WO2019238630A1 - A modular toy construction system with interactive toy construction elements - Google Patents

A modular toy construction system with interactive toy construction elements Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2019238630A1
WO2019238630A1 PCT/EP2019/065123 EP2019065123W WO2019238630A1 WO 2019238630 A1 WO2019238630 A1 WO 2019238630A1 EP 2019065123 W EP2019065123 W EP 2019065123W WO 2019238630 A1 WO2019238630 A1 WO 2019238630A1
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WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
toy construction
interactive
control
construction
modular
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/EP2019/065123
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Thomas Alan Donaldson
Jesper SØDERBERG
Sam Coates
Erik Hansen
Mark Champkins
Yufan Wei WANG
Rasmus Bissenbakker KÆRSGAARD
Jorge Gabriel Soto
Radost Radoslavova KEREFEYNA
Original Assignee
Lego A/S
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
Priority to DKPA201870361 priority Critical
Priority to DKPA201870361 priority
Application filed by Lego A/S filed Critical Lego A/S
Publication of WO2019238630A1 publication Critical patent/WO2019238630A1/en

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Classifications

    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63HTOYS, e.g. TOPS, DOLLS, HOOPS OR BUILDING BLOCKS
    • A63H33/00Other toys
    • A63H33/04Building blocks, strips, or similar building parts
    • A63H33/042Mechanical, electrical, optical, pneumatic or hydraulic arrangements; Motors
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63HTOYS, e.g. TOPS, DOLLS, HOOPS OR BUILDING BLOCKS
    • A63H33/00Other toys
    • A63H33/04Building blocks, strips, or similar building parts
    • A63H33/06Building blocks, strips, or similar building parts to be assembled without the use of additional elements
    • A63H33/08Building blocks, strips, or similar building parts to be assembled without the use of additional elements provided with complementary holes, grooves, or protuberances, e.g. dovetails
    • A63H33/086Building blocks, strips, or similar building parts to be assembled without the use of additional elements provided with complementary holes, grooves, or protuberances, e.g. dovetails with primary projections fitting by friction in complementary spaces between secondary projections, e.g. sidewalls
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63HTOYS, e.g. TOPS, DOLLS, HOOPS OR BUILDING BLOCKS
    • A63H2200/00Computerized interactive toys, e.g. dolls

Abstract

A modular toy construction system, comprising: a plurality of interactive toy construction elements, each interactive toy construction element comprising a sensor and/or a function device, the function device operable to perform a user-perceivable function; each interactive toy construction element further comprising a first communications circuit configured to wirelessly communicate signals and to wirelessly harvest energy for operating the function device and/or the sensor.

Description

A modular toy construction system with interactive toy construction elements
Technical field The present disclosure relates to a modular toy construction system comprising one or more interactive toy construction elements.
Background
Toy construction systems have been known for decades. Over the years, simple box-shaped building blocks have been supplemented with toy construction elements that have a specific appearance or a mechanical or electrical function to enhance the play value of the system. Such functions include e.g. motors, switches, and lamps, but also programmable processors that accept input from sensors and can activate function elements in response to received sensor inputs. Self-contained function construction elements exist which have a function device adapted to perform a preconfigured function, an energy source for providing energy to the function device for performing the function, and a trigger responsive to an external trigger event to trigger the function device to perform the function. Typically, such known function construction elements are designed for manual activation of a mechanical trigger and only provide a limited play value.
W02007/137577 discloses a toy construction system comprising function elements and control elements. The function and control elements are electrically interconnectable via a system of wires and plugs, such that the function elements receive both electrical power and control signals from the control elements. Even though this system avoids the need for electrical energy storage in the function elements, it requires a certain level of abstract thinking and technical insight in order to correctly set up the wiring and to interconnect the construction elements so as to construct functional toy models from such a system. Moreover, the wires between the various elements limit the freedom to freely construct toy construction models and may affect the visual appearance of the models.
WO 2015/173246 discloses a toy construction system comprising a plurality of interactive toy construction elements each comprising coupling members configured for releasably interconnecting the interactive toy construction elements with each other. The system comprises function construction elements and input construction elements. Each input construction element comprises a wireless transmitter for transmitting a control signal to at least a subset of the function construction elements. Each function construction element comprises: a function device adapted to perform a controllable function; a wireless receiver for receiving the wireless control signal; and a control circuit connected to the wireless receiver and to the function device and adapted to control the controllable function responsive to the received control signal. Each interactive toy construction element comprises a user- operable selector allowing a user to select one of a predetermined set of group identifiers. The interactive toy construction elements further comprise a group indicator being configured to output an indication indicative of the selected group identifier.
While the need for wires between interactive toy construction elements is avoided in the above prior art system, the interactive toy construction elements are relatively complicated devices that include a user-controllable selector and an indicator as well as a battery. Accordingly, the interactive devices are relatively costly to manufacture and difficult to reduce in size, thus limiting the flexibility in freely designing toy construction models. In particular, when it is desirable to add multiple functions to a toy construction model, the size and shape of the toy construction elements restrict the freedom to design the toy construction model. It is generally desirable to provide a modular toy construction system that provides enhanced educational activities and/or play activities.
It is further desirable to provide a modular toy construction system that provides a high degree of flexibility in designing different toy construction models with a rich functionality.
Moreover it is desirable to provide an interactive modular construction system that allows users, in particular children, to construct multiple interactive modular construction element models in a user-friendly, efficient, yet flexible and reliable manner without the need for a detailed knowledge of control structures, data communication, and how to connect electrical wires, conductors, etc. properly.
Various aspects of embodiments of a toy construction system disclosed herein address one or more of the above needs and/or other needs that exist in the field of toy construction systems.
Summary
Disclosed herein are aspects of a modular toy construction system. The modular toy construction system comprises a plurality of interactive toy construction elements, each interactive toy construction element comprising a sensor and/or a function device, the function device operable to perform a user-perceivable function; each interactive toy construction element further comprising a first communications circuit configured to wirelessly
communicate signals and to wirelessly harvest energy for operating the function device and/or the sensor.
In some embodiments, the modular toy construction system further comprises at least one control toy construction element comprising a rechargeable energy storage device, a processing circuit and a second communications circuit; the second communications circuit being configured to communicate with one or more of the plurality of interactive toy
construction elements and, optionally, to wirelessly transfer energy to said one or more interactive toy construction elements. The processing circuit may be configured to receive sensor data from one or more of the interactive toy construction elements and to generate control signals for controlling the user-perceivable function of one or more of the interactive toy construction elements.
The first and second communications circuits may be configured for contactless, ultra-short-range communication, such as near-field
communication, and for contactless, e.g. inductive, energy transfer.
Alternatively the communication circuits may be configured for other forms of contactless energy transfer, e.g. based on ultrasound.
Here the term contactless is intended to refer to data and/or energy transfer from one device to another device without a conductive coupling, i.e. without transfer of electrical energy by means of physical contact via a conductive medium that is conductive for a direct current. It will be appreciated that the term contactless merely characterises the communication and power transfer and does not exclude that the devices are otherwise physically connected with each other. In particular two toy construction elements may be in physical contact with each other, e.g. mechanically interconnected with each other by means of their respective coupling members, while the
communication and energy transfer between them is contactless, i.e. does not rely on the physical contact as a carrier for the transfer of energy or data.
The term ultra-short-range communications is intended to refer to
communications technologies for contactless and, in particular, wireless communication over a communications range of no more than 10 cm, such as no more than 5 cm, such as no more than 2 cm such as no more than 1 cm, such as less than 1cm. Here and in the following, reference to
communications ranges refers to communications ranges under normal operational conditions and in normal operational environment, e.g. inside a child's room.
In some embodiments, at least one, such as each, of the interactive toy construction elements is a passive interactive toy construction element, i.e. an interactive toy construction element that does not comprise its own battery or other energy storage. Instead, the passive interactive toy construction element uses, at its sole power supply, energy that is contactless received via the first communications circuit in order to drive the function device and the communications circuit. The passive interactive toy construction element is thus only operable to activate its function device while the passive interactive toy construction element is coupled for contactless receipt of energy from a control toy construction element. Accordingly, in a toy construction system only some of the toy construction elements and, in particular, the control toy construction elements, include their own energy storage device, thus reducing the number of components that require their own energy storage device. Accordingly, this reduces manufacturing costs, facilitates recycling and helps prolonging the overall lifetime of the system. In alternative embodiments, at least one, such as each, of the interactive toy construction elements includes its own energy storage device, e.g. its own battery. At least one, such as each, of the interactive toy construction elements may thus be self-powered or be an energy-assisted, passive toy construction element. An interactive toy construction element is operable to operate only when communicatively coupled to a control toy construction element but which includes its own energy storage device, e.g. its own battery.
A function device may be any suitable device for performing a function, such as a function that provides a user-perceptible effect, such as a visible and/or audible effect. Examples of function devices may include any suitable mechanical and/or electrical device, arrangement, and/or circuitry adapted to perform one or more mechanical and/or electrical functions.
Examples of a mechanical function that some embodiments of the function device described herein can perform include driving a rotatable output shaft, winding-up a string or a chain which enables pulling an object closer to a toy construction element, moving a hinged part of the interactive toy construction element, etc. The mechanical function may thus enable opening or closing a door, ejecting an object, rotating a turntable, moving a linear actuator, etc. Such mechanical motions can be driven by an electric motor.
Examples of an electrical function that some embodiments of the function device described herein can perform include emitting constant or blinking light, activating several lamps in a predetermined sequence, emitting audible sound such as beep, alarm, bell, siren, voice message, music, synthetic sound, natural or imitated sound simulating and/or stimulating play activities, playback of a sound, and/or other audio content, etc.
Accordingly, the function device may be selected from a motor, a light source (e.g. one or more LEDs) and a sound source (e.g. a loudspeaker). In some embodiments the plurality of interactive toy construction elements includes: - a first interactive toy construction element comprising a first type of function device, e.g. a motor;
- a second interactive toy construction element comprising a second type of function device, e.g. a light source or a sound source, different from the first type of function device (e.g. for providing a different physical effect than the first function device).
Generally, a sensor may be any suitable device being responsive to a predetermined sensor input, such as to a physical quantity, and operable to generate a sensor signal corresponding to, representing, and/or reflecting the predetermined sensor input. One example of a sensor is a sound registering sensor for detecting presence of sound. The sensor may be a relatively simple sensor, e.g. a sensor that simply registers a sound when the sound is above a predetermined sound level or threshold. Other examples of sensors may be more advanced, e.g. a sensor for measuring a sound level of the registered sound.
The sensor may be selected from: a position or rotation sensor (e.g. a linear or rotary encoder), a light detector and a sound detector (e.g. a microphone). Other examples of sensors may be responsive to other sensor inputs such as mechanical forces, ultrasound, push, pull, rotation, tilt, human manipulation, touch, electrical signals, radio frequency signals, optical signals, visible light signals, infrared signals, magnetic signals, temperature, humidity, radiation, etc. For example, other examples of sensors include a proximity sensor, and accelerometer, a gyro, etc. The sensor may be configured to provide a binary signal, e.g. indicative of the presence or absence of an input. Alternatively or additionally, the sensor may be configured to generate a multi-level or even continuous signal indicative of multiple different inputs and/or indicative of a level or magnitude of activation. Accordingly, the generated sensor signal may be indicative of a property of the received sensor input, e.g. a direction of a rotation or tilt, or a degree of the detected quantity, e.g. the speed of a rotation or motion, a force, a sound pressure, a light intensity, a tilt angle, etc.
In some embodiments the plurality of interactive toy construction elements includes:
- a first interactive toy construction element comprising a first type of sensor, e.g. an encoder;
- a second interactive toy construction element comprising a second type of sensor, e.g. a light sensor or a sound sensor, different from the first type of sensor (e.g. for sensing a different physical quantity than the first sensor). In some embodiments, at least one of the interactive toy construction elements comprises a function device configured to perform a user- perceivable function, the user-perceivable function being perceivable as a first physical quantity. The interactive toy construction element may further comprise a sensor operable to sense said first physical quantity. For example, the interactive toy construction element may comprise:
- a motor and an encoder, or
- a light source and a light detector, or
- a sound source and a sound detector. Generally, in some embodiments, each interactive toy construction element may include a single function device and/or a single sensor. Hence, the functionality of each interactive toy construction system is easy to understand by the user and may be combined in a modular fashion.
Embodiments of a toy construction system may comprise different types of interactive toy construction elements and, in particular, a plurality of interactive toy construction elements with respective sensors and/or respective function devices.
Each interactive toy construction element may comprise a housing. The function device and/or the sensor are accommodated within said housing and the first communications circuit is accommodated within said housing. The housing may be box-shaped, e.g. in the form of a relatively flat, plate-like box, e.g. a square or rectangular plate. The housing may define a top face and a bottom face, opposite the top face. At least some of the coupling members may extend from the top face. The housing may further comprise one or more side faces extending between the top and bottom faces. In some embodiments all interactive toy construction elements are configured to be interchangeably and detachably connectable to other toy construction elements of the toy construction system. In particular, the interactive toy construction elements may all have the same size and shape and corresponding coupling members, at least to an extent that they can be interchangeably connected within a toy construction model so as to selectively replace one another at any given position of the toy construction model to which at least one interactive toy construction element can be attached.
Similarly, the control toy construction element may comprise a housing; the energy storage device, the processing unit and the second communications circuit may be accommodated within said housing. The housing may be box- shaped as described in connection with the interactive toy construction elements. The housing may comprise one or more coupling members, also as described in connection with the interactive toy construction elements. In some embodiments, the control toy construction element has the same shape and size as the interactive toy construction elements, at least to an extent that they can be interchangeably connected within a toy construction model so as to selectively replace one another at any given position of the toy construction model.
Each interactive toy construction element and/or each control toy
construction element may comprise one or more coupling members for detachably attaching the interactive toy construction element or control toy construction element to other toy construction elements of the toy
construction system, e.g. to one or more other interactive toy construction elements and/or to one or more other control toy construction elements and/or to one or more non-interactive and non-control toy construction elements of the toy construction system, i.e. toy construction elements not including function devices, sensors or processing units. Accordingly, the toy construction system may include a plurality of toy construction elements, the plurality of toy construction elements including a plurality of interactive toy construction elements, one or more control toy construction elements, and one or more other toy construction elements, in particular, non-interactive and non-control toy construction elements, such as conventional toy construction elements, e.g. consisting of a moulded plastic element without any electronic components.
Generally, Each toy construction element of the toy construction system and, in particular, each interactive toy construction element and/or each control toy construction element, comprises coupling members for detachably interconnecting the toy construction elements with each other to create coherent spatial structures, also referred to as toy construction models.
Hence, toy construction elements that have been interconnected with each other by means of the coupling members can again be disconnected from each other such that they can be interconnected again with each other or with other toy construction elements of the system, e.g. so as to form a different spatial structure. In some embodiments, the toy construction elements are provided with a first and a second type of coupling members, such as coupling pegs and peg-receiving recesses for frictionally engaging the pegs, or other pairs of mating or otherwise complementary coupling members configured to engage each other so as to form a physical connection. One type of coupling members may be located on one side, e.g. the top side, of the toy construction element while another, complementary type of coupling members may be located on an opposite side, e.g. the bottom side, of the toy construction element. In some embodiments, the toy construction elements include pegs extending from the top face of the toy construction element and corresponding peg-receiving cavities extending into the bottom face of the toy construction element for frictionally engaging the pegs by a suitable clamping force. The coupling members may be positioned on grid points of a regular grid; in particular, the coupling members of the toy construction elements may be arranged such that the coupling members of a set of mutually interconnected toy construction elements are positioned on grid points of a three-dimensional regular grid. The dimensions of the toy construction elements may be defined as integer multiples of a unit length defined by the regular grid. It will be understood that a three-dimensional grid may be defined by a single unit length, by two unit lengths, e.g. one unit length applicable in two spatial dimensions while the other unit length is applicable in the third spatial dimension. Yet alternatively, the three- dimensional grid may define three unit lengths, one for each spatial dimension.
When the coupling members are detachably interconnectable, the user may deconstruct previously built spatial structures and re-use the toy construction elements so as to build new spatial structures. For example, the toy construction elements may be interconnected each other by traction/friction or by an interlocking connection. The toy construction elements may be configured such that two toy construction elements can be connected to a toy construction model such that respective faces of the toy construction elements about each other or are at least in close proximity and facing each other. To this end, the two toy construction elements may be directly interconnected with each other by means of their respective coupling members or they may both be interconnected with a part of a toy construction model, each directly next to each other.
Embodiments of the toy construction system described herein provide a distributed control system where function devices and sensors are provided in interactive toy construction elements which may be separate from the control toy construction elements that include control electronics and power storage. The system further provides contactless communication and energy transfer between the different types of toy construction elements.
Consequently, the individual toy construction elements may be made compact and relatively inexpensive. Moreover, in this way, a large variety of functional interactions may be created with only relatively few different types of toy construction elements. The compactness and modularity further increases the flexibility in which the interactive toy construction elements and control toy construction elements can be incorporated into even relatively small toy construction models. In some embodiments, the housing of an interactive toy construction element and/or of a control toy construction element has a height (excluding the protruding coupling members) of between 3 mm and 10 mm, such as between 3.2 mm and 9.6 mm, such as 3.2 mm or 6.4 mm or 9.6 mm. The length and width of the housing may each be between 5 mm and 35 mm, such as between 8 mm and 32 mm, such as 8 mm, 16 mm, 24 mm or 32 mm. For example the lateral dimensions may be 16 mm x 16 mm or 16 mm x 24 mm or 16 mm x 32 mm. It will be
appreciated, however, that other dimensions may be selected.
The control toy construction element may comprise an energy receiving circuit for charging the energy storage device. In some embodiments, the energy receiving circuit is configured to wirelessly receive energy, e.g. by harvesting energy from an electromagnetic field, e.g. from an RF
communications signal. The control toy construction element may include a third communications circuit (e.g. integrated into or separate from the second communications circuit) operable for short-range, wireless communications, e.g. short-range RF communication, e.g. via Bluetooth, Wifi or a similar suitable short-range communications technology.
Flere the term short-range communications is intended to refer to a communications technology having a communications range larger than the ultra-short-range communications, e.g. a communications range larger than 10 cm, such as larger than 50 cm, such as larger than 1 m. The short-range communications may have a communications range of no more than 100 m, such as no more than 10 m, such as no more than 5 m. In most situations, a communications range of less than 10 m and, in most cases even less than 5 m is sufficient, even though in some embodiments longer ranges may be acceptable or even desirable.
The control toy construction element may be configured to detect a presence of one or more other control toy construction elements in a proximity, e.g. within a communications range and/or within a predetermined range, of the control toy construction element. In some embodiments the control toy construction element may even be configured to detect a distance to one or more of the detected other control toy construction elements, e.g. based on signal strength of the short-range communication, based on a proximity sensor, and/or the like.
The control toy construction element may be manufactured with a default behaviour, e.g. with default executable instruction stored by the processing unit and executable by processing unit. To this end, the processing unit may comprise or be coupled to a suitable data storage device, e.g. a suitable memory. The default executable instructions may define a set of
predetermined rules for creating control signals responsive to received sensor signals and/or other data input. For example, the set of rules may be representative of which control signals to create and forward to one or more interactive toy construction elements dependent on a variety of conditions and parameters. The conditions and parameters may e.g. be chosen from:
- the types of interactive toy construction elements detected to be in contactless communication with the control toy construction element,
- the types of sensors from which sensor signals are received
- the types of available function devices,
- the specific sensor inputs,
- a detected proximity of one or more other control toy construction elements,
- a detected physical topology of the interactive toy construction
elements in contactless communication with the control toy construction element,
- and/or the like.
In some embodiments, one or more of the control toy construction elements are operable to be programmed or configured by the user, e.g. by receiving program data and/or configuration parameters. Accordingly, the user may be able to modify the behaviour of the control toy construction element.
The control toy construction element may be operable to receive the program data and/or configuration parameters from a computer or from another external electronic device. An external electronic device may e.g. a desktop computer, a tablet computer, a smartphone, a laptop computer, or another programmable computing device. To this end, the third communications circuit may be operable to provide a wireless communications interface for communicating program data and/or configuration parameters with one or more external electronic devices via a wireless communications protocol.
Other examples of external electronic devices include RFID tags or other data storage devices. For example, the control toy construction element may be operable to read out such data storage device in a contactless manner via the second communications circuit. In some embodiments, when a control toy construction element and a set of one or more interactive toy construction elements are directly or indirectly interconnected, optionally with other toy construction elements of the toy construction system, so as to form a toy construction model, the processing unit of the control toy construction element is configured to determine, from data received from said set of interactive toy construction elements, a physical topology of said set of interactive toy construction elements in said toy construction model. The physical topology may represent a physical arrangement of the interactive toy construction elements relative to the control toy construction element. To this end, the control toy construction element and the interactive toy construction elements of said set may be configured to form a network of communicating nodes and the processing unit may be configured to determine a network topology of said network. Moreover the toy construction system may be configured to impose structural rules for physically interconnecting the toy construction elements of the toy construction system. Yet further, the ultra-short-range communication between the control toy construction and interactive toy construction elements imposes further physical constraints on the positions of the control and interactive toy construction elements relative to each other. Accordingly, in some
embodiments, the processing unit may be operable to determine the physical topology of the interactive toy construction elements of said set from the determined network topology.
For example, a control toy construction element and a set of interactive toy construction elements may be stacked along at least a first direction such that the control toy construction element and the set of interactive toy construction elements form a linear sequence of nodes, e.g. starting with the control toy construction element as a root node. The second communications circuit of the control toy construction element and the first communications circuits of the respective interactive toy construction elements may each be configured to only communicate with its respective nearest neighbours along said sequence. Moreover, each interactive toy construction element of the sequence may be operable to receive, from its respective downstream nearest neighbour, information about the downstream interactive toy construction elements of the sequence, and communicate the received information to its upstream nearest neighbour along the sequence, towards the control toy construction element. It will be appreciated that, in some embodiments, the control toy construction element may form a root of multiple sequences of nodes, e.g. extending along different directions. In yet further embodiments, the control toy construction element may form a root node of a more complex network structure, e.g. a tree structure, where the interactive toy construction elements form respective nodes of the network structure and are operable to communicate information from node to node along links between the nodes, e.g. between neighbouring nodes. In these embodiments, the processing unit of the control toy construction element may determine the network structure, including the position of the individual interactive toy construction elements within the network. When the
communications circuits of the control toy construction element and the interactive toy construction elements employ near-field communication with a range limited to physically adjacent interactive toy construction elements or control toy construction elements, the processing unit of the control toy construction element may determine a physical topology of the interactive toy construction elements from the determined network topology. It will be appreciated that such a determination of a physical topology from a determined network topology may also be performed when other forms of communication are used, e.g. communication across electrical (galvanic) contacts between neighbouring toy construction elements. When the interactive toy construction elements and the control toy construction element are part of a coherent toy construction model constructed from toy
construction elements of the toy construction system, the relative positions and/or orientations between interconnected toy construction elements adhere to the construction rules of the toy construction system, thus allowing the processing unit to determine an accurate model of the physical topology of the interactive toy construction elements with which it communicates.
This may be useful for allowing the processing unit to control the interactive toy construction elements of a model so as to provide the desired model behaviour. For example, when the model is a vehicle having multiple interactive toy construction elements comprising respective motors, each driving a respective wheel of the vehicle, the processing unit of the control toy construction element may determine the relative position and orientation of the motors and thus ensure coordinated operation of the motors so as to propel the vehicle.
In some embodiments at least two of the interactive toy construction elements are configured such that their respective function devices interact with each other when the interactive toy construction elements are interconnected with each other in a predetermined manner, e.g. stacked on top of each other or otherwise interconnected via their respective coupling members. The respective function devices may e.g. interact so as to provide a common function, e.g. at a strength, amplitude or other magnitude, or at a complexity, larger than the corresponding magnitude of the function provided by the individual function devices. For example, two interactive toy construction elements may each comprise a motor for imparting a torque onto a shaft. When the two interactive toy construction elements are interconnected with each other in a predetermined manner, e.g. stacked on top of each other, such that their respective motors can interact with a common shaft, together they can impart a larger torque onto the common shaft. Similarly, two interactive toy construction elements, each comprising a light source, may interact to provide a higher light intensity and/or more complicated light effects; yet similarly, two interactive toy construction elements, each comprising a sound source, may interact to provide a higher sound pressure and/or more complicated sound effects. Accordingly, the interconnected toy construction elements may be operable to supplement each other functions, e.g. under the control of a control toy construction element having detected the physical topology, namely that the two interactive toy construction elements are interconnected with each other.
As mentioned above, the processing unit of a control toy construction element may be pre-programmed to exhibit a predetermined behaviour, e.g. by selecting what function(s) should be carried out in response to what sensor input(s) are received, depending on what interactive toy construction element(s) is/are detected, and/or the like. Consequently, the interactive toy construction elements may be controlled to exhibit a relatively complex behaviour without requiring the user to have advanced technical or programming skills. In some embodiments, the processing unit may, alternatively or in addition, be user-programmable, e.g. via a wireless communications link. In some embodiments, the processing unit is operable to implement a learning mode in which the processing unit is operable to infer one or more intended functions from one or more sensor inputs. During such a learning mode, the processing unit may, based on sensor signals received from respective interactive toy construction elements of a toy construction model, detect user-interaction with the toy construction model, e.g. light shown onto the model, sounds, motion/forces imparted on the model and/or the like. The processing unit may then infer corresponding actions, e.g. the output of light and/or sound and/or the activation of one or more motors responsive to the received sensor data. For example, the processing unit may be configured to mirror or match the physical interaction, e.g. by mirroring a detected rhythm or frequency of a clapping sound or blinking light, by activating a motor in response to a pushing force, and/or the like.
Hence, a simple way of adding functionality to a modular toy construction system or model, and of controlling such functionality, is provided. One or more interactive toy construction elements are simply added or used in the system or model.
In some embodiments, apart from the optional sensor, the data
communications via the first communications circuit is the only input means of the interactive toy construction elements, i.e. the interactive toy
construction element does not include any buttons, displays, switches, or other user-interface. Similarly, in some embodiments, the data
communications via the second and, optionally, third communications circuit are the only input means of the control toy construction elements, i.e. the control toy construction element does not include any buttons, displays, switches, or other user-interface. Hence the size and manufacturing costs of the interactive toy construction elements and/or of the control toy
construction elements may be kept small while still allowing for rich user interaction with the system of control and interactive toy construction elements. That individual sensor(s) and/or function devices(s) are arranged in respective, self-contained housings also provides for an intuitive use, even for small children, as it is easy and intuitive to understand the sensor(s) and the function devices(s) and their functional relationship. In some embodiments, one or more of the control toy construction elements includes a sensor and/or a function device, e.g. as described in connection with embodiments of the interactive toy construction element.
In some embodiments, the modular toy construction system comprises one more additional electronic toys, e.g. a figurine or doll. The additional electronic toy may comprise a rechargeable energy storage device, a processing unit and a communications circuit operable for short-range wireless communications with one or more of the control toy construction elements or interactive toy construction elements, e.g. short-range RF communication, e.g. via Bluetooth, Wifi or a similar suitable communications technology. The additional electronic toy may be a toy construction element including coupling members as disclosed herein. The additional electronic toy may further comprise one or more function devices, e.g. a motor and/or a light source and/or a sound source. Alternatively or additionally, the additional electronic toy may further comprise one or more sensors, e.g. an encoder and/or a light sensor and/or a sound sensor and/or an
accelerometer, and/or the like.
A first additional electronic toy and/or a first control toy construction element may be configured to detect a proximity to one or more other control toy construction elements and/or additional electronic toys. In some
embodiments the first additional electronic toy and/or the first control toy construction element may be operable to determine a distance to one or more other control toy construction elements and/or additional electronic toys. The detected distance may be absolute or relative, e.g. relative to yet another control toy construction element or additional electronic toy or relative to a previous position of a detected control toy construction element or additional electronic toy. In particular, the first control toy construction element and/or the first additional electronic toy may detect when another control toy construction element or additional electronic toy approaches the first control toy construction element and/or the first additional electronic toy, when the other control toy construction element or additional electronic toy is closer to the first control toy construction element and/or the first additional electronic toy than a certain threshold distance. Alternatively or additionally, the first control toy construction element and/or the first additional electronic toy may detect which of a group of other control toy construction elements and/or additional electronic toys is the closet to the first control toy
construction element or the first additional electronic toy. Accordingly, the first control toy construction element may control one or more interactive toy construction elements to which the first control toy construction element is communicatively coupled, to perform a function responsive to the detected proximity to one or more other control toy construction elements and/or additional electronic toys. Similarly, the additional electronic toy may perform a function responsive to the detected proximity and/or wirelessly
communicate the detected proximity to another additional electronic toy or to a control toy construction element. Accordingly, a toy construction model may comprise two or more control toy construction elements, e.g.
communicatively couple to respective one or more interactive toy
construction elements. The control toy construction elements may be positioned at arbitrary locations within the model, not necessarily in close proximity, e.g. not necessarily adjacent to each other or even in direct physical contact with each other, and outside the range of the ultra-short communication. The two or more control toy construction elements are still capable of detecting each other and/or of communicating with each other via the short-range wireless communication. Accordingly, the control toy construction elements are aware of each other. Moreover, as each control toy construction element is communicatively coupled to one or more interactive toy construction elements via ultra-short-range communication, each control toy construction elements is aware of the interactive toy construction elements directly coupled to it. Moreover, the control toy construction elements may even exchange information about the respective interactive toy construction elements to which they each are communicatively coupled, thus allowing for a coordinated behaviour/function of the interactive toy construction elements across the entire model. Accordingly,
embodiments of a toy construction system described herein provide a simple, inexpensive, yet powerful and flexible architecture for creating interactive, self-aware models. It will be appreciated that, in some embodiments, control toy construction elements of one toy construction model may even wirelessly communicate with control toy construction elements of another model, thus providing inter-model interaction and allowing for the models to be aware of the play scenario context of which they are a part. In some embodiments, the additional electronic toy may comprise a camera or other image capturing device and be configured to capture one or more images of a play scene including one or more interactive toy construction elements and/or control toy construction elements. In some embodiments, the additional electronic toy may be configured to process the captured one or more images so as to detect one or more aspects of the play scene. For example such aspects of the play scene that may be detectable by the additional electronic toy may include relative proximities between the detected interactive toy construction elements and/or control toy construction elements, visible functions performed by one or more of the interactive toy construction elements, a recognition of one or more toy construction models or additional electronic toys, etc.
According to some embodiments, the toy construction system comprises one or more relay toy construction elements, comprising: - a first communications circuit configured to wirelessly communicate signals and to wirelessly harvest energy;
- a second communications circuit; the second communications circuit being configured to communicate with one or more of the plurality of interactive toy construction elements and to wirelessly transfer harvested energy to said one or more interactive toy construction elements.
The first and second communications circuits of the relay toy construction element may be separate circuits operably coupled to each other or they may be integrated into a single communications circuit or at least share one or more components. The relay toy construction element may be a passive element or an energy-assisted toy construction element as described in connection with the interactive toy construction elements. However, the relay toy construction element differs from an interactive toy construction element in that the relay toy construction element does not include a sensor or function device. Instead, the relay toy construction element merely relays communication signals and energy between interactive toy construction elements or between a control toy construction element and an interactive toy construction element. In some embodiments, the interactive toy construction element also includes a second communications circuit configured to communicate with one or more of the plurality of interactive toy construction elements and to wirelessly forward harvested energy to said one or more interactive toy construction elements. The first and second communications circuits of the interactive toy construction element may be separate circuits operably coupled to each other or they may be integrated into a single communications circuit or at least share one or more components.
Brief description of the drawings
FIGs. 1 -3 show examples of interactive toy construction elements. FIG. 4 shows a block diagram of an example of an interactive toy
construction element.
FIGs. 5A-B show an example of a control toy construction element.
FIGs. 6A-C show examples of a relay toy construction element. FIGs. 7A-D illustrate examples of toy construction models constructed from a toy construction system as described herein.
FIG. 8 illustrates another example of a toy construction system.
FIG. 9 illustrates an example of a mechanism for transferring data, such as a configuration parameters and/or a computer program, to a control toy construction element.
FIG. 10 schematically shows another example of a toy construction model constructed from toy construction elements as described herein.
FIGs. 11 - 15 illustrate examples of uses of a toy construction system as described herein. Detailed description
Various aspects and embodiments of a modular toy construction system comprising a plurality of interactive toy construction elements and one or more control toy construction elements will now be described with reference to toy construction elements in the form of bricks. In this particular and corresponding embodiments, the interactive toy construction elements and control toy construction elements each have a housing that is generally shaped as an orthogonal polyhedron with flat side faces and having coupling members extending from its upper surface and a cavity extending into its bottom surfaces. Flowever other shapes and sizes of interactive toy construction elements may be used, e.g. box-shaped or tile-shaped toy construction elements of different dimensions and with different numbers of coupling members. Moreover, while the brick-shape has proven to be particularly useful, the invention may be applied to other forms of toy construction elements for use in play applications educational applications, and/or the like. FIG. 1 shows an example of an interactive toy construction element, generally designated 100. In particular, the interactive toy construction element comprises a generally box-shaped housing 101 with coupling pegs 104 extending from its top surface and with a cavity extending into the element from the bottom. The cavity is defined by side walls 102 and by a central, downwardly extending tube 103. The coupling pegs of another toy construction element can be received in the cavity in a frictional engagement as disclosed in US 3 005 282. The construction elements shown in the remaining figures have this known type of coupling members in the form of cooperating pegs and cavities. However, other types of coupling members may also be used in addition to or instead of the pegs and cavities. The coupling pegs are arranged across the top surface in a square planar grid, i.e. defining orthogonal directions along which sequences of coupling pegs are arranged. The distance between neighbouring coupling pegs is uniform and equal in both directions. This or similar arrangements of coupling members at coupling locations defining a regular planar grid allow the toy construction elements to be interconnected in a discrete number of positions and orientations relative two each other, in particular at right angles with respect to each other. In a constructed model, the coupling members of multiple toy construction elements may thus be located on grid points of a three-dimensional grid defined relative ot the oy construction model.
In some embodiments, the toy construction elements are made from plastics material, e.g. thermoplastic polymers, or from another suitable material. The toy construction elements may e.g. be made by an injection molding process or by another suitable manufacturing process. The interactive toy construction element 100 comprises a sensor in the form of a microphone 106 and a function device in the form of a loudspeaker 105 or other sound source, both accommodated within the housing 101 of the interactive toy construction element. As will be described in more detail below, other examples of interactive toy construction elements may comprise another type of sensor and/or another type of function device.
For example, FIG. 2 shows another example of an interactive toy
construction element, generally designated 200, similar to the interactive toy construction element of FIG. 1. Flowever, the interactive toy construction element of FIG. 2 comprises a light sensor 206 instead of a microphone, and an LED or other suitable light source 205 instead of a loudspeaker.
Similarly, FIG. 3 shows yet another example of an interactive toy construction element, generally designated 300, similar to the interactive toy construction element of FIG. 1. However, the interactive toy construction element of FIG. 3 comprises a tubular hole 315 extending through the housing and
configured to receive a shaft, e.g. an axel having a suitable cross section, e.g. a cross-shaped cross section. The interactive toy construction element 300 comprises a motor for imparting torque onto a shaft that extends into the hole, and a rotational encoder configured to detect an angular position of the shaft. The motor and encoder are accommodated inside the housing 101 and not visible in FIG. 3.
The interactive toy construction elements of FIGs. 1 -3 are similar in construction. They all have the same general shape such that they can interchangeably be inserted into a toy construction model and easily attached to each other. They also all include a sensor, a function device, a
communications circuit and first and second inductive elements, as will be described in greater detail with reference to FIG. 4. The interactive toy construction elements of FIGs. 1 -3 only differ in the type of sensor and function device they comprise. However, it will be appreciated that other embodiments of toy construction systems may include interactive toy construction elements of different shapes or sizes, e.g. so as to
accommodate the specific sensors of function devices and/or in order to make them more easily distinguishable by the user. FIG. 4 shows a schematic block diagram of an example of an interactive toy construction element, generally designated 400, e.g. of one of the interactive toy construction elements shown in FIGs. 1-3.
The interactive toy construction element comprises a housing 101 defining a top face which is provided with coupling members 104 as described above. The interactive toy construction element further comprises, accommodated within housing 101 , a communications circuit 409, a first inductive element 407 and a second inductive element 408, a sensor 406 and a function device 405.
The first and second inductive elements may comprise respective loops or coils, of electrically conductive wire, ribbon, etc. In the example of FIG. 4, the first inductive element 407 is arranged proximal to a bottom face of the toy construction element and substantially defining a plane parallel to the bottom face. Similarly, the second inductive element 408 is arranged proximal to a top face of the toy construction element and substantially defining a plane parallel to the top face. In this manner, the first inductive element can provide an inductive coupling with a corresponding second inductive element of another interactive toy construction element, of a control toy construction element or of a relay toy construction element as described herein when the other interactive toy construction element, control toy construction element or relay toy construction element is in close proximity to the housing 101 , in particular when the other interactive toy construction element, control toy construction element or relay toy construction element is attached to the housing 101 via corresponding coupling members. The interactive toy construction element may thus communicate with and harvest energy from said other interactive toy construction element, control toy construction element or relay toy construction element.
Similarly, the second inductive element 408 can provide an inductive coupling with a corresponding first inductive element of another interactive toy construction element, of a control toy construction element or of a relay toy construction element for communication and for allowing the other interactive toy construction element, control toy construction element or relay toy construction element to harvest energy from the second inductive element 408. The communication via the respective inductive couplings may use any suitable communications technology for ultra-short-range communication, such as near-filed-communication. The energy harvesting may use any suitable mechanism for contactless inductive energy transfer between inductive elements. The communication and energy transfer is controlled by the communications circuit 409.
Accordingly, the interactive toy construction element may receive electrical energy via the inductive element 407 for powering the communications circuit 409, the sensor 406 and the function device 405. Moreover, the interactive toy construction element may receive control signals and control the function device responsive to the received control signal. In particular, the control signal may represent an on/off signal and/or other operational parameters of the function device. For example, when the function device is a motor, the control signal may represent a direction and/or speed of rotation. Similarly, when the function device is a loudspeaker, the control signal may represent a volume and/or audio content to be played; when the function device is a light source, the control signal may represent a brightness and/or color of the light to be emitted.
The communication may be a two-way communication, so as to allow the interactive toy construction element to communicate its identity and/or operational characteristics, e.g. by communicating a unique identifier and/or an identifier identifying a type of interactive toy construction element, e.g. whether it comprises a motor, light source, loudspeaker etc. Moreover, in some embodiments, the interactive toy construction element may
communicate a sensor signal representing a quantity sensed by the sensor 406. Yet further, the interactive toy construction element may communicate identifiers identifying other interactive toy construction elements of a chain or network of interconnected interactive toy construction elements, as will be described below. To this end, the communication circuit may comprise a memory for storing an ID of the interactive toy construction element and/or received identifiers from neighboring interactive toy construction elements.
The interactive toy construction element may further forward control signals received via one of the inductive elements to the other of the inductive elements. Similarly, the interactive toy construction element may inductively transfer electrical energy which the interactive toy construction element has received by one of the inductive elements via the other of the inductive elements.
The data communication and/or energy transfer via the inductive elements is controlled by communications circuit 409. The communications circuit may perform relevant functions for implementing a suitable communications protocol, e.g. functions such as the encoding/decoding of data, message arbitration, error correction, etc. It will be appreciated that, in some embodiments, the interactive toy construction elements may comprise separate communications circuits associated with the respective inductive elements. Moreover, the communications circuit may control operation of the function device and/or the sensor, or at least receive sensor signals from the sensor and forward control signals to the function device. Alternatively, the interactive toy construction element may include a separate control circuit communicatively coupled to the communications circuit 409. It will be appreciated that several modifications may be made to the interactive toy construction element of FIG.4. For example, some
embodiments of interactive toy construction elements ma include only a single inductive element which may be used for both harvesting and forwarding electrical energy and for both upstream and downstream communication. Yet alternative embodiments of interactive toy construction elements may merely receive electrical energy but not inductively relay it to another toy construction element. Yet further, some embodiments of an interactive toy construction element may include one or more inductive elements proximal to one or more of the side faces of the interactive toy construction elements so as to allow communication and/or energy transfer across said side faces. Such inductive elements may be provided in addition or alternative to the inductive elements proximal to the top and bottom surfaces. Yet further, some interactive toy construction elements may only include a function device but no sensor or vice versa.
The senor may be a light sensor, sound sensor, rotational encoder, proximity sensor, accelerometer, gyro, and/or any other suitable sensor.
The function device may be a light source, e.g. an LED, a loudspeaker, a motor, and or another function device operable to perform a user-perceivable function.
FIGs. 5A-B illustrate an example of a control toy construction element, generally designated 500. In particular, FIG. 5A shows views of the control toy construction element while FIG. 5B shows a schematic block diagram of the control toy construction element. The control toy construction element comprises a housing 101 having coupling members 103 and 104 as described in connection with FIG. 1.
Moreover, the control toy construction element comprises, accommodated inside the housing, a processing unit 511 , first and second communications circuits 517 and 518, respectively, first and second inductive elements 507 and 508, respectively, an energy storage device 514, a wireless
communications circuit 512 and an antenna 513.
The processing unit 511 may e.g. comprise one or more microcontrollers, one or more microprocessors, and/or one or more other suitable processing units, or combinations thereof.
The energy storage device 514 may be a rechargeable energy storage device, such as a rechargeable battery, a rechargeable capacitor, or the like. The energy storage device 514 is configured to provide electrical energy to the other components of the control toy construction element, including energy to be inductively transferred to other toy construction elements via the inductive elements 507 and 508.
The first and second inductive elements 507 and 508, respectively, may comprise respective loops or coils, of electrically conductive wire, ribbon, etc. In the example of FIG. 5, the first inductive element 507 is arranged proximal to a bottom face of the toy construction element and substantially defining a plane parallel to the bottom face. Similarly, the second inductive element 508 is arranged proximal to a top face of the toy construction element and substantially defining a plane parallel to the top face. In this manner, the first inductive element can provide an inductive coupling with a corresponding second inductive element of an interactive toy construction element or of a relay toy construction element as described herein when the interactive toy construction element or relay toy construction element is in close proximity to the housing 101 , in particular when the interactive toy construction element or relay toy construction element is attached to the housing 101 via corresponding coupling members. The control toy construction element may thus communicate with and inductively provide energy to said interactive toy construction element or relay toy construction element.
Similarly, the second inductive element 408 can provide an inductive coupling with a corresponding first inductive element of an interactive toy construction element or of a relay toy construction element for
communication and for inductively transferring electrical energy to the interactive toy construction element relay toy construction element.
As described in connection with the interactive toy construction element of FIG. 4, the communication via the respective inductive couplings may use any suitable communications technology for ultra-short-range
communication, such as near-filed-communication. The energy harvesting may use any suitable mechanism for contactless inductive energy transfer between inductive elements. Accordingly, the control toy construction element may provide electrical energy to other toy construction elements via the inductive element 507 or via inductive element 508. Moreover, the control toy construction element may transmit control signals to interactive toy construction elements that are directly or indirectly coupled inductively to the control toy construction element so as to control the function device of such interactive toy
construction element.
The control toy construction element may further receive signals from such inductively coupled interactive toy construction element, such as signals representing the identity and/or operational characteristics of such interactive toy construction element and/or sensor data indicative of a sensed quantity by a sensor of the interactive toy construction element.
The data communication and/or energy transfer via the inductive elements are controlled by respective communications circuits 517 and 518, respectively. The communications circuits may perform relevant functions for implementing a suitable communications protocol, e.g. functions such as the encoding/decoding of data, message arbitration, error correction, etc. It will be appreciated that, in some embodiments, communications circuits 517 and 518 may be integrated into a single circuit. The control toy construction element further comprises a wireless
communications circuit 512 and an antenna 513 coupled thereto. The communications circuit 512 may e.g. comprise a communications
transceiver, or the like, connected to the processing unit 511 and operable for short-range radio-frequency communication with other control toy
construction elements and/or with one or more other electronic devices such as with one or more additional electronic toys. The short-range radio- frequency communication may be implemented using the Bluetooth technology or another suitable communications technology such as Wifi. The wireless communications circuit 512 may further be operable to harvest energy from electromagnetic fields in the environment of the control toy construction element, such as the RF electromagnetic fields employed for communication. The harvested energy may be used to charge the
rechargeable energy storage device 514. Alternatively or additionally, the control toy construction element may be operable to be charged in a different manner, e.g. via one of the inductive elements, via a wired connector or the like.
The processing unit 511 is configured, e.g. by a suitable program executed on the processing unit, to control the communications circuits and to process the data received from interactive toy construction elements, from other control toy construction elements and/or from additional electronic toys or other external processing devices with which the control toy construction element is communicatively coupled via the communications circuits 517 and 518 and/or via the wireless communications circuit 512. The processing unit further creates control data and/or other data to be transmitted to interactive toy construction elements, to other control toy construction elements and/or to additional electronic toys with which the control toy construction element is communicatively coupled via the communications circuits 517 and 518 and/or via the wireless communications circuit 512. These data may e.g. include control data for controlling the function device of an interactive toy
construction element.
In particular, the processing unit may execute a control process which determines control data responsive to the received sensor data and/or other responsive to other data. Moreover, the processing unit may determine a physical topology of one or more interactive toy construction elements inductively coupled to the control toy construction elements. Moreover, the control toy construction element may communicate identification data, information about the determined physical topology and/or other information with other control toy construction elements and/or with one or more additional electronic toys.
The wireless communications circuit 512 may further be operable to detect a signal strength of a received wireless communications signal so as to allow the processing unit 511 to determine at least an estimate of a relative distance to another control toy construction element or to an additional electronic toy within the communications range of the wireless
communications circuit. Alternatively or additionally, the processing unit may be configured to estimate a distance to another control toy construction element and/or other electronic toy (or at least detect a presence of such control toy construction element or other electronic toy within a proximity of control toy construction element 500) in another manner.
It will be appreciated that several modifications may be made to the control toy construction element of FIG.5. For example, some embodiments of control toy construction elements may include only a single inductive element. Yet further, some embodiments of a control toy construction element may include one or more inductive elements proximal to one or more of the side faces of the control toy construction elements so as to allow communication and/or energy transfer across said side faces. Such inductive elements may be provided in addition or alternative to the inductive elements proximal to the top and bottom surfaces. Yet further, some control toy construction elements may further include a function device and/or a sensor.
FIGs. 6A-B illustrate an example of a relay toy construction element, generally designated 600. In particular, FIG. 6A shows views of the relay toy construction element while FIG. 6B shows a schematic block diagram of the relay toy construction element. The relay toy construction element comprises a housing 101 having coupling members 103 and 104 as described in connection with FIG. 1.
Moreover, the relay toy construction element comprises, accommodated inside the housing, first and second inductive elements 607 and 608, respectively.
The first and second inductive elements 607 and 608, respectively, may comprise respective loops or coils, of electrically conductive wire, ribbon, etc. and they may be arranged as described in connection with FIG. 4. The inductive elements are electrically connected with each other, optionally, via a suitable communications circuit.
Accordingly, the relay toy construction element may receive electrical energy and/or communication signals via one of the inductive elements and forward, i.e. relay, the received energy and/or signals to another toy construction element via the other inductive element. Accordingly, a control toy
construction element may be inductively coupled with an interactive toy construction element via one or more relay toy construction elements, thus allowing the interactive toy construction element and the control toy construction elements to be spaced apart from each other, thereby
increasing the flexibility of constructing control structures.
As described above, the interactive toy construction elements may, in addition to performing a function by means of a function device and/or sensing a physical quantity by means of a sensor, also operate as a relay toy construction element.
It will be appreciated that several modifications may be made to the relay toy construction element of FIG. 6, e.g. in terms of the number and geometric arrangement of the inductive elements, e.g. as described in connection with the interactive toy construction elements and/or the control toy construction elements.
For example, FIG. 6C shows another example of a relay toy construction element with multiple inductive elements 607A-B and 608A-B for relaying electrical energy and communications signals along multiple paths so as to allow the user to construct more complex toy construction models.
FIGs. 7A-D illustrate examples of toy construction models constructed from a toy construction system as described herein. In particular, the toy
construction models include one or more control toy construction elements, e.g. as described in connection with FIGs. 5A-B, one or more interactive toy construction elements, e.g. as described in connection with FIGs. 1 -4 and, optionally, one or more relay toy construction elements, e.g. as described in connection with FIGs. 6A-C. While not necessarily explicitly shown in FIG.s 7A-D for ease of illustration, it will be appreciated that examples of toy construction models may include further toy construction elements, including toy construction elements other than interactive, control and relay toy construction elements.
FIG. 7A schematically illustrates a toy construction model comprising a control toy construction element 500 and an interactive toy construction element 400, stacked on top of the control toy construction element such that the two elements are interconnected by their respective coupling members. The control toy construction element and the interactive toy construction element are inductively coupled via the first inductive element 407 of the interactive toy construction element and the second inductive element 508 of the control toy construction element. Accordingly, the control toy construction element can inductively forward a portion of the electrical energy stored in the energy storage device 514 to the interactive toy construction element 400 for driving the function device 405 of the interactive toy construction device. Moreover, the control toy construction element may receive sensor signals from the sensor 406 of the interactive toy construction element 400, process the received sensor signals so as to generate a control signal, and forward the generated control signal to the interactive toy construction element so as to control the function device 405 of the interactive toy construction element 400.
FIG. 7B schematically illustrates another example of a toy construction model. The toy construction model comprises a control toy construction element 500, three interactive toy construction elements 400A-C, and a relay toy construction element 600. The toy construction elements are stacked on top of each other such that adjacent elements are interconnected by their respective coupling members. The control toy construction element 500 is inductively coupled to interactive toy construction element 400A, as described in connection with FIG. 7A.
Moreover the interactive toy construction element 400A and the interactive toy construction element 400B are inductively coupled via the first inductive element 407B of the interactive toy construction element 400B and the second inductive element 408A of the interactive toy construction element 400A. Accordingly, interactive toy construction element 400A can forward electrical energy received from control toy construction element 500 to interactive toy construction element 400B. Moreover, interactive toy construction element 400A can relay sensor signals and control signals between control toy construction element 500 and interactive toy construction element 400B, i.e. control toy construction element 500 is indirectly inductively coupled to toy construction element 400B. In a similar manner, control toy construction element 500 is indirectly inductively coupled to interactive toy construction 400C, namely via relay toy construction element 600.
Accordingly, control toy construction element 500 can supply electrical energy to each of interactive toy construction elements 400A-C and receive sensor signals from each of the sensors 406A-C of the respective interactive toy construction elements. Control toy construction element 500 may thus control the function devices 405A-C of the various interactive toy construction elements based on the various received sensor signals. For example, control toy construction element 500 may control function device 405B of interactive toy construction element 400B responsive to a sensor signal received from sensor 406C of interactive toy construction element 400C. This allows relatively complex interactions using only a few simple toy construction elements. The skilled person will appreciate that the control toy construction element 500 and the interactive toy construction elements 400A-C may implement a bus architecture so as to allow the control toy construction element 500 to logically address a selected one of the interactive toy construction elements. To this end, the interactive toy construction elements may each include an ID which they are configured to return when queried. The IDs may then be communicated along the stack to the control toy construction element which may then establish a digital representation of the topology of the stack of toy construction elements, including information of the respective types of interactive toy construction elements of the stack. It will be appreciated that some embodiments of the toy construction model may allow a user to construct more complex bus or network structures, e.g. using the relay toy construction element shown in FIG. 6C.
FIG. 7C schematically illustrates yet another example of a toy construction model. The toy construction model comprises two control toy construction elements 500 A-B, stacked on top of each other, and two interactive toy construction elements 300A-B, stacked on top of each other and on top of the stack of control toy construction elements 500A-B.
In this example, the interactive toy construction elements 300A-B each comprises a motor as described in connection with FIG. 3.
The two control toy construction elements each comprises an energy-storage device and a processing unit as described in FIG. 5. Including two or more inductively coupled control toy construction elements in a model thus provides additional energy that is available to drive the various function devices of interactive toy construction elements inductively coupled to the control toy construction elements. Alternatively or additionally, the processing units of the control toy construction elements may implement a suitable load- sharing process in order to allow for more complex control mechanisms. For example, the control toy construction element may control respective subsets of the inductively coupled interactive toy construction elements of the toy construction model.
Similarly, including two or more inductively coupled interactive toy
construction elements in a model allows the interactive toy construction elements to supplement each other so as to perform a combined function. In the specific example of FIG. 7C, the interactive toy construction elements each comprises a central hole for receiving a shaft 721 , as described in connection with FIG. 3. In the embodiment of FIG. 7C, the holes of the stacked interactive toy construction elements 300A-B are aligned with each other so as to allow the shaft to extend into both holes at the same time. Accordingly the motors of both interactive toy construction elements are operable to drive the shaft, thus allowing a larger torque to be imparted onto the shaft.
It will be appreciated that other types of interactive toy construction elements may provide other types of combined functions. For example, two inductively coupled interactive toy construction elements including respective light sources may emit a higher light intensity and/or light at multiple colors, etc.
Yet further, respective sensors of inductively coupled interactive toy construction elements may provide may supplement each other so as to provide a combined sensor signal.
FIG. 7D shows two separate toy construction models. The first toy
construction model comprises a control toy construction element 500A and an interactive toy construction element 400A, mechanically and inductively coupled to the control toy construction element 500A, e.g. as described in connection with FIG. 7A.
The second toy construction model also comprises a control toy construction element 500B and an interactive toy construction element 400B,
mechanically and inductively coupled to the control toy construction element 500B. The control toy construction elements 500A and 500B include respective wireless communications circuits for short-range communication, as described in connection with FIGs. 5A-B. This allows the control toy construction elements 500A-B to detect each other's presence within a communication range of the short-range communication and to communicate with each other. Accordingly, the control toy construction elements 500A-B may exchange control signals and/or information about the respective interactive toy construction elements inductively coupled to them. The exchanged information may comprise the type and/or identity of the respective interactive toy construction elements and/or their operational status and/or sensor signals from their respective sensors. Accordingly, the processing unit of the control toy construction element 500A may be configured to control the function device of the interactive toy construction element 400A inductively coupled to it responsive to the detected presence of the control toy construction element 500B. The control may even be responsive to information received from the control toy construction element 500B, e.g. responsive to the type of interactive toy construction element 400B, to its operational parameters, to sensor signals received from it, and/or the like. It will be appreciated that the interactive toy construction elements 400A-B may be of the same type (e.g. they may both include a motor) or they may be of different types. Similarly, one or both control toy construction elements may be connected and inductively coupled to more than one interactive toy construction element. Moreover, in some embodiments, more than two control toy construction elements may wireless communicate with each other.
While the example of FIG. 7D shows two physically separate, physically disconnected toy construction models, it will be appreciated that a single coherent toy construction model may also include multiple control toy construction elements that are not inductively coupled with each other, e.g. because they are connected to the model at respective positions that are two far apart to allow inductive coupling. The wireless short-range communication between such control toy construction elements thus allows a coordinated control of functions of different parts of a larger model, e.g. different wheels of a larger vehicle. The wireless communication between control toy construction elements allows implementation of more complex play scenarios involving larger toy construction models and/or involving multiple separate models, as functions of different models or of different parts of a larger model may be controlled in a coordinated manner. Nevertheless, such coordinated control is possible by a distributed control scheme without the need for a large, bulky and expensive central controller.
FIG. 8 shows another example of a toy construction model comprising a control toy construction element 500 and an interactive toy construction element 400 physically attached and inductively coupled to control toy construction element 500, e.g. as described in connection with FIG. 7A.
The wireless communications circuit of control toy construction element 500 may be configured to establish wireless communications with one or more other remote electronic devices such as a tablet computer 810, an electronic toy 820 or another processing device. This wireless communication allows the remote electronic device to communicate with one or more control toy construction elements of the same or of different separate toy construction models. The remote electronic device may thus receive information about the interactive toy construction element 400 inductively coupled to the control toy construction element 500, including information about its type and/or sensor signals. The remote electronic device may display or otherwise represent the received information e.g. by presenting digital content corresponding to the received information. Alternatively or additionally, the remote electronic device may be operable to control operation of the control toy construction element 500 and the interactive toy construction element 400.
The remote electronic device may also be operable to provide a user- interface so as to allow a user to interact with the control toy construction element and, hence with the interactive toy construction element 400. The remote electronic device may further be operable to re-program the control toy construction element 500 so as to define a new behaviour of the toy construction model which includes the control toy construction element 500.
It will be appreciated that the control toy construction element 500 may be connected and inductively coupled to more than one interactive toy construction element. Moreover, in some embodiments, two or more control toy construction elements may wirelessly communicate with the remote electronic device at the same time. In the example of FIG. 8, the control toy construction element 500
communicates with two remote electronic devices, namely a suitably programmed tablet computer 810 and an electronic toy 820.
The electronic toy 820 is in the form of a figurine or doll which comprises, accommodated inside the figurine, a processing unit 811 , an energy storage device 814, a wireless communications circuit 812 and an antenna 813.
The processing unit 811 may e.g. comprise one or more microcontrollers, one or more microprocessors, and/or one or more other suitable processing units, or combinations thereof. The energy storage device 814 may be a rechargeable energy storage device, such as a rechargeable battery, a rechargeable capacitor, or the like. The energy storage device 814 is configured to provide electrical energy to the other components of the electronic toy.
The wireless communications circuit 812 may e.g. comprise a
communications transceiver, or the like, connected to the processing unit 811 and operable for short-range radio-frequency communication with control toy construction elements and/or one or more other electronic devices or additional electronic toys. The short-range radio-frequency communication may be implemented using the Bluetooth technology or another suitable communications technology such as Wifi. The wireless communications circuit 812 may further be operable to harvest energy from electromagnetic fields in the environment of the control toy construction element, such as the RF electromagnetic fields employed for communication. The harvested energy may be used to charge the rechargeable energy storage device 514. Alternatively or additionally, the electronic toy may be operable to be charged in a different manner, e.g. inductively, via a wired connector or the like.
The processing unit 811 is configured, e.g. by a suitable program executed on the processing unit, to control the communications circuits and to process the data received from one or more control toy construction elements and/or from additional electronic toys or other external processing devices with which the electronic toy 820 is communicatively coupled via the wireless communications circuit 812. The processing unit further creates control data and/or other data to be transmitted to one or more control toy construction elements and/or to additional electronic toys with which the electronic toy 820 is communicatively coupled via the wireless communications circuit 812. These data may e.g. include control data for controlling the functions device of an interactive toy construction element. In particular, the processing unit may execute a control process which determines control data responsive to the received sensor data and/or other responsive to other data. The wireless communications circuit may further be operable to detect a signal strength of a received wireless communications signal so as to allow the processing unit to determine at least an estimate of a relative distance to a control toy construction element or to another electronic toy within the communications range of the wireless
communications circuit. Alternatively or additionally, the processing unit may be configured to estimate a distance to a control toy construction element and/or other electronic toy (or at least detect a presence in a proximity of the electronic toy 820) in another manner. The processing unit may thus base the processing on such estimated distance. In some embodiments, electronic toy 820 may include one or more sensors, e.g. a light sensor, a sound sensor, a proximity sensor, an accelerometer, and/or the like and the processing unit may be configured to perform the processing based on a quantity sensed by such sensor. Alternatively or additionally, the electronic toy may comprise a function device, e.g. a light source, a sound source, a motor, and/or the like, and the processing unit may be configured to control the function device, e.g. responsive to a sensed quantity, received
information and/or the like. For example, the above electronic components may be accommodated within a suitable part of the figurine, e.g. a torso portion. The figurine may be constructed from multiple toy construction elements, such as from a central part that includes the electronic component and from one or more additional parts, such as a head, legs and/or arms that may be detachably attachable to the central part.
In other embodiments, the control toy construction element 500 may communicate with only a single remote electronic device or with more than two remote electronic devices. Moreover, the one or more remote electronic devices may be a different type of device, e.g. a different type of computer, a different type of electronic toy, etc. For example, the electronic toy may have a different physical appearance, other than a figurine or doll.
As mentioned above, the wireless communications circuit of the control toy construction element 500 may also include a wireless energy-harvesting circuit configured to harvest electrical energy from an electromagnetic field, e.g. from RF communications system. The energy-harvesting circuit may be configured to charge the energy storage device of the control toy construction element. In some embodiments this may be done continuously at a low charging rate. In some embodiments, the toy construction system comprises a dedicated charger device configured for concurrent wireless charging of one or more control toy construction elements.
Generally, the control toy construction elements may be pre-programmed to react to sensor signals and other received information in a predetermined manner. Alternatively or additionally, the control toy construction elements may be configured to implement an adaptive behaviour, e.g. a behaviour that changes over time, e.g. in response to received inputs.
The control toy construction elements may be manufactured with a pre- programmed behaviour. Alternatively or additionally, the control toy construction elements may be re-programmed by the user. To this end, a program for execution by the processing unit of the control toy construction element may be received by the control toy construction element by inductive data transmission via one of the inductive elements of the control toy construction element, or via wireless short-range communication via the wireless short-range communications circuit of the control toy construction element, e.g. as described in connection with FIG. 8. Some tablet computers, smartphones or other electronic devices also allow ultra-short range communication e.g. via near filed communication.
FIG. 9 illustrates yet another example of a mechanism for transferring data, such as for transferring configuration parameters and/or a computer program, to a control toy construction element. In this example, a control toy
construction element 500 is configured to read data from an RFID tag 923 or from another inductively readable device, e.g. by means of one of the inductive elements of the control toy construction element. The RFID tag may include a memory having stored thereon configuration data, program data and/or the like. When the control toy construction element 500 is brought into sufficient proximity of the tag 923, the control toy construction element energizes the tag and reads out the data stored by the tag.
In some embodiments, a toy construction set may thus include a plurality of toy construction elements, including one or more control toy construction elements and one or more interactive toy construction elements. The toy construction set may further include building instructions that provide instructions or guidance as to how to construct a toy construction model from the toy construction elements of the toy construction set. The building instructions may e.g. be provided on a suitable medium, e.g. on paper, in the form of a booklet or the like. The medium may have attached to it, or embedded into it, the tag 923. The building instructions may instruct the user to bring the control toy construction element into close proximity of the tag in order to program the control toy construction element by reading suitable program or configuration data from the tag. It will be appreciated that tags may be provided in other ways, e.g. embedded in a box, a container, wrapping, etc. that includes the toy construction elements.
It will be appreciated that other mechanisms for transferring data to the control toy construction element may be utilised, e.g. by reading a visible code, by ultrasonic communication, infrared communication and/or the like.
FIG. 10 schematically shows another example of a toy construction model constructed from toy construction elements as described herein. In the example of FIG. 10, the toy construction model 1024 is a vehicle, such as a car, but it will of course be appreciated that toy construction models representing other items may be constructed. The toy construction model
1024 is constructed from a plurality of conventional toy construction elements and from a number of control and interactive toy construction elements such that each interactive toy construction element is inductively coupled (directly or indirectly) with at least one of the control toy construction elements. In the specific example of FIG. 10, the toy construction model comprises four control toy construction elements 500A-D, respectively, each physically connected and inductively coupled to a respective interactive toy construction element 300A-D, e.g. as described in connection with FIG. 7A. Each of the interactive toy construction elements 300A-D comprises a motor for driving a shaft 721 A-D, respectively, that is inserted into a hole of the interactive toy construction element. Each shaft is attached to a corresponding wheel 1023A-D, respectively, such that each interactive toy construction element is operable to drive a corresponding one of the wheels.
The control toy construction elements are spaced apart from each other within the model and are not inductively coupled with each other.
Nevertheless, they may wirelessly communicate with each other via their respective wireless communications interfaces by short-range wireless communication. This may allow for a coordinated control of the respective motors. For example, one of the control toy construction elements may operate as a master that sends control signals to the other control toy construction elements, the control signals including e.g. on/off signals, speed and/or direction signals. Alternatively, the control toy construction elements may all communicate with, and be controlled by, a remote electronic device, e.g. as described in connection with FIG. 8. In yet other embodiments, each control toy construction element may operate autonomously. For example, each control toy construction element may control the motor of the interactive toy construction element inductively coupled to it responsive to sensor signals from an encoder included in the interactive toy construction element inductively coupled to the control toy construction element. In particular, in one example, when the encoder detects that the wheel is turned due to an external torque (e.g. because the user pushes the vehicle across a surface), the control toy construction element may control the motor in the same direction as the detected rotation, e.g. for a predetermined period of time or for a time dependent on the detected duration during which the wheel has been turned.
FIG. 11 illustrates an example of a use of a toy construction system as described herein. In particular, FIG. 11 illustrates a toy construction set comprising an electronic toy 820 and toy construction elements from which toy construction models 1110 and 1120 have been constructed. In particular, the toy construction set comprises control toy construction elements 500A-B, and interactive toy construction elements 100, 200 and 300. Control toy construction elements 500A-B are control toy construction elements as described in connection with FIGs. 5A-B, except that the control toy construction elements of FIG. 11 are shaped as relatively flat tiles instead. Similarly, interactive toy construction element 100 is an interactive toy construction element as described in connection with FIG. 1 and it includes a loudspeaker. Interactive toy construction element 200 is an interactive toy construction element as described in connection with FIG. 2 in that it includes an LED light source, but the interactive toy construction element 200 of FIG. 11 is shaped as relatively flat tiles instead. Interactive toy construction element 300 is an interactive toy construction element as described in connection with FIG. 3 in that it includes a motor for driving a shaft 1121 insertable into a hole of the housing of the interactive toy construction element 300. The interactive toy construction element 300 of FIG. 11 differs from the example of FIG. 3 in that the hole for receiving the shaft 1121 is positioned on a side face of the housing rather than the top face.
The electronic toy 820 is in the form of a figurine or doll, as described in connection with FIG. 8. In particular, the electronic toy includes a wireless communications circuit operable to communicate with corresponding wireless communications circuits of control toy construction elements 500A and 500B.
Toy construction model 1110 comprises control toy construction element 500A, interactive toy construction elements 100 and 200 as well as additional, non-interactive toy construction elements, such as conventional toy construction elements. In this specific example, the additional toy construction elements include a transparent, dome-shaped cover 1111 that is attachable to interactive toy construction element 200 so as to create a void for accommodating another toy construction element 1112. Flence, light emitted by the light source of interactive toy construction element 200 illuminates toy construction element 1112 and provides a visible effect, observable by the user through the transparent dome-shaped cover.
Interactive toy construction elements 100 and 200 are both physically attached and inductively coupled to control toy construction element 500A.
Toy construction model 1120 comprises control toy construction element 500B, interactive toy construction element 300 as well as additional, non- interactive toy construction elements, such as conventional toy construction elements. In this specific example, the additional toy construction elements include a shaft 1121 inserted into the hole of interactive toy construction element 300, and an elongated bar 1122 attached to shaft 1121 such that the bar is pivotable between a lowered position and a raised position. Interactive toy construction element 300 is physically attached to and inductively coupled to control toy construction element 500B.
Control toy construction element 500A may be configured to detect the presence of electronic toy 820 within a proximity of control toy construction element 500A. Responsive to such detection, the control toy construction element 500A may control interactive toy construction element 200 to emit light, and control interactive toy construction element 100 to emit a sound, e.g. simulating a siren. In some embodiments, an attribute of the light (e.g. a blinking frequency, a color, an intensity, etc.) and/or an attribute of the sound (e.g. a volume, a pitch, etc.) may be controlled by the control toy construction element responsive to the type of detected electronic toy 820, responsive to an estimated distance to the electronic toy and/or the like.
Control toy construction element 500A may further communicate with control toy construction element 500B via their respective wireless short-range communications circuits. For example, control toy construction element 500A may communicate information about the detected electronic toy 820 to control toy construction element 500B. Responsive to the received
information, control toy construction element 500B may control interactive toy construction element 300 to operate the motor so as to raise or lower bar 1122. Alternatively or additionally, control toy construction element 500B may be triggered to control operation of interactive toy construction element 300 in a different manner. For example, toy construction model 1120 may further include another interactive toy construction element including a sound sensor and inductively coupled to control toy construction element 500B. Control toy construction element 500B may thus be configured to control interactive toy construction element 300 responsive to a detected sound, e.g. the sound emitted by interactive toy construction element 100 of toy construction model 1110. Yet alternatively or additionally, control toy construction element 500B may be triggered to control operation of interactive toy construction element 300 by a detected manual movement of bar 1122, e.g. a movement detected by the rotational encoder included in interactive toy construction element 300.
Accordingly, the above example illustrates that relatively involved game scenarios may be implemented with only a few relatively inexpensive interactive toy construction elements and control toy construction elements described herein.
In the following, various examples of other play scenarios that can be implemented with embodiments of a toy construction system described herein will be described. FIG. 12 illustrates another example of a toy construction set. The toy construction set of FIG. 12 includes figurines 820A-C as described in connection with FIGs. 8 and 11 and a toy construction model 1210 which includes one or more control toy construction element and one or more interactive toy construction element. The figurines may communicate and interact with each other and/or with the toy construction model in a similar manner as described in connection with FIG. 11. For example, toy
construction model 1210 may include a door that may open/close when one of the figurines is detected in its proximity.
The toy construction set of FIG. 12 differs from the example of FIG. 11 in that the toy construction set of FIG. 12 further comprises an additional electronic toy 820D which includes a camera 821 , a processing unit, a rechargeable energy storage device, and a loudspeaker 822. Optionally, the electronic toy 820D may further comprise a wireless communications circuit operable to communicate with wireless communications circuits of figurines 820A-C and/or with a control toy construction element or interactive toy construction element of toy construction model 1210. Electronic toy 820D may be operable to capture still or video images of a play scene including figurines 820A-D and the toy construction model 1210, process the captured images and detect one or more aspects of the play scene. Detectable aspects of the play scene may be the presence or absence of one or more of the figurines, distances of the figurines from each other and/or from the toy construction model 1210, interactions between the figurines and/or the toy construction model, and/or the like. Electronic toy 820D may be operable to play audio content responsive to the detected aspects of the play scene. Additionally or alternatively, the electronic toy 820D may send control signals to the electronic toys 820A-C and/or to a control toy construction element of the toy construction model 1210 so as to cause functions of one or more of these elements. FIG. 13 illustrates another example of a toy construction set. The toy construction set of FIG. 13 includes toy construction models 1310-1340 each including one or more control toy construction element and one or more interactive toy construction elements. In particular, toy construction model 1310 is an elongated wand constructed from multiple conventional toy construction elements and from control toy construction element 500A and interactive toy construction element 400 which is physically attached to and inductively coupled to control toy construction element 500A. Interactive toy construction element 400 includes an accelerometer and is configured to communicate movement data to control toy construction element 500A.
Alternatively, control toy construction element 500A may comprise an internal accelerometer.
Toy construction model 1320 includes a control toy construction element 500B and an interactive toy construction element 200 which is inductively coupled to control toy construction element 500B and which includes a light source as described in connection with FIG. 2.
Toy construction model 1330 resembles a figurine and includes a control toy construction element (not explicitly visible in FIG, 13) and an interactive toy construction element (not explicitly visible in FIG, 13) which is inductively coupled to the control toy construction element and which includes a motor for effecting rotation of the figurine.
Toy construction model 1340 resembles a musical instrument and includes control toy construction elements 500C-E and an interactive toy construction elements 100A-C, each including a loudspeaker and each inductively coupled to a respective one of the control toy construction elements 500C-E.
When the user moves the wand 1310, the motion is detected by the accelerometer of interactive toy construction element 400; alternatively or additional a relative position of the wand relative to the toy construction elements 1320-1340, respectively, may be detected by the respective control toy construction elements, e.g. based on signal strength of wireless short- range communication between them or based on an internal accelerometer.
Responsive to the detected motion, the control toy construction element 500A may control the control toy construction elements of toy construction models 1320-1340 to cause the respective interactive toy construction elements inductively coupled to the control toy construction elements to perform their various functions, e.g. to cause the figurine 1330 to turn, the light of interactive toy construction element 200 to emit light and/or the interactive toy construction elements 100A-C to play a musical tune. Alternatively or additionally, the control toy construction element of the toy construction models 1320-1340 may control the respective functions based on a detected proximity of the wand 1310 and/or based on detected sound or light and/or based on received control signals from one or more of the other control toy construction elements. FIG. 14 illustrates yet another example of a toy construction set. The toy construction set of FIG. 14 includes an electronic toy 820 in the form of a figurine as described in connection with FIG. 8 and a toy construction model 1410. The toy construction model 1410 comprises a control toy construction element 500 and an interactive toy construction element 300 including a motor as described in connection with FIG. 3. Interactive toy construction element 300 is inductively coupled to control toy construction element 500 and configured to rotate a rotatable part 1411 of toy construction model 1410 that is shaped as a head of an animal or other creature.
Figurine 820 includes an accelerometer and a wireless communications circuit for communicating control signals indicative of a user-induced motion of the figurine to the control toy construction element 500. Responsive to the received control signals, control toy construction element 500 causes interactive toy construction element 300 to operate its motor so as to mimic the detected movement by the rotatable head 1411.
Accordingly, similar to the example of FIG. 11 , the figurine may thus be operable as a wand or controller operable to control a function of toy construction model 1410. FIG. 15 illustrates yet another example of a toy construction set. The toy construction set of FIG. 15 includes toy construction models 1510 and 1520 each including one or more control toy construction element and one or more interactive toy construction elements. In particular, toy construction model 1310 is a wearable toy construction model. It includes a wearable
component, such as a wristband 1511 , which comprises coupling members to which other toy construction elements can be attached. In the present example, toy construction model 1510 includes a control toy construction element 500 and an interactive toy construction element 400 that includes an accelerometer and that is inductively coupled and mechanically attached to control to construction element 500.
Toy construction element 1520 resembles a car. It includes one or more control toy construction elements and corresponding interactive toy construction elements (not explicitly shown) for driving one or more wheels of the car, e.g. as described in connection with FIG. 10. The toy construction model 1520 further comprises a control toy construction element and corresponding interactive toy construction element (not explicitly shown) for actuating a steering mechanism of the car.
The interactive toy construction element 400 of wearable toy construction model 1510 may thus detect motions of the users hand when the wearable component is worn around the wrist of the user. The control toy construction element 500 communicates corresponding control signals reflecting the detected movements to the control toy construction elements of the toy construction model which may control the wheels and steering mechanism responsive to the detective movements, e.g. so as to propel and steer the car.
Embodiments of the control circuits of the interactive modular construction elements described herein can be implemented by means of hardware comprising several distinct elements, and/or at least in part by means of a suitably programmed microprocessor.
In the claims enumerating several means, several of these means can be embodied by one and the same element, component or item of hardware. The mere fact that certain measures are recited in mutually different dependent claims or described in different embodiments does not indicate that a combination of these measures cannot be used to advantage.
It should be emphasized that the term "comprises/comprising" when used in this specification is taken to specify the presence of stated features, elements, steps or components but does not preclude the presence or addition of one or more other features, elements, steps, components or groups thereof.

Claims

Claims:
1. A modular toy construction system, comprising a plurality of interactive toy construction elements, each interactive toy construction element comprising a sensor and/or a function device, the function device operable to perform a user-perceivable function; each interactive toy construction element further comprising a first communications circuit configured to wirelessly
communicate signals and to wirelessly harvest energy for operating the function device and/or the sensor.
2. A modular toy construction system according to claim 1 ; wherein the first communications circuit is configured for contactless, ultra-short-range communication, and for contactless energy transfer.
3. A modular toy construction system according to claim 1 or 2; comprising at least one control toy construction element comprising a rechargeable energy storage device, a processing circuit and a second communications circuit; the second communications circuit being configured to communicate with one or more of the plurality of interactive toy construction elements.
4. A modular toy construction system according to claim 3; wherein the processing circuit is configured to receive sensor data from one or more of the interactive toy construction elements and to generate control signals for controlling the user-perceivable function of one or more of the interactive toy construction elements.
5. A modular toy construction system according to claim 3 or 4; wherein the second communications circuit is further configured to wirelessly transfer energy to said one or more interactive toy construction elements.
6. A modular toy construction system according to any one of claims 3 through 5; wherein the first and second communications circuits are configured for contactless, ultra-short-range communication, and for contactless energy transfer.
7. A modular toy construction system according to any one of claims 3 through 6; wherein the control toy construction element comprises an energy receiving circuit for wirelessly receiving energy and for charging the energy storage device.
8. A modular toy construction system according to any one of claims 3 though 7; wherein the control toy construction element is configured to detect a presence of one or more other control toy construction elements in a vicinity of the control toy construction element.
9. A modular toy construction system according to any one of claims 3 through 8; wherein the control toy construction element is configured to receive and store one or more program instructions for controlling a behaviour of the control toy construction element.
10. A modular toy construction system according to any one of claims 3 though 9; wherein the control toy construction element is configured to detect, when the control toy construction element and a set of one or more of the interactive toy construction elements are directly or indirectly
interconnected with each other so as to form a toy construction model, from data received from said set of interactive toy construction elements, a physical topology of said set of interactive toy construction elements in said toy construction model.
11. A modular toy construction system according to any one of claims 3 though 10; wherein the processing unit of at least one of the control toy construction elements is operable to infer one or more user-selected functions from one or more sensor inputs received by an interactive toy construction element communicatively coupled to the at least one control toy construction element.
12. A modular toy construction system according to any one of claims 3 though 11 ; wherein the control construction element includes a third communications circuit operable for short-range, wireless communications.
13. A modular toy construction system according to claim 12, wherein the third communications circuit is configured to establish wireless
communications with one or more remote electronic devices.
14. A modular toy construction system according to claim 13, comprising the remote electronic device; wherein the remote electronic device is configured to communicate with one or more control toy construction elements of the same or of different separate toy construction models.
15. A modular toy construction system according to claim 14, wherein the remote electronic device is configured to receive information from the control construction element about one or more interactive toy construction elements coupled to the control toy construction element.
16. A modular toy construction system according to claim 14 or 15, wherein the remote electronic device is configured to control operation of the control construction element and/or of one or more interactive toy construction elements coupled to the control toy construction element.
17. A modular toy construction system according to any one of the preceding claims; wherein one or more of the plurality of interactive toy construction elements is a passive interactive toy construction element without own energy storage device.
18. A modular toy construction system according to any one of the preceding claims; wherein one or more of the plurality of interactive toy construction elements comprises an energy storage device.
19. A modular toy construction system according to any one of the preceding claims; wherein the plurality of interactive toy construction elements includes: - at least a first interactive toy construction element comprising a first type of function device;
- at least a second interactive toy construction element comprising a second type of function device, different from the first type of function device.
20. A modular toy construction system according to any one of the preceding claims; wherein the plurality of interactive toy construction elements includes:
- at least a first interactive toy construction element comprising a first type of sensor;
- at least a second interactive toy construction element comprising a second type of sensor, different from the first type of sensor.
21. A modular toy construction system according to any one of the preceding claims; wherein at least one of the interactive toy construction elements comprises a function device and sensor; wherein the function device is configured to perform a user-perceivable function, the user-perceivable function being perceivable as a first physical quantity; and wherein the sensor is operable to sense said first physical quantity.
22. A modular toy construction system according to claim 21 ; wherein at least one of the interactive toy construction elements comprises a motor and an encoder.
23. A modular toy construction system according to claim 21 or 22; wherein at least one of the interactive toy construction elements comprises a light source and a light detector.
24. A modular toy construction system according to any one of claims 21 through 23; wherein at least one of the interactive toy construction elements comprises a sound source and a sound detector.
25. A modular toy construction system according to any one of the preceding claims; wherein at least two of the interactive toy construction elements are configured such that their respective function devices interact with each other to perform a combined function when the interactive toy construction elements are interconnected with each other in a predetermined manner.
26. A modular toy construction system according to any one of the preceding claims, comprising one more electronic figurines; wherein the figurine comprises a rechargeable energy storage device, a processing unit and a communications circuit operable for short-range wireless communications.
27. A modular toy construction system according to claim 26; wherein the communications circuit of the figurine is operable for short-range wireless communications with one or more of the interactive toy construction elements and/or with one or more control toy construction elements.
28. A modular toy construction system according to claim 26 or 27; wherein the figurine includes coupling members for detachably attaching the figurine to other toy construction elements of the toy construction system.
29. A modular toy construction system according to any one of claims 26 through 28; wherein the figurine further comprises one or more function devices, in particular a motor and/or a light source and/or a sound source.
30. A modular toy construction system according to any one of claims 26 through 29; wherein the figurine further comprises one or more sensors, in particular an encoder and/or a light sensor and/or a sound sensor and/or an accelerometer.
31. A modular toy construction system according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein each of the interactive toy construction elements comprises coupling members for detachably attaching the interactive toy construction element to other toy construction elements of the toy construction system.
32. A modular toy construction system according to any one of the preceding claims, comprising an electronic toy having an image capturing device and being configured to capture one or more images of a play scene including one or more interactive toy construction elements and/or control toy construction elements.
33. A modular toy construction system according to claim 32; wherein the electronic toy is configured to process the captured one or more images so as to detect one or more aspects of the play scene.
34. A modular toy construction system according to claim 33; wherein the electronic toy is configured to play digital content responsive to the detected one or more aspects of the play scene.
35. A modular toy construction system according to any one of claims 32 through 34; wherein the electronic toy comprises a communications circuit operable for short-range wireless communications with one or more of the interactive toy construction elements and/or with one or more control construction elements.
36. A modular toy construction system according to claim 35; wherein the electronic toy is configured to send control signals to one or more interactive toy construction elements and/or control toy construction elements included in the play scene.
37. A modular toy construction system according to claim 36 when dependent on claim 33 or 34; wherein the electronic toy is configured to send control signals to one or more interactive toy construction elements and/or control toy construction elements included in the play scene responsive to the detected one or more aspects of the play scene.
38. A modular toy construction system according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein each interactive toy construction element includes a single function device and/or a single sensor.
39. A modular toy construction system according to any one of the preceding claims; wherein the function device of at least one interactive toy construction element is chosen from: a motor, a light source and a sound source.
PCT/EP2019/065123 2018-06-12 2019-06-11 A modular toy construction system with interactive toy construction elements WO2019238630A1 (en)

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