US20100093434A1 - System for coordinating behavior of a toy with play of an online educational game - Google Patents

System for coordinating behavior of a toy with play of an online educational game Download PDF

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Publication number
US20100093434A1
US20100093434A1 US12/577,671 US57767109A US2010093434A1 US 20100093434 A1 US20100093434 A1 US 20100093434A1 US 57767109 A US57767109 A US 57767109A US 2010093434 A1 US2010093434 A1 US 2010093434A1
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toy
play
game
system
computer
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Abandoned
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US12/577,671
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Carlos G. Rivas
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Rivas Carlos G
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Priority to US12/577,671 priority patent/US20100093434A1/en
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    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F13/00Video games, i.e. games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions
    • A63F13/50Controlling the output signals based on the game progress
    • A63F13/54Controlling the output signals based on the game progress involving acoustic signals, e.g. for simulating revolutions per minute [RPM] dependent engine sounds in a driving game or reverberation against a virtual wall
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F13/00Video games, i.e. games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions
    • A63F13/12Video games, i.e. games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions involving interaction between a plurality of game devices, e.g. transmisison or distribution systems
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F13/00Video games, i.e. games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions
    • A63F13/20Input arrangements for video game devices
    • A63F13/24Constructional details thereof, e.g. game controllers with detachable joystick handles
    • A63F13/245Constructional details thereof, e.g. game controllers with detachable joystick handles specially adapted to a particular type of game, e.g. steering wheels
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F13/00Video games, i.e. games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions
    • A63F13/30Interconnection arrangements between game servers and game devices; Interconnection arrangements between game devices; Interconnection arrangements between game servers
    • A63F13/31Communication aspects specific to video games, e.g. between several handheld game devices at close range
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F13/00Video games, i.e. games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions
    • A63F13/30Interconnection arrangements between game servers and game devices; Interconnection arrangements between game devices; Interconnection arrangements between game servers
    • A63F13/33Interconnection arrangements between game servers and game devices; Interconnection arrangements between game devices; Interconnection arrangements between game servers using wide area network [WAN] connections
    • A63F13/332Interconnection arrangements between game servers and game devices; Interconnection arrangements between game devices; Interconnection arrangements between game servers using wide area network [WAN] connections using wireless networks, e.g. cellular phone networks
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F13/00Video games, i.e. games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions
    • A63F13/30Interconnection arrangements between game servers and game devices; Interconnection arrangements between game devices; Interconnection arrangements between game servers
    • A63F13/33Interconnection arrangements between game servers and game devices; Interconnection arrangements between game devices; Interconnection arrangements between game servers using wide area network [WAN] connections
    • A63F13/335Interconnection arrangements between game servers and game devices; Interconnection arrangements between game devices; Interconnection arrangements between game servers using wide area network [WAN] connections using Internet
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63HTOYS, e.g. TOPS, DOLLS, HOOPS, BUILDING BLOCKS
    • A63H3/00Dolls
    • A63H3/28Arrangements of sound-producing means in dolls; Means in dolls for producing sounds
    • GPHYSICS
    • G09EDUCATION; CRYPTOGRAPHY; DISPLAY; ADVERTISING; SEALS
    • G09BEDUCATIONAL OR DEMONSTRATION APPLIANCES; APPLIANCES FOR TEACHING, OR COMMUNICATING WITH, THE BLIND, DEAF OR MUTE; MODELS; PLANETARIA; GLOBES; MAPS; DIAGRAMS
    • G09B5/00Electrically-operated educational appliances
    • GPHYSICS
    • G09EDUCATION; CRYPTOGRAPHY; DISPLAY; ADVERTISING; SEALS
    • G09BEDUCATIONAL OR DEMONSTRATION APPLIANCES; APPLIANCES FOR TEACHING, OR COMMUNICATING WITH, THE BLIND, DEAF OR MUTE; MODELS; PLANETARIA; GLOBES; MAPS; DIAGRAMS
    • G09B7/00Electrically-operated teaching apparatus or devices working with questions and answers
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63FCARD, BOARD, OR ROULETTE GAMES; INDOOR GAMES USING SMALL MOVING PLAYING BODIES; VIDEO GAMES; GAMES NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • A63F2300/00Features of games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions, e.g. on a television screen, showing representations related to the game
    • A63F2300/40Features of games using an electronically generated display having two or more dimensions, e.g. on a television screen, showing representations related to the game characterised by details of platform network
    • A63F2300/406Transmission via wireless network, e.g. pager or GSM
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63HTOYS, e.g. TOPS, DOLLS, HOOPS, BUILDING BLOCKS
    • A63H2200/00Computerized interactive toys, e.g. dolls

Abstract

A system for coordinating the behavior of a smart toy with play of an online educational game over a network comprises a network computer which hosts a website having one or more educational games, a memory for storing one or more announcements each of which corresponds to a state of play of the game, a local computer in communication with the network computer for playing the game, and a smart toy in communication with the network computer, such that when the progression of play of the game reaches a state of play, the game instructs the network computer to one of the announcements to the toy where when it is played by a speaker in the toy enhances the learning experience of the person playing the game.

Description

    CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/104,643, filed Oct. 10, 2008.
  • FIELD OF INVENTION
  • This invention comprises using a portable communication device to transmit personalized digital content to a wireless entertainment device.
  • BACKGROUND
  • Wireless technology is in wide use throughout the world and perhaps in most popular practice through the use of cellular telephones. Plush toys, such as teddy bears, are well known, but are limited insofar as they are basically inanimate objects. Toys incorporating technological enhancements are now well known but are generally limited to moving in life-like ways, and speaking prepackaged phrases prompted by an action performed directly to the toy, such as by pushing a button. Playing online games is a well established art and games have been developed for pure entertainment and for educational purposes. The play and control of online games is performed using local input devices such as a keyboard or a game controller which is in communication with the user's client computer. The playing of online games, however, is generally not associated with and has no control over objects not in direct communication with the client computer.
  • Nothing in the prior art has brought together the above technologies in a way that breaths life into a child's toy to enhance learning experienced when playing an online educational game.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE ILLUSTRATIONS
  • FIG. 10 is a diagrammatic representation of a system for transmitting personalized digital content messages to a wireless entertainment device using a portable communication device and a message server.
  • FIGS. 20 to 33 are diagrammatic representations of displays for each of the various processes conducted by the messaging software that is installed on a portable communication device.
  • FIG. 50 is a diagrammatic representation of a system for transmitting and acquiring a personalized digital content message comprised of a gift using either a portable or stationary communication device and both a message and virtual world web server.
  • FIG. 60 is a diagrammatic representation of a system for interacting with the educational content presented in a virtual world using a stationary communication device and both a message and virtual world web server.
  • FIG. 61 is a diagrammatic representation of a website having a number of games.
  • FIG. 62 is a diagrammatic representation of portions of the content of one of the games referred to in FIG. 61.
  • DESCRIPTION OF THE ILLUSTRATED EMBODIMENT
  • In one embodiment of the invention, the portable communication device is a cell phone loaded with unique messaging software which serves as a platform for transmitting digital messages. This enables the cell phone to interact with a messaging server in conjunction with a system of delivering personalized digital content to a wireless entertainment device. Communication with a computer server using a cell phone is made possible by extending the reach of the world wide web to what is now commonly referred to as the mobile web. Cellular telephone carriers enable access to the mobile web by routing all non-voice communication traffic over the data channels of their respective communication networks. In an alternate embodiment, communication with the messaging server is established by dialing a telephone number that refers to the server and either voice responses or DTMF dial tones prompt interactivity with the server.
  • It will be understood by those skilled in the art that the invention may readily be implemented with other portable communication devices such as PDAs and mobile multi-media devices such as the Apple® iPod®. Moreover, it will be understood that other communication devices may consist of a non-cellular telephone (e.g., land line telephony device that relies on either a PTSN and or VoIP communication network), personal computer, laptop computer, email account, any type of computer system that may or may not be able to play data stored on machine-readable mediums (e.g., floppy diskettes, CD-ROMS, DVD, flash memory, or other type of machine-readable medium suitable for storing electronic data), or another system that is convenient for the particular implementation and capable of presenting digital content in a perceptible format.
  • It will also be understood by those skilled in the art that a communication network may include the internet, electromagnetic radiation, satellite, fiber optic cable, coaxial cable, digital subscriber line (DSL), copper, microwave, direct infrared, conventional receiver (e.g., rabbit ears), satellite dish, modem, routers, radio waves within any range of the licensed and unlicensed frequency spectrum, or any other elements, including transmission towers that constitute a system of broadcasting or narrowcasting a machine readable signal. Furthermore, the communication network may refer to the employment of any number of digital communication standards including but not limited to Internet Protocol (IP), Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), User Datagram Protocol (UDP), Real Time Transfer Protocol (RTP), File Transfer Protocol (FTP), Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), Network Time Protocol (NTP), and the like.
  • It will also be understood by those skilled in the art that the term “digital content” may be any type of content desired for a particular implementation, and is to be interpreted broadly. For example, the content may be entertainment content, educational content, business content, computer software, multimedia (e.g., movies, video on demand, video games), video, audio (e.g., MP3s), and other types of content (e.g., structured data such HTML, DHTML, XML, WXML, WAP, WAV, MIDI, JAVA, BREW, MPEG, SMIL, SVG, and other formats). Furthermore, the content may include content-descriptive data (e.g., a list of library catalogue numbers that refers to story lullaby content titles included in a entire collection all content stored on a messaging server).
  • In one embodiment of the wireless entertainment device, a child's toy that resembles a teddy bear features sophisticated communications equipment beneath its fabric covering. In this embodiment, the wireless entertainment device receives personalized digital content message from a messaging server.
  • Most data retrieval processes between a computer server and a communication device require that the communication device periodically initiate contact with a computer server by pinging, polling, or in some way testing whether the server is reachable across a network. Conversely, in other data retrieval processes, it is the computer server that is required to periodically initiate contact with the communication device to determining if the latter is accessible. In either case, the pinging protocol eats up valuable bandwidth.
  • According to the invention, the data retrieval process does not require that the wireless entertainment device periodically initiate contact with the message server to update accessibility status. Instead, the message server simply delivers the personalized content messages, including command announcement prompts (e.g., gift message announcements), as the server receives personalized content message transmissions thereby eliminating the pinging requirement. The content message answering routine performed by the communications equipment constructed in the wireless entertainment device is, by default, in an always-answer setting, and the content message received from the message server is captured on electromagnetic storage. It is then sorted into separate standard content messages (e.g., voice content message, lyrical melody, non-lyrical melody, story) from command announcement prompts (e.g., gift announcements or website content statements such as educational material feedback). The playback program priority in a preferred embodiment of electromagnetic stored content is predicated on a first received, first played (FRFP) basis. In this embodiment, the digital content messages accumulated in the electromagnetic storage component may be transported for archival purposes onto an equivalent storage facility (e.g., flash memory, or another communication device such as a cell phone or personal computer) using a wired or wireless data transport mechanism.
  • Content created and transmitted by an authorized calling party may consist of a short voice message, lyrical song, non-lyrical melody such as whistling, story, or any combination thereof. If the intended recipient of the content is a young child, the most likely authorized calling parties will be the child's parents or grandparents. Message transmissions may be sent immediately following the creation of the authorized calling party's digital content message, or it may be scheduled for delivery at later date. For example, the authorized calling party may be a grandmother who elected to schedule delivery of her personalized digital content message to coincide with the date of her grandson's birthday 45 days in the future. In this example, the personalized digital content created by the grandmother might consist of a celebratory personal voice message and two additional content attachments that include the “Happy Birthday to You” song and a gift message.
  • On his birthday, the grandson's wireless entertainment device would, first, announce reception of the grandmother's personalized digital content message by giggling audibly. Second, the wireless entertainment device would refer to the grandson by name and also announce, in its own animated character voice, the name (e.g., Grandma) of the authorized calling party who transmitted the personalized digital content.
  • The capability of the wireless entertainment device to refer to a grandchild by name is made possible during the setup and registration process, during which the device is programmed to learn the name of the grandchild, and also by coupling highly complex text-to-speech algorithms with powerful microprocessors that generate a speech prosody level that is almost human. It is also during the setup and registration process that the wireless entertainment device acquires the capability to recognize and audibly announce the identity of the authorized calling party who transmitted the digital personalized content. Other instances when the wireless entertainment device acquires the capability to recognize the identity of an authorized calling party are subsequent to the initial setup and registration event when the message server issues confirmation to additional members of the child's family who may have, for example, requested confirmation of their authorized calling party designation. Specifically, the issuance of this confirmation is predicated on the message server's acknowledgment of a special permission code that only a legal custodian or parent would be authorized to provide. This permission code, which may be alphanumeric, is registered in combination with a unique authorized calling party code, which may also be alphanumeric, which is created and presented to the message server by the authorized calling party designee. Both the permission and authorized calling party codes are associated with the telephone number of the device (e.g., a cell phone) being used during the confirmation issuance session along with any of the other telephone numbers (e.g., work or home) that might be used to contact the message server.
  • In one aspect of the invention, the unique messaging software may also permit the broadcast transmission of a digital personalized content message to a plurality of wireless entertainment devices. For example, a father might elect to send a celebratory Merry Christmas greeting to the wireless entertainment devices associated with his daughter, nephew, and niece. In this example, the father, using the messaging software loaded on his communication device, would first select the content type to be transmitted, in this case a voice message, then select the names of the children in a message delivery directory containing the digital addresses for the three wireless entertainment devices associated with the children. Prior to forwarding the holiday greeting, the message server would verify that the father's authorized calling party code registered with the daughter's wireless entertainment device corresponds with the permission parameters contained in the registration information stored on the server for the other two wireless entertainment devices. In an alternate embodiment, the father would be able to broadcast the holiday greeting to multiple devices by dialing a server telephone number and using either voice responses or DTMF dial tones to initiate the process of delivering his personalized digital content message.
  • In another embodiment, the wireless entertainment device could receive content from the message server that was originally broadcasted from a television or radio station. For example, the wireless entertainment device could resemble the mascot of a favorite sports team. In this embodiment, the television or radio would, following an event (e.g., touchdown, goal, home run), transmit to the message server a command that would be delivered to a plurality of wireless entertainment devices that have been associated with the sports team. The association could be documented in the information stored on the message server that was provided during the registration and activation process. In this embodiment, this association could be represented by an icon or electronic widget that could be exported to the online properties maintained by the sports team or other entity (e.g., television station, radio station, print publication). The widget would instruct the online property to transmit a signal to the message server that is translated into a command that prompts the wireless entertainment device to audibly offer an announcement or cheer.
  • In another embodiment, a website could constitute a virtual world version of an online social network where the profile page is an avatar of the wireless entertainment device. This profile page could be linked to the profile pages of other avatars, and the avatars in this embodiment could exchange textual or audio messages via the message server to the corresponding wireless entertainment devices. Both the wireless entertainment device and components of its associated website could represent any number of characters or icons and be intended for any type of user.
  • Other content message types mentioned above, including lyrical songs and non-lyrical melodies such as whistling, stories, and lullabies, are not actually downloaded to the portable communication device. Instead, only the catalogue of library codes the server uses to retrieve the selected content is downloaded to the communication device for storage in a menu indexed by each content type. In this embodiment, the menu is updated during each personalized digital content transmission event, and the messaging software transforms the communication device into what could be considered the equivalent of a remote juke box selector. A benefit of this embodiment is that the communication device's available local memory storage capacity is conserved. In an alternate embodiment, short samples of each content type from the catalogue library that is stored on the service's message server could be downloaded along with the catalogue library codes and a record of previously requested selections.
  • Another embodiment of the invention involves an improved method of composing a voice content message wherein the messaging software leverages the functionality of the multimedia components, specifically the visual and audio recording and image capture features, incorporated in the design of many currently available mobile cellular phones. The improved messaging software would enable the suspension of video recording functions while permitting the record, playback, and immediate or delayed transmission of just the voice content message to the messaging server for delivery to the wireless entertainment device. In an alternate embodiment, the recording, playback, and transmission of a voice content message is made possible by dialing a server telephone number that uses either voice responses or DTMF dial tones to initiate the delivery process of this personalized digital content.
  • In another embodiment of the invention, upon reception by the message server of a personalized digital content message that was composed and transmitted using the messaging software installed on the portable communication device, a notification that a coupon offer is available is generated by the message server. The coupon offer notice does not refer to a specific promotion; rather, the only information given is that a coupon offer exists. In addition, the coupon offer may actually refer to a collection of coupon offers intended for distribution based on certain criteria. The criteria may refer to information stored on the message server that may include authorized calling party profiles, the party's geographical location at the time of transmission of a personalized digital content message, or the party's historical pattern of acceptance of coupon offer notifications, patterns of coupon offer acceptances, and actual redemption of coupon offers at merchant locations. Since only the existence of a coupon offer is known at the time of notification, acceptance of a coupon offer notification is really an inquiry to obtain the identity of the product or service being promoted and the discount value. Thereafter, upon selection of a coupon offer, a barcode is sent directly to the communication device where it is organized by the messaging software's digital coupon wallet. In an alternate embodiment, information about the coupon offer or the digital coupon could be acquired at a website associated with the wireless entertainment device.
  • Along with a notification that a coupon offer is available, other information presented includes an account balance summary that refers to the credit value remaining, as tabulated by the message server, that can be applied to the cost of future digital content message transmissions to the wireless entertainment device. The account may be established such that one party is entirely responsible for payment of all transmissions sent by both the responsible billing party and the designated authorized calling parties. Alternatively, the account can be established requiring each authorized calling party to maintain an individual digital content message transmission account. In one embodiment, the billing party or parties select a payment medium (e.g., bank credit or debit card, Paypal account, or other payment option) at the time of establishing their authorized calling party registration profile.
  • In one embodiment, the wireless entertainment device is designed to employ a one-way or mono-directional communication mode that emulates a paging system. In contrast to the way most communication devices operate, in particular cell phones that continually ping a communications network in an attempt to determine the presence of a signal or a new message received by a voicemail server, the reception-only design of this embodiment of the wireless entertainment device circumvents the need to intermittently contact a communications network. Another feature is a website hosted on a web server maintained by the service. The website is an animated interactive online destination resembling a virtual world habitat, such as a forest in which a teddy bear might be expected to live.
  • In one embodiment, contact with the website would occur when the personalized digital content message contains a gift message that may have been sent separately or as an attachment with other content message types described above. The gift content message instructs the message server to transmit a command to the wireless entertainment device that prompts the device to audibly notify the child that a gift has been offered, followed by a suggestion encouraging the child to log on to the website using a communication device with internet access where a gift box icon is discovered. The gift box icon is opened using an input device (e.g., a mouse or other electronic pointing device) causing a dialogue box to appear. The content of the dialogue box may refer to a description of the gift. In an alternate embodiment, the wireless entertainment device could function as an input device used to log on wirelessly to the website via a client PC after a button located somewhere on the plush figure is pressed, resulting in wireless communication with the client PC. The configuration of this dialogue box may consist of audio or video content that may have been imported from another source, such as Amazon.com, which markets online toy products sold through ToyRUs® retailing outlets. Other possible configurations of the dialogue box include a digital component that allows a parent, for example, to acquire the monetary value of the gift by entering a cell phone number. Acquisition of this gift culminates in the conversion of this gift into a single or multi-dimensional digital barcode that the cell phone receives. The barcode can then be redeemed at a participating offline retailer to acquire the gift.
  • Another optional form of personalized digital content message that could be transmitted is video or image files. In this embodiment, a video or picture message could be transmitted using the messaging software installed on a portable communication device. The previously described messaging software leverages the functionality of the multimedia components, specifically the visual and audio recording and image capture features incorporated into the design of many mobile cellular phones available in the market. The process of creating a video message using the messaging software installed on a portable communication device is similar to the creation of a voice content message, with the exception that the video recording functions are not suspended. An authorized calling party would create a video by directing the video camera located on the portable communication device at an object, record the video, and, if desired, other message types could be attached and transmitted to the message server. Likewise, picture content messages would be created in a manner similar to a video content message with the exception that the captured visual data is a static image that may be combined with audio data. Upon reception by the of the transmitted video or picture content, the message server delivers a command to the wireless entertainment device. Similar to the command that is sent to the wireless entertainment device when a digital gift content message has been transmitted, the command prompts the device to audibly notify the child that a video or picture has been offered followed by a suggestion that encourages the child to logon to the website where specially designed icons are presented. The specially designed icons may be opened using an input device (e.g., a mouse or other electronic pointing device) causing a dialogue box to appear. The content of the dialogue box would be the presentation of the video or picture file. In an alternate embodiment, a video or picture digital content message could be captured using any type of image-capturing device, and this message could be transmitted to the service's message server using any communication device.
  • Prior to delivery of any variation of personalized digital content messages to either the wireless entertainment device and or associated online environment (e.g., website) the message server will screen each digital content type for inappropriate content (e.g., strong language or nudity). Located on the message server is a software and/or hardware digital content message filtration system similar to the virtual world software utility that monitors the contextual nature and grammatical structure of messaging content and restricts content according to the profile of a specific child provided during the registration process. The digital content message filtration system performs a delivery suitability analysis of the visual, aural, and textual components of any digital content message. Factored into the delivery suitability analysis are the content message delivery preference conditions stipulated in the parental control database section of the message server.
  • Electronic copies of all transmitted personalized digital content messages are made and archived on the message server. At anytime this archived collection of previously transmitted content messages can be retrieved and organized using the album publishing software utility located on the message server. This album publishing software utility offers numerous predefined and customizable templates that can assist with the creative process of publishing an album to chronicle, for example, a facet of the child's life. These templates allow for annotations and various sections of the published album and importation of other content that may not have been derived from previously transmitted content messages (e.g., video footage of a family gathering or the Christmas morning when the child was presented with the wireless entertainment device gift). Moreover, the sections of this published album can be exported into other software applications, electronic appliances, and even websites such as YouTube®, Webshots®, and MySpace®.
  • Another scenario involving contact with virtual websites refers to a child's response to an audible suggestion offered by the device. For example, the wireless entertainment device might say, “Bobby, let's go play at my house” (referring to the virtual world forest). In this example the child would initiate contact with the web server by pressing a button or touching some region of the wireless entertainment device, thus utilizing it as a wireless input device. In this embodiment, the log on action by the wireless entertainment device would be in concert with a proprietary software program that could be preloaded on the client computer or located on board a flash drive that also functions as a transceiver. This proprietary program instructs the computer to launch a browser with extremely high security features that compliment and fortify any existing firewall or other internet content filtration and intrusion protection software resident in storage facilities (e.g., hard drive, BIOS chipset) in the client computer. The proprietary software also features an online status indicator that broadcasts to parents or other authorized parties notification that the child is logged on at the virtual world.
  • The offering of an audible suggestion provided by the wireless entertainment device may be synchronized with the prescribed scheduling preferences of the parent, for example, using the internal system clock located on the wireless entertainment device or on the message server. Parents could limit the time the child spends visiting the website to a total of two hours, or 120 minutes and only between the hours of 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm and 8:00 pm to 8:30 pm. The parent could insure that the audible log on suggestion is proposed by the wireless entertainment device only during the aforementioned time frames by contacting the message server using a communication device or through the parental control section of the website and remotely programming the device.
  • Other ways the parent could influence the child's use of the wireless entertainment device refer to optimization of the socialization and educational benefits afforded by the virtual world in conjunction with the functionality of the device. An example of this optimization applies to teaching the child not to play with matches. In this example, the child is either audibly or textually presented with a simple story about the dangers of playing with matches. The educational points of the lesson can then be transmitted from the computer server of the service to the wireless entertainment device and these points can audibly be reinforced. In addition, the parent could emphasize the educational point of the lesson by adding content that instructs the child where to go or who to call if the child detects smoke.
  • Additionally, the optimization of social and educational content found at the virtual world element of the invention could also be enhanced by inducing parents to broaden their awareness of their child's interaction with the virtual world. For example, after contacting the message server, the parent would access the parental control section of the website and arrange to provide customizable detailed reports that outline both the child's intellectual and emotional development, which the parents could use to author learning modules tailored to the child. In an alternate embodiment, these reports could simply be composed of single entry highlights of the child's recent interactive session with the virtual world that is transmitted instantly to the parent's portable communication device. The information provided in these instant, single-entry, interactivity highlight reports could serve as a reference to stimulate one-on-one communication encounters between parent and child. Finally, the progress charting of a child's intellectual and emotional development could be aided by the reference to psychological or personality diagnostic testing results. For example, the message server would transmit to the wireless entertainment device a series of simple questions, and the device would audibly present these questions to the child. In this alternate embodiment, the child would respond to each question in simple terms (e.g., “yes” or “no,” “true” or “false”) by pressing one of two input buttons found on the front of the device. Similar diagnostic tests could also be drafted by the parent using a utility found at the parental section of the virtual world. Likewise, other tests a parent could draft might refer to the fortification of home or charter school academic curriculum objectives. The results of any of these tests could be extracted from the wireless entertainment device using short-range wireless technology that could then be viewed on a portable or stationary communication device (e.g., cell phone or client PC) equipped with the same wireless technology (e.g., Bluetooth).
  • Authorized calling parties would be able to relate to the child in this animated virtual world environment by contributing content submitted through the identity of any of the ancillary characters intended for this environment. For example, a child's mother might assume the character of a butterfly that flutters across the screen and lands on the nose of the virtual avatar of a character representation of the wireless entertainment device, such as a teddy bear, and either audibly or textually use a comic strip-style caption to convey the sentiment of love and affection. In order to preserve and even cultivate the child's sense of autonomy, the contributed content submitted by an authorized calling party through a character, as described above, is presented to the child in a discreet and subtle manner. More specifically, the contextual nature and grammatical structure of their contributed content will only be presented in the third person and limited to a few simple, age-appropriate, grammatically correct, short sentences. The content contribution restrictions imposed upon authorized calling parties is enforced by the content authoring software utility located on the service's web server. This software utility correlates the contextual nature and grammatical structure of contributed content with the profile of a specific child that was provided during the registration process for activation of the wireless entertainment device. In addition to protecting a child by preventing him or her from sending or receiving messages that may contain vulgar language, the content authoring software utility teaches the child to use proper grammar when authoring an instant or delayed message (e.g., email) directed at another child registered with the service.
  • Other benefits of the invention include fostering a deeper level of sensitivity in the child. For example, upon being presented with a chat message invitation dialogue box remitted by another member who might be online and is within the same age range as the child receiving the message, the dialogue box would contain suggestions that encouraged the inclusion of statements in the invitee's response that demonstrate concern (e.g., “how are you” or “you are nice”).
  • A system for transmission of personalized digital content is generally indicated at 42 in FIG. 10. The system is comprised of a communication device 55, and in one embodiment, the communication device is a cell phone that has been loaded with the messaging software (see FIGS. 21-33). The messaging software forms the foundation of a message platform that provides a novel way to create personalized digital content messages that are transmitted through a data channel 61 to the message server 110. The first step of the transmission procedure consists of the message server 110 verifying that the calling party transmitting a personalized digital content message is an authorized calling party (ACP) at 71. This verification procedure consists of comparing the registration information stored on the message server 110 associated with the wireless entertainment device 210, which corresponds to the ACP information transmitted (see FIGS. 21-23). This information also considers any identification codes that may refer to the portable communication device 55, including the telephone number.
  • The second step of the transmission procedure consists of notation by message server 110 of the received ancillary data referring to the collection of content library codes that has resided on the storage facility of the portable communication device 55 (see FIG. 24). The message server 110 compares this collection with the collection stored on the server, and, when applicable, remotely updates through a data channel 81 the portable communication device's 55 collection during the transmission session.
  • The third phase of the transmission procedure is the actual election and submission of an authorized calling party's personalized message. In one scenario, the message may be a voice message or “vnote” content message. In this scenario, the authorized calling party would select, using an input mechanism (e.g., a keypad) found on the portable communication device 55, the “vnote” option presented on a screen (see FIG. 24). In another scenario, the authorized calling party might elect to not submit a “vnote” but instead just select from the same screen (see FIG. 24, the song, story, or gift content message option. In this scenario, the message server would respond to the selection and initiate a search at 73 (see also FIG. 28) of all library codes that are assigned to the specific type (e.g., song, story, or gift) of selected content message that will ultimately be queued 75 (see FIG. 29) and packaged 76 (see FIG. 30) for delivery (see FIG. 30) to the wireless entertainment device 210.
  • One embodiment of the invention provides the authorized calling party with the ability to send a message to multiple wireless entertainment devices 210. In the event that an authorized calling party wishes to submit a message to more than one wireless entertainment device (see FIG. 25) during the same transmission session, the transmission procedure broadens, at 74, to accommodate the activation of a secondary authorized calling party verification routine. A content message submission intended for delivery to multiple wireless entertainment devices may either consist of a single message broadcasted once to several wireless entertainment devices or multiple messages “narrowcasted” several times to their respective wireless entertainment devices.
  • The fourth step of the transmission procedure applies to those instances when the content message that will be delivered to the wireless entertainment device 210 is a voice or “vnote” content message. The authorized calling party would use the input mechanisms to select the record, play, and send buttons presented on the “vnote” content message creation screen (see FIG. 26). The messaging software would utilize the audio-video recording feature designed into the portable handset to permit the creation of audio content only by disabling the video recording feature. During the recording process, the digital data of the “vnote” content message would be cached locally on the portable communications memory storage facility until the entire “vnote” content message was created. Once created, the completed recording of the “vnote” content message is submitted to the message server 110 (see FIG. 27), where it is assigned, at 76, to an interim content message storage facility for packaging with any additional content message attachments.
  • In the event that the authorized calling party wishes to attach additional content with the submitted “vnote” content message, the input mechanisms would be used to select the song, story, gift buttons displayed on the attach message screen (see FIG. 28). Per the example information contained in the content message cue notification screen (see FIG. 29), an attachment consisting of “song 103” was selected as a result of the selection activity that occurred in the previous screen (see FIG. 28). The previous selection activity included the decision to attach a song content message which prompted the display of a menu screen (not illustrated) that featured a list of available song titles and the corresponding message server 110 library codes. The selection of the send button that appears in the cue notification screen (see FIG. 29) results in the display of the send content message screen (see FIG. 30). The send content message screen contains information referring to all content messages currently assigned to the interim content message storage facility on the message server 110, which is awaiting packaging 76, for delivery to the wireless entertainment device 210.
  • The fifth step of the transmission procedure refers to the manner in which a coupon offer notification is generated by the message server 110, and the employment of a data channel 81 to manage the presentation of this coupon offer on the portable communication device 55. A coupon offer notification that appears on the updating account screen (see FIG. 31) is generated, at 77, by the message server 110, following the submission of a personalized content message. The coupon offer notice does not refer to a specific promotion. In fact, no other data is indicated except that a coupon offer exists. In addition, the availability of a coupon offer may refer to a collection of coupon offers that are intended for distribution based on a certain criteria. The criteria may refer to the information stored on the message server 110, which could include authorized calling party profiles, geographical location at the time of transmission of a personalized digital content message, and the historical pattern of coupon offer notification acceptance, coupon offer acceptance, or coupon offer merchant redemption. The coupon offer notification acceptance is an inquiry to obtain the identity of the product or service being promoted and the discount value, whereas the coupon offer acceptance is a request to acquire the coupon offer in a digital format downloaded to the communication device 55 and organized by the messaging software.
  • The coupon offer inquiry is made when the authorized calling party selects the coupon offer button that appears on the updating account screen (see FIG. 31). The coupon offer acceptance is made when the authorized calling party selects the accept button that appears on the getting coupon info screen (see FIG. 32). The coupon offer acceptance is a request to download from the message server to the communication device 55 a single or multidimensional digital barcode over data channel 81. It is organized by the messaging software's digital coupon wallet. In an alternate embodiment, information about the coupon offer or the digital coupon could be acquired at the website associated with the wireless entertainment device 210.
  • The sixth and final step of the transmission procedure occurs after the message server 110 has accommodated the request to acquire a digital format of the coupon offer prompting an update 77 of the authorized calling party historical pattern records maintained in a storage facility on the message server 110. Simultaneously, the message server 110, while updating the coupon offer historical records, transmits over data channel 91 the personalized digital content message to the wireless device 210. Following reception thereof, the wireless device 210 will issue an announcement, at 215, which conforms to the type of personalized digital content message that was submitted by the authorized calling party.
  • As mentioned above, among the content types available for submission to the wireless entertainment device 210 is a gift message. That website may be an additional element of the invention. FIG. 50 is similar to FIG. 10, but illustrates a more detailed view of the additional process that occurs if the authorized calling party submits a gift message. In addition to storage of a collection of content library codes for the story and song content, the message server 110 also maintains a dedicated collection of library codes stored at the same location to facilitate the update (see FIG. 10, element 72), search (see FIG. 10, element 73), cue 75, and package (see FIG. 10, element 76) routines of all available gift content.
  • Data contained in a gift content message that is delivered by the message server 110 over a data channel 91 to the wireless entertainment device 210 includes a command that prompts the device to audibly notify the child, at 225, that a gift has been offered, followed by a suggestion that the child log on over data channel 93 at the website located at a storage facility on the web server 310 using a communication device (Client PC) 410, where the details of the gift content message will be delivered over a data channel 94, to the communication device 410.
  • An additional educational and/or entertainment aspect related to an embodiment of the invention is generally indicated at 43 in FIG. 60. An example of an online educational game is illustrated that comprises a unique play enhancement offered by the functionality of the wireless entertainment device 210. It should be understood that many variations of educational and/or entertainment online content could be coupled with an embodiment of the wireless entertainment device element of the invention. The illustrated example shows a communication device such as a local computer 410 being used to interact with a network computer, such as a web server 310, over a bi-directional data channel, indicated at 93 and 94, to play an educational game 415 being hosted on the web server 310. According to this embodiment, the successful completion of the online educational game is acknowledged by the web server 310, and a report of the successfully completed game is forwarded to the message server 110. The message server 110, after receiving the report, searches through a directory located at a storage facility on the message server 110, and retrieves an appropriate announcement command that is then delivered over data channel 91 to the wireless entertainment device 210. The announcement command instructs the wireless entertainment device 210 to play a congratulatory announcement, at 235, thereby encouraging the child and enhancing the learning experience.
  • In one aspect of the invention shown in FIG. 60, the network computer hosts a website containing one or more titled games appropriate for children generally in the age range of three to six. Each of the games is directed to an educational goal. In the illustrated embodiment the goal is learning to spell the word “apple.” The child user may select one of the games offered on the website.
  • In an innovative aspect of the invention one or more points in the game program are identified, each point indicating a state of play of or progress through the game. For example, if the user successfully spells the word “apple” in the given example, thereby accomplishing the central goal of the game, that point in play of the game may be identified as a unique status of play. In addition to the point at which the goal of the game is met, many other states of play may be identified such as the initial commencement of the game, or points after each letter of the word “apple” is properly placed. Another game may involve walking through a forest in a virtual world wherein reaching a fork in the road could be identified as a state of play. At each identified state of play, the program underlying the game is encoded as a benchmark.
  • A memory in the network computer stores one or more announcements. Each announcement is coded as corresponding to one of the identified states of play. When the child user progresses through the game to a benchmark (indicating a particular state of play), the game immediately sends a selected one of the announcements corresponding to the state of play of the game to the toy. A processor in the toy then causes a speaker to play the announcement. Since higher bandwidths are now available over wired and wireless communication channels, the announcement can be presented through the toy to the child playing the game virtually instantaneously. The resulting rapid delivery of the announcement lends the impression in the child that the toy is consciously following the child play of the game, creating a greater bond with the toy than might exist with a non-animated toy. The impression of friendship makes the game more fun to play and enhances the learning experience. While in one aspect of the invention, the announcements presented are designed to affirm a young child, any announcement that corresponds to the state of play of the game experience is intended to fall within the scope of the invention. For instance, for older children, the toy and the announcement may become more sophisticated. Older children may prefer an Einstein figure as the toy and complex feedback regarding games teaching secondary school level subject matter as the announcement.
  • In one aspect of the invention, there may be several announcements stored in memory each of which corresponds to one state of play. For example, if the child successfully spells the word “apple,” the game may select between one announcement that says “Wow, Bobby, you spelled apple!” and another announcement that says “Wow, Bobby, you're good at spelling. I like this game.” Alternatively, an announcement may suggest trying another game on the website. The ability to select several announcements each of which corresponds to a state of play, rather than just one, improves the sense in the child that the toy is life-like and defers the onset of boredom.
  • It is contemplated that the toy is of the type having a soft plush exterior such as a classic teddy bear. However, it is intended that any toy have the capacity to be perceived by a young child as being a friend or buddy falls within the scope of the invention.
  • While the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 60 shows both a network computer, for hosting the online game website, and a message server, in another embodiment, the announcements may be stored in a memory resident in the toy. In such an embodiment, when a particular benchmark is reached, the game need only select a pointer, consisting of a short code string, that is distinctly associated with one of the announcements. The game then sends the identified pointer to the toy wherein the processor associates the pointer with the associated announcement and instructs the speaker to play that announcement. This embodiment has the advantage of speeding the delivery time from the network computer to the toy of the instruction to play the announcement.
  • In another embodiment of the invention, the toy is not in communication with the network computer, but rather is in communication with the local computer. This embodiment permits taking advantage of well-known local wireless communication protocols such as Bluetooth® technology.
  • In another embodiment of the invention, a local computer may be a handheld cellular telephone that is in wireless communication with the network computer. This embodiment enables an “on the go” version of the invention in which the user may play games on the network computer on a cell phone and still receive reinforcement from the toy.
  • There have thus been described and illustrated certain preferred embodiments of a system for coordinating behavior of a toy with play of an online educational game according to the invention. Although the present invention has been described and illustrated in detail, it is clearly understood that the same is by way of illustration and example only and is not to be taken by way of limitation, the spirit and scope of the present invention being limited only by the terms of the appended claims and their legal equivalents.

Claims (14)

1. A system for coordinating behavior of a toy with play of an online game on a website, the system comprising:
a network computer having a memory, said network computer operative to host a website, said website including one or more games, each said game having one or more defined benchmarks, each said benchmark indicating a distinct state of play of said game, said memory storing one or more announcements, each said announcement corresponding to one of said states of play,
a local computer in communication with said network computer via a computer network such that said website is accessible to a user of said local computer for playing said games,
a toy having a processor and a speaker, said toy in communication with said network computer via a computer network,
wherein when play of said game by the user progresses to one of said benchmarks, said game instructs said network computer to send to said toy one of said announcements corresponding to said state of play indicated by said benchmark, and when said toy receives said announcement, said processor causes said speaker to play said announcement, such that said toy presents the user with an audible announcement corresponding to the current state of play of said game.
2. The system of claim 1 wherein:
said website includes educational content for children.
3. The system of claim 1 wherein:
said games include educational content for children.
4. The system of claim 1 wherein:
said games include games to teach spelling.
5. The system of claim 1 wherein:
at least one of said states of play indicates successful completion of a defined goal, and said corresponding announcement is directed to affirming the user's successful accomplishment of the goal.
6. The system of claim 1 wherein:
at least one of said states of play indicates successful completion of a game, and said corresponding announcement is directed to affirming the user's successful completion of the game.
7. The system of claim 1 wherein:
said toy has a soft plush exterior.
8. The system of claim 6 wherein:
said toy has an internal cavity, and said processor is disposed in said cavity.
9. The system of claim 6 wherein:
said toy is a teddy bear.
10. The system of claim 1 wherein:
said network computer is in communication with a mobile telephone network, said cellular telephone network including one or more wireless transmitters, and
said toy includes a wireless receiver in communication with said one or more wireless transmitters.
11. The system of claim 1 further comprising:
said website consists of a virtual world, said virtual world including an avatar representing said toy.
12. A system for coordinating behavior of a toy with play of an online game on a website, the system comprising:
a network computer operative to host a website, said website including one or more games, each said game having one or more defined benchmarks, each said benchmark indicating a distinct state of play of said game,
a memory server in communication with said network computer, said memory server having a memory, one or more announcements stored on said memory, each said announcement corresponding to one of said states of play,
a local computer in communication with said network computer via a computer network such that said website is accessible to a user of said local computer for playing said games,
a toy having a processor and a speaker, said toy in communication with said network computer via a computer network,
wherein when play of said game by the user progresses to one of said benchmarks, said game instructs said network computer to send to said toy one of said announcements corresponding to said state of play indicated by said benchmark, said network computer instructs said memory server to send said announcement to said toy, and when said toy receives said announcement, said processor causes said speaker to play said announcement, such that said toy provides the user with an audible announcement corresponding to the current state of play of said game.
13. A system for coordinating behavior of a toy with play of an online game on a website the system comprising:
a network computer having a memory, said network computer operative to host a website, said website including one or more games, each said game having one or more defined benchmarks, each said benchmark indicating a distinct state of play of said game, said memory storing one or more pointers,
a local computer in communication with said network computer via a computer network such that said website is accessible to a user of said local computer for playing said games,
a toy having a processor, a memory, and a speaker, said toy in communication with said network computer, said memory storing one or more announcements, each said announcement corresponding to one of said states of play, each announcement distinctly associated with one of said pointers,
wherein when play of said game by the user progresses to one of said benchmarks, said game instructs said network computer to send to said toy one of said pointers associated with one of said announcements corresponding to said state of play indicated by said benchmark, and when said toy receives said pointer, said processor causes said speaker to play said announcement associated with said pointer, such that said toy provides the user with an audible announcement corresponding to the current state of play of said game.
14. The system of claim 14 wherein:
said local computer is in wireless communication with said toy.
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