Title:
Gaming indicator
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A gaming machine method and apparatus may have a rotatable object configured to rotate about a first point that is also an axis of rotation, and a plurality of segments provided on the rotatable object, each plurality of segments having an area proportional to a probability of success of winning a prize, wherein the plurality of segments radiate from a second point. In other embodiments, the segments may be formed to create visual effects when the rotatable object is spun.



Inventors:
Lemay, Steven (Reno, NV, US)
Wolf, Bryan (Reno, NV, US)
Nelson, Dwayne (Las Vegas, NV, US)
Application Number:
11/724721
Publication Date:
09/18/2008
Filing Date:
03/15/2007
Assignee:
IGT (Reno, NV, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
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20090203451Gaming Systems Configured for Large Scale Controlled and Secure Data DownloadingAugust, 2009Gatto et al.
20040063500Gaming device networkApril, 2004Wells
20040063497Gaming server providing on demand quality of serviceApril, 2004Gould
20050192083Gaming machine with payout tableSeptember, 2005Iwamoto
20060154714Gaming device having a predetermined result poker gameJuly, 2006Montross et al.
20090325704Dynamic Selection of Voice Quality Over a Wireless SystemDecember, 2009Tom et al.
20080268959GAMING COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT AND PERSONALIZATIONOctober, 2008Bryson et al.
20080009342ACCOUNT ADJUSTING SYSTEMJanuary, 2008Nonaka



Foreign References:
WO2007007262A22007-01-18
WO2006029446A12006-03-23
Primary Examiner:
MCCULLOCH JR, WILLIAM H
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Weaver Austin Villeneuve & Sampson LLP - IGT;Attn: IGT (P.O. Box 70250, Oakland, CA, 94612-0250, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A gaming machine indicator, comprising: a rotatable object configured to rotate about a first point that is also an axis of rotation; and a plurality of asymmetrical segments provided on the rotatable object, each plurality of asymmetrical segments having an area proportional to a probability of success of winning a prize, wherein the plurality of segments radiate from a second point.

2. The indicator of claim 1, wherein the plurality of asymmetrical segments are associated with at least two different prizes.

3. The indicator of claim 1, further comprising a sensor to detect a location of one of the plurality of asymmetrical segments.

4. The indicator of claim 3, wherein the sensor is an optical sensor.

5. The indicator of claim 1, wherein the rotatable object is in the form of a wheel.

6. The indicator of claim 1, wherein the rotatable object is a three-dimensional sphere.

7. The indicator of claim 1, wherein the rotatable object is in a shape of a sports ball.

8. The indicator of claim 1, further comprising at least two pointers positioned outside the rotatable object to indicate the winning asymmetrical segment.

9. The indicator of claim 1, wherein each of the plurality of asymmetrical segments further comprises a light, wherein the light is configured to illuminate the winning asymmetrical segment.

10. The indicator of claim 1, wherein an outer circumference of each of the plurality of asymmetrical segments are equal.

11. The indicator of claim 1, further comprising an inner portion having a diameter smaller than the diameter of the rotatable object.

12. The indicator of claim 11, wherein the inner portion is configured to rotate about the first axis of rotation.

13. The indicator of claim 1, further comprising a random number generator coupled to the rotatable object configured to generate a plurality of random numbers.

14. The indicator of claim 13, further comprising means for controlling the rotatable object to indicate a first winning asymmetrical segment corresponding to a first random number generated by the random number generator.

15. The indicator of claim 14, wherein the means for controlling further comprises a motor coupled to the rotatable object configured to control the rotation of the rotatable object.

16. The indicator of claim 15, wherein the motor is a stepper motor.

17. the indicator of claim 14, wherein the means for controlling further comprises a signal transmitted from a controller to the rotatable object.

18. A gaming method, comprising: determining a probability of success for winning a plurality of prizes on a rotatable object; radiating a plurality of asymmetrical segments from a point different from the axis of rotation for the rotatable object; corresponding each of the plurality of asymmetrical segments to each of the plurality of prizes; and forming the plurality of asymmetrical segments such that the area is equal to the probability of success of winning the corresponding prize.

19. The method of claim 18, further comprising spinning the rotatable object.

20. The method of claim 18, further comprising generating a winning random number from a random number generator.

21. The method of claim 20, further comprising means for indicating the asymmetrical segment corresponding to the winning random number.

22. The method of claim 21, wherein the means for indicating further comprises lighting the asymmetrical segment corresponding to the winning random number.

23. The method of claim 21, wherein the means for indicating further comprises controlling the rotatable object to match a pointer to the asymmetrical segment corresponding to the winning random number.

24. The method of claim 23, wherein the rotatable object is controlled by a motor.

25. The method of claim 23, wherein the means for controlling further comprises transmitting a signal from a controller to the rotatable object.

26. The method of claim 18, wherein the means for forming further comprises creating a psychedelic visual effect when the rotatable object is spun.

27. A gaming machine indicator, comprising: a controller coupled to a display to virtually display a rotatable object, the rotatable object configured to rotate about a first point that is also an axis of rotation; a plurality of segments provided on the rotatable object, each plurality of segments extending from a second point.

28. The indicator of claim 27, wherein the rotatable object is a bistable electrophoretic display.

29. The indicator of claim 27, wherein the plurality of segments are asymmetrical.

30. The indicator of claim 27, wherein the plurality of segments are associated with at least two different prizes.

31. The indicator of claim 27, further comprising a sensor to detect a location of one of the plurality of segments.

32. The indicator of claim 31, wherein the sensor is an optical sensor.

33. The indicator of claim 27, further comprising an outer mechanical indicator.

34. The indicator of claim 27, wherein each of the plurality of segments further comprise a light, wherein the light is configured to illuminate the winning segment.

35. The indicator of claim 27, wherein an outer circumference of each of the plurality of segments are equal.

36. The indicator of claim 27, further comprising an inner portion having a diameter smaller than the diameter of the rotatable object.

37. The indicator of claim 27, wherein each of the plurality of segments have an area proportional to a probability of success of winning a prize.

38. The indicator of claim 27, wherein each of the plurality of segments forms a psychedelic visual effect when the rotatable object is spun.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to indicators. More particularly, the present invention relates to indicators used in gaming machines.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Games of chance have been enjoyed by people for years and have enjoyed widespread popularity. Casinos and other forms of gaming comprise a growing multi-billion dollar industry both domestically and abroad, with electronic and microprocessor based gaming machines being more popular than ever. In a typical electronic gaming machine, such as a slot machine, video poker machine, video keno machine or the like, a game play is initiated through a player wager of money or credit, whereupon the gaming machine determines a game outcome, presents the game outcome to the player and then potentially dispenses an award of some type, including a monetary award, depending upon the game outcome. Many additional gaming machine components, features and programs have been made possible in recent years through this proliferation of electronic gaming machines, including those involving linked progressive jackpots, player tracking and loyalty points programs, and various forms of cashless gaming, among other items. Many of these added components, features and programs can involve the implementation of various back-end and/or networked systems, including more hardware and software elements, as is generally known.

Electronic and microprocessor based gaming machines themselves can include various hardware and software components to provide a wide variety of game types and game playing capabilities, with such hardware and software components being generally well known in the art. A typical electronic gaming machine will have a central processing unit (“CPU”) or master gaming controller (“MGC”) that controls various combinations of hardware and software devices and components that encourage game play, allow a player to play a game on the gaming machine and control payouts and other awards. Software components can include, for example, boot and initialization routines, various game play programs and subroutines, credit and payout routines, image and audio generation programs, various component modules and a random number generator, among others. Hardware devices and peripherals can include, for example, bill validators, coin acceptors, card readers, keypads, buttons, levers, touch screens, coin hoppers, player tracking units and the like.

In addition, each gaming machine can have various audio and visual display components that can include, for example, speakers, display panels, belly and top glasses, exterior cabinet artwork, lights, and top box dioramas, as well as any number of video displays of various types to show game play and other assorted information, with such video display types including, for example, a cathode ray tube (“CRT”), a liquid crystal display (“LCD”), a light emitting diode (“LED”), a flat panel display and a plasma display, among others. Apparatuses and methods for providing displays in gaming machines and/or within a casino are generally well known, and instances of such apparatuses and methods can be found in, for example, U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,135,884; 6,251,014; and 6,503,147, all of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety and for all purposes. Such video displays can be used to simulate mechanical gaming reels, whereby all elements of the displayed wheels are controlled and displayed electronically. Alternatively, physical gaming reels may be displayed behind a main display glass or other like viewing element, with the rotation and positioning of these physically present gaming reels being determined and controlled electronically, as is known in the art.

Various methods of gaining and maintaining interest in game play include designing and providing gaming machines with intriguing and different themes, game types, artwork, visual displays, sounds and the like. One attractive feature for many players is the use of a mechanical rotating bonus wheel or a virtual animated bonus wheel in a gaming machine, particularly where the bonus wheel is integrated with game play and/or other pertinent presentations to a game player. The bonus wheel tends to be relatively dramatic and attracts players due to the excitement of playing the bonus round.

Since it is desirable to offer players games that they have not played before, it would be desirable to provide a player with new games and additional opportunities to receive winning payouts. Since games with large wheel spins have gained popularity over the past few years, it would be desirable to provide new wheels or payout indicators discernible by a player and/or other observers.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

A gaming machine apparatus and method uses an indicator or rotatable object whereby the segments on the indicator have an area that is representative of the probability of success of winning the prize on the segment. The segments may also radiate from a point that is different from the axis of rotation of the rotatable object. This may create various visual effects that may be pleasing to a player.

The gaming machine apparatus may have a rotatable object configured to rotate about a first point that is also an axis of rotation, and a plurality of asymmetrical segments provided on the rotatable object, each plurality of asymmetrical segments having an area proportional to a probability of success of winning a prize, wherein the plurality of segments radiate from a second point.

The gaming method may comprise determining a probability of success for winning a plurality of prizes on a rotatable object, radiating a plurality of asymmetrical segments from a point different from the axis of rotation for the rotatable object, corresponding each of the plurality of asymmetrical segments to each of the plurality of prizes, and forming the plurality of asymmetrical segments such that the area is equal to the probability of success of winning the corresponding prize.

The present invention provides other hardware configured to perform the methods of the invention, as well as software stored in a machine-readable medium (e.g., a tangible storage medium) to control devices to perform these methods. These and other features of the present invention will be presented in more detail in the following detailed description of the invention and the associated figures.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated into and constitute a part of this specification, illustrate one or more embodiments of the invention.

In the drawings:

FIGS. 1A and 1B illustrate exemplary gaming machines.

FIG. 2 illustrates a block diagram depicting an exemplary embodiment of the rotatable object.

FIGS. 3A-3D illustrate various embodiments of the rotatable object.

FIG. 4 illustrates yet various other embodiments of the rotatable object.

FIG. 5 illustrates another embodiment of a rotatable object with pointers.

FIG. 6 is a flow diagram of a gaming method using a rotatable object.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Embodiments are described herein in the context of a gaming indicator. Those of ordinary skill in the art will realize that the following detailed description is illustrative only and is not intended to be in any way limiting. Other embodiments will readily suggest themselves to such skilled persons having the benefit of this disclosure. Reference will now be made in detail to implementations as illustrated in the accompanying drawings. The same reference indicators will be used throughout the drawings and the following detailed description to refer to the same or like parts.

In the interest of clarity, not all of the routine features of the implementations described herein are shown and described. It will, of course, be appreciated that in the development of any such actual implementation, numerous implementation-specific decisions must be made in order to achieve the developer's specific goals, such as compliance with application- and business-related constraints, and that these specific goals will vary from one implementation to another and from one developer to another. Moreover, it will be appreciated that such a development effort might be complex and time-consuming, but would nevertheless be a routine undertaking of engineering for those of ordinary skill in the art having the benefit of this disclosure.

Some implementations of the invention relate to an indicator or rotatable object used in gaming machines whereby the segments on the indicator have an area that is representative of the probability of success of winning the prize on the segment. The segments may also radiate from a point different from the axis of rotation of the rotatable object. In other implementations, the segments may be designed to achieve a certain visual effect. Different patterns, when the rotatable object is spun, may result in eye-catching effects to attract players. For example, when the gaming indicator 420 illustrated in FIG. 4 is spun, the resulting psychedelic-type effect may be pleasing to certain players. In other embodiments, the facts that the segments radiate from a point different than the axis of rotation of the rotatable object may create other visually pleasing or non-pleasing effects. The players may then want to play the gaming machine to simply try and spin the wheel to see the pattern on the rotating object again. In another embodiment, the visual effect may be based on a game theme such as the popular culture icon Austin Powers. The game may have a psychedelic pattern to achieve the “Groovy Baby!” effect.

FIGS. 1A-1B illustrate exemplary gaming machines. A gaming machine 102 includes a main gaming terminal housing or lower portion 104 and an upper portion 106 including a rotatable object 108. The gaming machine 102 may rest on a stand or pedestal 112. The lower portion 104 may be configured as a slot machine and, preferably, the lower portion 104 can use, with a need for no more than relatively minor modifications, any of a number of previous slot machines such as previous electronic or computer-controlled slot machines including those available from IGT of Reno, Nev. Modifications to previous slot machines for use in accordance with embodiments of the present invention can include, e.g., providing graphics, instructions, prize indications and the like to inform players how to play the game, provision of one or more displayable or highlightable indicia, such as indicia on one or more of the reels of the slot machine 114 for indicating play or display of the rotatable object 108 and provisions for outputting signals from the lower portion 104 to control rotation or other operation of the upper portion 106, e.g., via cables, fiber optics, buses, wireless links or other communication links. In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 1, the communication links may be carried in a column 116 which positions and supports the upper portion 106 with respect to the lower portion 104.

The lower portion 104 contains a number of items commonly found in slot machines such as a bill acceptor 118, a button panel 122 for providing user controls such as spin, bet, payout and the like, a handle 124, graphics or instructions regarding payouts from various winning combinations and/or instructions or attraction graphics regarding progressive prizes 126 and, a progressive prize display 128. The upper portion 106 including the rotatable object 108 may be spaced a distance 130 from the main gaming terminal housing 104. In use, the user places a wager, e.g., via a bill acceptor, coin slot, card reader, button controls, touch screen or the like. In response to any of a number of types of user input, such as pulling the handle 124 or pressing a spin button 122, the reels 114 of the slot machine will rotate and will stop to display an unpredictable, preferably random, combination of reel symbols on the visible portion of the reels 114. In one embodiment, prizes, preferably monetary prizes, are awarded in response to at least some symbol combinations, at least some combinations preferably being associated with predetermined or fixed prizes.

The rotatable object 108 may play any of a number of roles in the game, depending on how the game is configured. In some embodiments, the rotatable object 108 may be used at least partially in connection with a win-loss decision, i.e., determining whether a prize will be awarded in response to a round of play (or portion thereof), in a bonus round, etc. In this regard, according to one embodiment, a “round” of play includes one slot machine reel spin activity. Those of skill in the art will understand how to coordinate rotatable object portions of the game with game portions other than a slot machine (such as games in which the lower portion 104 is provided as a simulated card game, keno game, and the like). Relevant devices and methods can be found in, for example, in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,788,573 and 6,224,483, and in the Wheel of Fortune® Gaming Machines.

In other embodiments, the rotatable object 108 may be used in determining the size or amount of a prize but may not be used in determining whether a prize is awarded or not, i.e., may not be involved in the win/loss decision. In one embodiment, a predetermined combination of reel symbols 114 indicates that a prize has been won with the amount of the prize to be determined, preferably randomly, using the rotatable object 108. In another embodiment, the gaming terminal is configured such that, in response to such a predetermined combination of reel symbols, either automatically or after a user pushes a button (such as a wheel spin button 122), the wheel 108 is caused to rotate about its axis 133 (e.g., by activation of a motor) and thereafter stops, preferably at a randomly selected position, with a pointer 136 pointing to a location of the wheel 108 bearing an indicium (such as a numeral) indicating the size of the prize which has been won.

Although the embodiment of FIG. 1A depicts a physical rotatable object, it is also possible to provide a virtual or video display of a simulated rotatable object. Alternatively, the rotatable object may comprise both a mechanical and video rotatable object as described with reference to FIG. 1B. The gaming machine 100 may have a top box 111 and a main cabinet 142, one or both of which can comprise an exterior housing arranged to contain a number of internal gaming machine components. The gaming machine may have a main door 154, a primary video display monitor 156 and one or more speakers 152.

Top box 111 may contain a video display 140 surrounded by a mechanically driven rotatable object 160. In one embodiment, the video display 140 may be any bistable electrophoretic display, such as electronic paper. The rotatable object 160 may have the ability to rotate around the video display 140. The rotatable object 160 may rotate around an axis 150 that may be substantially horizontal with respect to an ordinary upright position of the gaming machine 100. The direction of rotation may include clockwise, counter-clockwise or combinations thereof.

The present invention is not limited to this orientation of axis 150. For example, an angle of the axis of rotation 150 relative to a front viewing surface of the gaming machine may be varied. For instance, when mounted in a top box, the axis 150 may be tilted down to change a viewing angle of the rotatable object relative to a player playing at the gaming machine 10. As is generally known in the art, many standard slot machines have gaming reels that rotate about an axis 151 that is substantially horizontal with respect to an ordinary upright position of the gaming machine.

The inner video display and the rotatable object are configured as a wheel where the inner video display is controlled by a video controller. The inner wheel displays segments and each segment may have an indicia located within the segment.

During operation of the wheel, a virtual tile may mask one or more of the segments and their corresponding indicia. The gaming machine may be operable to receive an input that allows a segment to be selected. After receiving an input indicating a selection of the segment or under control of the master gaming controller on the gaming machine, the virtual tile may be removed to reveal an underlying indicia to the game player.

The inner wheel may be surrounded by the mechanically driven outer wheel that has the ability to rotate around the inner video display. A mechanized wheel controller controls the mechanized outer wheel. In one embodiment, the gaming machine's MGC coordinates output from the video controller and from the mechanized wheel controller. The output from the controllers may be coordinated so that images displayed on the inner video appear to move in sync with the motion of. the mechanized outer wheel. In various embodiments of the present invention, a direction of rotation, a speed of rotation and an axis of rotation for a rotatable object may be varied.

For example, on a mechanized outer wheel divided into pie shaped segments, a motion of the combination video-mechanical wheel may be triggered by an event that occurs during game play. Then, the MGC may set the outer mechanized wheel in motion and then display pie shaped images on the inner video display that appear to rotate in sync with the outer mechanized rotatable wheel until the wheel comes to rest. In one instance, an outside pointer, attached to the video-mechanical wheel, may be used to indicate a location of on the video-mechanical wheel. The pointer may be a physical device attached to the video-mechanical wheel or may be generated as an image on the inner video display. During operation of the video-mechanical wheel, different indicia displayed on the inner video display may appear to rotate through the location indicated by the pointer. When the mechanical portion of the video-mechanical wheel comes to rest, a prize indicated by the indicia at the location of the pointer may be awarded to the player. A more detailed description of the video-mechanical wheel and various other embodiments are discussed in application Ser. No. 11/218,688, entitled “VIDEO AND MECHANICAL SPINNING BONUS WHEEL”, filed Sep. 2, 2005 and hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety for all purposes.

Understand that gaming machine 102 is but one example from a wide range of gaming machine designs on which the present invention may be implemented. For example, suitable gaming machines may have top boxes or player tracking features. Further, some gaming machines have only a single game display—mechanical or video, while others are designed for bar tables and have displays that face upwards. As another example, a game may be generated in a host computer and may be displayed on a remote terminal or a remote gaming device. The remote gaming device may be connected to the host computer via a network of some type such as a local area network, a wide area network, an intranet or the Internet. The remote gaming device may be a portable gaming device such as but not limited to a cell phone, a personal digital assistant, and a wireless game player. Images rendered from 3-D gaming environments may be displayed on portable gaming devices that are used to play a game of chance. Further a gaming machine or server may include gaming logic for commanding a remote gaming device to render an image from a virtual camera in a 3-D gaming environments stored on the remote gaming device and to display the rendered image on a display located on the remote gaming device. Thus, those of skill in the art will understand that the present invention, as described below, can be deployed on most any gaming machine now available or hereafter developed.

Some preferred gaming machines of the present assignee are implemented with special features and/or additional circuitry that differentiates them from general-purpose computers (e.g., desktop PC's and laptops). Gaming machines are highly regulated to ensure fairness and, in many cases, gaming machines are operable to dispense monetary awards of multiple millions of dollars. Therefore, to satisfy security and regulatory requirements in a gaming environment, hardware and software architectures may be implemented in gaming machines that differ significantly from those of general-purpose computers. A description of gaming machines relative to general-purpose computing machines and some examples of the additional (or different) components and features found in gaming machines are described below.

At first glance, one might think that adapting PC technologies to the gaming industry would be a simple proposition because both PCs and gaming machines employ microprocessors that control a variety of devices. However, because of such reasons as 1) the regulatory requirements that are placed upon gaming machines, 2) the harsh environment in which gaming machines operate, 3) security requirements and 4) fault tolerance requirements, adapting PC technologies to a gaming machine can be quite difficult. Further, techniques and methods for solving a problem in the PC industry, such as device compatibility and connectivity issues, might not be adequate in the gaming environment. For instance, a fault or a weakness tolerated in a PC, such as security holes in software or frequent crashes, may not be tolerated in a gaming machine because in a gaming machine these faults can lead to a direct loss of funds from the gaming machine, such as stolen cash or loss of revenue when the gaming machine is not operating properly.

For the purposes of illustration, a few differences between PC systems and gaming systems will be described. A first difference between gaming machines and common PC based computers systems is that gaming machines are designed to be state-based systems. In a state-based system, the system stores and maintains its current state in a non-volatile memory, such that, in the event of a power failure or other malfunction the gaming machine will return to its current state when the power is restored. For instance, if a player was shown an award for a game of chance and, before the award could be provided to the player the power failed, the gaming machine, upon the restoration of power, would return to the state where the award is indicated. As anyone who has used a PC, knows, PCs are not state machines and a majority of data is usually lost when a malfunction occurs. This requirement affects the software and hardware design on a gaming machine.

A second important difference between gaming machines and common PC based computer systems is that for regulation purposes, the software on the gaming machine used to generate the game of chance and operate the gaming machine has been designed to be static and monolithic to prevent cheating by the operator of gaming machine. For instance, one solution that has been employed in the gaming industry to prevent cheating and satisfy regulatory requirements has been to manufacture a gaming machine that can use a proprietary processor running instructions to generate the game of chance from an EPROM or other form of non-volatile memory. The coding instructions on the EPROM are static (non-changeable) and must be approved by a gaming regulators in a particular jurisdiction and installed in the presence of a person representing the gaming jurisdiction. Any changes to any part of the software required to generate the game of chance, such as adding a new device driver used by the master gaming controller to operate a device during generation of the game of chance can require a new EPROM to be burnt, approved by the gaming jurisdiction and reinstalled on the gaming machine in the presence of a gaming regulator. Regardless of whether the EPROM solution is used, to gain approval in most gaming jurisdictions, a gaming machine must demonstrate sufficient safeguards that prevent an operator or player of a gaming machine from manipulating hardware and software in a manner that gives them an unfair and some cases an illegal advantage. The gaming machine should have a means to determine if the code it will execute is valid. If the code is not valid, the gaming machine must have a means to prevent the code from being executed. The code validation requirements in the gaming industry affect both hardware and software designs on gaming machines.

A third important difference between gaming machines and common PC based computer systems is the number and kinds of peripheral devices used on a gaming machine are not as great as on PC based computer systems. Traditionally, in the gaming industry, gaming machines have been relatively simple in the sense that the number of peripheral devices and the number of functions the gaming machine has been limited. Further, in operation, the functionality of gaming machines were relatively constant once the gaming machine was deployed, i.e., new peripherals devices and new gaming software were infrequently added to the gaming machine. This differs from a PC where users will go out and buy different combinations of devices and software from different manufacturers and connect them to a PC to suit their needs depending on a desired application. Therefore, the types of devices connected to a PC may vary greatly from user to user depending in their individual requirements and may vary significantly over time.

Although the variety of devices available for a PC may be greater than on a gaming machine, gaming machines still have unique device requirements that differ from a PC, such as device security requirements not usually addressed by PCs. For instance, monetary devices, such as coin dispensers, bill validators and ticket printers and computing devices that are used to govern the input and output of cash to a gaming machine have security requirements that are not typically addressed in PCs. Therefore, many PC techniques and methods developed to facilitate device connectivity and device compatibility do not address the emphasis placed on security in the gaming industry.

To address some of the issues described above, a number of hardware/software components and architectures are utilized in gaming machines that are not typically found in general purpose computing devices, such as PCs. These hardware/software components and architectures, as described below in more detail, include but are not limited to watchdog timers, voltage monitoring systems, state-based software architecture and supporting hardware, specialized communication interfaces, security monitoring and trusted memory.

A watchdog timer is normally used in gaming machines to provide a software failure detection mechanism. In a normally operating system, the operating software periodically accesses control registers in the watchdog timer subsystem to “re-trigger” the watchdog. Should the operating software fail to access the control registers within a preset timeframe, the watchdog timer will timeout and generate a system reset. Typical watchdog timer circuits contain a loadable timeout counter register to allow the operating software to set the timeout interval within a certain range of time. A differentiating feature of the some preferred circuits is that the operating software cannot completely disable the function of the watchdog timer. In other words, the watchdog timer always functions from the time power is applied to the board.

Gaming computer platforms preferably use several power supply voltages to operate portions of the computer circuitry. These can be generated in a central power supply or locally on the computer board. If any of these voltages falls out of the tolerance limits of the circuitry they power, unpredictable operation of the computer may result. Though most modern general-purpose computers include voltage monitoring circuitry, these types of circuits only report voltage status to the operating software. Out of tolerance voltages can cause software malfunction, creating a potential uncontrolled condition in the gaming computer. Gaming machines of the present assignee typically have power supplies with tighter voltage margins than that required by the operating circuitry. In addition, the voltage monitoring circuitry implemented in gaming computers typically has two thresholds of control. The first threshold generates a software event that can be detected by the operating software and an error condition generated. This threshold is triggered when a power supply voltage falls out of the tolerance range of the power supply, but is still within the operating range of the circuitry. The second threshold is set when a power supply voltage falls out of the operating tolerance of the circuitry. In this case, the circuitry generates a reset, halting operation of the computer.

The standard method of operation for slot machine game software is to use a state machine. Different functions of the game (bet, play, result, points in the graphical presentation, etc.) may be defined as a state. When a game moves from one state to another, critical data regarding the game software is stored in a custom non-volatile memory subsystem. This is critical to ensure the player's wager and credits are preserved and to minimize potential disputes in the event of a malfunction on the gaming machine.

In general, the gaming machine does not advance from a first state to a second state until critical information that allows the first state to be reconstructed is stored. This feature allows the game to recover operation to the current state of play in the event of a malfunction, loss of power, etc that occurred just prior to the malfunction. After the state of the gaming machine is restored during the play of a game of chance, game play may resume and the game may be completed in a manner that is no different than if the malfunction had not occurred. Typically, battery backed RAM devices are used to preserve this critical data although other types of non-volatile memory devices may be employed. These memory devices are not used in typical general-purpose computers.

As described in the preceding paragraph, when a malfunction occurs during a game of chance, the gaming machine may be restored to a state in the game of chance just prior to when the malfunction occurred. The restored state may include metering information and graphical information that was displayed on the gaming machine in the state prior to the malfunction. For example, when the malfunction occurs during the play of a card game after the cards have been dealt, the gaming machine may be restored with the cards that were previously displayed as part of the card game. As another example, a bonus game may be triggered during the play of a game of chance where a player is required to make a number of selections on a video display screen. When a malfunction has occurred after the player has made one or more selections, the gaming machine may be restored to a state that shows the graphical presentation at the just prior to the malfunction including an indication of selections that have already been made by the player. In general, the gaming machine may be restored to any state in a plurality of states that occur in the game of chance that occurs while the game of chance is played or to states that occur between the play of a game of chance.

Game history information regarding previous games played such as an amount wagered, the outcome of the game and so forth may also be stored in a non-volatile memory device. The information stored in the non-volatile memory may be detailed enough to reconstruct a portion of the graphical presentation that was previously presented on the gaming machine and the state of the gaming machine (e.g., credits) at the time the game of chance was played. The game history information may be utilized in the event of a dispute. For example, a player may decide that in a previous game of chance that they did not receive credit for an award that they believed they won. The game history information may be used to reconstruct the state of the gaming machine prior, during and/or after the disputed game to demonstrate whether the player was correct or not in their assertion.

Another feature of gaming machines is that they often contain unique interfaces, including serial interfaces, to connect to specific subsystems internal and external to the slot machine. The serial devices may have electrical interface requirements that differ from the “standard” EIA 232 serial interfaces provided by general-purpose computers. These interfaces may include EIA 485, EIA 422, Fiber Optic Serial, optically coupled serial interfaces, current loop style serial interfaces, etc. In addition, to conserve serial interfaces internally in the slot machine, serial devices may be connected in a shared, daisy-chain fashion where multiple peripheral devices are connected to a single serial channel.

The serial interfaces may be used to transmit information using communication protocols that are unique to the gaming industry. For example, IGT's Netplex is a proprietary communication protocol used for serial communication between gaming devices. As another example, SAS is a communication protocol used to transmit information, such as metering information, from a gaming machine to a remote device. Often SAS is used in conjunction with a player tracking system.

Gaming machines may alternatively be treated as peripheral devices to a casino communication controller and connected in a shared daisy chain fashion to a single serial interface. In both cases, the peripheral devices are preferably assigned device addresses. If so, the serial controller circuitry must implement a method to generate or detect unique device addresses. General-purpose computer serial ports are not able to do this.

Security monitoring circuits detect intrusion into a gaming machine by monitoring security switches attached to access doors in the slot machine cabinet. Preferably, access violations result in suspension of game play and can trigger additional security operations to preserve the current state of game play. These circuits also function when power is off by use of a battery backup. In power-off operation, these circuits continue to monitor the access doors of the slot machine. When power is restored, the gaming machine can determine whether any security violations occurred while power was off, e.g., via software for reading status registers. This can trigger event log entries and further data authentication operations by the slot machine software.

Trusted memory devices are preferably included in a gaming machine computer to ensure the authenticity of the software that may be stored on less secure memory subsystems, such as mass storage devices. Trusted memory devices and controlling circuitry are typically designed to not allow modification of the code and data stored in the memory device while the memory device is installed in the slot machine. The code and data stored in these devices may include authentication algorithms, random number generators, authentication keys, operating system kernels, etc. The purpose of these trusted memory devices is to provide gaming regulatory authorities a root trusted authority within the computing environment of the slot machine that can be tracked and verified as original. This may be accomplished via removal of the trusted memory device from the slot machine computer and verification of the secure memory device contents is a separate third party verification device. Once the trusted memory device is verified as authentic, and based on the approval of the verification algorithms contained in the trusted device, the gaming machine is allowed to verify the authenticity of additional code and data that may be located in the gaming computer assembly, such as code and data stored on hard disk drives. A few details related to trusted memory devices that may be used in the present invention are described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,685,567 from U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/925,098, filed Aug. 8, 2001 and titled “Process Verification,” which is incorporated herein in its entirety and for all purposes.

Mass storage devices used in a general purpose computer typically allow code and data to be read from and written to the mass storage device. In a gaming machine environment, modification of the gaming code stored on a mass storage device is strictly controlled and would only be allowed under specific maintenance type events with electronic and physical enablers required. Though this level of security could be provided by software, gaming computers that include mass storage devices preferably include hardware level mass storage data protection circuitry that operates at the circuit level to monitor attempts to modify data on the mass storage device and will generate both software and hardware error triggers should a data modification be attempted without the proper electronic and physical enablers being present.

FIG. 2 illustrates a block diagram depicting an exemplary embodiment of the rotatable object. It will be understood that this block diagram is merely exemplary and illustrative in nature, such that some blocks might be removed, others might be added, and the position of any blocks or groups of blocks might be altered. A communication interface 172 may be used to translate data between the logic device 170 and the MGC 180, the network 182 or a combination of both. The MGC 180 may be coupled to a random number generator 184 to generate a plurality of random numbers. The random numbers generated may be used to randomly determine the winning prize on the rotatable object 108. As further discussed below, the rotatable object 108 may be controlled to indicate the winning segment corresponding to a random number generated by the random number generator.

The logic device 170 may receive data that initializes the game play program for the rotatable object 108. The logic device 170 would then transmit the corresponding data to the rotatable object controller 164.

In one embodiment, a player may initiate the rotation of the rotatable object 108 by touching the screen of the rotatable object 108. Once the touchscreen sensors 148 senses the player's input, the touchscreen sensors 148 are adapted to notify the logic device 170. The logic device 170 would communicate the notification to either the MGC 180, the network 182 or the combination of both. The MGC 180, the network 182 or a combination of both would then relay data back to the logic device 170. It will be appreciated that the rotatable object 108 may not have touchscreen capabilities.

Based on the data received at the rotatable object controller 164, the rotatable object 108 may be adapted to rotate through the use of a motor, such as a stepper motor 163. The stepper motor 163 has the ability to rotate a ring gear coupled to the rotatable object 108. The position of the ring gear can be determined through the use of position sensors 166, such as optical sensors, light sensors, bar code readers, symbol readers, and the like. Once the rotatable object controller 164 receives information from the position sensors 166, the rotatable object controller can communicate the position data to the MGC 180, the network 182 or the combination of both. The MGC 180, the network 182 or a combination of both would then relay data back to the rotatable object controller 164, where the data can relate to the spinning of the rotatable object 108 or a new desired ending position for the rotatable object 108. The rotatable object controller 164 also controls the rotatable object lights 165 correlated with the rotatable object 108. For example, the rotatable object 108 may be include a number of light paths that can be lit in different combinations to generate an appearance of different light sequences as well as other patterns on the rotatable object 108. Alternatively, the rotatable object lights 165 may be used in place of the pointer 136 to light up and indicate the winning segment and prize displayed therein. It will be appreciated that the rotatable object controller 164 could be eliminated and the stepper motor 163, rotatable object lights 165 and the position sensors 166 could communicate directly to the logic device 170.

The logic device 170 may communicate with audio and video output devices 132, 134. The audio output device 132 is adapted to include speakers that deliver sound to the players based on an event. The audio output device 132 would communicate with a database having particular audio data located in the MGC 180 or the network 182. The video output device 134 may be adapted to include a secondary display and additional lights in order to draw players to play the gaming machine and to keep the player entertained while playing. The MGC 180, the logic device 170 or the network 182 could have the ability to control the visual output devices 134.

FIGS. 3A-3D illustrate various embodiments of the rotatable object. Each rotatable object 300, 310, 320, 330 may be configured to rotate about an axis of rotation 304. Rotatable object 300 may have a plurality of asymmetrical segments 302a-n (where n is an integer) having a variety of indicium written therein to represent a prize to win. Each asymmetrical segment may be associated with the same or different prize. Although the figures are not drawn to scale, each of asymmetrical segments 302a, 302b, 302c, 302n may have an area proportional to the probability of success of winning the prize. For exemplary purposes only and not intended to be limiting, the probability of success of winning a prize may be represented by Table 1 below:

TABLE 1
Probability of SuccessWinning Prize
45%Free Buffet
23% $5.00
10%$10.00
10%$15.00
 5%$50.00
 5%$75.00
 2%$99.00

Since there is a 45% probability of winning the free buffet 302a, the area of the segment for the free buffet 302a may be 45% of the area of the rotatable object 300. The area of the $5.00 segment 302b may be 23% of the area of the rotatable object 300, the area of the $10.00 and $15.00 segments 302c, 302d may each be 10% of the area of the rotatable object 300, and the area of the $50.00 and $75.00 segments 302e, 302f may each be 5% of the area of the rotatable object 300. Since there is only a 2% chance of winning the $99.00 prize, the segment 302n may only be 5% of the area of the rotatable object 300.

For rotatable object 310, the probability of success may be represented by Table 2 below:

TABLE 2
Probability of SuccessWinning Prize
40%Free Buffet
40%$25 Café Coupon
10%Motorcycle
10%Car

The area of the free buffet and $25 café coupon segments 312a, 312b may each represent 40% of the area of the rotatable object 310. The area of each of the motorcycle segments 312c may represent 5% of the area of the rotatable object 310, thereby being a total of 10% of the area of the rotatable object 310. The area of each of the car segments 312n may represent 5% of the area of the rotatable object, thereby being a total of 10% of the area of the rotatable object 310. Although the each of asymmetrical segments, e.g. 312a, 312b, 312c, 312n, may have an area proportional to the probability of success of winning the prize, this is merely the appearance of the proportionality. The winning prize may be chosen based upon a random number generator in the gaming machine.

With reference to FIG. 3C, the plurality of asymmetrical segments 322a, 322n may radiate or extend outwardly from a point 324 different than the axis of rotation 304 for the rotatable object 320. With reference to FIG. 3D, each segment may also extend or radiate outwardly from a different point than other segments. For example, segment 332a may extend from point 334a and segments 332b, 332n may extend from point 334n.

FIG. 4 illustrates yet various other embodiments of the rotatable object. The rotatable object may be any shape for form. The rotatable object may also be a three dimensional object, such as a sphere or half of a sphere, e.g. half of a basketball 440. As illustrated in FIGS. 3A-3D and 4, the rotatable objects are in the form of a wheel. However, the shape of the wheel may be an oval, square, rectangle, triangle, or the like. The plurality of asymmetrical segments may also be in any shape. As illustrated in FIG. 4, the asymmetrical segments may be in the shape of a triangle as illustrated in rotatable object 400 and 410, a circle as illustrated in rotatable object 430, or any random shapes, e.g., as illustrated in rotatable objects 420, 440, and 450. Additionally, the rotatable object may look like a sports ball, such as a basketball 440.

Each asymmetrical segment may radiate from a different point than the axis of rotation for the rotatable body. For example, the axis of rotation for rotatable object 450 may be at 452. However, the plurality of asymmetrical segments 456 may radiate from point 454. Additionally, the outer circumference of each of the plurality of asymmetrical segments may be equal or proportional. As illustrated with rotatable object 410, the outer circumference 412 of each of the asymmetrical segments may be equal. As illustrated with rotatable object 440, the outer circumference of asymmetrical segment 442 may be twice (2×) the outer circumference as asymmetrical segment 444 (x). This allows for ease in determining and detecting the location of each of the segments, such as with the use of the position sensor discussed above.

Furthermore, the segments may be designed to achieve a certain visual effect. Different patterns, when the rotatable object is spun, may result in eye-catching effects to attract players. For example, when the gaming indicator 420 illustrated in FIG. 4 is spun, the resulting psychedelic-type effect may be pleasing to certain players. In other embodiments, the facts that the segments radiate from a point different than the axis of rotation of the rotatable object may create other visually pleasing or non-pleasing effects. The players may then want to play the gaming machine to simply try and spin the wheel to see the pattern on the rotating object again. In another embodiment, the visual effect may be based on a game theme such as the popular culture icon Austin Powers. The game may have a psychedelic pattern to achieve the “Groovy Baby!” effect.

The rotatable object may also have an inner portion 422 as illustrated with rotatable object 420. The inner portion 422 may be any shape such as a circle having a diameter smaller than the diameter of the rotatable object 420, a triangle, square, star, blob, and the like. In another example, the inner portion 422 may also occupy the space between two focal points of an oval rotatable object. The inner portion 422 may have a center point 424 that is the same as the axis of rotation for the rotatable object 420. However, the plurality of segments 426 may radiate from a different point 428 than the axis of rotation 424 for the inner portion 422. Various indicia may be placed on the inner portion 422 to entice a player. Furthermore, the inner portion 422 may also have lights to light the inner portion 422 for visual effects. Alternatively, the inner portion 422 may be used as an additional bonus round, a second change opportunity to win a larger prize, or any other incentive.

Referring now to FIG. 5, an illustration of another embodiment of a rotatable object with pointers. The rotatable object 500 have a plurality pointers 504a, 504b, 504n. In use, as the rotatable object 500 spins, the pointers 504a, 504b, 504n may also light up. As the rotatable object 500 comes to a stop, one of the pointers 504a, 504b, 504n may light up to indicate the winning asymmetrical segment based upon the random number generated by the random number generator. The pointers 504a, 504b, 504n may be used for various other reasons. For example and not intended to be limiting, the pointers 504a, 504b, 504n may be used in a bonus round as an additional chance to win a prize. Thus, in addition to winning a prize from the rotatable object 500, the player may also win a prize selected by the pointers 504a, 504b, 504n.

Although illustrated with three pointers, the number of pointers is not intended to be limiting as any number of pointers may be used. For example, the plurality of asymmetrical segments of the rotatable object 500 may not have a light to indicate the winning asymmetrical segment. Thus, each segment may have a dedicated pointer that lights up to indicate the winning asymmetrical segment.

FIG. 6 is a flow diagram of a gaming method using a rotatable object. A probability of success for winning a prize on a rotatable object may be determined at 600. For example, the probably of success of winning a car may be lower than the probability of winning $5.00.

The rotatable body may have a plurality of segments with indicia written therein to indicate the prize. The plurality of segments may extend from a point different than the axis of rotation of the rotatable object at 602. One of the plurality of segments may correspond to one of the plurality of prizes at 604. The segments may be formed such that the area is equal to the probability of success of winning the corresponding prize at 606. In other implementations, the segments may be designed to achieve a certain visual effect. Different patterns, when the rotatable object is spun, may result in eye-catching effects to attract players. For example, a spin for certain patters may result in a psychedelic-type effect that may be pleasing to certain players. In certain patterns, the facts that the segments radiate from a point different than the axis of rotation of the rotatable object may create other visually pleasing or non-pleasing effects. The players may then want to play the gaming machine to simply try and spin the wheel to see the pattern on the rotating object again. In another embodiment, the visual effect may be based on a game theme such as the popular culture icon Austin Powers. The game may have a psychedelic pattern to achieve the “Groovy Baby!” effect.

In use, the rotatable object is spun at 608. Any electrical or manual means as discussed above may be used to rotate the rotatable object. For example, the mechanical rotating object may be spun with a motor. In other embodiments, the rotatable object may be a video or virtual wheel controlled by the MGC. For example, the virtual wheel may be of any bistable electrophoretic display, such as electronic paper. A winning random number may be generated from a random number generator at 610. The segment corresponding to the winning random number may be indicated at 612 to notify the player of the winning prize. Any means may be used to indicate the winning segment. For example, a light may be configured to light the segment corresponding to the winning random number. In another example, the rotation of the rotatable object may be controlled to match a pointer to the segment corresponding to the winning random number. As discussed above, any means may be used to control the rotation of the rotatable object, such as a motor.

While embodiments and applications of this invention have been shown and described, it would be apparent to those skilled in the art having the benefit of this disclosure that many more modifications than mentioned above are possible without departing from the inventive concepts herein.