Title:
Roller coaster based simulator for amusement and flight training
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An amusement device or simulator includes a vehicle arranged to travel around a track having slopes and turns. The vehicle includes an opaque canopy enclosing a user. A sequence of images is displayed to the user on the interior of the canopy. The sequence is time synchronized with the motion of the vehicle so that the user experiences forces from the motion of the vehicle which are coordinated with the displayed sequence of images.



Inventors:
Dicicco, Thomas (Smithtown, NY, US)
Application Number:
09/997469
Publication Date:
06/06/2002
Filing Date:
11/29/2001
Assignee:
DICICCO THOMAS
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A61K9/14; A63G7/00; A63G21/04; A63G21/08; A63G31/16; B02C17/00; B02C17/16; B02C17/20; G09B5/14; G09B9/08; (IPC1-7): A63J5/02
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
NGUYEN, KIEN T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BAKER & BOTTS (30 ROCKEFELLER PLAZA, NEW YORK, NY, 10112)
Claims:

I claim:



1. An amusement system, comprising: a track for guiding a vehicle along a path, said path including horizontal curves and vertical slops; a vehicle for moving along said track and including a passenger compartment having an opaque canopy; and a display system for providing visual display on the interior of said canopy, said visual display being arranged to present visual images to a passenger representing a vehicle experience, said vehicle experience being coordinated with movement of said vehicle along said track, whereby said passenger experiences visual images coordinated with forces arising out of movement of said vehicle.

2. An amusement system as specified in claim 1 wherein said display system is arranged to present selectable visual images representing a plurality of vehicle experiences.

3. An amusement system as specified in claim 1 wherein said track is graded for at least some of said horizontal curves.

4. An amusement system as specified in claim 1 wherein said display system includes a display projector in said vehicle for projecting said visual display on the interior of said canopy.

5. An amusement system as specified in claim 1 wherein said display system comprises a flat panel display on the interior of said canopy.

6. An amusement system as specified in claim 1 wherein said vehicle includes a track engaging portion and said passenger compartment, and wherein said passenger compartment is arranged for angular rotation with respect to said track engaging portion, further including a rotation control system, coordinated with said movement of said vehicle and said vehicle experience.

7. An amusement system as specified in claim 6 wherein said angular rotation comprises angular rotation about three axis.

8. An amusement device as specified in claim 1 wherein said vehicle includes a control unit operable by a vehicle passenger for providing control signals, and wherein said display system is responsive to said control signals for changing said visual images in response to said control signals.

9. An amusement device as specified in claim 9 wherein said rotation control system is responsive to said control signals.

10. An amusement device as specified in claim 6 wherein said vehicle includes a control unit operable by a vehicle passenger for providing control signals, and wherein said display system is responsive to said control signals for changing said visual images in response to said control signals.

11. An amusement device as specified in claim 1 wherein said vehicle is self propelled along said track.

12. A vehicle simulator, comprising: a track for guiding a vehicle along a path, said path including horizontal curves and vertical slopes; a vehicle for moving along said track and including a passenger compartment having an opaque canopy; at least one control unit operable by a vehicle passenger for providing control signals; and a display system for providing visual display on the interior of said canopy, said visual display being arranged to present visual images to a passenger representing a vehicle experience, said vehicle experience being coordinated with movement of said vehicle along said track and responsive to said control signals for changing said visual images in response to said control signals, whereby a passenger experiences visual images coordinated with forces arising out of movement of said vehicle and responsive to said passenger's operation of said control unit.

13. A vehicle simulator as specified in claim 12 wherein said display system is arranged to present selectable visual images representing a plurality of vehicle experiences.

14. A vehicle simulator as specified in claim 12 wherein said track is graded for at least some of said horizontal curves.

15. A vehicle simulator as specified in claim 12 wherein said display system includes a display projector in said vehicle for projecting said visual display on the interior of said canopy.

16. A vehicle simulator as specified in claim 12 wherein said display system comprises a flat panel display on the interior of said canopy.

17. A vehicle simulator as specified in claim 12 wherein said vehicle includes a track engaging portion and said passenger compartment, and wherein said passenger compartment is arranged for angular rotation with respect to said track engaging portion, further including a rotation control system, coordinated with said movement of said vehicle and said vehicle experience.

18. A vehicle simulator as specified in claim 17 wherein said angular rotation comprises angular rotation about three axis.

19. A vehicle simulator as specified in claim 17 wherein said rotation control system is responsive to said control signals.

20. A vehicle simulator as specified in claim 12 wherein said display system includes a vehicle display having a vehicle display area on an inside surface of said canopy, wherein said display system includes a stored sequence of said visual images, wherein each image of said stored sequence represents a stored display image over a stored display area that is larger than said vehicle display area, and wherein said display system is responsive to said control signals to select an image portion of said stored display images corresponding to said vehicle display area, and provide said selected portion to said vehicle display.

21. A vehicle simulator as specified in claim 12 wherein said vehicle is self propelled along said track.

22. A vehicle simulator as specified in claim 21 further including a processor for controlling said vehicle propulsion along said track and coordinating resulting movement of said vehicle with said vehicle experience.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates to simulators and related amusement devices which present the user with a simulated experience. Current simulators and simulator amusement devices present visual images to the user and also provide motion simulation in coordination with the visual images.

[0002] In some devices the visual image may present the views the user would see while riding in an airplane, for example in air-to-air combat. To enhance the visual experience the user's seat undergoes motion, for example tilting back to simulate forces of acceleration, forward to simulate deceleration and to the side to simulate the force of a sharp turn. Since the visual presentation moves with the seat, the user does not realize that the seat is tilting and associates the experienced forces with the visual presentation.

[0003] While the experience is realistic, there are limits to the forces that can be applied in current simulators, such as the sensation of falling through space or being inverted.

[0004] It is an object of the present invention to provide a simulator device that provides enhanced simulator experience.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0005] In accordance with the invention there is provided an amusement system having a track for guiding a vehicle along a path, including horizontal curves and vertical slops. There is provided a vehicle for moving along the track and including a passenger compartment having an opaque canopy. A display system is arranged to provide a visual display on the interior of the canopy. The visual display is arranged to present visual images to a passenger representing a vehicle experience, the vehicle experience being coordinated with movement of the vehicle along the track. The passenger thereby experiences visual images coordinated with forces arising out of movement of the vehicle.

[0006] In a preferred arrangement the display system is arranged to present selectable visual images representing a plurality of vehicle experiences. The track may be graded for at least some of the horizontal curves. The display system may include a display projector in the vehicle for projecting the visual display on the interior of the canopy. Alternately, the display system may comprise a flat panel display on the interior of the canopy. The vehicle may include a track engaging portion and the passenger compartment may be arranged for angular rotation with respect to the track engaging portion. A rotation control system for controlling the rotation is preferably coordinated with the movement of the vehicle and the vehicle experience. The angular rotation can comprise angular rotation about one, two or three axes. The vehicle optionally includes a control unit operable by a vehicle passenger for providing control signals, wherein the display system is responsive to the control signals for changing the visual images in response to the control signals. Alternatively or in addition, the rotation control system may be responsive to the control signals.

[0007] According to the invention there is provided a vehicle simulator having a track for guiding a vehicle along a path including horizontal curves and vertical slopes. A vehicle is provided for moving along the track and includes a passenger compartment having an opaque canopy. At least one control unit is provided, operable by a vehicle passenger for providing control signals. A display system provides a visual display on the interior of the canopy, the visual display being arranged to present visual images to a passenger representing a vehicle experience, which is coordinated with movement of the vehicle along the track and responsive to the control signals for changing the visual images in response to the control signals, so that a passenger experiences visual images coordinated with forces arising out of movement of the vehicle and responsive to the passenger's operation of the control unit.

[0008] In a preferred arrangement, the display system is arranged to present selectable visual images representing a plurality of vehicle experiences. The track may be graded for at least some of the horizontal curves. The display system may be a display projector in the vehicle for projecting the visual display on the interior of the canopy. Alternately, the display system may be a flat panel display on the interior of the canopy. The vehicle may include a track engaging portion and the passenger compartment, wherein the passenger compartment is arranged for angular rotation with respect to the track engaging portion. The angular rotation may comprise angular rotation about one, two or three axes. The vehicle may include a control unit operable by a vehicle passenger for providing control signals, wherein the display system is responsive to the control signals for changing the visual images. In addition, the rotation control system can be responsive to the control signals. The display system may include a vehicle display having a vehicle display area on an inside surface of the canopy, wherein the display system includes a stored sequence of the visual images, wherein each image of the stored sequence represents a stored display image over a stored display area that is larger than the vehicle display area, and wherein the display system is responsive to the control signals to select an image portion of the stored display images corresponding to the vehicle display area, and provide the selected portion to the vehicle display.

[0009] For a better understanding of the present invention, together with other and further objects, reference is made to the following description, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings and its scope will be pointed out in the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0010] FIG. 1 is a plan elevation view of a first embodiment of an amusement device in accordance with the present invention.

[0011] FIG. 2 is a cross sectional view of a portion of the FIG. 1 amusement device.

[0012] FIG. 3 is a cross sectional view of an alternate canopy arrangement of the FIG. 1 amusement device.

[0013] FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a track for an amusement device in accordance with the present invention.

[0014] FIG. 5 is an elevation plan view of an alternate embodiment of an amusement device in accordance with the present invention.

[0015] FIG. 6 is a rear elevation view of the device of FIG. 5.

[0016] FIG. 7 is a top view of the device of FIG. 5.

[0017] FIG. 8 is a block diagram showing a first arrangement of a display system for the device of the present invention.

[0018] FIG. 9 is a block diagram showing a control and display system for the device of FIG. 5.

[0019] FIG. 10 is a block diagram showing one arrangement for a power supply useful in connection with the present invention.

[0020] FIG. 11 is a block diagram showing an alternate control and display system for the device of the present invention.

[0021] FIG. 12 is a diagram showing one method of providing a display for the device of the present invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0022] The present invention is an amusement device or simulator that provides a vehicle for movement around a track, such as a roller coaster or similar track. The vehicle includes an occupant seat and an opaque canopy covering the occupant. One arrangement 20 for the device is shown in FIG. 1 wherein there is shown a track 22, carrying a vehicle 24. Vehicle 24 may be a conventional roller coaster vehicle or alternately may be provided with wheels 30 which surround track 22 to lock the vehicle 24 thereto even when the vehicle 24 is subjected to forces that would tend to lift vehicle 24 away from track 22. Vehicle 24 includes a compartment for a passenger 28 which is closed by canopy 26 after the passenger enters the vehicle. Canopy 26 is opaque and arranged to provide visual displays to passenger 28 on the interior surface thereof.

[0023] One display arrangement is shown in the cross sectional view of canopy 26 of FIG. 2. Flat panel displays 32 and 34 are provided respectively on the front and side interior walls of canopy 26 forming simulated windows from which the user can view the simulated surroundings. It should be understood that a sidewall panel like panel 34 is provided on the unseen sidewall. The term “flat Panel” display is intended to describe a known type of display structure and not to imply that the panels 32, 34 are flat in configuration. Such panels may be conformal to a curved interior surface of canopy 26.

[0024] FIG. 3 shows an alternate configuration for a canopy. Canopy 26′, which is shown curved in configuration has a portion of its interior surface provided with a projection screen surface 36. One or more projectors 38 are arranged to project display images onto screen surface 36.

[0025] FIG. 4 shows a perspective view of a track 22 having vehicle 24 for following a course around track 22. In one arrangement the vehicle and track may operate as a conventional roller coaster with the vehicle being initially towed to a high track area, and thereafter operating under gravity and its own momentum. Alternately the vehicle may be propelled around the track by its own motor, operated by a battery or a third rail. The track 22 shown in FIG. 4 for purposes of illustration includes a first upward vertical slope portion 40, followed by a downward slope 42. In the conventional roller coaster mode the vehicle 24 is towed up slope 40 and thereafter travels by gravity and momentum. The track further includes curves 44, 46 and 48, which may be banked to follow the forces on vehicle 24, but the banking may be arranged to be under or overcorrecting depending on the effect to be simulated. The track may further include up and down slopes 50 and 52, respectively, and loop 54. A final curve 56 leads to the starting position. It should be recognized that the track illustrated in FIG. 4 is illustrative only, and the actual track may include other features such as a roll or an Immelman maneuver.

[0026] In a first embodiment of the present invention the user is presented with a sequence of images on the displays which are coordinated with the motion of the vehicle as it traverses the track. For example, in one arrangement, the display sequence may be arranged to simulate a fighter jet intercept of an enemy aircraft. The display would project the image from a cockpit facing a runway until the vehicle engages the upslope portion 40 of track 22. During the up-slope travel the image display might be of the view as a jet accelerates down a runway and climbs to altitude. During the vehicle travel on down-slope 42, the display might show a sequence depicting a dive toward an enemy plane. The enemy plane would be chased through curves 44, 46 and 48 as well as on further slopes 50 and 52 and through loop 54. While viewing the displayed sequence of aircraft combat the user is subjected to the forces imparted by the motion of the vehicle around track 22 yielding a very realistic experience.

[0027] Referring to FIG. 8, there is shown the components of an exemplary display system for providing a display synchronized with the motion of vehicle 24 in the embodiment of FIG. 1. The system includes a first switch 82 which may for example be triggered by the initial motion of the vehicle 24 as the canopy closes and the vehicle moves toward the up-slope 40. Triggering of switch 82 initiates CD ROM reader 80 to start reading and displaying a video sequence stored in memory, which may be a CD ROM, video tape or other memory. The video data is provided to projection or display unit 86 for display to the user. In the simple embodiment of a display system as shown in FIG. 8, it is assumed that the vehicle takes a fixed amount to time to traverse the track and that the initial synchronization using switch 82 is sufficient. It will be recognized that synchronization of vehicle motion with display can be achieved in other ways, particularly where a self propelled vehicle is used where transit time may vary. It is possible, for example to generate timing signals from movement along the track or from rotation of the vehicle wheels or both to provide dynamic synchronization of the display sequence to vehicle motion, it being recognized that such synchronization need not be exact.

[0028] In one advantageous variation, there is provided a selector switch 84 for selecting the display sequence the user is to experience. One selection may be the fighter intercept sequence, another a cross country 4-wheel drive race, still another a dare-devil sequence, still another a voyage on a space ship. Accordingly using selector switch 84 the user can experience different visual stimulation while traversing the same track on subsequent rides.

[0029] The basic apparatus of FIG. 1 can be enhanced to provide an even more thrilling experience and to provide a realistic simulator that can be used to train pilots in aerial combat. In a first improvement the vehicle can be provided with one or more controls 68 (FIG. 5) that serve to modify the visual sequence according to operation of the control. For example in one embodiment the recorded video sequence may comprise a large stored display area, such as area 180 of FIG. 12, which provides a view of a large area. The actual image provided to the display or projector comprises a portion of the display image area 180, such as area 182 shown in FIG. 12. Operation of control 68 causes the area displayed to move in the directions indicated by arrows 184, or rotation of the display area 182, to simulate turning or change in roll or pitch of the aircraft. Accordingly the user will visually see the view change in response to his or her operation of control 68.

[0030] A still further enhancement 60 of the apparatus is shown in FIGS. 5 to 7. In FIG. 5, the vehicle includes two vehicle portions, a track engaging portion 62 and a passenger carrying portion 64, which includes canopy 66. The passenger carrying portion 64 is arranged to pivot in the yaw (elevation) axis with respect to the track engaging portion. The pivoting is carried out by actuator 70, which may be hydraulic or electric motor operated, such as using a jack screw. This can enhance or reduce the forces experienced by the passenger as a result of vehicle motion along the track 22.

[0031] Similar motion about the roll axis can be effected as shown in FIG. 6, which shows a track engaging portion 62′, preferably having track engaging wheels 30A and 30B above and below tracks 22, which are centrally supported by structure 23. Roll motion of passenger carrying portion 64′ can be provided by one or more roll actuators 72.

[0032] FIG. 7 shows passenger carrying portion 64″ which is arranged to rotate about the yaw axis with respect to track engaging portion 62″.

[0033] Rotation of the passenger carrying portion in one, two or three axes can be controlled as part of the simulator sequence, wherein particular angular motions are sequenced into the system to enhance the motion effects. In a preferred arrangement the angular motions are also controlled by a combination of the simulator sequence and the user's operation of control 68. FIG. 9 is a block diagram of a system wherein the video display sequence and rotational motion of the passenger carrying portion of the vehicle are controlled by both the simulation program 102 in processor 100 and user operation of control 68. The system may include synchronizing switch 106, which provides timing for the simulator with respect to vehicle travel on track 22 and sequence selection switch 108 which selects the sequence. Processor 100 responds to both the selected program sequence and user operation of control 68 as interpreted by processor 100 to provide the resulting images to display 112 via driver 110. In addition, processor 100 responds to the selected program sequence and user operation of control 68 to provide signals to servo driver 114 which operates servos 116, 118 and 120. The system may also control the vehicle speed where the vehicle includes an onboard traction motor operated by propulsion control 109.

[0034] FIG. 10 shows one possible arrangement for providing power to operate the display and/or servo systems and/or traction motors on a vehicle 24, 64. In simpler systems, a battery may be provided on the vehicle which provides adequate energy to operate the display system for the normal operating period of a day. The battery is recharged when the system is not operating, or when other vehicles are being used. Alternately, a third rail system may provide power using circuitry to control contact noise, such as a ferroresonant transformer. The arrangement illustrated in FIG. 10 provides for charging of a battery in Uninteruptable Power Source (UPS) 132 during regular use of the vehicle. A contact shoe 130 is provided to connect with a contact providing electrical current during travel of the vehicle over a portion of track 22, for example while the vehicle is between runs or being loaded with passengers. The battery of UPS 132 is therefore periodically charged and can be used to operate equipment 34, such as the display, the processor, the servo systems and traction motor where present.

[0035] In sophisticated applications, a large amount of processing capability may be required. In addition, simulator operators may wish to vary the experiences of the user during a simulator session and record the reactions of the user. For, example in flight training the actions of the user may be compared against ideal actions and thereby used for further instruction and scoring. In such situations it may be desirable to remove the main simulator processor from the vehicle. The system shown in FIG. 11 provides simulator controls 140 and processor 142 located off the vehicle. Data for operation of the display and/or the servo is generated in processor 142 and relayed by RF link 144 via antenna 146 to a corresponding RF link 150 having antenna 148 on the vehicle. In a preferred arrangement the RF link is bi-directional so that user operation of one or more controls 68 is relayed to the off vehicle processor 100 by on board CPU 152. On board CPU also interprets the display and servo commands received from processor 142 via the RF link and provides appropriate signals to the display 154 and the servos 160.

[0036] While there have been described what are believed to be the preferred embodiments of the present invention, those skilled in the art will recognize that other and further changes and modifications may be made thereto without departing from the spirit of the invention and it is intended to claim all such changes and modifications as fall within the scope of the invention.





 
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