Title:
System of Bodies Which, by Mutual Communication, Detect and Then Jointly Signalize a Predetermined Concatenation, Storage Box for Such a System and Memory Suitable for Use in Such a Storage Box
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A system of bodies each having their own electronic identity representation visualized on respective corresponding outer faces of these bodies. The bodies comprise communication means for having the identity representations queried externally. The system comprises means for selectively detecting respective predetermined physical concatenations of such identities as representations of corresponding visualizations and subsequently emitting an external signal, but refraining from producing such a signal in the absence of any such predetermined concatenation. The bodies are particularly suitable for mutual and wireless communication with their physical neighbors in said concatenation, to which end each body is provided with active electronic logic means and an associated electric battery power supply. Communication between the bodies takes place democratically and without the interposition of a master module.



Inventors:
De Weerd, Jeroen Frederik (Maastricht, NL)
Application Number:
11/817328
Publication Date:
06/26/2008
Filing Date:
02/10/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/12; A63F9/24
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HARPER, TRAMAR YONG
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GORDON & JACOBSON, P.C. (60 LONG RIDGE ROAD SUITE 407, STAMFORD, CT, 06902, US)
Claims:
1. A system of bodies each having their own electronic identity representation visualized on respective corresponding outer faces of said bodies, the bodies comprising communication means for having said identity representations queried externally, said system comprising means for selectively detecting respective predetermined physical concatenations of such identities as representations of corresponding visualizations and subsequently emitting an external signal, but refraining from emitting such a signal in the absence of any such predetermined concatenation, characterized in that the bodies are suitable for mutual and wireless communication with their physical neighbors in said concatenation, to which end each body is provided with active electronic logic means and an associated electric battery power supply, and in that said communication between the bodies takes place democratically and without the interposition of a specialized master module.

2. A system as claimed in claim 1, wherein said bodies are shaped as blocks or cubes.

3. A system as claimed in claim 1, wherein said external signal is limited to bodies forming part of said physical concatenation of identities.

4. A system as claimed in claim 3, wherein said external signal is blocked when said physical concatenation adjoins a further body that does not form part of such a detected concatenation of identities.

5. A system as claimed in claim 1, wherein the bodies have an orientation sensor in which the envisaged electronic identity representation is only active in a given orientation of the body.

6. A system as claimed in claim 5, wherein different identity representations are active in respective orientations of each body, which identity representations are visualized on respective corresponding outer faces of said bodies.

7. A system as claimed in claim 1, wherein said visualization is realized by means of a changeable electronic imaging structure energized by said electric battery power supply.

8. A system as claimed in claim 1, wherein said predetermined concatenations of identities within an individual body are stored in a memory.

9. A system as claimed in claim 1, wherein said physical concatenations can be active in two matrix directions for use in the form of a jigsaw puzzle or a crossword puzzle.

10. A system as claimed in claim 8, wherein said memory is externally loadable.

11. A system as claimed in claim 1, provided with a storage box comprising an electric charging device for said battery power supply.

12. A system as claimed in claim 1, further comprising a storage box provided with at least one of: i) an electric charging device for said battery power supply, ii) an electronic device for loading information indicating a body identity to be modified, and iii) a different set of said physical concatenations.

13. A system as claimed in claim 12, further comprising a memory loaded with at least one of: i) information indicating the body identity to be modified, and ii) the different set of said physical concatenations.

14. A system comprising a plurality of bodies having visual representations on outer faces of said bodies, the bodies having wireless communication means for detecting physical concatenation of said bodies, wherein each body is provided with active electronic logic means and an associated electric battery power, and said wireless communications means provides wireless communication between the bodies that takes place democratically and without the interposition of a specialized master module.

15. A system as claimed in claim 14, wherein the bodies have electronic identities that correspond to the visual representations associated therewith, and said wireless communication means provides communication of the electronic identities between bodies.

16. A system as claimed in claim 15, wherein said bodies are shaped as blocks or cubes.

17. A system as claimed in claim 14, wherein said bodies comprise means for selectively emitting a signal in the event that the electronic identities of the detected physical concatenation of bodies follow a predetermined logical order.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to a product which can be used as an educational toy. The products provide visualizations that enable a child to learn and spell words, count numbers, do sums, find logical combinations, etc.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

US patent Publication No. 2003/0148700 A1, to Arlinsky et al., describes a system of cubes marked on several faces with indicia of a letter or character, a figure or number, an arithmetic symbol, an object, an animal, etc. A special game controller playing block detects whether the physical concatenation of blocks corresponds to a word, a sum, etc. To this end, adjacent blocks establish electrical contact with each other and the controller playing block emits a signal in the case of a positive result.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The inventor has realized several improvements in the state of the art. Notably the necessity of such a specialized controller playing block is a drawback. It would be advantageous if, in principle, the system continued to operate in a substantially undisturbed manner, even when an arbitrary body is absent or is out of order. Furthermore, a wireless connection between consecutive bodies is advantageous, because this precludes contamination of the connection and prevents short circuits which may damage the electronic components. Moreover, detection of long concatenations of bodies will be better possible, because the signals can be brought to a standard level for each body. Besides, it would not be necessary for neighboring blocks to be tangential to each other.

It is an object of the invention to provide a system of the before-mentioned kind, in which system the bodies can perform the detection in a wireless manner and in democratic cooperation.

To this end, a characteristic feature of the invention is defined in that the bodies are suitable for mutual and wireless communication with their physical neighbors in said concatenation, to which end each body is provided with active electronic logic means and an associated electric battery power supply, and in that said communication between the bodies takes place democratically and without the interposition of a specialized master module.

The bodies may be shaped as blocks or cubes, or as e.g. cards formatted in accordance with the ISO standard for credit cards and the like.

In a preferred embodiment, said visualization is realized by means of a changeable electronic imaging structure energized by an electric battery power supply. Changeable images provide the possibility of creating a very large number of “lessons”, so that counting, spelling, logical aspects and other things can be learned. Such changeable images can be technically realized quite easily. A specific example in this respect is the use of “electronic ink”.

In a further preferred embodiment, predetermined concatenations of identities within an individual body are stored in a memory. For example, only words and the like may be stored in a given body. In an advantageous modification thereof, the relevant body is either the first or the last. This saves storage capacity. It is alternatively possible to store the same information in all bodies. Sums may be stored as such in the memory, or they may be calculated by means of a computing element.

In another preferred embodiment, the physical concatenations can be active in two matrix directions. It can then be checked whether there is a two-dimensional image. Another application may be a crossword puzzle or a “scrabble”-like application, in which the formation of a new, valid word is briefly signalized. In a further preferred embodiment, the memory in a body is externally loadable. The number of applications can then be extended considerably.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

These and other aspects of the invention are apparent from and will be elucidated with reference to the embodiments described hereinafter.

In the drawings,

FIG. 1 shows the logical cooperation within a physical concatenation of bodies;

FIG. 2 is a block diagram of the electronic components within such a body;

FIG. 3 is a flow chart of detecting and signalizing a given physical concatenation;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a block-shaped body;

FIG. 5 shows a storage box with control and charge facilities;

FIG. 6 shows a storage element for loading new information into the bodies;

FIG. 7 is a two-dimensional configuration of bodies;

FIGS. 8a and 8b show further embodiments of the invention.

DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS

FIG. 1 shows the logical cooperation within a physical concatenation of bodies, hereinafter referred to as blocks. Each block can transmit and/or receive digital information to or from its direct left or right neighbor by known wireless means such as infrared, or ultrasonic means, or by electromagnetic waves. In this way, each block can detect the actual presence of such a left or right neighbor (or also the upper or lower neighbor) and particularly the identity of the relevant block. When cards are used, a “block” may have one or two identities (front or back). When cubes or bars are used, each block may have up to four or even six different valid identities controlled by a position, or orientation, sensor which is present in the block and can distinguish the respective four or six orientations. There may be three orientations when a bar having a triangular cross-section is used. It is possible to use different shapes of blocks. As is shown in the Figure, the blocks are incorporated in a logical loop, which may operate as a “BUS” on which a priority order in the array of blocks is realized, for example, by having the extreme left block start the query. This is indicated by the broken-line loops. In this case, the extreme left block queries its neighbor, and so forth.

As an extension to the array described above, a two-dimensional array of blocks may be alternatively used, in which a combination of a matrix of blocks shows the image of an animal, an object, or a scene. A correct combination of such a “jigsaw puzzle” will be signalized. The invention may also be used as a crossword puzzle. In that case, the communication between blocks is active in four directions, so that a block simultaneously forms part of two concatenations. In practice, “words” and the like will not be formed simultaneously, so that only a brief signalization of a “new” correct concatenation does not lead to confusion.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram of the electronic components within such a body. For the sake of simplicity, the interconnections between the components are not shown. The logic-organizational center is the CPU 40 in which the sequence of steps is controlled and the presence or absence of a “correct” combination is detected. Reference numerals 38 and 42 denote the wireless communication units to the left and right, respectively. As the case may be, six directions of communication may be realized. Reference numeral 44 denotes the memory which may comprise a static program and can also be loaded, because a number of combinations (block concatenations) are externally provided from a readable memory such as a CD-ROM. A position, or orientation, sensor is denoted by reference numeral 46. PSE unit 34 supplies the required power supply voltages to the components. To this end, it is fed by an accumulator or battery unit 48 which is connectable to a charging device that may be active when the playing blocks are stored in a compartmented box having a facility for connection to the mains (see FIG. 5). The separate batteries can be charged inductively. If the communication between the blocks also takes place inductively, a different frequency band may be chosen for charging the batteries.

The unit denoted by reference numeral 36 can be used to load the memory 44 with new information, for example, for switching between the subjects of “arithmetic” and “language”. Alternatively, the loading unit may be accommodated in the above-mentioned box. A sound signal or a light signal emitted by the sound unit 30 or the light unit 32, respectively, indicates that a correct word, sum, or the like has been “laid”. The Figure does not show a display which may possibly be provided on a face of the block, visualizing the block identity as a figure or number, a letter or character, a sign or symbol, or an image, which identity may be changed by loading the relevant information.

FIG. 3 is a flow chart of detecting and visualizing a given physical concatenation. The procedure is started in step 60, for example, in that a given block receives a signal from another block and detects whether it has a “left” neighbor. If it has a “left” neighbor, the relevant block will stop searching independently for a “correct” combination. However, if a block detects that it has a right instead of a left neighbor, the operation proceeds to step 62. In step 62, the starting block detects whether a combination has been made with its own identity and that of its detected neighbor. This will often not yet be the case. It is then detected in step 64 whether a combination can be made with the array found. If this is impossible, for example, due to a combination of letters “xy” that does not occur in a word, the system proceeds to step 74 “stop”; the queried blocks may emit a buzzing sound to indicate failure.

When the combination is “possible”, but not yet realized, for example, by the combination of characters “ko” that will eventually lead to “koe” (Dutch for “cow”), the querying block proceeds to step 66, in which a short delay is realized, for example, to let all query processes come to en end (there is indeed a left neighbor). Subsequently, the next neighbor is queried in step 68, i.e. first of all, the second neighbor on the left. When a positive result is achieved in step 62 after several cycles, the system proceeds to step 70. In this step, the member blocks of the combination, i.e. those that have indeed been queried, are sent an OK signal. These blocks then emit a signal in step 72, for example, a light signal for five seconds, an audio jingle, or the like. The system subsequently proceeds to step 74.

Several possibilities may still occur:

    • 1. A block that has not been queried does not emit a signal. When the combination that has been laid is “koet”, the process of querying on the left will stop at “e”, because a correct word has then been found. The letter “t” has not been queried and will not emit a signal. Consequently, it is also possible to always query all blocks and to emit a signal only when the whole concatenation forms a correct word. Thus, in the link between step 62 and step 70, the question “last?” is asked and the system proceeds to step 70 only when the answer is “yes”, or else it will proceed to step 66.
    • 2. Querying may be performed in a different order, for example, starting from the right, or always starting from the block that has been laid first. The latter is signalized because the block detects a change of position, for example, by means of a motion sensor.
    • 3. Querying in two matrix directions may be performed independently. When a “combination” is detected, an “AND” function is formed between the two directions of coordinates in the relevant blocks.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a block-shaped body. Its top face will generally be its identity, in this case “E”. It is alternatively possible that one front face will be the subsidiary identity, in this case “A”. In the case of letters or figures that may also be valid when shown “upside down”, a separate symbol, for example, a dot or an underscore is provided for the purpose of distinction. The circles on the side faces indicate, for example, LEDs that start blinking when a correct concatenation has been formed on the relevant side of the block. An advantageous feature is audio, indicating the block identity (letter or character, figure or number, sign or symbol, animal, or the like) by pronouncing the relevant name (of a figure or number, a sign or symbol, or a plant) or emitting the sound (of an animal) when a block is touched. Alternatively, the sound of the entire word formed can be emitted.

FIG. 5 shows a storage box with control and charge facilities. In practice, the number of compartments will often be larger, for example, sixteen. Here, one block fits in each compartment. Furthermore, there is a charging device for charging the batteries in the blocks and for loading the memories in the blocks with new information. In this way, the system can, as it were, “grow up with the child”. Element 80 is the mains voltage adapter. Element 82 is an on-off tumbler switch. Element 84 is a display indicating, for example, the different modes of the box, such as “charging current”, “loading information”, “ready”, “on-off”, etc. Element 86 is a pushbutton for giving a “load information” command. Element 88 is a slot for inserting a storage medium, such as a floppy, a CD-ROM, a memory stick, or an optically readable card with new information to be loaded into the block memories. Socket 83 is suitable for e.g. a USB plug.

FIG. 6 shows a storage element for loading new information into the bodies. It may be formatted and organized in a conventional way. A booklet with examples and other information is supplied along with the purchase of a new storage element for e.g. a different vocabulary or another language. The information to be loaded may alternatively be obtained directly from a computer. Under circumstances, the computer may even have a constant connection via socket 83 to the storage box shown in FIG. 5.

FIG. 7 is a two-dimensional configuration of bodies. A first application is shown as a jigsaw puzzle, in which case the formation of an image depicting a “cow” is detected and signalized, for example, by reproducing a mooing sound. Another possibility is to form the image by vertically stacking the blocks—as shown—with their top faces showing the word “koe” (“cow”).

FIGS. 8a and 8b show further embodiments of the invention. At the instant when the blocks detect a correct combination, one of the effects may be a change of the images on the sides of the blocks, see FIG. 8a. At the instant when the blocks are moved away from one another, the original images reappear, see FIG. 8b.

It is to be noted that the protective scope of the invention is not limited to the embodiments described and that those skilled in the art will be able to conceive many variants without departing from the scope of the appended claims. Consequently, the preferred embodiments should be considered as illustrative examples from which no limitations are to be concluded other than those that would be based on the claims.

In this respect it is to be noted that the visualizations of the educational toy according to the present invention also may enable a child to learn the grammar of languages and to learn songs or to compose music. Furthermore it is to be noted that instead of a buzzing sound to indicate failure other disapproving signals or sounds may be used. Alternatively such signals may be replaced by encouraging signals or the provision of a (visual or acoustic) hint. In case of a word formed, the phonetic pronunciation thereof may be emitted either visually or acoustically.