WO2011110680A1 - Cube-sherman snake - Google Patents

Cube-sherman snake

Info

Publication number
WO2011110680A1
WO2011110680A1 PCT/EP2011/053732 EP2011053732W WO2011110680A1 WO 2011110680 A1 WO2011110680 A1 WO 2011110680A1 EP 2011053732 W EP2011053732 W EP 2011053732W WO 2011110680 A1 WO2011110680 A1 WO 2011110680A1
Authority
WO
Grant status
Application
Patent type
Prior art keywords
sub
units
unit
member
adjacent
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/EP2011/053732
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Gideon Cube-Sherman
Original Assignee
Gideon Cube-Sherman
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date

Links

Classifications

    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63HTOYS, e.g. TOPS, DOLLS, HOOPS, BUILDING BLOCKS
    • A63H33/00Other toys
    • A63H33/04Building blocks, strips, or similar building parts
    • A63H33/10Building blocks, strips, or similar building parts to be assembled by means of additional non-adhesive elements
    • A63H33/102Building blocks, strips, or similar building parts to be assembled by means of additional non-adhesive elements using elastic deformation
    • 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
    • A63F9/06Patience; Other games for self-amusement
    • A63F9/08Puzzles provided with elements movable in relation, i.e. movably connected, to each other
    • A63F9/0876Bent wire or cord puzzles
    • 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
    • A63F9/06Patience; Other games for self-amusement
    • A63F9/08Puzzles provided with elements movable in relation, i.e. movably connected, to each other
    • A63F9/088Puzzles with elements that are connected by straps, strings or hinges, e.g. Rubik's Magic
    • 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
    • A63F9/06Patience; Other games for self-amusement
    • A63F9/08Puzzles provided with elements movable in relation, i.e. movably connected, to each other
    • A63F2009/0884Puzzles provided with elements movable in relation, i.e. movably connected, to each other with means for immobilising or stabilising a configuration, e.g. the solution
    • A63F2009/0888Puzzles provided with elements movable in relation, i.e. movably connected, to each other with means for immobilising or stabilising a configuration, e.g. the solution using detents

Abstract

An apparatus comprising: a plurality of sub-units; and one or more connecting members for connecting the plurality of sub-units together in a chain, wherein the plurality of sub-units is held together in the chain by the one or more connecting members disposed between the sub-units, wherein each sub-unit comprises at least one groove through which the connecting member, or one of the connecting members, is movable to allow adjacent sub-units to be rotated around at least one rotational axis relative to each other by a user, and wherein the apparatus further comprises a locking mechanism to lock adjacent sub-units together resisting rotation and resisting disengagement.

Description

CUBE-SHERMAN SNAKE

Field of Invention

The present invention relates to an apparatus which can be manipulated into different configurations. The apparatus comprises a plurality of sub-units connected and held together by one or more connecting members. The sub-units may be rotated so as to be in different relative orientations while remaining in the same physical locations. Furthermore, the sub- units may be pulled apart and moved so as to be in different physical locations relative to each other.

The present inventor has realized that it would be desirable to create a medium for constructing spatial constructions, sculptural assemblages which can combine aesthetic appeal and fun. The present inventor has also realized that such a combination of aesthetics and play will have a particular appeal to children, encouraging them to experiment with sculpture and architectonics to increase visual and spatial awareness, manual dexterity, and logical and creative thinking.

Certain embodiments of the present invention may provide a puzzle in a similar manner to the well known Rubik's Cube™. However, applications for the present invention are numerous. For example, embodiments of the present invention may be used to create 3- dimensional line drawings, 3 -dimensional canvases or be used to construct poems or texts in 3-dimensions. Certain embodiments may also provide a glow lamp or glow stick which can be manipulated into different configurations. Certain embodiments may also be used to build structures such as reconfigurable modular buildings for use in space, underwater, on the moon, on earth and other planets and to form reconfigurable cities of the future. Other embodiments may be utilised to form computing, entertainment and telecommunication devices which may be reconfigured by the user.

Many other applications have been envisaged, some of which are discussed in more detail later in this specification. Background of Invention

It is already known to provide an apparatus in the form of a puzzle which comprises a plurality of sub-units which can be manipulated relative to each other. Such apparatus may comprise a target structure to be achieved by a user. The well known Rubik's Cube™ has already been mentioned as an example of such a puzzle. A standard Rubik's Cube™ comprises twenty six cube shaped sub-units arranged into a cube shaped structure, each edge of which comprises three sub-units and each face of which comprises nine sub-units. Individual sub-units cannot be rotated on their own. Rather, in order to manipulate the sub- units, a face of the cube is rotated in order to move the sub-units in that face/layer. The central sub-unit of each face of the cube remains in a fixed position, merely rotating about its central axis.

Variants of the Rubik's Cube™ are also known which comprise sub-units having a non-cubic shape. For example, a Rubik's Twist™ comprises wedge/prism shaped sub-units which are individually rotatable relative to each other in order to form different shapes as illustrated in Figure 1. In such arrangements, the sub-units can be rotated relative to each other but adjacent sub-units can only be rotated around a single axis with the opposing faces of adjacent sub-units remaining in contact.

A known alternative to Rubik's arrangements discussed above comprises a plurality of cube shaped sub-units connected together by a flexible elongate elastic member. The flexible elongate elastic member is fixedly attached to end members of the plurality of cube shaped sub-units and extends through holes provided in the sub-units disposed between the end members. The cube shaped sub-units can be rotated relative to each other but, as with the previously described Rubik's Snake type arrangement, the opposing faces of adjacent sub- units do not change. That is, adjacent sub-units can be rotated relative to each other about a longitudinal axis of the flexible elongate elastic member passing between adjacent sub-units but cannot be moved relative to each other such that one of the blocks moves from one face to another face of its adjacent sub-unit. An arrangement comprising a plurality of cube shaped blocks with a flexible elongate elastic member is illustrated in Figure 2. The arrangement comprises twenty seven cube shaped sub- units connected by an elastic band (not visible in Figure 2). The cube shaped sub-units are provided with holes through which the elastic band passes, the elastic band being fixedly attached to the end-members so as to hold the cube shaped sub-units together. The twenty seven cube shaped sub-units are provided in seventeen groups with two or three sub-units per group. The aim of the puzzle is to arrange the chain of sub-units to form a 3x3x3 cube as shown in the Figure.

One problem with the apparatus illustrated in Figure 2 and described above is that adjacent cubes cannot be re-orientated such that different faces oppose each other. As such, there are a limited number of configurations in which the plurality of cubes can be disposed. For example, in the arrangement illustrated in Figure 2 the plurality of cubes cannot be rearranged so as to be in a completely linear configuration. Rather, the cubes have been joined together by the elastic band in a specific configuration which allows the plurality of blocks to be manipulated into a 3x3x3 cube without requiring a change in the face-to-face relationship of adjacent blocks.

The aforementioned problem has been solved in accordance with another prior art arrangement, the Naef Cublex™ illustrated in Figure 3 a. In the apparatus illustrated in Figure 3a, two grooves have been cut into each sub-unit cube in opposing faces at right angles to each other. Such a sub-unit is illustrated in more detail in Figure 3b. The grooves allow the elastic band to pass therethrough such that a sub-unit cube can be moved relative to its adjacent partner in such a manner that a different face opposes its adjacent partner after movement. The elasticity of the elastic band allows a user to pull two adjacent sub-units apart so that they can be rearranged to have different opposing faces. The elasticity of the elastic band then pulls the blocks back together under a compressive force to hold the blocks in the new configuration. This arrangement thus allows much more freedom of motion between adjacent sub-units. With the arrangement illustrated in Figure 2, adjacent blocks can only be rotated around one axis relative to each other. In contrast, the arrangement illustrated in Figures 3a and 3b allows adjacent blocks to be moved in all three perpendicular rotational axes relative to each other. As such, the sub-units can be re-arranged so as to form a range of shapes or configurations. However, the Naef Cublex only comprises eight sub-unit cubes and is therefore still limited in the number possible configurations which can be achieved. More sub-unit cubes could be added. However, configurations then begin to fall apart under the weight of the apparatus as a whole.

Similar problems are apparent from educational toys and puzzles disclosed in US 5,525,089 and US 3,514,893. In both of these puzzles it has been recognised that rotation of adjacent subunits can be a problem, and means to prevent rotation of adjacent sub units relative to one another have been included. However, these configurations still begin to fall apart under the weight of the apparatus as a whole, such that semi-permanent and/or permanent structures are not possible.

One object of certain embodiments of the present invention is to provide an apparatus which is an improvement over the aforementioned arrangements. Another object of certain embodiments of the present invention is to adapt the aforementioned prior art arrangements such that they are capable of forming semi-permanent or permanent structures. This will allow for a much wider range of applications for such apparatus.

Summary of Invention

The present inventor has recognised that the aforementioned arrangement as illustrated in Figures 3 a and 3 b provides good freedom of movement such that the sub-units can be rearranged so as to form a range of three-dimensional shapes. However, the arrangement has a drawback that when a desired shape is formed by manipulation and re-arrangement of the sub-units, the sub-units are not locked in this shape. The sub-units are held in position to a certain extent by the compressive force applied to them by the elongate flexible elastic member which is under tension.

A further problem with the prior art arrangements is that as a user tries to manipulate the sub- units in order to achieve a desired shape, movement of one sub-unit can cause movement of other sub-units in the arrangement, which is frustrating and can lead to difficulties in achieving the desired shape. Again, this problem can be alleviated to some extent by adjusting the tension of the elastic biasing member. However, the tension must still be sufficiently low to allow manipulation of the sub-units. As such, there is always an unsatisfactory compromise between providing a sufficiently high tension in the elastic biasing member to hold the sub-units together in a desired configuration, while also providing a sufficiently low tension in the elastic biasing member to allow manipulation of the sub-units into a desired shape in the first place.

When, this compressive force is aided by the anti-rotation systems disclosed in US 5,525,089 and US 3,514,893 this may help to a certain degree, but rotation is not the only problem faced when semi -permanent and/or permanent structures are desired. In such structures, disengagement of adjacent subunits can lead to collapse of the structure even where rotation is prevented.

In light of the above problems, it is evident that the prior art arrangements are not ideally suited for forming semi-permanent structures which can be at least temporarily fixed/locked in a desired configuration. A desired configuration may be achieved using the prior art arrangements. However, if a user or a passer-by knocks the configuration then the sub-units can readily rotate relative to each other, or disengage, so as to move out of the desired configuration. As such, the apparatus must be periodically re-adjusted if the desired configuration is to be achieved and maintained.

In circumstances when it is desired to create a configuration with the apparatus which then has some further use, for example as a sculpture, building structure, model, furniture, lamp, jewellery, glow stick, or other accessory, then the present inventor has realised that it would be desirable to provide an apparatus which can be effectively locked into a desired configuration. As such, if a user or a passer-by knocks the configuration then the sub-units cannot readily rotate relative to each other or disengage to move out of the desired configuration.

The present inventor has solved these problems in accordance with a first aspect of the present invention by providing an apparatus comprising: a plurality of sub-units; and one or more connecting members for connecting the plurality of sub-units together in a chain, wherein the plurality of sub-units is held together in the chain by the one or more connecting members disposed between the sub-units, wherein each sub-unit comprises at least one groove through which the connecting member, or one of the connecting members, is movable to allow adjacent sub-units to be rotated around at least one rotational axis relative to each other by a user, and wherein the apparatus further comprises a locking mechanism to lock adjacent sub-units together resisting rotation, and resisting disengagement.

Providing a groove in a sub-unit allows an associated connecting member to be orientated such that it passes through different faces of the sub-unit in a manner similar to that described in the background section. As such, adjacent sub-units can be rotated relative to each other such that different faces of adjacent sub-units abut each other. Each groove preferably extends across the entire width of a face of its sub-unit and has a depth of approximately one half the depth of the sub-unit, more precisely, one half the depth of the sub-unit plus the radius of the connecting member.

In contrast with the prior art arrangements described above, the apparatus of the present invention is provided with a locking mechanism to lock adjacent sub-units together resisting rotation and disengagement. It is preferred that the locking mechanism is automatically released when the sub-units are pulled apart such that adjacent sub-units can be rotated relative to each other. The locking mechanism may then re-engage when the sub-units are released to lock adjacent sub-units together to resist further rotation and disengagement. It is to be noted that the sub-units remain connected by the one or more connecting members when in a pulled-apart configuration.

The one or more connecting members may comprise a flexible elongate biasing member. The plurality of sub-units may be held together in the chain by the flexible elongate biasing member under tension. It is to be noted that while such a flexible elongate biasing member holds the sub-units together under tension it does not function as a locking mechanism as the sub-units can still be freely rotated around a longitudinal axis of the flexible elongate biasing mechanism. The locking mechanism of the present invention resists such rotation and resists disengagement, when the sub-units are not in a pulled-apart configuration. In the present context, the term 'resist disengagement' means that the subunits may not be separated under their own weight, or under the weight of the structure as a whole, when in any configuration. The user must actively work to disengage the sub-units, such that the structure is stable when locked in a configuration. The locking mechanism may comprise one or more engagement means present on a sub-unit and adapted to engage with an engagement means on an adjacent sub-unit. This may be, for example, in the form of a projections and an adjacent recess or hole adapted to receive the one or more projections (male/female engagement means), or some other means such as a snap-fit mechanism. This will be described in more detail below. Whilst the user would need to work to disengage the sub- units, the engagement means may be designed such that the user does not need to work to engage the sub-units, or alternatively the design may require the user to put in work to facilitate engagement (such as by guiding and/or pushing).

The flexible elongate biasing member may not be inherently elastic along its entire length but may have one or more elastic portions of elastic members to provide a biasing force. For example, the flexible elongate biasing member may comprise an inelastic string/wire connected to one or more springs which provide the biasing force. The springs may be located in end member sub-units of the chain or in one or more intermediate sub-units.

Other embodiments may utilize an inelastic connecting member or a plurality of inelastic connecting members functioning without any springs or tensioning mechanism. Such an arrangement would rely solely on interference or other locking between the sub-units to resist disengagement and to maintain semi-permanent configurations.

The connecting member(s) may have the function of firstly preventing the sub-units from becoming dispersed or losing their sequence, and secondly ensuring that only a limited number of sub-units is 'in play' (i.e. are disengaged) at any one time.

Each sub-unit may comprise a hole through which the flexible elongate biasing member extends, the flexible elongate biasing member extending though a plurality of the sub-units and connected to end members of the plurality of sub-units under tension thereby holding the plurality of sub-units together in compression. Alternatively, a plurality of connecting members may be provided, each connecting adjacent sub-units together.

The locking mechanism may be constructed wherein each sub-unit comprises at least one projection and/or at least one recess which is complementary to the at least one projection whereby at least one projection of a sub-unit is received in at least one recess of an adjacent sub-unit to lock adjacent sub-units together resisting rotation.

According to the invention, the projections and recesses are configured to hold adjacent sub- units together whilst they are in the engaged state as well as resist rotation. For example, the projections may fit tightly into the complementary recesses such that the projections are held or gripped by the complementary recesses. The projections may completely fill the recesses to form a vacuum seal to resist disengagement. Such interference between the projections and recesses will complement an elastic biasing member in resisting the disengagement of the sub-units.

Each sub-unit may comprise a plurality of recesses and/or a plurality of projections. Alternating sub-units in the chain may comprise only recesses or only projections. Alternatively, each sub-unit in the chain may comprise both at least one recess and at least one projection. For example, each sub-unit may comprise at least one recess in one of its faces and at least one projection on each of its other faces. Alternatively, each sub-unit may comprise at least one projection on one of its faces and at least one recess in each of its other faces. Other patterns of projections and recesses may also be provided.

As an alternative to the aforementioned locking mechanisms, the locking mechanism can be constructed wherein adjacent sub-units comprise projections and a separate locking member is disposed between adjacent sub-units, the locking member having recesses which are complementary to the projections whereby the projections of the adjacent sub-units are received in the recesses of the locking member to lock the adjacent sub-units together resisting rotation and resisting disengagement. Alternatively still, the locking mechanism can be constructed wherein adjacent sub-units comprise recesses and a separate locking member is disposed between adjacent sub-units, the locking member having projections which are complementary to the recesses whereby the projections of the locking member are received in the recesses of the adjacent sub-units to lock the adjacent sub-units together resisting rotation and resisting disengagement.

Yet another possibility would be to have a separate locking member which includes at least one recess and at least one projection which cooperate with complimentary projections and recesses on adjacent sub-units to lock the adjacent sub-units together resisting rotation and resisting disengagement.

As an alternative, or in addition to the aforementioned locking mechanism arrangements, the locking mechanism may comprise one or more of a snap-fit connection between adjacent sub-units, a magnetic locking mechanism (e.g. using magnets or magnetic pins), an electromagnetic locking mechanism, a shape memory alloy locking mechanism, a shape memory polymer locking mechanism, a muscle wire locking mechanism, a velcro-type locking mechanism, and a temporary adhesive locking mechanism.

The locking mechanism may alternatively or additionally comprise a semi-permanent or permanent fixing mechanism. For example, once the apparatus has been configured into a design which the user wishes to keep, glue, fastening screws, or other permanent fixing mechanism can be used to permanently fix the apparatus in a desired configuration.

Preferably, adjacent sub-units are rotatable around at least two rotational axes. The adjacent sub-units may be rotated by moving the sub-units such that different faces of the sub-units abut each other. The adjacent sub-units may also be rotated around a longitudinal axis of the connecting member.

Each sub-unit may comprise two grooves whereby adjacent sub-units can be rotated around three rotational axes relative to each other. The two grooves may be perpendicular to each other whereby adjacent sub-units can be rotated around three perpendicular rotational axes relative to each other. The two grooves may be provided on different faces of each sub-unit. Alternatively, the two grooves may be provided on the same face of each sub-unit. The grooves allow the flexible elongate biasing member to be orientated such that it passes through different faces of a sub-unit.

Each sub-unit may be cube shaped. However, it is envisaged that other three dimensional shapes for the sub-units may be utilised in accordance with certain embodiments of the present invention. Thus, any platonic solid may be employed, and especially any platonic solid with three rotational degrees of symmetry. Icosahedra and rhombicuboctahedral are employed in some embodiments.

The flexible elongate biasing member may be a simple piece of elastic. Alternatively, it may any kind of elongate string-like or wire-like material or composite structure which can function to connect the plurality of sub-units together applying a compressive elastic force to the sub-units to hold them under compression. The elastic force should be weak enough such that the sub-units can be pulled apart by a user to re-orientate the sub-units relative to each other. The elastic force may be strong enough such that when released, the flexible elongate biasing member pulls the sub-units together into a locked arrangement with the one or more projections from one sub-unit engaging with the one or more recesses in an adjacent sub-unit.

One key principle of certain embodiments is that only one (or at most two) of the connections between adjacent sub-units is live/in-play/extended at any one time. The connection(s) biasing member(s) can be optimized to achieve this effect.

The sub-units may be made of a transparent or semi-transparent material and a light source can be mounted in one or more of the sub-units thereby providing a glow lamp which can be manipulated into different configurations. One or more conducting members may be provided which extend through the plurality of sub-units and connect to the light source. The sub-units may alternatively, or additionally, comprise a light emissive material such as a fluorescent or phosphorous material to form a glow stick.

Embodiments of the present invention may be used to create 3-dimensional line drawings, 3- dimensional canvases or be used to construct poems or texts in 3-dimensions. Embodiments may also be used to build structures such as reconfigurable modular buildings.

Certain embodiments may also be used to construct game boards such as for chess. Certam embodiments may also include an array of reflective mirrors for directing light, for example laser light, through the interior of the apparatus along its length so as to function as an optical cable. Such embodiments could also be used as a periscope or similar viewing apparatus.

Brief Description of the Drawings

Embodiments of the present invention will now be described by way of example only with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

Figure 1 shows a prior art Rubik's Twist™ apparatus;

Figure 2 illustrates another prior art arrangement comprising 27 sub-units connected together by an elastic biasing member;

Figure 3 a shows another prior art arrangement in which 8 sub-units are provided with perpendicular grooves in opposite faces which allow the sub-units to be rotated around three perpendicular rotational axes relative to each other;

Figure 3b shows a sub-unit of the prior art arrangement of Figure 3a;

Figures 4a to 4d show various views of an embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 5 a shows various views of a hollow sub-unit according to an embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 5b shows various views of a hollow sub-unit according to another embodiment of the present mvention; Figure 6 shows alternative sub-units with cross parts to improve locking (improving resistance to disengagement) and to improve rigidity. It has a sub-unit with an end cap, which is an alternative to that shown in Figure 5a.

Figure 7 shows alternative sub-units with cross parts to improve locking (improving resistance to disengagement) and to improve rigidity. It has a cross-shaped sub-unit which is an alternative to that shown in Figure 5b.

Figure 8 shows various views of sub-units comprising four locking pegs according to another embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 9 shows various views of sub-units comprising a large boss with extended locking according to another embodiment of the present invention;

Figures 10 to 14 show alternative embodiments which have a separate locking member disposed between adjacent sub-units. Figure 12 shows alternative locking members with cross parts to improve locking (improving resistance to disengagement) and to improve rigidity.

Figures 15 to 17 show alternative embodiments in which each sub-unit has its own connecting member;

Figures 18a and 18b show embodiments which comprise double cube sub-units with a separate locking member disposed between adjacent sub-units;

Figures 19 and 20 show embodiments which comprise elongate sub-units;

Figures 21 and 22 show embodiments which comprise fixing members;

Figures 23 to 29 show a variety of different arrangements according to alternative embodiments of the present invention including tesseract sub-units (Figures 23 to 28) and rhombicuboctahedral sub-units (Figure 29). Detailed Description of Embodiments

Figures 4a to 4d show a first embodiment of the present invention. The apparatus comprises a chain of sixty four sub-units connected together by an elastic biasing member passing through holes in the sub-units and being attached to end members of the chain. The elastic biasing member is under tension such that the sub-units are held together under compressive loading by the end members.

Each sub-unit is generally cubic in shape. Two perpendicular grooves are provided in a top face of each sub-unit forming a cross-shaped opening which extends down through the sub- unit to approximately half the height of the sub-unit. The sub-unit also comprises a hole which extends up from a bottom face and intersects the cross-shaped opening at a central point of the sub-unit.

Each sub-unit further comprises a square-shaped recess in a bottom face. Square-shaped projections are provided on each of the side faces and in the top face. These square shaped projections are complementary in shape to the square-shaped recess in the bottom surface. The grooves extend through the square-shaped projections such that the square-shaped projection on the top face is split into four smaller square-shaped sub-projections while the square-shaped projections on the side surfaces appear U-shaped.

When the chain is arranged in a vertical linear configuration, the projection on the top face of one sub-unit fits neatly into the recess on the bottom face of the next sub-unit. The elastic biasing member holds the projection in the recess and the complementary fit between the projection and the recess prevents the sub-units from rotating relative to each other and resists disengagement.

In order to rotate the sub-units relative to each other, the sub-units are pulled apart (disengaged) such that the projection of one sub-unit no longer extends into the recess of its adjacent sub-unit. Once pulled apart in this manner, the sub-units are still connected together by the elastic biasing member which is stretched between the two adjacent sub-units. In this pulled-apart configuration, the two sub-units can be rotated relative to each other around any one of three perpendicular axes. These rotational movements are described below for a simple example comprising two adjacent sub-units disposed one on top of the other.

For two adjacent sub-units disposed one on top of the other, if the top sub-unit is rotated around a vertical axis then the top face of the bottom sub-unit remains facing the bottom face of the top sub-unit. The top sub-unit may be rotated by 90°, 180°, 270° or 360° relative to the bottom sub-unit. When released, the elastic biasing member pulls the two sub-units back together with the square-shaped projection on the top face of the bottom sub-unit re-engaging with the square-shaped recess in the bottom face of the top sub-unit. Such a manipulation is illustrated in the Figures.

Alternatively, if the top sub-unit is rotated 90° relative to the bottom sub-unit around a horizontal rotational axis passing through the centre of the bottom sub-unit then the bottom face of the top sub-unit will oppose a side face of the bottom sub-unit. When released, the elastic biasing member pulls the two sub-units back together with the square-shaped projection on the side face of the bottom sub-unit engaging with the square-shaped recess in the bottom face of the top sub-unit (although the term "top sub-unit" is used here for consistency, the "top sub-unit" will now be disposed on the side of the bottom sub-unit). Such a manipulation is illustrated in the Figures.

A similar 90° rotational manipulation to that described above may be performed clockwise or anticlockwise around either of two perpendicular horizontal rotational axes passing through the centre of the bottom sub-unit and being aligned with the cross-shaped grooves in the bottom sub-unit. As such, the two adjacent sub-units can be rotated about three perpendicular rotational axes: two horizontal and one vertical. In so doing, the bottom face of the top sub- unit can be located against any one of the top or side faces of the bottom sub-unit.

Particular preferred chain lengths are those which can be folded into a cube and include eight (a 2x2x2 cube), twenty seven (a 3x3x3 cube), sixty four (a 4x4x4 cube), 125 (a 5x5x5 cube), 216 (a 6x6x6 cube), and so on. It has been found that a chain comprising sixty four sub-units is particularly useful for allowing a wide diversity of structures to be realized. If each cube face is provided with a different pattern or colour, an upper bound on the number of permutations is approximately 1083 which is greater than the number of atoms in the observable universe and far exceeds the number of permutations for a standard Rubik's Cube™ which has approximately 1020 possible permutations.

It has been found that embodiments of the present invention can be made with more sub-units than prior art arrangements discussed above. This is because chains having a relatively large number of sub-units are increased in weight. This increase in weight causes prior art arrangements to fall out of a desired configuration under their own weight because adjacent sub-units of the prior art arrangements do not have any locking mechanism to impede rotation, and disengagement, of the sub-units. In contrast, the complementary projections and recesses of embodiments of the present invention effectively lock the sub-units against rotation when they are not pulled apart by a user. Furthermore, the projections are gripped by the recesses to resist disengagement. As such, embodiments having more than eight or twenty seven sub-units can be realised.

The sub-units can also be made hollow to reduce weight. This can be very important, particularly for large embodiments, to help prevent the apparatus collapsing under its own weight. In such embodiments, each sub-unit can comprise an internal cavity. The cavity may be substantially cubic in shape, spherical, or some other suitable shape.

Embodiments of the present invention can provide "semi-permanent" structures. By "semipermanent" we mean that a structure is effectively locked in its current configuration and remains in this configuration even when the structure is knocked into. Furthermore, the structure can be moved as a whole from one location to another without the structure moving out of its current configuration. The structure is not fully permanent because the structure can be reconfigured by a user pulling apart the sub-units and manipulating the sub-units in accordance with the previously described movements to achieve a new structure. However, only when a user pulls apart, and holds apart, the sub-units can the sub-units be rotated so as to move into a different configuration. As such, the structures are best described as "semi- permanent" and may remain in a specific configuration, for example as a sculpture, for any amount of time desired. Embodiments may also be provided with permanent fixing mechanism in addition to the temporary locking mechanism which resists rotation and disengagement. For example, once the apparatus has been configured into a design which the user wishes to keep, glue, fastening screws, or other permanent fixing mechanism can be used to permanently fix the apparatus in a desired configuration.

Figure 5 a shows various views of a hollow sub-unit similar to the sub-units of the embodiment illustrated in Figures 4a to 4d. The sub-unit comprises a main body member in which perpendicular grooves are disposed and an end-capping member in which a recess is disposed. The main body member is hollow and is configured to receive the end-capping member to construct the sub-unit. Such a hollow sub-unit can be advantageous as it reduces the weight of the apparatus.

Figure 5b shows a similar hollow sub-unit to that illustrated in Figure 5a but without an end- capping member. In this arrangement, the main body member has an open end which forms the recess for receiving a complementary projection from an adjacent sub-unit.

It should perhaps be emphasised that the hollowness of sub-units can be extremely important for the functioning of certain embodiments of the present invention, particularly large and/or long embodiments which would otherwise collapse under the weight of the apparatus as a whole if constructed with essentially solid sub-units.

Figures 6 and 7 show alternative sub-units with cross parts to improve locking (improving resistance to disengagement) and to improve rigidity. In Figure 6 a sub-unit with an end cap is depicted, which is an alternative to that shown in Figure 5a. In the top row, the sub-unit with its additional annulus end cap, for facilitating engagement and resisting disengagement, is shown. Figure 7 shows a sub-unit with cross-shaped parts, which is an alternative to that shown in Figure 5b, and is a sub-unit without an end cap. It has four engaging members arranged in a square on each of five faces, and a surface with four hollows, recesses, or holes for receiving the engaging member of a similar sub-unit. The alternate version of the sub-unit shown in Figure 6 is not different internally from that of Figure 5a, but some external modifications have been made. An annulus similar to that in Figure 12 has been added as an end cap. The annulus may be any of those depicted in Figure 12. An advantageous embodiment shown in this Figure comprises a cross shape (with a hole) forming four distinct recesses. Additional grooves have been cut into the projections on all the remaining faces of the main body of the sub-unit; thus forming a cross shape complementary to the new cross shaped element added to the end cap. This leads to better strength of the sub-unit (e.g. better resistance to compression, less flexing) and improved resistance to rotation. It also provides better locking/resistance to disengagement due to the snug, potentially airtight, fit/seal between all the projections on the faces. The projections may be on one or more faces, or on five faces, as described herein.

The alternative version of the sub-unit shown in Figure 7, is similar to that shown in Figure 5b, except an internal tubular channel has been added to the inside, hollowed out part, of the sub-unit (through which the biasing member can travel). Ribs have been added, defining a cross shape with four distinct recesses. Additional grooves have been cut into the projections on all the remaining faces of the sub-unit - this forms a cross shape which is complementary to the new cross shaped element added to the inside. This leads to better strength of the sub- unit (e.g. better resistance to compression, less flexing) and improved resistance to rotation. It also leads to better locking/resistance to disengagement due to the snug, potentially airtight, fit/seal between all the projections on the faces. The projections may be on one or more faces, or on five faces, as described herein.

Figure 8 shows various views of sub-units according to another embodiment. Each sub-unit has a cross-shaped groove and a hole through which the elastic biasing member (not shown) extends. The sub-units also comprise projections and complementary recesses. The particular sub-units illustrated in Figure 8 comprise four cylindrical-shaped projections disposed in a square configuration on one face. Corresponding holes are provided in the other faces of each sub-unit. The arrangement is, in some respects, an inverted version of the embodiment of Figures 4a to 4d. While the sub-units illustrated in Figures 4a to 4d have a single recess in one face and projections on all the other faces, the sub-units illustrated in Figure 8 comprise projections on one face and recesses in all the other faces. Figure 9 shows various views of sub-units according to another embodiment. Each sub-unit in Figure 9 comprises a single projection on one face which has a generally square-shaped cross-section. Corresponding square shaped recesses are provided in the other faces. The projection in this embodiment is relatively large compared to the previously described embodiments and extends through the centre of an adjacent sub-unit in the chain. In order to accommodate the elastic biasing member (which will also pass through the centre of the sub- unit) and allow suitable re-orientation of the elastic biasing member, the projection also has a cross-shaped groove through which the elastic biasing member can extend. The bottom of the cross-shaped groove in the projection will be disposed at a central point in an adjacent sub-unit when locked together.

Figures 10 to 14 show alternative locking mechanisms which utilise a separate locking member disposed between adjacent sub-units.

In the arrangement illustrated in Figure 10, adjacent sub-units comprise projections and a locking member is disposed between adjacent sub-units, the locking member having recesses which are complementary to the projections. The projections of the adjacent sub-unit are received in the recesses of the locking member to lock the adjacent sub-units together resisting rotation and disengagement. When adjacent sub-units are pulled apart, the projections no longer extend into the recesses of the locking member disposed therebetween and the adjacent sub-units can then be rotated relative to each other into a new configuration. When released, the biasing member pulls the adjacent sub-units together and the projections re-engage in the recesses of the intermediate locking member thus preventing further rotation and disengagement. In the embodiment illustrated in Figure 10, the projections have a square-shaped cross-sectional shape and the locking members are in the form of a tube or ring with a corresponding square cross-sectional shape. However, other shapes can be envisaged. The important feature is that the projections and recesses are complementary and resist rotation, and also resist disengagement, when in an engaged configuration.

Figure 11 shows a locking ring arrangement similar to that illustrated in Figure 10 but wherein the grooves in each sub-unit are configured in a different manner. In the arrangement illustrated in Figure 10, one face of each sub-unit has a pair of perpendicular grooves and the opposite face has no groove. In contrast, in the arrangement illustrated in Figure 11 the perpendicular grooves are disposed in opposite faces of each sub-unit.

Figure 12 shows alternative separate locking members with cross parts to improve locking (improving resistance to disengagement) and to improve rigidity. It shows an outer ring which may be used in some sub-units as a separate locking member. When the outer ring of Figure 12 is employed in the sub-units as a separate locking member, they are particularly advantageously resistant to disengagement and to rotation. In this case an annular structure with a square cross-section is shown, but in the invention any annulus with any cross-section may be employed, depending on the nature of the sub-units. There may be a single hole in the annulus, as in the top left annulus of Figure 12, or multiple holes, as in the bottom left (2 holes) and bottom right (4 holes) annuli of Figure 12. The sub-units may also comprise further central, or middle, parts which are adapted to guide the locking member (i.e. the annulus or other such member) and the engaging member of the adjacent sub-units better towards the engaged position. Thus, in some embodiments, the annulus may comprise a projection from the perimeter of the annulus toward its centre to provide a guide, hole or channel for the connecting/biasing member, as in the annulus in the top right of Figure 12. Where a plurality of holes are present in the annulus, there are one or more bridging pieces across the opening from edge to edge, and this may offer improved strength/rigidity. These annuli may be employed in any other appropriate types of sub-unit. Separate such rings have been shown as locking members in Figure 10, Figure 11 and Figure 18a, but the annulus may be integral with the sub-unit too, as shown in Figures 5b and 6.

In the arrangement illustrated in Figure 13, adjacent sub-units comprise recesses and a locking member is disposed between adjacent sub-units, the locking member having projections which are complementary to the recesses. The projections of the locking member are received in the recesses of the adjacent sub-units to lock the adjacent sub-units together resisting rotation and disengagement. When adjacent sub-units are pulled apart, the projections of the locking member no longer extend into the recesses of the sub-units and the adjacent sub-units can then be rotated relative to each other into a new configuration. When released, the biasing member pulls the adjacent sub-units together and the projections reengage in the recesses thus preventing further rotation and disengagement.

In the embodiment illustrated in Figure 13, the recesses in each sub-unit have a square cross- sectional shape and the locking members are in the form of a rod or peg with a corresponding square cross-sectional shape. However, other shapes can be envisaged. The important feature is that the projections and recesses are complementary and resist rotation when in an engaged configuration.

Figure 14 shows a locking rod arrangement similar to that illustrated in Figure 13 but wherein the grooves in each sub-unit are configured in a different manner. In the arrangement illustrated in Figure 13, one face of each sub-unit has a pair of perpendicular grooves and the opposite face has no groove. In contrast, in the arrangement illustrated in Figure 14 the perpendicular grooves are disposed in opposite faces of each sub-unit such that one groove is disposed in one face and a perpendicular groove is disposed in an opposite face.

Other configurations for the projections and recesses can be envisaged. The size and shape of the projections and recesses can be selected according to a desired use. Long projections and deep recesses can provide a stronger locking mechanism resulting in very rigid structures. However, the sub-units must then be pulled further apart in order to de-couple the projections and recesses in order to manipulate the chain into a different configuration. As such, an increase in rigidity can be obtained but at the cost of a reduction in the ease of manipulation. Shorter projections and shallower recesses are easy to decouple in order to manipulate the chain but are more likely to de-couple "accidentally" when the chain is in a desired configuration.

This balance between ease of manipulation and resistance to "accidental" decoupling of the projections and recesses is also dependent on the amount of tension in the elastic biasing member. If the tension in the elastic biasing member is high, the sub-units are held together more firmly making any structural configuration of the sub-units stronger. However, it is then more difficult to pull the sub-units apart and manipulate them into a different structural configuration. In contrast, if the tension in the elastic biasing member is low, the sub-units can be easily pulled apart so as to be manipulated into a new configuration. However, the sub-units are then held less firmly together making any structural configuration of the sub- units weaker. The locking member will in any event resist disengagement, and its level of resistance can be tailored to the tension in the biasing member to optimise structural integrity.

A suitable balance can be achieved between the size of the projections / recesses and the strength of the elastic biasing member. Alternatively, it is possible to provide an adjusting mechanism for adjusting the tension in the elastic biasing member. For example, one or both of the end members of a chain may be provided with such a mechanism. The mechanism may take the form of a screw type arrangement which is connected to the end of the elastic biasing member. For example, screwing the mechanism outwards may increase the length, and therefore tension, in the elastic biasing member, whilst screwing the mechanism inwards may decrease the length, and therefore tension, in the elastic biasing member. Using such a mechanism, the tension of the elastic biasing member can be decreased for ease of manipulation to achieve a desired configuration. When the desired configuration has been achieved, the tension of the elastic biasing member can be increased to increase the strength of the desired configuration such that it cannot be accidentally knocked out of this configuration even when dropped or thrown about. These mechanisms also allow the possibility of using a non-elastic wire or nylon string as the connecting member. Alternatively, an elastic member may be used but incoiporating some inelastic strands or wire to limit maximum extension or to add strength to prevent the elastic member tearing catastrophically.

Another possibility for the connecting member would be to use a "muscle wire" comprising a shape memory alloy wire or shape-memory polymer wire/string.

Other tension adjusting mechanisms can be envisaged. For example, a ratchet mechanism, a twisting mechanism, a push button mechanism, or an electrical or electro-mechanical mechanism.

Other embodiments may utilize an inelastic connecting member or a plurality of inelastic connecting members functioning without any springs or tensioning mechanism. For example, certain arrangements may utilize a normal piece of string without any springs or tightening mechanism. Such an arrangement would rely solely on interference or other locking between the sub-units to resist disengagement and to maintain semi-permanent configurations. The connecting member(s) have the function of firstly preventing the sub- units from becoming dispersed or losing their sequence, and secondly ensuring that only a limited number of sub-units is 'in play' (i.e. are disengaged) at any one time.

Previous embodiments have been described for use with a single flexible elongate biasing member which extends along the chain of sub-units and holds the sub-units together in compression. However, it is also possible to provide arrangements which comprise a plurality of connecting members, each of the connecting members being disposed between adjacent sub-units along the chain. Figures 15 to 17 illustrate examples of such connecting members.

Figure 15 shows various views of cube shaped sub-units which comprise cross-shaped grooves in one face and a connecting member extending from the opposite face. The connecting member comprises an elongate rod which extends through the grooves of an adjacent sub-unit and is moveable within the grooves. The connecting member further comprises a bulb at the end of the elongate rod which is disposed within a cavity in the interior of an adjacent sub-unit. The rod and the bulb together form a proboscis. The bulb is broader than the grooves such that it cannot pass back through the grooves. As such, adjacent sub-units are held together. However, the bulb is smaller than the cavity allowing some free- play between adjacent sub-units so that they can be pulled apart. A spring, or some other biasing member, is disposed around the rod and between the bulb and an interior wall of the cavity such that when two adjacent sub-units are pulled apart, the spring/biasing member is compressed. A cup and ring may be provided to mount the spring/biasing member against the interior wall of the cavity as illustrated in Figure 15. When released, the spring/biasing member pulls the two adjacent sub-units back together.

Recesses are provided in the interior wall of the cavity, the recesses having a complementary shape to that of the bulb. As such, when two adjacent sub-units are pulled together by the spring, the bulb is received in a recess and locks the two adjacent sub-units together. The interior cavity is preferably spherical in shape to allow the connecting member to slide around the interior wall of the cavity when the sub-units are being moved relative to each other.

Figure 16 shows a similar arrangement to that illustrated in Figure 15. The difference here is that the connecting member has a base which is broader than the rod. The base acts as a secondary locking mechanism as the other faces of the sub-unit have complementary recesses into which the base can fit to lock adjacent sub-units together.

In Figures 15 and 16, the connecting member functions both to connect adjacent sub-units together and also lock adjacent sub-units together via the bulb and/or base of the connecting member and a corresponding recess on an interior or exterior surface of an adjacent sub-unit. In contrast, the arrangement illustrated in Figure 17 includes a connecting member which connects adjacent sub-units together but does not function to lock two adjacent sub-units together. Rather, in this arrangement, projections and recesses on the exterior surfaces of adjacent sub-units function to lock adjacent sub-units together in a similar manner to that illustrated in Figure 4a to 4d. The connecting member comprises a rod and a bulb similar to that illustrated in Figure 15. However, no recesses are required in the cavity wall as the recesses and projections on the exterior surfaces serve as the locking mechanism. It is to be noted that a biasing member will be present in such an arrangement although it is not illustrated in Figure 17. The biasing member could be a spring as illustrated in Figure 15 and 16. Alternatively, an elongate elastic member could be provided as in the arrangement of Figures 4a to 4d. Yet another alternative may utilize a telescoping proboscis.

It is also possible to envisage a version of the sub-units similar to that shown in Figure 17, however, incorporating as the "bulb" of the proboscis an element similar to (though shorter than) the large boss with extended locking shown in Figure 9.

One advantage of the proboscis arrangements discussed above is that the apparatus cannot physically come apart (allowing for child or adult strength) if, for instance, the elastic snaps. As such, it is possible to make the apparatus more robust. The previously described arrangements comprise sub-units which are substantially cubic in shape. However, this is not a strict requirement. For example, the arrangement shown in Figure 18a comprises a locking ring similar to that illustrated in Figures 10 and 11, but each sub-unit effectively comprises two cube shaped members. Similarly, the arrangement shown in Figure 18b comprises a locking rod similar to that illustrated in Figures 13 and 14, but each sub-unit effectively comprises two cube shaped members. "Double-Cube" sub-units may be provided with other locking mechanisms as described herein. For example, Double-Cube sub-units with a locking mechanism as illustrated in Figures 4a-4d or an internal locking mechanism such as illustrated in Figures 15-17 may be provided. A Double-Cube sub-unit using the locking arrangement illustrated in Figures 4a-4d may be visualized by considering two of the sub-units from Figures 4a-4d permanently joined together forming a sub-unit. Alternatively, a less elongated version of the sub-unit shown in Figure 19 may be envisaged. "Triple-cube" subunits and greater are also envisaged.

The arrangement shown in Figure 19 is, in some respects, similar to that shown in Figures 4a to 4d (and also similar to that shown in Figures 18a and 18b), but with much longer elongate sub-units. Cross-shaped grooves are provided in each end of the elongate sub-units with projections disposed at one end and corresponding recesses disposed at an opposite end.

Figure 20 illustrates a variant on the arrangement shown in Figure 19. Here, only a single groove is provided at each end of the elongate sub-units. The grooves in opposing ends are parallel to each other such that the apparatus more readily manipulated in a two dimensional plane in contrast to previously described arrangements which can be manipulated in three dimensions.

Other configuration for the grooves can be envisaged. One, two or more grooves may be provided depending on the shape of the sub-units and the desired freedom of motion required for particular applications.

In previously described arrangements, structures formed using the apparatus may be described as semi-permanent in that the sub-units are locked together to resist relative rotation but can be pulled apart so as to be manipulated into new configurations if desired. The aforementioned arrangements can be adapted to provide structures which may be described as permanent by including fixing members. The fixing members may, for example, be provided by screws and corresponding screw holes which can be used to fix the apparatus after it has been manipulated into a desired configuration.

Figure 21 illustrates an aiTangement in which sub-units are provided with screw holes within recesses along edges of the sub-units. A fixing member which has a complementary shape to the recesses can be screwed into the screw holes of adjacent sub-units to fix the adjacent sub- units together as illustrated in the Figure.

Figure 22 shows an alternative fixing arrangement in which the fixing members are disposed at corners of adjacent sub-units rather than along edges of adjacent sub-units as illustrated in Figure 21.

In previously described arrangements, each sub-unit of the chain comprises both at least one projection and at least one recess. As such, in a single chain all the sub-units can be made the same. However, it is envisaged that different sub-units can be provided in a single chain. For example, the sub-units may alternate between sub-units which have only recesses and sub- units which have only projections.

The sub-units may be any shape. For example, cube, cuboid, tetrahedron, sphere, pyramid, prism, polyhedral, rhomboid, rhombicuboctahedron, and tesseract hypercube shapes may be used. They may be made of suitable material including wood, metal, glass, foam, plastic, rubber, composites, steel reinforced concrete, and pre-stressed concrete depending on the desired use. The sub-units may be solid or hollow.

Figures 23 to 29 show a variety of different arrangements according to alternative embodiments of the present invention. Figures 23 to 28 show arrangements comprising tesseract sub-units. Figure 27 shows tesseract sub-units which have holes for locking screws/pins while Figure 28 shows tesseract subunits which have a locking slider ring. Figure 29 shows rhombicuboctahedral sub-units. The rhombicuboctahedral arrangement is an example of an embodiment with more than 3 rotational axes.

Some general points regarding the internal structure of the sub-units are worth highlighting. Hollow sub-units are advantageous since they impart lightness to the apparatus, which may allow larger structures to be constructed with a large number of sub units to. If the sub-units are small, or low in number, hollow sub-units are not as desired. The tension in the biasing member should be as close as possible to being equal in all configurations. This enables improved functioning and manoeuvring between configurations (smooth, unimpeded, flow through the sub-units is much more pleasant for the user). The channels (grooves and tubes formed in the material around/through which biasing member passes) may simultaneously fulfil several functions, especially in our hollow sub-unit versions: they may guide and/or support the biasing member so that it flows smoothly (freely and/or unimpeded) through approximately the centre point of every (sub-unit) to aid in maintaining nearly equal tension in all configurations; they may aid structurally (such as in reinforcement) dealing with resisting, transmitting and distributing one or more of compressive forces, loads, stresses and strains etc; they improve manufacturability, particularly for plastic injection moulding of hollow versions. A filet may be employed on the edges of internal structures to ensure smooth flow of biasing member. It may also be advantageous to provide a lubricant, such as a silicone based lubricant, or a self-lubricating material such a nylon or graphite. A dry lubricant such as graphite powder may be advantageous. The end caps may be concealed - i.e. fixed so as to be visible as a separate part only from the bottom view when a sub-unit is disengaged and not visible at all when in engaged state (avoiding visible join line).

The flexible elongate biasing member may comprise a conductive material so as to provide an electrical connection. Light sources may be mounted in one or more of the sub-units and connected to the power cable. For example, the sub-units may be made of a semi-transparent coloured plastic (e.g. a semi-transparent red plastic material) and a helical wire may be coiled along the length of the flexible elongate biasing member (e.g. inside the flexible elongate biasing member to protect the wire), and connected to a light source such as an LED light source within each sub-unit. A helical arrangement for the cable/wire allows the cable/wire to be extended in length when manipulating the sub-units of the apparatus. Alternatively, electrical connections may be provided in each of the individual sub-units to provide a conductive path through the chain for powering lighting elements. Such configuration may provide a glow lamp which can be manipulated into different configurations and may be utilised as a lamp.

Another possible embodiment involves incorporating a light-emissive material such as a fluorescent or phosphorescent material into the plastic material of the sub-units in the apparatus. This may avoid any complex wiring as described previously in relation to the lamp embodiment. While such an embodiment may not function as well as a lamp compared with a wire/LED arrangement, it would still provide a glow-in-the-dark glow stick.

Another alternative would be to provide a power source, such as a battery, and a light source in one or more of the sub-units so as to avoid the need for a power cable extending between the sub-units.

The sub-units may be made (or partly made of) conductive material such as metal or conductive polymer, i

Another possible application is to provide an apparatus which floats for use in a swimming pool. This may be achieved by using suitable plastic, wood or foam material for the sub-units of the apparatus. Other arrangements may be utilized in space or other low gravity environments.

Yet another possible application is as fencing or temporary building structures. A suitably sized apparatus, or a plurality of such apparatus, can be used to fence off areas of various shapes or form temporary walls, platforms or the like. This type of apparatus may be particularly useful for temporary structures at social, sporting or music events. The apparatus can then readily be re-configured into a more compact structure for transportation between events. Other embodiments may be used as re-configurable buildings in architectural models and as real life full-scale modular buildings for use in space, underwater, on the moon, on earth and other planets and to form reconfigurable cities of the future.

Other embodiments of the present invention may be used to create 3 -dimensional line drawings, 3 -dimensional canvases or be used to construct poems or texts in 3 -dimensions.

Embodiments may also be used to construct furniture such as chairs or tables. Further embodiments may be used to construct a ladder or rope.

Two or more apparatus according to the present invention may be configured to be connected together to form a structure comprising a plurality of chains. For example, end member sub- units may be configured to connect to another chain. Alternatively, or additionally, one or more intermediate sub-units may be configured to connect to another chain. The apparatus may also be configured to include several chains which are permanently connected together. Alternatively, the apparatus may have each end connected together to form, for example, a necklace, bracelet or bangle and/or be made of a suitable precious metal such as gold. Alternatively 'multi-headed' (or 'multi-tailed') apparatus may be provided. In the typical embodiments, the apparatus is linear with a head and a tail, but in some circumstances apparatus that have two heads and one tail or two heads and two tails (or three or more heads and/or three or more tails) may also be desirable. These multi-headed devices may, for example, be cross shaped (e.g. plus sign, Maltese cross, 3D cross, double plus sign etc.).

The sub-units may have different coloured faces, patterns, pictures, numbers or letters thereon to form a puzzle or puzzles to be solved by the user. The apparatus may be provided in a kit with one or more target structures, patterns, pictures or words to be formed by a user. A target pattern, picture, number or word may be achieved by manipulating the apparatus into a certain configuration. Certain embodiments may also be used to form magic squares, magic cubes, word squares or word cubes. More than one different design/puzzle may be contained/concealed within a single apparatus. The apparatus may also comprise ballbearings which can be moved around the sub-units by tilting the apparatus to form a ballbearing type puzzle comprising grooves and holes. The apparatus may light-up, make a sound, and/or vibrate when certain configurations are achieved. Different coloured lights or different sounds or music may be associated with different configurations of the apparatus. This may be achieved, for example, by providing different electrical connections on each face of the sub-units. A processor may be provided to analyse the electrical connections between the plurality of sub-units and control a lighting unit, a speaker, a vibrating unit, or some other apparatus according to the configuration of the apparatus. It is also envisaged that other types of connections may be utilized for providing this control function, e.g. optical.

Other embodiments may be used as a 3-dimensional ruler and may comprise a suitable scale for measuring distances in 3-dimensions.

A processor may be provided in the apparatus and configured to communicate with a computer and/or other equipment via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc.

While the previous embodiments have been described as being manipulated by a user by hand, other embodiments may be provided with a mechanical/motorized mechanism allowing remotely controlled reconfiguration of the apparatus.

Other potential uses for embodiments of the present invention include:

an apparatus configured to function as a foldable computer, personal digital assistant, or mobile phone keyboard (with each face being touch-sensitive);

an apparatus configured to function as a mobile phone which, for example, folds and unfolds from a necklace/ bracelet/ bangle into a slate/ pad - some sub-unit faces may have a display, some sub-unit faces may be touch-sensitive, some sub-units may function as speakers, etc.;

an apparatus configured to function as a video projector;

an apparatus configured to function as a projector screen;

an apparatus configured to function as an LED display; an apparatus configured to function as a USB key or solid state digital memory device, which may be worn as a belt, necklace, bracelet/bangle;

an apparatus configured to function as a reconfigurable solar energy unit;

an apparatus configured to function as an aerial for TV, radio, wi-fi etc;

an apparatus configured to function as a radio unit;

an apparatus configured to function as an MP3 Player;

an apparatus configured to function as an unfurlable speaker unit or headphones; an apparatus configured to function as a TV set;

an apparatus configured to function as a games console;

an apparatus configured to function as a computer comprising central processing unit chips (possibly parallel) in combination with one or more of the other elements mentioned above;

an apparatus configured to function as a writing implement;

an apparatus configured to function as an eraser; and

an apparatus configured to function as a stand, tri-pod (or other multi-pod).

There is also a huge potential for users to build/assemble their own apparatus by providing a kit or kits to be assembled by a user. A kit may comprise one or more connecting members and a selection of sub-units which may be the same or different.

While this invention has been particularly shown and described with reference to preferred embodiments thereof, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes in form and details may be made therein without departing from the scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.

Claims

Claims
1. An apparatus comprising:
a plurality of sub-units; and
one or more connecting members for connecting the plurality of sub-units together in a chain,
wherein the plurality of sub-units is held together in the chain by the one or more connecting members disposed between the sub-units,
wherein each sub-unit comprises at least one groove through which the connecting member, or one of the connecting members, is movable to allow adjacent sub-units to be rotated around at least one rotational axis relative to each other by a user, and
wherein the apparatus further comprises a locking mechanism configured to lock adjacent sub-units together, thereby resisting rotation of adjacent sub-units and resisting disengagement of adjacent sub-units.
2. An apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the one or more connecting members comprises a flexible elongate member.
3. An apparatus according to claim 2, wherein the flexible elongate member is elastic.
4. An apparatus according to claim 2 or 3, wherein each sub-unit comprises a hole through which the flexible elongate member extends, the flexible elongate member extending though a plurality of the sub-units thereby holding the plurality of sub-units together.
5. An apparatus according to any one of claims 1 to 3, wherein a plurality of connecting members is provided, each connecting adjacent sub-units together.
6. An apparatus according to any preceding claim, the locking mechanism being constructed wherein each sub-unit comprises at least one projection and/or at least one recess which is complementary to the at least one projection whereby at least one projection of a sub-unit is received in at least one recess of an adjacent sub-units to lock adjacent sub-units together resisting rotation and disengagement.
7. An apparatus according to claim 6, wherein each sub-unit comprises a plurality of recesses and/or a plurality of projections.
8. An apparatus according to claim 6 or 7, wherein alternating sub-units in the chain comprise only recesses or only projections.
9. An apparatus according to any one of claims 6 to 8, wherein each sub-unit in the chain comprises both at least one recess and at least one projection.
10. An apparatus according to claim 9, wherein each sub-unit comprises at least one recess in one of its faces and at least one projection on each of its other faces.
1 1. An apparatus according to claim 9, wherein each sub-unit comprises at least one projection on one of its faces and at least one recess in each of its other faces.
12. An apparatus according to any one of claims 1 to 5, the locking mechanism being constructed wherein adjacent sub-units comprise projections and a locking member is disposed between adjacent sub-units, the locking member having recesses which are complementary to the projections whereby the projections of the adjacent sub-unit are received in the recesses of the locking member to lock the adjacent sub-units together resisting rotation and disengagement.
13. An apparatus according to any one of claims 1 to 5, the locking mechanism being constructed wherein adjacent sub-units comprise recesses and a locking member is disposed between adjacent sub-units, the locking member having projections which are complementary to the recesses whereby the projections of the locking member are received in the recesses of the adjacent sub-units to lock the adjacent sub-units together resisting rotation and disengagement.
14. An apparatus according to any preceding claim, wherein the locking mechanism comprises one or more of a snap-fit connection between adjacent sub-units, a magnetic locking mechanism, an electromagnetic locking mechanism, a shape memory alloy locking mechanism, a shape memory polymer locking mechanism, a muscle wire locldng mechanism, a velcro-type locking mechanism, a temporary adhesive locking mechanism, one or more screws, one or more pins, one or more wedges, one or more bolts, or one or more nuts.
15. An apparatus according to any preceding claim, wherein each sub-unit comprises two grooves whereby adjacent sub-units can be rotated around three rotational axes relative to each other.
16. An apparatus according to claim 15, wherein the two grooves
are perpendicular to each other whereby adjacent sub-units can be rotated around three perpendicular rotational axes relative to each other.
17. An apparatus according to claim 15 or 16, wherein the two grooves are provided on different faces of each sub-unit.
18. An apparatus according to claim 15 or 16, wherein the two grooves are provided on the same face of each sub-unit.
19. An apparatus according to any preceding claim, wherein each sub-unit is cubic, cuboid, tetrahedral, spherical, pyramidal, a prism, polyhedral, rhomboid, elongate, a 3-D Swiss Cross, rhombicuboctahedral, a tesseract, or a hypercube.
20. An apparatus according to any preceding claim, wherein adjacent sub-units are configured to be rotatable around more than three rotational axes relative to each other.
21. An apparatus according to any preceding claim, wherein one or more of the sub-units is hollow.
22. A kit comprising a plurality of sub-units and one or more connecting members configured to constmct an apparatus according to any preceding claim.
PCT/EP2011/053732 2010-03-12 2011-03-11 Cube-sherman snake WO2011110680A1 (en)

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JP2012557504A JP2013521908A (en) 2010-03-12 2011-03-11 Cube Sherman Snake
US13634004 US20130062828A1 (en) 2010-03-12 2011-03-11 Cube-sherman snake
CN 201180023274 CN102917762B (en) 2010-03-12 2011-03-11 Cube-sherman snake
EP20110708452 EP2536475B1 (en) 2010-03-12 2011-03-11 Cube-sherman snake

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CN103908316A (en) * 2012-12-29 2014-07-09 苏州天臣国际医疗科技有限公司 Guide element

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CN103908316A (en) * 2012-12-29 2014-07-09 苏州天臣国际医疗科技有限公司 Guide element

Also Published As

Publication number Publication date Type
GB2478591A (en) 2011-09-14 application
CN102917762B (en) 2015-06-17 grant
EP2536475B1 (en) 2016-05-18 grant
JP2013521908A (en) 2013-06-13 application
EP2536475A1 (en) 2012-12-26 application
US20130062828A1 (en) 2013-03-14 application
CN102917762A (en) 2013-02-06 application
GB201004125D0 (en) 2010-04-28 grant

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