machine 50 or located nearby, allowing users of the machine to play the game without requiring additional hardware. For example, vending machine 50 may dispense beverage cans 51 having a game piece 14 imprinted thereon, as shown in FIG. 5.
  • With reference to FIG. 6, a game piece 14 may be arranged on an interior-facing surface 52 of a label 54 that is affixed to a generally transparent product container, such as a beverage container 56. In this embodiment game piece 14 will not be sufficiently visible, and thus not available for use, until the product in the container has been at least partially consumed. Once the product has been consumed game piece 14 is visible and an image thereof may be captured by a player 12 in any manner previously described. For example, with reference to FIGS. 1 and 6, a player 12 may capture an image of game piece 14 at 18 by aiming a camera-equipped mobile phone at the exposed interior-facing surface 52 of label 54 and capturing an electronic image of the game piece. Likewise, with reference to FIGS. 3 and 6, a player 12 may utilize a game piece converter 38 to read game piece 14 in the manner previously described.
  • With continued reference to FIG. 6, in one embodiment label 54 may include a game piece 14 arranged on an interior-facing surface 52 of a label 54. An aperture 57 in label 54 is positioned generally opposite game piece 14, through which a player 12 may view and capture an image of the game piece only after consuming the contents of container 56. Another embodiment is the cup 16 shown in FIG. 2B, wherein a player 12 must consume or dispose of the contents of cup 16 in order to obtain access to game piece 14, which is imprinted upon a bottom inner surface 59 of the cup.
  • With reference to FIG. 7, game piece 14 may be included with conventional forms of printed media including, without limitation, newspapers, magazines, brochures, advertisements, pamphlets and mailers. For example, FIG. 7 shows a game piece 14 printed in a newspaper 58.
  • With reference to FIG. 8, game piece 14 may be arranged with a sticker 60 that is adapted to be affixed to a floor 62 and associated with particular goods and services and/or a particular business establishment 15. Floor-mounted stickers 60 can also be used at various public gathering places, such as amusement parks, zoos, concert venues and the like. Players 12 are incentivized to play by the opportunity to break the monotony of standing in line, coupled with the opportunity to win a prize. This embodiment also allows business establishment 15 to obtain, via operator 23, demographic data concerning who buys what and where by correlating game piece 14 and player 12 information to a particular establishment site providing particular goods and/or services.
  • In still other embodiments floor stickers 60 may be placed in certain predetermined areas of a business establishment 15 and system 10 (FIG. 1) is utilized to identify players 12 in those areas. In return, players 12 who participate in the operation of system 10 in this manner may earn incentives and rewards for visiting that area of the store. As a result, customer traffic may be increased in certain areas of the store.
  • With reference to FIG. 9, a game piece 14 may be arranged with a vehicle information sticker 64. In this embodiment players 12 who submit game piece 14 to operator 23 may receive in response information associated with the game piece, such as information relating to the features of the vehicle, along with information relating to sales, incentives, discounts, and so on for that vehicle. The information may optionally be tailored based upon the demographic information obtained for the player.
  • With reference to FIG. 10, game piece 14 may be displayed as a visually perceivable image on a computer monitor screen 66 when a player 12, accessing a network such as the internet, visits predetermined web sites.
  • With reference to FIG. 11, game piece 14 may be associated with a particular type of advertisement 68, such as an advertisement or flyer for an entertainer. Players 12 who submit an image of the advertisement may be able to receive information associated with the game piece, such as a list of scheduled appearance dates and places for the entertainer.
  • With general reference to FIGS. 1, 3 and 7 game piece 14 may be associated with advertisements for merchandise that is customizable or fitted to the particular purpose of a player 12. For example, a game piece 14 may be associated with a shoe advertisement, in which case player 12 submits the game piece along with a text message for the shoe size desired. The operator 23 receives the game piece, obtains the player's shipping address and credit card information from data gathered at 24, and ships the ordered shoes to player 12.
  • With general reference to FIGS. 1, 3 and 7, game piece 14 may be associated with a horse or dog racing advertisement. A player submits game piece 24 to an operator 23 and in return receives information associated with the game piece, such as information relating to racing schedules. A player may also bet on a horse or dog using system 10, 100 by transmitting the betting information to operator 23 in any conventional manner, such as text messaging.
  • With general reference to FIGS. 1, 2 and 3, game piece 14 may be associated with visually perceivable media, such as cups, tickets and advertising, relating to a sporting event or contest. A player 12 submits the image of a game piece 14 to an operator 23 and in return receives information associated with the game piece, such as information relating to highlights of the event, such as scores and plays. Similarly, a game piece 14 may be used by player 12 to submit entries for drawings and sweepstakes associated with the game piece, such as tickets to future sporting events.
  • With reference to FIGS. 1 and 3, game piece 14 may be associated with network-based video media downloads and media download sweepstakes. For example, in one embodiment of the present invention game piece 14 may be downloaded from a network by a player 12. Player 12 in turn submits the image of game piece 14 to operator 23 and in return receives information relating to prize winnings.
  • With general reference to FIGS. 1, 2 and 3, game piece 14 may be associated with beverage cups 16, such as those provided by fast-food vendors. After purchasing a drink, including cup 16, a player 12 submits the image of game piece 14 to operator 23 and in return receives information relating to prize winnings.
  • With reference to FIGS. 1, 3 and 11, game piece 14 may be associated with visually perceivable media, such as and advertisements, flyers and handouts 68. A player 12 submits the image of game piece 14 to operator 23 and in return receives additional information relating to the subject of the advertisement, flyers or handout 68, such as concert schedules.
  • With general reference to FIGS. 1, 3 and 10, game piece 14 maybe incorporated into visually perceptible video game imagery. For example, game piece 14 may appear in the background of a video game, either overtly or covertly. A player 12 submits the image of game piece 14 to operator 23 and in return may receive information relating to game incentives such as credits and “cheat codes.” Similarly, game piece 14 may be used to submit entries for drawings and sweepstakes.
  • With reference to FIGS. 1, 3 and 12, game piece 14 may be associated with articles of clothing 70 such as shirts, the game piece being printed thereon. A player 12 submits the image of game piece 14 to operator 23 and in return receives information relating to products and services also appearing on the shirt. Similarly, game piece 14 may be used to submit entries for drawings and sweepstakes.
  • With general reference to FIGS. 1, 3 and 13, game piece 14 maybe imprinted upon user-printed stamps and shipping labels 72 printed by a provider of goods and/or services. A player 12, such as a recipient of an envelope or package to which the stamps are affixed, submits the image of game piece 14 to operator 23 and in return receives information relating to the goods and services offered. Similarly, game piece 14 may be used to submit entries for drawings and sweepstakes.
  • It should be noted that, in some embodiments, game piece 14 may be overtly displayed, along with instructions on how to play the interactive gaming system and method. Alternatively, game pieces 14 may be covertly hidden in visually perceptible media, thereby challenging players to seek them out. For example, with general reference to FIG. 10, game piece 14 may be hidden in the background scenery of a video game played on computer monitor screen 66, or displayed only momentarily or under certain predetermined conditions.
  • Similarly, game piece 14 may be covertly hidden as an element of a non-game piece image, such as an element of a photo or drawing. In this embodiment a player 12 uses a polarized light filter in conjunction with a mobile phone at 16 in order to discern the game piece of the photo or drawing and capture an image of the game piece at 18 (FIG. 1) and 38 (FIG. 3).
  • The general arrangement of an interactive translation system and method 200 (hereafter generally “system 200”) is shown in FIG. 14 according to yet another embodiment of the present invention. In operation, a participant (hereinafter “user 202”) accesses tangible information 204 to be translated. For example, user 202 may encounter signage displaying information 204 in an unfamiliar language. User 202 captures an electronic image of information 204 with a camera-equipped mobile phone at 206 and utilizes a network 208 to transmit the image to one or more predetermined information collectors, such as a remote server 210 of an operator 212 of system 200. Predetermined data relating to the mobile phone used at 206 may be captured and stored at 214. Such data may include, without limitation, the mobile phone number, demographic information and account information relating to user 202, such information being transmitted to operator 212 automatically and/or manually by the mobile phone and/or the user. Data transmitted to operator 212 by the mobile phone and/or user 202 at 206 may be linked to or matched with other data previously stored at 214 by the operator. Accordingly, data storage at 214 may include a conventional database or data warehouse.
  • The received image is then decoded at 216 with image-recognition equipment and/or a computer executing one or more associated computer programs, such as optical character recognition computer programs, to generate a corresponding output data string, such as a string of numeric or alpha-numeric digits. The output data string is then translated in any conventional manner such as, for example, with a computer executing one or more associated computer programs, to a select language familiar to user 202. The select language may be determined by operator 212 by reviewing the user 202 data stored at 214. Alternatively, user 202 may communicate the desired select language to operator 212 via text message using the mobile phone of 206 and network 208.
  • At 220 a text message containing the translation of information 204 is transmitted to, and received by, the mobile phone used by user 202 via network 208. User 202 may then review the translation, as at 222.
  • Although system 200 is described above in terms of a discrete image captured at 206, it will be appreciated that the system may also be configured to operate in a mode wherein a continuous stream of information 204 is provided to operator 212 by a user 202 in the manner previously described, and wherein a continuous stream of translated information is provided to the user at 222. For example, a user 202 may operate a mobile phone in a video mode, capturing a video stream of information 204, forwarding the video stream to operator 312 in the manner previously described, and receiving on the mobile phone at 222 a corresponding continuous video stream of a translation of information 204.
  • With the exception of the foregoing, system 200 operates in the same manner as system 10. For example, information 204 is otherwise similar to game piece 14. Likewise, image capture 206, 18 are otherwise similar, as are networks 208, 20, servers 210, 22, capture/storage 214, 24 and image decoding 216, 26. Accordingly, details of the structure and operation of system 200 will not be reiterated here.
  • The general arrangement of an interactive response system and method 300 (hereinafter generally “system 300”) is shown in FIG. 15 according to still another embodiment of the present invention. In this embodiment a participant (hereinafter “user 302”) accesses a MOBIGLYPH™ 304. MOBIGLYPH™ is a trademark of Compex, Inc. of Columbus, Ohio. With general reference to FIG. 2A, MOBIGLYPH™ 304 is a commercial image generated by Compex, Inc. that may embody any or all of the features previously described for game piece 14 and illustrated in FIG. 2A including, without limitation, characteristics such as the number, types, shapes, sizes and colors of symbols 36 as well as the spacing between the symbols and the placement of security markings 44. MOBIGLYPH™ 304 may be interchangeably referred to as glyph 304 herein.
  • In operation of system 300 a MOBIGLYPH™ 304 is associated with an object or vendor for which additional information may be requested by a user 302. For example, a MOBIGLYPH™ 304 may be associated with a particular vendor or goods on display, such as at a trade show. When a user 302 encounters a vendor or goods for which additional information is desired the user captures at 306 an electronic image of the MOBIGLYPH™ 304 associated with the vendor or goods, using a camera-equipped mobile phone. User 302 utilizes a network 308 to transmit the image to one or more predetermined information collectors, such as a remote server 310 of an operator 312 of system 300. Predetermined data relating to the mobile phone used at 306 may be captured and stored at 314. Such data may include, without limitation, the mobile phone number, demographic information and account information relating to user 302, such information being transmitted to operator 312 automatically and/or manually by the mobile phone and/or the user. Data transmitted to operator 312 by the mobile phone and/or user 302 at 306 may be linked to or matched with other data previously stored at 314 by the operator. Accordingly, data storage at 314 may include a conventional database or data warehouse.
  • The received image is decoded at 316 with image-recognition equipment and/or a computer executing one or more associated computer programs, such as optical character recognition computer programs, to generate a corresponding output data string, such as a string of numeric or alpha-numeric digits. At 318 the output data string is then matched with predetermined response information relating to the vendor or goods. Example response information may include, without limitation, technical data, specifications, prices, details of services, company information, contact information and so on.
  • At 320 the response information prepared at 318 is transmitted to, and received by, the mobile phone used by user 302 via network 308. User 302 may then review the response information, as at 322. Alternatively, the information of 318 may at 320 be transmitted to user 302 in other forms, including one or more of emailing the user and mailing printed information to the user via a conventional postal or package carrier service.
  • With the exception of the foregoing, system 300 operates in the same manner as system 10. For example, image capture 306, 18 are otherwise similar, as are networks 308, 20, servers 310, 22, capture/storage 314, 24 and image decoding 316, 26. Furthermore, MOBIGLYPH™ 304 and game piece 14 are substantially similar in structure, arrangement and operation, as discussed above. Accordingly, details of the structure and operation of system 300 will not be reiterated here.
  • With minor adaptation system 300 may function as an approval system. For example, a user 302, such as a teenager shopping in a store, may desire to purchase an item. User 302 captures at 306 an image of a MOBIGLYPH™ 304 associated with the item. The MOBIGLYPH™ 304 may be imprinted upon a tag attached to the article, displayed on a sign proximate the article or listed in sales literature. The captured image of 306 is forwarded to operator 312, who in this example may be a parent, via network 308 for processing. Information associated with the decoded image of 316 is presented to operator 312, such as a description and/or image of the article and its purchase price, which may be presented to the operator on a mobile phone or computer screen. Operator 312 may approve the purchase at 318 with an affirmative response, which includes a generated approval code. The approval code is transmitted to user 302 at 320 via network 308. The approval code, which is associated with user 302 and/or operator 312 at 314, is reviewed by user 302 at 322. User 302 supplies the approval code to the vendor of the article who utilizes the approval code to charge the purchase to operator 312.
  • In yet another adaptation system 300 may facilitate the operation of a game wherein a pool of players (i.e., users 302) each wear a MOBIGLYPH™ 304 on an article of clothing, a sign or a badge. During play each user 302 attempts to capture at 306 an image of the MOBIGLYPH™ displayed by the other users, the images being forwarded to operator 312 for processing in the manner previously described for system 300. Each user 302 whose MOBIGLYPH™ 304 is captured at 306 is eliminated and may receive a confirming indication at 322. The last non-eliminated user 302 is judged the winner.
  • In still another adaptation of system 300 a user 302 may utilize a MOBIGLYPH™ 304 in association with a customer rewards program. For example, a user 302 may be issued a MOBIGLYPH™ 304, which is associated with the user at 314. When user 302 makes a qualified purchase under the rewards program the user captures an image of the user's assigned MOBIGLYPH™ 304 and forwards it to operator 312 for processing in the manner previously discussed for system 300. Operator 312 matches decoded MOBIGLYPH™ 304 with a transaction record stored in 314 for the qualified purchase and awards points, discounts, credits and other customer incentives to user 302 in a predetermined manner.
  • In yet another adaptation of system 300 a user 302 may capture at 306 an image of a MOBIGLYPH™ 304 associated with a rewards program offered by a business establishment in order to join the program. Operator 312 matches up the decoded MOBIGLYPH™ 304 information at 316 with user 302 information stored at 314 and, in response, sends at 318, 320 rewards membership information to the user via network 308. User 302 may review the membership information at 322.
  • In still another adaptation of system 300 a group of users 302 may participate in a “scavenger hunt” game, locating a MOBIGLYPH™ 304, capturing an image thereof at 306 and forwarding an image to operator 312 using network 308 in the manner previously discussed for system 300 to obtain information or clues pertaining to the location of the next MOBIGLYPH™ in a predetermined series. The first user 302 to complete the series may be awarded any or all of prizes, incentives and rewards.
  • In some embodiments of the present invention an electronic image of MOBIGLYPH™ 304 may be shared among users 302, allowing plural users to utilize system 300 to obtain benefits and incentives. Furthermore, operator 312 may provide plural users 302 with additional incentives and rewards if the users shop together as a group, as indicated by each of the users capturing an image of a common MOBIGLYPH™ in a business establishment 15, such as a floor-mounted MOBIGLYPH™ similar to game piece 14 (see FIG. 8). Information stored at 314 may include identification of the users 302 as members of the group.
  • System 300 of FIG. 15 may also be utilized for registering a product. Many products, such as software, require registration with the vendor as a prerequisite to receiving technical support and updates. Many other products require registration as a prerequisite to warranty coverage for the product by the manufacturer. In operation, a user 302 captures at 306 a MOBIGLYPH™ associated with the product and forwards the image to operator 312 in the manner previously detailed. Operator 312 decodes the image at 316 and matches the product information with the information of record at 314 for user 302. A response comprising registration confirmation and any other ancillary information is prepared at 318, and transmitted to user 302 at 320, via network 308. The response may be viewed by user 302 at 322.
  • Game piece 14 and MOBIGLYPH™ 304 have been thus far described as being imprinted or displayed. However, one skilled in the art will appreciate that game piece 14 and MOBIGLYPH™ 304 may be presented in any tangible or visually perceivable form within the scope of the invention. For example, game piece 14 and MOBIGLYPH™ 304 may be variously formed by, without limitation, imprinting, stamping, photography, printing by any automatic, manual or mechanical means, silk screening, hand-forming, stenciling, engraving, etching, carving, casting, molding and embossing.
  • While this invention has been shown and described with respect to detailed embodiments thereof, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that changes in form and detail thereof may be made without departing from the scope of the claims of the invention. For example, certain portions of the disclosed invention may be interchangeably described in terms of their function and/or structure within the scope of the invention. In addition, the method of the present invention may be operated manually, automatically, or any combination of manually and automatically, within the scope of the invention.

Claims (24)

1. A method of participating in an interactive promotional gaming system by a participant, comprising the steps of:
obtaining access to an image of a game piece;
capturing an electronic image of the game piece;
transmitting the image to a predetermined information collector for decoding the received image of the game piece and comparing the decoded image to a predetermined list for transmittal of results of the comparison to the participant; and
receiving the transmitted results of the comparison.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein a mobile phone is used to capture an electronic image of the game piece, transmit the image to the information collector, and receive the results of the comparison.
3. The method of claim 2, further comprising the steps of capturing and storing, at the information collector, predetermined data relating to at least one of the mobile phone and a user thereof.
4. The method of claim 1 wherein the comparison relates to at least one prize.
5. The method of claim 1 wherein the comparison relates to information associated with the game piece.
6. The method of claim 1, further comprising the step of imprinting the game piece upon a beverage cup.
7. The method of claim 1, further comprising the step of imprinting the game piece upon printed media.
8. The method of claim 1, further comprising the steps of imprinting the game piece upon an interior surface of a label and affixing the label to a generally transparent container.
9. The method of claim 1, further comprising the step of imprinting the game piece upon a floor sticker.
10. The method of claim 1 further comprising the step of displaying the game piece upon a computer monitor screen.
11. The method of claim 1, further comprising the step of imprinting the game piece upon an article of clothing.
12. The method of claim 1, further comprising the step of placing security markings proximate the game piece.
13. A method of participating in an interactive promotional gaming system by a participant, comprising the steps of:
obtaining access to an image of a game piece;
obtaining, with a game piece converter, a data string corresponding to an electronic image of the game piece;
transmitting the data string to a predetermined information collector for decoding the received data string and comparing the decoded data string to a predetermined list for transmittal of results of the comparison to the participant; and
receiving the transmitted results of the comparison.
14. The method of claim 13 wherein the comparison relates to at least one prize.
15. The method of claim 13 wherein the comparison relates to information associated with the game piece.
16. The method of claim 13, further comprising the steps of incorporating the game piece converter into a vending machine, and imprinting the game piece upon items to be vended by the vending machine.
17. The method of claim 13, further comprising the step of imprinting the game piece upon a beverage cup.
18. The method of claim 13 further comprising the step of imprinting the game piece upon printed media.
19. The method of claim 13, further comprising the step of placing security markings proximate the game piece.
20. An interactive promotional gaming system, comprising:
a tangible image of a game piece;
a camera-equipped mobile phone;
a predetermined information collector configured to receive an image of the game piece that has been captured and transmitted from the mobile phone;
a decoder to decode the received image of the game piece;
a comparator to compare the decoded image to a predetermined list; and
a transmitter to transmit the results of the comparison to the mobile phone.
21. A method of participating in an interactive translation system by a participant, comprising the steps of:
obtaining access to an image of information to be translated;
capturing an electronic image of the information;
transmitting the electronic image to a predetermined information collector for decoding the received image of the information, translating the decoded image, and transmittal of the translation to the participant; and
receiving the transmitted translation.
22. The method of claim 21 wherein the image of information is at least one of a discrete image and a continuous stream of images.
23. A method of participating in an interactive response system by a participant, comprising the steps of:
obtaining access to an image of a glyph;
capturing an electronic image of the glyph;
transmitting the image to a predetermined information collector for decoding the received image of the glyph;
preparing a response corresponding to the decoded image of the glyph for transmittal of the response to the participant; and
receiving the transmitted response.
24. The method of claim 23 wherein the glyph and the response relate to at least one of an information request, a purchase approval, a game, a product registration and a rewards program.
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