BALANCE BOARD FOR USE AS A CONTROL DEVICE
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention generally relates to a balance board. More specifically, this invention relates to a balance board suitable for use as a control device for interfacing with a computer or video game system including a visual display device and, in particular, for use as a rehabilitative aid or exercise tool in conjunction with a video game for increasing balance, leg and ankle stability and proprioceptive awareness in users.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 A balance board is a device often used for muscle training, balance training, rehabilitation after injury, brain development, and sometimes for recreation. It is an unbalanced device that the user must stand in a certain way to make balanced. Ideally, the user's body must stay balanced enough to keep the board's edges from touching the ground and to keep from falling off the board.
 Balance boards are used to develop balance, motor coordination skills, weight distribution and core strength; for elderly patients to improve balance; by sports people to prevent injuries, especially to the ankle and knee; and for rehabilitation after injuries to several parts of the body, including the ankle, knee, and legs, as well as after injuries that affect balance in general.
 The user stands on a board or other platform which is on top of an unstable ground- contacting member, the fulcrum. Due to the fulcrum's instability, all of a user's balance skills must be activated and coordinated in order to prevent the board from touching the ground.
 Thus, the rider stimulates, exercises and teaches the parts of the body that implement the act of balancing (toes, soles, ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, arms and neck) and the parts of the body and brain that create the sense of balance and that engineer the implementation of the act of balancing (inner ears, cerebellum, proprioceptors and eyes).
 Usually, these boards are used in conjunction with a number of set exercises, performed under supervision of or set by a rehabilitation or exercise professional. However, there have been some attempts to integrate the use of a balance board with games, for recreational users at least. The Wii Balance board, made by Nintendo, for example used a flat board with sensors determining the pressure at four locations to determine a user's centre of balance. This was then used to weigh a user, and allow them to play games where their balance board is the video game controller.
 In traditional rocker boards and wobble boards, the fulcrum is attached to the base of the board. The fulcrum of almost all wobble boards is a semi-sphere or smaller spherical cap (or a shape that is approximately such) whose flat side is attached to the centre of the board's underside. This semi-sphere can have a diameter from a small rounded surface in the middle of the board to a diameter equal with the platform of the board. This allows the board to pivot in all directions during the same ride: forward-backward, left-right and anywhere in between, i.e., toward 360 degrees. Standing on a wobble board exercises muscles that are not exercised by standing on boards that tilt in only two (opposite) directions.
 Wobble boards are widely used in child development, gyms, sport training, prevention of injuries to the ankle and knee, rehabilitation after ankle, knee and hip injuries and physiotherapy. BOSU balls are often seen in gyms, made from a rigid platform with a soft, flexible, rubber hemisphere on the underside. These balls can be used either side up, with an exerciser completing exercises partially or wholly on the flexible rubber surface with the rigid side on the floor, or vice versa.
 The basic exercise of wobble boards is standing on the wobble board with both feet and tilting in any direction without letting the board tilt so far that its edge touches the ground. Some of the many other common exercises are squats; standing on the board with one foot while keeping the other foot off the ground; push-ups (pressing down on the board with the hands while lying face-down with only the knees or toes contacting the ground); and sit-ups (with the board under one's rear end).
 A wobble board offers full rotation about the vertical axis (i.e., yawing, i.e., twisting), part rotation about the transverse/lateral axis (i.e., pitching, i.e., backward-forward tilting)
and part rotation about the longitudinal axis (i.e., banking, i.e., left-right tilting). There are some specialised wobble boards that allow training for sports such as snowboarding. An example of this is seen in U.S. Patent No. 7,614,987 when a hemispherical dome is attached to a snowboard or downhill ski- like apparatus.
 There are limited ways to interact with most of these apparatus and setting of exercises or completing these exercises under supervision is required for rehabilitation outcomes. Furthermore, practitioners such as physiotherapists have no way of getting feedback on whether users are performing these exercises and their progression over time after they leave their premises.
 It is an object of the present invention to address the shortcomings of the prior art, or at least provide the public with a useful choice.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 According to a first aspect of the invention, there is provided a balance board for use as a control device for interfacing with a computer or video game system including a visual display device, the balance board comprising a platform and a ground-contacting member upon which the balance board is arranged to pivot, the platform having first and second opposed surfaces and adapted to support a user standing on the first surface of the platform, the ground-contacting member being connected to the second surface of the platform and having a curved multifaceted surface, wherein the first surface of the platform contains an opening to a cavity formed therein, the cavity being sized to receive a portable electronic device having a sensor to detect motion of the portable electronic device and configured to wirelessly transmit motion data to the computer or video game system.
 The balance board may further include a protective cover for the opening of the cavity. The cover may be removable from the platform or hingedly connected to the platform. The cavity may be sized to receive the portable electronic device and the cover. The cover may be flush with the first surface of the platform. The cover may contain an aperture sized to allow one or more fingers of a user to extend through the aperture and contact the portable electronic device in the cavity. The aperture may be sized to allow the
index finger of a user to extend through the aperture and contact the portable electronic device in the cavity. The cavity may have a base covered with a material capable of restricting movement of the portable electronic device in the cavity.
 In one embodiment, the balance board is configured to be used as a control device for use with a video game displayed on the visual display device and the motion data generated by pivoting the balance board may be utilised by the computer or video game system as game play input information. The video game may have one or more levels within the video game that can be generated or changed by a user inputting desired movements of the balance board. Multiple users can be active in the same video game using multiple balance boards. The multiple users are competitive or cooperative.
 The motion data may be recorded and able to be visually displayed to the user in one or more graphical displays to show progress. The motion data may be able to be read on the portable electronic device, through software, or on a website. The motion data may be accessible through a connected website or software by a person other than the user. The person other than the user may be the user's physiotherapist, trainer or coach. The person other than the user may be able to update the user's available routines remotely through a connected website or software. The motion data may be collected can be used for physical diagnosis by the user's physiotherapist, trainer or coach. The motion data may be recorded in respect of one user can be publicly or privately compared between other users. The motion data of other users may be shown in-game.
 The computer or video game system may comprise any one of the following: a personal computer or laptop computer; Oculus Rift; a video game console; Razer Hydra; or a smart television.
 The ground-contacting member may comprise a dome section, wherein the dome section is a substantially spherical shape with the outer surface being multi-faceted.
 The dome section may be removably attached to the platform. Preferably there may be provided a kit with a balance board as described and at least one alternative (different surfaced) dome section.
 The sensor may comprise movement detection elements such as a gyroscope, accelerometer or other movement detection devices.
 The portable electronic device may comprise communication devices and protocols such as Bluetooth, Infrared or Wi-Fi elements. Preferably the portable electronic device may also record some or all the movements detected, for use in analysis at a later time.
 The portable electronic device may be a smartphone or a tablet computer.
 The platform may comprise a substantially flat plane. The ground-contacting member may be of a smaller circumference than the platform. The platform may include slight raises and dips to indicate ideal position of the feet, or to provide added grip. The ground- contacting member may be interchangeable. The interchangeable ground-contacting member may be clipped, screwed or otherwise attached to the flat platform.
 The ground-contacting member may comprise a partially spherical shape comprising a number of faceted surfaces, each designed to guide the user in a particular plane of movement. The ground-contacting member may be hemispherical.
 The multi-faceted faces may be designed to promote particular movements and balance directions, each for a particular exercise or injury. The ground-contacting member attached to the platform at a given time may be selected based on the preferred exercise, injuiy for rehabilitation or game to play.
 In use, the user may stand on top of the flat surface of the balance platform with two feet approximately shoulder width apart. Exercises can be set by a therapist or the user can interact with a provided game. When interacting with a game, the user may react to visual prompts on the visual display device, by adjusting the angle of the platform to the ground in various directions.
 The visual prompts may be a component of a game. The game may produces onscreen obstacles (for example, walls and gates) that the user must navigate past, around, over and under by altering their point of balance on top of the board. Examples of movements that
may be required are: lean left = move left, lean right = move right, lean forward = speed up, lean backward = jump.
 The sensor preferably records the position of the board to the floor and gives the user real-time feedback of their position relative to the obstacles they see on-screen. The portable electronic device may connect to the computer or video game system displaying or playing the game via Bluetooth. Alternatively, other communication means may be used, such as Wi-Fi.
 The balance platforms may be created using injection moulding durable plastics, through RTM or VARTM injection moulding fibreglass, or through use of any other suitable material such as suitable polymers, wood, or metal. Preferably, the ground-contacting member is interchangeable and may be cast in black polyurethane and moulded to a flexible plastic skeleton. This skeleton would fix the ground-contacting member to the platform to keep it from rotating. The skeleton preferably may have a slight flex, which will allow the user to peel the polyurethane skin away from the platform.
 The platform may include pressure sensors on the first surface for measuring feet pressure (capacitive, piezo resistive or others) to track where the person is stepping with how much pressure as well as the sensors for tilt and acceleration. This may allow even to detect the person is actually doing their exercises, in case of the use of a single board for multiple users, such as in a physiotherapist's office.
 Alternatively, the ground-contacting member may comprise a solid partial sphere with a multifaceted surface, or by a thinner surface made of a rigid material.
 According to a second aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of treating or preventing an injury in a subject comprising utilising the balance board as herein described.
 According to a third aspect of the invention, there is provided a use of the balance board as herein described as a rehabilitative aid or exercise tool. The use may be in conjunction with a video game. The use may be for increasing balance, leg and ankle stability and/or proprioceptive awareness in users. The use may be a non-therapeutic use.
 According to a fourth aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of improving fitness or sports performance in a subject comprising utilising the balance board as herein described.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 Further aspects of the present invention will become apparent from the following description, which is given by way of example only, and with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:
 Figures 1 through 4 show examples of the multi-faceted ground-contacting member for the balance board;
 Figure 5 shows one embodiment of the balance board system according to the invention, including the portable electronic device;
 Figure 6 shows an exploded view of another embodiment of the balance board according to the invention; and
 Figure 7 shows a perspective view of the balance board in use. DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
 The balance board provided is intended to be used as an exercise tool used to increase proprioceptive awareness in users. The board is inspired by a traditional balance or wobble board, but endeavours to consider the variance between users differing levels of confidence, flexibility and motivation. These elements culminate in an opportunity to offer an experience with a greater feeling of 'fun'.
 Referring to the drawings, the invention relates to a balance board, indicated generally by the reference numeral 10, for use as a control device for interfacing with a computer or video game system including a visual display device 11. The balance board 10 comprises a platform 12 and a ground-contacting member 13 upon which the balance board is arranged to pivot. As shown in Figure 6, the platform 12 has first 14 and second 15 opposed surfaces and
is adapted to support a user 18 standing on the first surface of the platform. The ground- contacting member 13 is connected to the second surface 15 of the platform 12 and has a curved multifaceted surface 13 a. The first surface 14 of the platform 12 contains an opening to a cavity 16 formed therein. The cavity 16 is sized to receive a portable electronic device 17 having a sensor to detect motion of the portable electronic device and configured to wirelessly transmit motion data to the computer or video game system.
 The balance board may further include a protective cover 19 for the opening of the cavity 16. The cover 19 may be removable from the platform 12 or hingedly connected to the platform. The cavity 16 may be sized to receive the portable electronic device 17 and the cover 19. The cover 19 may be flush with the first surface 14 of the platform 12. The cover 19 may contain an aperture sized to allow one or more fingers of a user to extend through the aperture and contact the portable electronic device 17 in the cavity 16. The aperture may be sized to allow the index finger of a user to extend through the aperture and contact the portable electronic device 17 in the cavity 16. The cavity 16 may have a base covered with a material capable of restricting movement of the portable electronic device 17 in the cavity.
 In the exemplified embodiments described herein, the balance board 10 is comprised of a substantially flat base platform 12, elevated by interchangeable bases. The base platform 12 may be many shapes, such as round, oval or square. Preferably the base platform 12 is an oval shape. Both the base platform 12 and the ground-contacting member 13 can be substituted for others to better suit the needs of the user 18, making rehabilitation more accessible to a wider range of people, whilst also meeting the needs of those undergoing rehabilitation.
 The movement created by the user 18 and facilitated by the balance board 10 can be tracked on a screen of the visual display device 11. Visual incentive is provided by gaming situations, in which the user 18 must manipulate their position on the balance board 10 in order to control a character on screen. Users 18 are motivated by their desire to improve scores and better their performance. Results are provided to the user 18 and statistics on performance forwarded to their specialist in order to gauge both performance and compliance with exercises.
 The base platform 12 itself consists of a mostly flat plane (preferably with slight raises and dips to indicate ideal position of the feet), supported by an interchangeable, dome-shaped ground-contacting member 13, often of smaller circumference.
 As shown in Figure 7, the user 18 stands on the first surface 14 of the balance board 10 with two feet approximately shoulder width apart. The aim of the exercise is for the user 18 to react to visual prompts from the visual display device 11 , by adjusting the angle of the flat platform 12 to the ground in various directions.
 The visual component consists of a game, that produces on screen obstacles (for example, walls and gates) that the user 18 must navigate past, around, over and under by altering their point of balance on top of the balance board 10. An example of movements required are: Lean left = move left, lean right = move right, lean forward = speed up, lean backward = jump.
 Different multifaceted surfaces 13a facilitate different movement, for example, those shown in Figures 1, 2 and 3 encourage rotation and mediolateral/posterior/anterior movement. The multifaceted surface 13a in Figure 4 restricts movement to the anatomically correct movement of the ankle joint - 60 degrees planterflexion, 20 degrees dorsiflexion and 20 degrees laterally.
 The user 18 can choose to use a smartphone 17 or any other portable electronic device to record mediolateral, posterior and anterior and rotational movements, which are wirelessly transmitted to a PC or other computer or video game system, giving real time feedback and a summary of trends and movements shown in the completed exercise. This information can also be transmitted remotely to an operator's computer (e.g. the user's physiotherapist).
 An optional "fit-for-purpose" connection module may be utilised as the portable electronic device by people with a large number of users 18, such as, a physiotherapist, or a user without a smartphone 17. This connection module may be composed of a circuit board, battery and Bluetooth chip, allowing a cheaper alternative to having to buy a smartphone 17 for the purposes of using the software.
 Figure 6 shows an exploded view of one embodiment of the balance board 10 according to the invention. At the top of the exploded view is the smartphone 17, which fits into a cavity in the platform 12. This is show here with a small hemispherical dome 13b attached. In this embodiment, a skeleton layer 13c is affixed to the small dome, and then the interchangeable dome section 13a is attached. This is one way of changing the dome sections for different uses and depending on the preference for different external layers. Other ways of achieving the interchangeable dome sections are envisioned.
 The platform 12 may be created using injection moulding durable plastics, through RTM or VARTM injection moulding fibreglass, or through use of any other suitable material such as suitable polymers, wood, or metal. Preferably, the ground-contacting member 13 is interchangeable and may be cast in black polyurethane and moulded to a flexible plastic skeleton 13c. This skeleton 13c would fix the ground-contacting member 13 to the platform to keep it from rotating. The skeleton 13c preferably may have a slight flex, which will allow the user to peel the polyurethane skin away from the platform. The ground-contacting member 13 may be covered in a rubber surface.
 The balance board 10 has applications in gyms, group fitness/training, arcades or as home entertainment. The balance board 10 is particularly suited for treating or preventing an injury in a subject or as a rehabilitative aid or exercise tool. This use may be in conjunction with a video game and be designed to increase balance, leg and ankle stability and/or proprioceptive awareness in users 18. The balance board 10 is also suited for non-therapeutic use, for example, improving fitness or sports performance in a subject.
 While the invention has been described with reference to preferred embodiments, it is not to be construed as being limited thereto. Moreover, where known materials and operating steps have been described, and the equivalent materials and steps are known to exist, such equivalent materials and steps are incorporated herein as if specifically set forth.
 The terms comprise, comprises, comprising, or comprised, if and when used herein, should be interpreted non-exclusively, that is, as conveying "consisting of or including".