US20080280682A1 - Gaming system having a set of modular game units - Google Patents

Gaming system having a set of modular game units Download PDF

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US20080280682A1
US20080280682A1 US12117307 US11730708A US2008280682A1 US 20080280682 A1 US20080280682 A1 US 20080280682A1 US 12117307 US12117307 US 12117307 US 11730708 A US11730708 A US 11730708A US 2008280682 A1 US2008280682 A1 US 2008280682A1
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game
unit
modules
described
units
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Abandoned
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US12117307
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Kevin P. Brunner
Guy Thomas Robert Mcllroy
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FIDDLE Inc
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FIDDLE Inc
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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
    • 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
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F3/00Board games; Raffle games
    • A63F3/00643Electric board games; Electric features of board games
    • 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
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F3/00Board games; Raffle games
    • A63F3/00173Characteristics of game boards, alone or in relation to supporting structures or playing piece
    • A63F3/00261Details of game boards, e.g. rotatable, slidable or replaceable parts, modular game boards, vertical game boards
    • A63F2003/00359Modular units
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F3/00Board games; Raffle games
    • A63F3/00173Characteristics of game boards, alone or in relation to supporting structures or playing piece
    • A63F3/00261Details of game boards, e.g. rotatable, slidable or replaceable parts, modular game boards, vertical game boards
    • A63F2003/00359Modular units
    • A63F2003/00362Modular units with connections between modules
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F9/00Games not otherwise provided for
    • A63F9/24Electric games; Games using electronic circuits not otherwise provided for
    • A63F2009/2483Other characteristics
    • A63F2009/2488Remotely playable
    • A63F2009/2489Remotely playable by radio transmitters, e.g. using RFID

Abstract

A game system comprises a set of independent units, preferably wirelessly connected. One of the displays preferably is a master unit that manages the game and its display on the remaining, satellite units. The master unit typically has Internet connectivity. Each unit can stand on its own, has a touch sensitive display capable of handling multiple touch points, and includes an accelerometer (or the equivalent) for detecting physical changes in its orientation. With the modular units, a game board can be created, re-arranged and manipulated to support various modes of game play that one might encounter when physically interacting with traditional board games. The game play can also be extended over the Internet (or other network connection) to local or remote players. Each modular unit has a mechanism to determine the unit's orientation to a fixed surface, and relative to one another.

Description

  • This application is based on Ser. No. 60/916,782, filed May 8, 2007.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • 1. Technical Field
  • This disclosure relates generally to electronic gaming systems and devices.
  • 2. Description of the Related Art
  • Video games are a well-developed technological art. A video game is a game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video display, such as a raster-type display. The electronic systems used to play video games are known as platforms. They include personal computers, specialized video game consoles, handheld devices (e.g., cell phones, PDAs, etc.), and the like. The user interface to manipulate a video game is generally called a game controller, which varies across platforms. Beyond the common element of visual feedback, video games have utilized other systems to provide interaction and information to the player, such as sounds and vibrations. It is also known in the art that video games can be played in a standalone “local” manner, or “remotely,” e.g., via a network connection, such as the Internet. Multiplayer games are those that can be played either competitively or cooperatively, typically by using multiple input devices.
  • BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • This disclosure relates to a portable game platform designed, for example, to replace a traditional board game. In one embodiment, the platform comprises a set (e.g., two or more) independent units, which preferably are wirelessly connected. One of the displays preferably is a master unit that manages the game and its display on the remaining, satellite units. The master unit typically has Internet connectivity. Preferably, each unit can stand on its own, has a touch sensitive display capable of handling multiple touch points (chording), and includes an accelerometer (or the equivalent) for detecting physical changes in its orientation.
  • With the modular units, a game board can be created, re-arranged and manipulated to support the various modes of game play that one might encounter when physically interacting with traditional board games. The accelerometer, for example, allows for a simulation of dice to be rendered and for the player to shake the board to roll the dice. The same mechanism can be used to displace the dice, e.g., in a dice game. The separate, but preferably wirelessly connected, units allow for the shape of the board to change to support different styles of game play and information hiding. Thus, e.g., four units could be arranged in a classic two-player arrangement to support the same gaming experience. A multi-point touch screen allows for more direct interaction with pieces and the game than other gaming platforms, and it allows for natural information hiding. Additionally, tactile game pieces may be provided that would interact with the board further enhancing the physical experience associated with classic board games.
  • Preferably, each modular unit has a display portion, such as a one or more TFT or OLED display panels. The shape of each modular unit may be the same, or different. Typically, the modular units have the same configuration. Preferably, at least some if not all of the modules in the system can be oriented arbitrarily and thus can be arranged suitably to promote or represent a specific style of board game play. As noted above, the game play over the modules may be extended by wireless connectivity to support an arbitrary board size. The game play can also be extended over the Internet (or other network connection) to local or remote players. Preferably, each modular unit has a mechanism to determine the unit's orientation to a fixed surface, and relative to one another.
  • Preferably, the master unit acts as a central controller. It operates to distribute the state of the game to the satellite units (and their associated remote displays), e.g., by means of networking connections and associated software. Preferably, the master controller executes appropriate platform software that has knowledge of the other boards, what should be displayed to the user, what events/interactions are taking place on the remote displays, and the like. If desired, a satellite unit could serve as a master unit in the event of a failure of the master, so that the game is not interrupted. The master unit preferably includes a video camera (similar to those in web cams). This camera allows the user to project their image to a remote player giving the perception that the remote player is present and engaged in the game play. The game board image (or a portion thereof) will preferably be displayed to the remote player(s) (e.g., over the Internet, using another system) during game play. Preferably, any of the units may be used to display the virtual presence of a remote player, e.g., by projecting the video from the remote unit's camera onto one of the local displays. This allows remote players to easily interact with local players as if they were physically present for play.
  • The foregoing has outlined some of the more pertinent features of the invention. These features should be construed to be merely illustrative. Many other beneficial results can be attained by applying the disclosed invention in a different manner or by modifying the invention as will be described.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • For an understanding of the present invention and the advantages thereof, reference is now made to the following descriptions taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:
  • FIG. 1 illustrates a gaming system according to the present invention comprising a set of modular units;
  • FIG. 2 is a block diagram of the components of a representative master unit, and a representative satellite unit;
  • FIG. 3 illustrates how the modules may be configured to facilitate expansion of the playing surface for a particular game;
  • FIG. 4 illustrates a game space that is selectively revealed as a module is repositioned or tilted, additional modules are added, or the units are touched with particular gestures;
  • FIG. 5 illustrates how a four module set may be configured for playing a battleship-like game;
  • FIG. 6 illustrates how a module may be configured for playing a card game;
  • FIG. 7 illustrates how a two module set may be configured for playing a word game;
  • FIG. 8 illustrates a set of game units in a virtual 3D space with absolute, relative or abstract locations;
  • FIGS. 9-12 illustrate various forms of position registration techniques for use in enabling a game unit to determine the positions of other game units and players;
  • FIG. 13 illustrates how physical position vectors (Physical position vectors) may be derived using physical proximity position registration; and
  • FIG. 14 illustrates how a remote unit PPV may be derived by sharing PPV tables between units via wireless or other communication.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • FIG. 1 illustrates a gaming system that incorporates the subject matter herein. In one embodiment, the system comprises a set of modular game units 100, at least one of which (such as unit 102) is a master unit. One or more of the remaining units are satellite units that are adapted to be controlled by the master unit. A given satellite unit may take over the position as the master unit if the master unit fails. Each unit comprises a one or more display panels. Preferably, a display panel is touch-sensitive. The individual modules are separately-positioned to form a game board. An extended play surface is created by incorporating additional modules 104, as shown. A given module (such as unit 106) may be turned upright or otherwise positioned to obscure information or the play area. The modules typically have the same size and configuration (although this is not necessarily required), and the set (comprising a plurality of such modules) may be conveniently aggregated and stored. Preferably, the modules communicate with the master unit and/to one another wirelessly, although wired communication may also be used. The master unit provides central control. Generally, the master unit operates to distribute the state of the game to the satellite units (and their associated remote displays), e.g., by means of the networking connections. In particular, and depending on the game, the master controller executes appropriate platform software that has knowledge of the other boards, what should be displayed to the user, what events/interactions are taking place on the remote displays, and the like. Preferably, each unit can stand on its own, has a touch sensitive display capable of handling multiple touch points, and includes an accelerometer (or the equivalent) for detecting physical changes in its orientation. Typically, each unit is battery-powered, but this is not a requirement. The master unit may be powered from a wall unit, with the satellite units including a battery source. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, a module is approximately square and has a top surface 108, a bottom surface 110, and side surfaces 112. This configuration is merely representative, as the shape of the individual units may vary.
  • Preferably, there are no physical connections between the units. Batteries are preferably charged and re-charged inductively. An individual unit may or may not have any external ports or otherwise have an “up” position. The display panel may be present on any of the sides or surfaces of the unit. The accelerometer identifies an orientation of the unit (and, thus, the display panels) to the master unit. Each unit preferably includes a Bluetooth or other wireless module to allow it to communicate with one or more other units, including the master unit. Preferably, during play a given unit includes a copy of the game, and state is shared between and among the units for display and tracking input.
  • FIG. 2 illustrates the components of a representative master unit 200, as well as the components of a representative satellite unit 202. Except for the master unit, the individual modules need not contain their own storage (e.g., hard drives). Thus, a satellite unit need not include a disk or other permanent data store. Each unit preferably includes an accelerometer 204 such that the unit's orientation can be determined and used by the master unit 200. As can be seen, the master unit is a data processing system that includes hardware, and software components including an operating system, system utilities and application programs. A representative data processing system suitable for storing and/or executing program code will include at least one processor 206 coupled directly or indirectly to memory elements through a system bus (not shown). The memory elements can include local memory 208 employed during actual execution of the program code, bulk storage 210 (disk drive, flash memory, or the like), and cache memories that provide temporary storage of at least some program code. Input/output or I/O devices (including but not limited to a touch-sensitive display 214) are coupled to the system either directly or through intervening I/O controllers. Network adapters may also be coupled to the system to enable the data processing system to become coupled to other data processing systems or devices through intervening private or public networks. The master unit includes an accelerometer 204 to determine the unit's orientation, as well as a video camera 216 (similar to those in web cams). This camera allows the user to project their image to a remote player. The game board image (or a portion thereof) may be similarly distributed to a remote player (e.g., over the Internet, using another system) during game play. Preferably, any of the units may be used to display the virtual presence of a remote player, e.g., by projecting the video from the remote unit's camera onto one of the local displays. The idea is to allow remote players to easily interact with local players as if they were physically present for play. The master unit typically includes a web browser so that the unit can interact with other online resources in a conventional manner. Wireless connectivity is provided by one or more functions such as Bluetooth 216, Firewire 218 or WiFi 220. The master unit is powered by its own supply 222, or through a battery 224. An audio subsystem 226, which typically includes a speaker and possibly a microphone, provides audio input and output.
  • More generally, the master unit is a gaming computer having the capability and capacity to facilitate play of a computer game. Thus, the master unit may be any CPU- chip-based electronic platform and associating software.
  • The representative satellite unit 202 includes a processor 228, memory 230, a display and associated graphics card(s) 232, an accelerometer 234, wireless connectivity via Bluetooth 236 or Firewire 238, and a power supply 240 and/or battery 242.
  • With the modular game units, a game board can be created, re-arranged and manipulated to support the various modes of game play that one might encounter when physically interacting with traditional board games. The accelerometer, for example, allows for a simulation of dice to be rendered and for the player to shake the board to roll the dice. The same mechanism can be used to displace the dice, e.g., in a dice game. The separate, but preferably wirelessly connected, units allow for the shape of the board to change to support different styles of game play and information hiding. Thus, e.g., four units could be arranged in a classic two-player arrangement to support the same gaming experience. A multi-point touch screen allows for more direct interaction with pieces and the game than other gaming platforms, and it allows for natural information hiding. Some word games, for example, require that a number of tiles be drawn and hidden from the view of other players. With the gaming platform, there is a natural means for hiding and displaying the tiles. The user simply places a hand on the board, cupped, so that he or she can view the tiles but the other players cannot. Under suitable control, the board senses that it may safely reveal the tiles and does so. Alternatively, the accelerometer may be employed as the board is tilted to provide viewing exclusively to the player that owns the tiles. Additionally, tactile game pieces may be provided that would interact with the board further enhancing the physical experience associated with classic board games.
  • Preferably, each modular game unit has a display portion, such as a one or more TFT or OLED display panels. The shape of each modular unit may be the same, or different. Typically, the modular units have the same configuration. Preferably, at least some if not all of the modules in the system can be oriented arbitrarily and thus can be arranged suitably to promote or represent a specific style of board game play. As noted above, the game play over the modules may be extended by wireless connectivity to support an arbitrary board size. In one embodiment, Bluetooth is used between and among the modular units for wireless connectivity. Wi-Fi or other wireless protocols may be used as well. These techniques are not meant to be limiting, as any convenient technique for high speed data exchange (e.g., Firewire, USB, or other) between the physically adjacent or nearby units may be used. The game play can also be extended over the Internet (or other network connection) to local or remote players. Preferably, each modular unit has a mechanism to determine the unit's orientation to a fixed surface, and relative to one another.
  • Preferably, and as noted above, the master game unit acts as a central controller. It operates to distribute the state of the game to the satellite units (and their associated remote displays), e.g., by means of networking connections and associated software. Preferably, the master controller executes appropriate platform software that has knowledge of the other boards, what should be displayed to the user, what events/interactions are taking place on the remote displays, and the like. If desired, a satellite unit could serve as a master unit in the event of a failure of the master, so that the game is not interrupted. The master unit preferably includes a video camera (similar to those in web cams). This camera allows the user to project their image to a remote player giving the perception that the remote player is present and engaged in the game play. The game board image (or a portion thereof) will preferably be displayed to the remote player(s) (e.g., over the Internet, using another system) during game play. Preferably, any of the units may be used to display the virtual presence of a remote player, e.g., by projecting the video from the remote unit's camera onto one of the local displays. The idea is to allow remote players to easily interact with local players as if they were physically present for play.
  • The gaming platform may also be used by a player for extended activities, such as an online store for game or other purchases, a virtual game closet for storing games, access to other online games and sites, and to facilitate social networking (e.g., with a community of friends and relatives with whom the consumer may play games at any time). Each of these items may be built right into the unit and may be exposed through the system's application software.
  • The playing surface may be expanded by positioning two or more modules such as illustrated in FIG. 3. In this example, a representative game is backgammon. There are four orientations shown. In the first version, a pair of modules, 300 and 302, are positioned side-by-side so that a portion of the game board is positioned on each display. The second version illustrates a similar configuration using a pair of rectangular-shaped modules 304 and 306 positioned end-to-end. The third version shows the addition of a third module 308; in this example the master unit has determined that the display surface of the third module (by itself) cannot accommodate any expansion of the board. When a fourth module 310 is added, however, the master unit expands the display and provides instructions to the other three units to expand the board in the manner shown. In this manner the addition of additional units enables the game board being displayed to be expanded into the available display space.
  • FIG. 4 illustrates an alternative way of visualizing a game and a display area. In this embodiment, a battle game is being displayed. Here, the game space 400 represents a larger area than the combined surface area of the module 402. As the module 402 is moved, or as additional modules are added, the game space 400 is revealed.
  • FIG. 5 illustrates how a set of four modules 502, 504, 506 and 508 may be positioned for a battleship-like game. FIG. 6 illustrates how a module 600 may be positioned to facilitate a card game.
  • FIG. 7 illustrates how a set of two modules 700 and 702 may be positioned to facilitate a word game. In the latter case, a player may position his or her hand on or adjacent to the board. When the board senses the contact (or near contact), the player's letter tiles 704 are illuminated. The player cups his or her as shown to obscure the tiles from the opposing player. Of course, these examples are merely for illustration and are not meant to limit the present invention.
  • A set of modular game units networked together as described above comprise a gaming system or platform. The hardware of given units typically is homogenous, but it may be heterogeneous. Preferably, however, each unit runs an instance of the same distributed application that facilitates the functionality described herein. This distributed application typically is distinct from the game itself, although this is not a requirement, as a particular game may comprise software components that are part of or that otherwise conform to an application programming interface (API) of the platform. The distributed application components comprise a communications protocol layer, an access layer, and a core components layer. The “layer” designation is provided for explanatory purposes, as one of ordinary skill will appreciate that the functions may be characterized in other meaningful ways. One or more of the layers (or the components therein) may be integrated or otherwise. Some components may be shared across layers. The communications protocol layer is an efficient and reliable message-based middleware layer that enables communication between and among the units. Typically, the layer supports multicast and point-to-point communications. One example of such a middleware is the Spread toolkit. Inter-unit communications may be based on a one-way request pattern, an acknowledged request pattern, or a request/response pattern. The core components layer provides the necessary functionality for interfacing with the actual game components, and for controlling the satellite units to display the board and game elements. As noted above, preferably one game unit acts as a master (or leader) and is responsible for determining which satellite units are responsible for displaying which portions of the game board. The core component interfaces to the game software and maintains state information for each of the displays associated with the one or more satellite modules so that the appropriate display data is sent to the unit(s). A leader election algorithm, such as the bully algorithm, assignment by a user, hardware assignment, or other variation, may be used to select the leader. The distributed application may operate on any convenient operating system, such as Linux. The application may also include or interoperate with other components local to the unit or distributed among the others such as a database management system.
  • Thus, according to the subject matter herein, a module (sometimes referred to as a “game unit”) is a discrete electronic device that is participating in delivering a “game experience” to a user. A “game experience” is the utilization of any set of multiple such electronic devices preferably designed and configured in the manner described above so as to provide a specific type of socially interactive, cooperative game or other experience to multiple users, either in physical proximity (as around a table) or in virtual proximity (as around an online game server or Internet connection to remote devices). A “game space” is a 2D or 3D virtual space that is constructed, preferably in software, for the purposes of playing a game. Preferably, the virtual space is tied to one or more game units in such a way as to convey some notion of physical positional information to the other game units and players. This notion of physical position may be realized as (a) an absolute position in 3D space, (b) relatively, as the relative position of any one device in a position relative to another, or (c) abstractly, the notion that a relative position of a unit is defined in abstract relative terms, such as above or below, left or right, further or closer, and the like. FIG. 8 illustrates a representative virtual 3D game space with several game units positioned using this framework. A “game player” is any individual participant of a game. A game player may be a person, or a computer. Game players are the strategic manipulators of “game avatars” and have the notion of a physical presence in relation to the game space. A “game avatar” is any iconic representation of a game element that is subject to, part of, or otherwise representative of the rules of play and progress in a game. A “game piece” typically is a game avatar that is realized as a physical entity. A game player may have multiple virtual or physical game avatars.
  • According to another aspect of this disclosure, a “physical position vector” (PPV) is a 2D or 3D vector that each game unit maintains to relate a notional physical location of a corresponding game unit in relation to the unit on which the PPV is derived. This vector may be expressed in absolute, relative, or abstract terms. Any given PPV may change as the game progresses independently of any game avatars or similar game icons that may also be moved in relation to the game play. Preferably, the physical presence of the player at the game is maintained as part of the game state independently of the actual game play. In other words, the player typically has a presence separate from and independent of (but also complementary to) the actual game or activity being pursued.
  • The physical position vectors are used to map game units into a virtual game space regardless of how the units are moved around physically. As will be described, by maintaining a mapping of the player position vector to the virtual space for each game unit, the system enables the virtual space to be coherently rendered to the game units irrespective of changes in physical location of one or more game units. A PPV can be derived using one of several techniques as are now described. These include: user-defined position registration, dead reckoning position registration, wireless signal strength position registration, and physical proximity position registration. As used herein, “position registration” is the process by which any game unit is assigned or assumes a position in the virtual space and that is related to any given notion of physical position that is relevant to the users playing the game. Preferably, a wireless protocol is used to enable the game units to resolve relative position ambiguities such a complete set of physical position vectors among multiple game units is coherent with respect to the complete 2D or 3D game space. The physical position vectors thus established on each game unit enable the processing of physical device gestures (e.g., touch, tilt, shake) that may be directed at a specific player. This may be accomplished by aligning those gestures with the PPV specific to each player being addressed.
  • Position registration may be carried out by the users. In a first approach, the users acting in cooperation define relative positions of the game units. Preferably, in this form of registration, position is generally restricted to abstract relative position. The set of participating game units is displayed to the user on a display screen and the user positions the remote units relative to each other such that the relative position on the screen reflects the perceived physical location of the unit and its player. This relative placement may be rendered in 2D or 3D space. A 2D registration process is illustrated in FIG. 9, which shows game unit A's display screen. In this example, game unit A knows about game units B, C, D and E (either explicitly or derived from wireless communication) and presents the user with the ability to place those units relative to itself. In this way, user A selects player units to drag into the game. In this particular example, A drags the units D and E to representative physical locations that have meaning for the game or activity. In general, using this approach the players may be positioned around a virtual game board, or positioned around a virtual table for dealing cards or other physical position-referenced activity.
  • Another position registration approach may be based on dead reckoning. Here, the users acing in cooperation define the relative positions of the game units. In this form of registration, preferably position is restricted either to relative or absolute relative position. The set of participating game units are individually registered with each other, e.g., by physically touching the units together and then moving the units to a physical location of the game player. The set of participating game units is displayed to the user on a display screen and the user positions the remote units relative to each other such that the relative position on the screen reflects the perceived physical location of the unit and its player. The relative placement may be rendered in 2D or 3D space. A 2D registration process is illustrated in FIG. 10. Here, game unit A knows about game unit B and presents the user with the ability to place that unit physically relative to itself. Unit B tracks the movement and derives a PPV relative to unit A, as well as a PPV for A. Units A, B and C then share physical position vectors to ensure no overlap and logical coherence of derived physical positions.
  • Another approach to position registration uses wireless signal strength. Here, the users acting in cooperation define the relative positions of the game units. In this form of registration, position is generally restricted to relative or abstract relative position. The set of participating game units are identified by their wireless transmission and derived signal strength, which varies with proximity. This signal strength is then used via a calibration table to derive a distance between units. For three or more units, the relative coordinates between the units may be derived by simple trigonometry, such as shown in FIG. 11.
  • Yet another approach to position registration involves physical proximity. The users acting in cooperation define the relative positions of the game units. In this form of registration, position is generally restricted to relative or abstract relative position. The set of participating game units are manipulated to be physically adjacent to one another. By means of electrical contacts, proximal position information is derived and shared among the units, as illustrated in FIG. 12. Thus, in this example, each unit derives physical proximity position by deriving unit vectors between each unit and sharing this information between units. Thus, for example, unit A derives physical position information about unit C from shared information from (a) B and D, which are in contact with C, or (b) unit B, which is in contact with D in contact with C. Sharing physical position vectors between units and simple vector arithmetic may be used to derive the relative position of physically distant but connected devices.
  • FIG. 13 provides a further illustration of how physical position vectors are derived in the physical proximity case. In this example, it is assumed that units A, B, C and D are located at the physical positions shown. Here, it is also assumed that there is no master or base unit, as the PPV derivation process here is symmetric and self-propagating. According to a preferred protocol or algorithm, each unit derives a relative PPV with each of its physical neighbors. Each unit then shares its PPV with each other unit. Each unit then derives the PPV for distant units by vector addition.
  • A remote unit PPV derivation is shown in FIG. 14. It is assumed that each unit shares each PPV table and has common knowledge of all PPV tables. In this example, PPV A→C is derived by multiple vector additions through either of A→B→C or A→D→C, as shown. By this same method, all relative physical position vectors may be derived for all participating game units. This process maps to three or more dimensions by simple geometric extension. Relative physical position vectors are easily mapped to any notion of actual physical position vectors by defining an arbitrary zero point and vector and resolving relative-to-actual physical position vectors by simple vector arithmetic.
  • As a skilled artisan will appreciate, the construction of a PPV allows each unit to have a sense of the direction from itself to any other game unit. This allows physical gestures on the unit to be used to indicate or communicate actions that should be directed between the gesturing game unit and the game unit in the gestured direction. Such gestures can be physically executed to align with the PPV to the game unit in question to give a more realistic virtual game play or action state change. A gesture, as noted above, may include stroking the touch panel, tilting the unit, tapping the unit, or the like.
  • Moreover, by tracking the physical location of a game unit as it is moved around by a player, the system can track and update the location of the device in the virtual game space. Using this location, each unit may be used as view window onto specific portions of the virtual game surface. This is illustrated in FIG. 4 above. By this method, moving the device through physical space, different parts of the 2D or 3D virtual space may be visible to the user. The game may chose any linear or non-linear functional mapping between the physical and virtual worlds as appropriate to the game or activity.
  • By use of the PPV to virtual game space mapping, if two units are physically exchanged, and if it pertinent to the nature of the game, the game units can then also exchange screen displays such that the virtual to physical view mapping remains unchanged without user intervention. Thus, for example, if four units are used to display a virtual game space such as backgammon, exchanging any two (or more) units would not inhibit or otherwise change the coherence of the board displayed. This functionality is advantageous, especially in the case where a unit fails or its battery runs out; in such case, a new unit can be inserted and will automatically replace the failed part of the board without additional configuration. More generally, one of ordinary skill will appreciate that the PPV-to-game space mapping enables the game space to be coherently rendered to the physical game units with full consideration for any changes in physical location.
  • The methods described above for creating and maintaining a PPV may also be used to track entities other than game units, which other entities may include game pieces, physical devices, systems, persons, or the like.
  • A particular game unit may include a user interface that exposes one or more menu screens for game selection, administration, management, data collection, and the like. Any particular game unit may be placed in wired or wireless communication with another computer (e.g., a desktop, laptop, PDA, or the like) to provision the unit or system.
  • The particular details of a game typically determine how a particular unit should be programmed. Thus, for example, in the case of a dice game, an accelerometer (or a series of such devices) may be programmed to enable the simulation of a player shaking the dice cup. Similarly, for a card or word game, an accelerometer (or other sensor) can be used to determine whether information about a virtual entity should be revealed or displayed (e.g., cards being turned up or letter tiles being turned over). Depending on the game, the virtual space and display management described above allows for compelling simulation of a card deck, wherein cards are dealt through space and “land” on other displays. When combined with orientation sensors like accelerometers and altimeters, the cards may be lifted, revealed, and manipulated as if the user were physically present at a gaming table.
  • If desired, the virtual space may be folded, bent, scaled, split or otherwise contorted without disturbing the consistency of the game unit registrations. For example, a space may be divided into three areas, two of which would be displayed on a single device while the third is duplicated and displayed on both. As a second example, a surface may be layered and each device (although registered at the same position) may be used to display only one or another of the layers exclusively.
  • The gaming platform may be specially constructed for the required purposes, or it may comprise a general-purpose computer selectively activated or reconfigured by a computer program stored in the computer. Such a computer program may be stored in a computer readable storage medium, such as, but is not limited to, any type of disk including optical disks, CD-ROMs, and magnetic-optical disks, read-only memories (ROMs), random access memories (RAMs), magnetic or optical cards, or any type of media suitable for storing electronic instructions, and each coupled to a computer system bus.
  • A particular game unit in the system may be an existing computer or device that is programmed to interact with other game units to carry out the described functionality. Thus, an existing computing machine or device, such as a desktop, laptop, PDA, mobile phone, or the like (or, more generally, any network-accessible computing device) may be co-opted and used as a game unit according to the teachings herein.
  • The word “game” as used herein should be construed broadly, for example, to include entertainment activity, educational activity, and the like.
  • While given components of the system have been described separately, one of ordinary skill will appreciate that some of the functions may be combined or shared in given devices, modules, instructions, program sequences, code portions, and the like.
  • Having described the invention, what we now claim is as follows.

Claims (20)

  1. 1. Apparatus, comprising:
    a set of two or more modules adapted to communicate with one another, wherein at least first and second of the modules are positioned relative to one another to facilitate a game.
  2. 2. The apparatus as described in claim 1 wherein the first and second modules and adapted to communicated with one another wirelessly.
  3. 3. The apparatus as described in claim 1 wherein the first and second modules are positioned side-by-side to provide a playing surface that is larger than a playing surface provided by a given one of the first and second modules.
  4. 4. The apparatus as described in claim 1 wherein at least one of the first and second modules is positioned on an end thereof so that a portion of a playing surface is obscured.
  5. 5. The apparatus as described in claim 1 wherein the first module provides a control function for at least the second module.
  6. 6. The apparatus as described in claim 1 wherein at least the first and second modules each include a device that determines a position and an orientation of the module.
  7. 7. The apparatus as described in claim 1 wherein at least one of the first and second modules includes software for exporting a display of a game surface provided by the first and second modules.
  8. 8. The apparatus as described in claim 1 wherein at least one of the first and second modules includes a camera for exporting a display of a person involved in local game play.
  9. 9. The apparatus as described in claim 1 wherein the game is associated with one or more other players via a network connection to at least the first module.
  10. 10. The apparatus as described in claim 1 wherein each of first and second modules has a same or different shape and configuration.
  11. 11. The apparatus as described in claim 1 wherein each of the modules has at least one touch-sensitive display surface.
  12. 12. A game system, comprising:
    a set of modules adapted to communicate with one another wirelessly, wherein at least one of the modules is a control module that provides control signals to one or more satellite modules, wherein the control module maintains state information for each of the displays associated with the one or more satellite modules;
    wherein at least first and second modules are positioned to form a composite playing surface; and
    a game having a play area displayed on the first and second modules and controlled by the control module.
  13. 13. A method of playing a game using game units that wirelessly communicate with one another, comprising:
    establishing a virtual space in which the game is to be played;
    for each game unit, deriving physical position information that identifies a notational physical position of the game unit relative to at least one other game unit in the virtual space; and
    coordinating the physical position information from at least first and second game units such that the physical position information is coherent with respect to the game units within the virtual space.
  14. 14. The method as described in claim 13 wherein the physical position information is a physical position vector (PPV) that is expressed in absolute, relative or abstract terms.
  15. 15. The method as described in claim 14 further including modifying a given PPV as the game is played.
  16. 16. The method as described in claim 14 further including registering each game unit in the virtual space prior to the coordinating step.
  17. 17. The method as described in claim 13 further including taking a given action at the first game unit to direct an action at a player associated with the second game unit.
  18. 18. The method as described in claim 17 wherein the given action is a physical device gesture.
  19. 19. The method as described in claim 13 where the physical position information represents a relative player position such that an associated player position is independent of yet complementary to the virtual space.
  20. 20. The method as described in claim 14 wherein a mapping of the physical position vector to the virtual space for each game unit enables the virtual space to be coherently rendered to the game units irrespective of changes in physical location of one or more game units.
US12117307 2007-05-08 2008-05-08 Gaming system having a set of modular game units Abandoned US20080280682A1 (en)

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