Title:
INTERACTIVE MULTI-PLAYER AUDIO GAMING DEVICE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An interactive gaming system, preferably including multiple interactive storage medium devices, such as digital audio players. The interactive gaming system enables multiple users to link digital audio players to a central unit, whereby game play is structured around the selection of audio data in accordance to preprogrammed gaming content. The interactive gaming system further comprises a speaker and circuit board assembly operatively connected to buttons and lights, whereby multiple users may compete to answer questions and/or statements regarding audio data included in the users' digital audio players.



Inventors:
Rehkemper, Steven (Chicago, IL, US)
Kim, Daniel (Portland, OR, US)
Wilson, Jackson (Evanston, IL, US)
Application Number:
12/106829
Publication Date:
01/01/2009
Filing Date:
04/21/2008
Assignee:
REHCO LLC (Chicago, IL, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
D'AGOSTINO, PAUL ANTHONY
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ADAM K. SACHAROFF (MUCH SHELIST, PC 191 N. WACKER DRIVE, Suite 1800, CHICAGO, IL, 60606-1615, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. An interactive gaming system comprising: a central unit including an upper and lower housing to accommodate a plurality of buttons, a plurality of I/O ports and a plurality of light sources; a circuit board assembly mounted to said lower housing including a processor having pre-programmed gaming content stored on a memory, the processor in electrical communication with each light source, each button and each I/O port; means to operatively connect said plurality of I/O ports to a plurality of storage medium devices; means to transfer data from said plurality of storage medium devices to said processor; the pre-programmed gaming content when activated by the processor facilitates the receipt, organization and transfer of data received from said plurality of storage medium devices; and wherein said interactive gaming system utilizes said data in accordance with said preprogrammed gaming content to trigger game play and prompt user responses.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/913,036 entitled “Interactive Multi-Player Audio Gaming Device” filed on Apr. 20, 2007.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to an interactive gaming system, and in particular to a system where multiple users link audio players to a central unit, whereby game play is structured around the selection of audio data in accordance to gaming content.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Interactive gaming systems are well known in the industry. Such systems include a variety of attributes that trigger game play. For example, the Giga Pets Explorer by Tiger Electronics combines a portable hand held gaming device with a TV for expanded play. “SIMON” is a well-known electronic version that combines lights and sound to enhance a user's gaming experience. While these gaming systems are well known, there is always a continuing need for improvements or changes in the gaming experience.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In one embodiment of the present invention, there is provided an interactive gaming system that includes a central unit having an upper and lower housing to accommodate a plurality of buttons, a plurality of input/output ports and a plurality of light sources. A circuit board assembly is position within the central unit and mounted to the lower housing and includes a processor in electrical communication with each light source, each button and each input/output port. The interactive gaming system further includes a means to operatively connect to the plurality of input/output ports to a plurality of storage medium devices and a means to transfer data from the storage medium devices to the processor. The pre-programmed gaming content when activated by the processor facilitates the receipt, organization and transfer of data received from the plurality of storage medium devices. This data is used in accordance with the pre-programmed gaming content to trigger game play and prompt user responses.

The means to transfer data from the plurality of storage medium devices to the processor may further include having each I/O port in electrical connection with a corresponding storage medium device to receive data from the storage medium devices. Each I/O port would also be in electrical connection with an amplifier and a multiplexer for data transfer. The amplifier is able to receive and convert the data into digital signals for suitable input to the processor, such that when the processor utilizes the preprogrammed gaming content to select one of the digital signals based on parameters included in the preprogrammed gaming content it can activate one or more of the plurality of light sources in accordance thereto. In addition, the processor may further direct the multiplexer to transfer the selected digital signal to an audio amplifier for output via a speaker. In addition, one of the parameters included in the preprogrammed gaming content can direct the processor to select the digital signal first received by the plurality of amplifiers for output to the speaker. Yet further, when a user presses one of the plurality of buttons, a second parameter included in the preprogrammed content directs the processor to select the next digital signal received after the digital signal first received for output to the speaker. The system may also include a means to prompt user interaction by incorporating cards with questions and/or statements to direct a user to send data from a user's storage medium device to the processor via the means to transfer data in accordance with the preprogrammed gaming content.

The system may further include an LCD, questions and/or statements for display on the LCD, and means to prompt user interaction by incorporating the questions and/or statements displayed on the LCD to direct a user to send data from a user's storage medium device to the processor via the means to transfer data in accordance with the preprogrammed gaming content.

For use with the system, the storage medium device may include digital audio players.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

A fuller understanding of the foregoing may be had by reference to the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 is an illustrative view of a first embodiment of an interactive gaming system;

FIG. 2 is an illustrative view of the internal components of a first embodiment of an interactive gaming system;

FIG. 3 is an exploded view of the components of a first embodiment of an interactive gaming system;

FIG. 4 is a block diagram of an interactive gaming system for a first embodiment;

FIG. 5 is an illustrative view of a second embodiment of an interactive gaming system.

FIG. 6 is an illustrative view of a third embodiment of an interactive gaming system.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE EMBODIMENTS

While the invention is susceptible to embodiments in many different forms, there are shown in the drawings and will described herein, in detail, the preferred embodiments of the present invention. It should be understood, however, that the present disclosure is to be considered an exemplification of the principles of the invention and is not intended to limit the spirit or scope of the invention and/or embodiments illustrated.

Referring now to FIGS. 1 and 2, in accordance to a first embodiment, there is illustrated an interactive gaming system 100 that includes a central unit 110 capable of being connected to a plurality of interactive storage medium devices 105. The central unit 110 has an external housing that includes an upper housing 115 and a lower housing 120. The upper housing 115 includes a plurality of apertures to accommodate a plurality of input and/or output ports (I/O ports) 130, one or more buttons 135 and a plurality of lights 140.

There are several types of interactive storage medium devices known in the art, including audio players (both digital and analog), digital cameras, PDAs, etc. Virtually any type of interactive storage medium may be used with the interactive gaming system 100 without deviating from the spirit of the invention. In accordance to a first embodiment, the interactive gaming system 100 is shown and described using one or more digital audio player(s). As known in the art, digital audio players have the capability to store and play audio data, along with several other features, including the capability to synch with a PC to download and upload audio data. The use of “digital audio players” herein is not meant to limit the scope of the types of interactive storage mediums. Those in the art will understand that a variety of interactive storage mediums may be utilized with the present invention.

The external housing may take on several different three-dimensional geometric shapes. Virtually any three-dimensional shape may be used without deviating from the spirit of the invention as the outside appearance of the external housing is not meant to limit the scope of the invention. In accordance to a first embodiment as illustrated in FIGS. 1-3, the external housing is in the shape of a three dimensional oval.

An integrated circuit (IC) (described below) housed in the central unit 110 generates content in accordance to a program or programs and/or in accordance to the input received from the digital audio players. The generated content would be considered interactive or evolving with a play pattern designed in the programming. The generated content may include graphic and/or audio information or data. The information or data may be generated or converted into any type of signal or format needed for playing the content, such as, but not limited to digital, analog, wav, mpeg, mov, etc. The content would include audio data for emitting through a speaker (or headphones) and digital data for display on an integral display (as shown in a second embodiment described below). The content may also include vibrations or other motorized movement (such as that found in email alerts or more sophisticated gaming systems).

Continuing to refer to FIG. 1 and as mentioned in relation to a the first embodiment, digital audio players 105, such as MP3 players, may be connected to the central unit 110 by a first means to communicate 145. The first communication means 145 includes a wired communication. While not critical to the present invention, the first communication means 145 would include cables or wires 150 from output ports 155 on the digital audio players 105 to I/O ports 130 on the central unit that operatively connect the digital audio players 105 to the central unit 110. Those skilled in the art will understand that the central unit 110 can operatively connect to the digital audio players 105 in a variety of forms. Therefore, a second communication means (not shown) in the interactive gaming system may include a wireless communication. The wireless communication would be facilitated by well known wireless components such as a transmitter/receiver. The components needed to facilitate either modes of communication are widely available and known in the art, such that further reference is not needed.

Once the one or more digital audio players 105 are connected to the central unit 110 the game may commence. In accordance to one gaming embodiment involving multiple players, the gaming content and user interaction can be described in the following “play pattern.” To start play, one or more users plug their digital audio players 105 into separate I/O ports 130. A power switch (not shown) is triggered to activate the interactive gaming system 100. A user then draws a card including a question from the deck provided (or in the case where there is an LCD integral to the central unit 110, a question appears on the display in accordance with gaming content). Based on the content of the card, each of the users scroll through their digital audio players 105 to find audio data that satisfies the requested content. The users then press “play” on their digital audio players 105. The corresponding audio data is sent from the digital audio players 105 to amplifiers and a multiplexer (described below) via the I/O ports 130. The amplifiers 180 convert the analog signal(s) to digital signal(s) and are then inputted to an IC. Simultaneously, the analog signals are sent to the multiplexer from the I/O ports 130. The IC sends a signal to the multiplexer to identify which of the user's audio signals were received first and the IC sends a signal to LED drivers to direct a LED corresponding to a digital audio player to switch to a light on phase. The first audio signal, here an analog signal, received will then be transferred to the audio amplifier, where the signal strength is regulated for output via the speaker. As the speaker emits the analog signal, the users may determine whether the song satisfies the requested content from the drawn card (additionally, the appropriate program may be included in the IC to identify whether a selected song meets the requested content). If the users determine that the selected audio signal is an appropriate answer, a point system may be utilized to keep track of each user's score. If the users determine that the selected audio signal is not an appropriate answer, the next button 135 may be pressed to activate a switch. The switch sends a signal to the IC directing the IC to select the analog signal received second. This information is then transferred to the multiplexer which sends the appropriate analog signal to the audio amplifier, and then to the speaker. This process may be repeated until a user's analog signal is found that satisfies the requested content of the card.

There is a virtually unlimited amount of play patterns that can be included in the gaming content. The example above is meant to be but one of the many and is not meant to limit the invention in any manner.

As illustrated in FIGS. 2 and 3, the lower housing 120 provides a base to mount the internal components to the central unit 110, including a circuit board assembly (CBA) 160, a speaker. 165, and a power source 170. For wired communication, the I/O ports 130 may be mounted to the upper housing 115. These I/O ports 130 receive data, such as audio data, transferred from the digital audio players 105. Utilizing an electrical connection (described below), the analog signals are transferred to a multiplexer 175 and to the CBA 160 where they are received by a plurality of amplifiers 180. These amplifiers 180 convert the analog signals to a digital signal suitable for input to the IC 185. The IC 185 then utilizes a program included in a memory (described below) to select one of the analog signals based on the program's parameters. For example, when multiple analog signals are sent to the amplifiers 180, a program may direct the IC 185 to select the first analog signal received from the amplifiers 180. In this example, the IC 185 would then direct the multiplexer 175 to transfer the corresponding analog signal to an audio amplifier 190. The audio amplifier 190 then adjusts the frequency level of the analog signal and transfers the analog signal to the speaker 165 for output.

Continuing to refer to FIGS. 2 and 3, a control button, such as a “next” button 135, is in contact with a switch 136, permitting a user to press the next button and trigger the switch 136. The switch and next button 135 are mounted to the upper housing 115. Further, the switch 136 is in communication with the IC 185 by an electrical connection that permits the transfer of information. When the next button 135 is pressed, a control signal is sent to the IC 185 via the electrical connection.

The processor(s) (described below) accesses game content (such as preprogrammed signals or audio content) stored on a memory (described below) in the IC 185. Further, the IC 185, amplifiers 180 (described below), and plurality of LED drivers 195 are in communication with a power source to access power for activation and operation.

In the first embodiment, the interactive gaming system 100 includes a means to trigger game play and responses utilizing interactive storage mediums. An example of the triggered game play and responses is included in a “play pattern” example below.

Also, the interactive gaming system 100 includes a means to structure game play based on input from the digital audio players 105.

Additionally, the interactive gaming system 100 includes a means to prompt user interaction with a series of questions and/or statements. These questions and/or statements may be included in a deck of cards or included in gaming content for display on an LCD where an LCD is included in the central unit as illustrated in FIG. 5. Further, the questions and/or statements could be included on a DVD for viewing on an external display during play.

Further, in accordance to the first embodiment, the interactive gaming system 100 includes a means to utilize a plurality of digital audio players in accordance with interactive gaming content. As mentioned above, the gaming content is considered interactive or evolving with a play pattern designed in the programming. The gaming content would at least include control and audio information and/or data. The data may be generated or converted into any type of signal or format needed for playing or transferring the gaming content, such as but not limited to digital, analog, wav, etc. As such, when signals are transferred from the digital audio players or a control button, the interactive gaming system responds based on the programming contained within the gaming content enabling a user to interact with the interactive gaming system in a variety of different capacities. An example of this interaction is included in a “play pattern” example below.

Referring now to FIG. 4, there is shown a block diagram provided especially for the first embodiment of the interactive gaming system 100. A central unit 110 includes I/O ports 130 to receive an output pin (not shown) from the digital audio players 105. The digital audio players 105 communicate with the CBA 160 via the I/O ports 130 and an electrical connection 196 that permits the transfer of information. Utilizing the electrical connection 196, data (such as audio content, including analog signals, etc.) can travel between the digital audio player 105 and the CBA 160. Included within the CBA 160 are the amplifiers 180, a multiplexer 175 and an IC 185. The amplifiers 180 and the multiplexer 175 receive the analog signal(s) from the digital audio players 105. The amplifiers 180 transfer the analog signal(s) to the IC 185 after converting the analog signal(s) to a digital format readable by the IC 185. The IC 185 may then send a control signal to the multiplexer based on preprogrammed gaming content. Simultaneously, the IC 185 may also send a control signal to the plurality of LED drivers 195.

Further, a control button, such as a “next” button 135, is in contact with a switch 136, permitting a user to press the next button 135 and trigger the switch 136. The switch 136 is in communication with the IC 185 by an electrical connection that permits the transfer of information. When the next button 135 is pressed, a control signal is sent to the IC 185 via the electrical connection 196. The IC 185 may then take this control signal and respond according to preprogrammed gaming content.

While receiving a control signal from the IC 185, the LED drivers 195 also receive an appropriate amount of power from the power source 170 via the electrical connection 196. The lights 140 are preferably a light emitting diode (LED). These LEDs 140 may have any number of different colors, or include a white LED with a lens of desired color. Utilizing the preprogrammed control signal(s) the IC 185 then directs the LED drivers 195 to transfer the appropriate amount of power to the LEDs 140 to activate a desired state. Examples of a desired state include a “light on,” a “light off,” or a varying level of illumination for the LEDs 140. The power is obtained from the power source 170 while the data is obtained from a processor(s) 197. The processor(s) 197 is designed to run the program(s) stored on a memory 198.

Now referring to the communication between the IC 185 and the multiplexer 175, the multiplexer 175 receives several different analog or digital signals from the I/O ports 130, and then forwards a signal selected by the IC 185 on to the audio amplifier 190. In accordance to programming, the multiplexer 175 is used to forward on the first signal received by the IC 185 from a corresponding digital audio player 105. For example, when the digital audio players 105 send audio data to the I/O ports 130 in response to a user's input, a signal is sent via an electrical connection 196 to the IC 185 (and via the amplifiers 180, as described above) and the multiplexer 175. The IC 185 contains the processor(s) 197 and may include the memory 198. The memory 198 further includes programming to facilitate and direct content, control signals, and data within the central unit 110. The IC 185 is also in communication with the power source 170. The memory 198 contains gaming content. The processor(s) 197 in the IC 185 accesses the gaming content based on a program and/or in accordance to the generated signals received from the I/O ports 130. The processor(s) then generates a response that includes signals and may be in the form of analog, digital, or control signals. From the processor(s) 197, control signals are sent to the multiplexer 175 to select the analog signal (here, containing audio data) transferred to the audio amplifier 190 while control signals are transferred to the LED drivers 195 via an electrical connection 196. The LED drivers 195 then direct the LEDs 140 to change to a desired state, based on a program and/or in accordance to a user's input or preprogrammed response. The audio amplifier 190 simultaneously transfers the analog signals to the speaker 165.

Now referring to FIG. 5, in accordance to a second embodiment, there is illustrated an interactive gaming system 200 that includes a plurality of digital audio players 205 and a central unit 210 that includes a LCD 212. While the functionality and communication of the second embodiment are similar to the first embodiment, the second embodiment further provides the LCD 212 to enable the questions and/or statements described above to be included within the central unit 110 and displayed on the LCD 212. Similar to the first embodiment, a processor(s) accesses gaming content (such as preprogrammed signals or audio content) stored on a memory in an IC.

Now referring to FIG. 6, in accordance to a third embodiment, there is illustrated an interactive gaming system 300 that includes a central unit 110 capable of being connected to a plurality of microphones 305 with a button 310. While the functionality and communication of the third embodiment are similar to the first and second embodiments, the third embodiment further provides game play incorporating voice input from users, transferred to a processor(s) as data. Similar to the first and second embodiments, the processor(s) accesses gaming content to use in accordance with the receipt of voice input.

From the foregoing and as mentioned above, it will be observed that numerous variations and modifications may be effected without departing from the spirit and scope of the novel concept of the invention. It is to be understood that no limitation with respect to the specific methods and apparatus illustrated herein is intended or should be inferred.