Title:
Encouraging Exercise Whilst Playing Electronic Games
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
In order to encourage people who are playing an electronic games machine (12) also to take exercise, and to encourage users of exercise machines (76) who simultaneously play a games machine to exercise at a particular rate, an interrupter system (34) is added to an existing connection (18,20,22) between the games machine and its controller (14) so as to provide a modified connection. Operation of the exercise machine is detected, and the interrupter system is used selectively to enable and interrupt the modified connection between the game controller and the games machine to enable and interrupt normal operation of the games machine in dependence upon the detected operation of the exercise machine. The normal operation of the games machine may be interrupted if the rate of operation of the exercise machine is detected as being below a predetermined threshold and/or above a pre-determined threshold. Accordingly, a parent can arrange it such that their child cannot play normally on a games machine unless the child also exercises on the exercise machine. Also, a user of an exercise machine and games machine can be encouraged to exercise in a particular manner, otherwise their game will be interrupted.



Inventors:
Coshott, Richard John (Hampshire, GB)
Application Number:
11/988852
Publication Date:
04/16/2009
Filing Date:
06/23/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
463/7
International Classes:
A63B24/00; A63B21/00; A63F9/24; A63F13/10; A63B22/08; A63F13/00
View Patent Images:
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20090275443Tai chi style yoga bagNovember, 2009Friend
20050187083Fitness/therapy deviceAugust, 2005Krystoff
20080026920Weightlifting apparatus for pronation and supination exercisesJanuary, 2008Berenshteyn
20050159279Body support for exercising and stretchingJuly, 2005Stangler
20030114275Supine ergometer braceJune, 2003Michael Sr. et al.
20070135273Weight securing systemJune, 2007Ljevaja
20070219076Yoga BlockSeptember, 2007Axelrod
20010049320Pricing exercise equipment according to usageDecember, 2001Cohen et al.



Primary Examiner:
JALALZADEH ABYANE, SHILA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Nw-ip-law (6039 E. Grant RD., Tucson, AZ, 85712, US)
Claims:
1. A method of modifying operation of an electronic games machine (12) having a game controller (14) which is arranged to be connected to the games machine by an existing connection (18,20,22) to control the games machine, the method comprising: adding an interrupter system (34) to the existing connection so as to provide a modified connection (18,20,22,36,38,40) between the game controller and the games machine; providing an exercise machine (76); detecting operation of the exercise machine; and using the interrupter system selectively to enable and interrupt the modified connection between the game controller and the games machine to enable and interrupt normal operation of the games machine in dependence upon the detected operation of the exercise machine.

2. A method as claimed in claim 1, wherein the normal operation of the games machine is interrupted if the rate of operation of the exercise machine is detected as being below a predetermined threshold.

3. A method as claimed in claim 1, wherein the normal operation of the games machine is interrupted if the rate of operation of the exercise machine is detected as being above a predetermined threshold.

4. A method as claimed in claim 2, wherein the predetermined threshold is adjustable.

5. A method as claimed in claim 1, wherein normal operation of the games machine is interrupted by disconnecting a power supply connection (44,48) from the games machine to the game controller.

6. A method as claimed in claim 1, wherein the existing connection includes a first connector (20) of the game controller that is releasably connectable to a complementary second connector (22) of the games machine, and the interrupter system is added by connecting a third connector (40) of the interrupter system to the first connector of the game controller and by connecting a fourth connector (38) of the interrupter system to the second connector of the games machine.

7. A method as claimed in claim 1, wherein the interrupter system is added by permanently wiring the interrupter system to the game controller.

8. A method as claimed in claim 1, wherein at least one magnet (72) is attached to a moving part of the exercise machine, and operation of the exercise machine is detected magnetically.

9. A game controller (14) in combination with an interrupter system (34), for use with an electronic games machine (12) and an exercise machine (76), the game controller having a first connector (20) for releasable connection to a complementary second connector (22) of the games machine, and the interrupter system comprising means (64-70) for detecting operation of the exercise machine, and means (60) for changing, in dependence upon the detected operation of the exercise machine, a connection (44,48,54,56) between the game controller and the games machine selectively to enable and interrupt normal operation of the games machine.

10. A combination as claimed in claim 9, wherein the interrupter system includes a third connector (40) connected to the first connector of the game controller and a fourth connector (38) for connection to the second connector of the games machine so that the interrupter system is connected between the first and second connectors.

11. A combination claimed in claim 9, wherein the interrupter system is permanently wired to the game controller.

12. A combination as claimed in claim 9 in combination with a games machine.

13. A combination as claimed in claim 9 in combination with an exercise machine.

14. An apparatus comprising: an exercise machine; an electronic games machine; a game controller having a connection to the games machine including a first connector which is releasably connectable to a complementary second connector of the games machine so that the game controller can control the games machine; and an interrupter system comprising means for detecting if a rate of operation of the exercise machine is below a predetermined threshold, and means responsive to the detecting means for changing the connection between the game controller and the games machine to interrupt normal operation of the games machine when the rate of operation of the exercise machine is below the threshold.

15. An apparatus as claimed in claim 14, wherein the connection changing means is operable to disconnect a power supply connection from the games machine to the game controller when the rate of operation of the exercise machine is below the threshold.

16. An apparatus as claimed in claim 14, wherein the interrupter system has a third connector which is complementary to and, in use, connected to the first connector of the game controller, and a fourth connector which is complementary to and, in use, connected to the second connector of the games machine.

17. An apparatus as claimed in claim 14, wherein the interrupter system is permanently wired to the game controller, and, in use, the first connector of the game controller is connected to the second connector of the games machine.

Description:

This invention was conceived in order to encourage exercise whilst playing electronic games and relates to a method of operation of an electronic games machine, a device for use with an electronic games machine, and a game controller having such a device.

Many people have fun playing on electronic games machines, such as the Microsoft® X-Box®, Nintendo® Gamecube® and the Sony® Playstation®. Some people, particularly parents, consider that other people, such as their children, spend far too long playing on games machines and do not get enough exercise.

Also, many people use exercise machines, such as exercise cycles, step machines and thigh trainers in order to improve or maintain their physical fitness. Many exercise regimes involve exercising at a steady rate. While using exercise machines, some people simultaneously play a game on an electronic games machine.

Causing the playing of a game to be dependent on exercise has been proposed in the past. Patent documents U.S. Pat. No. 4,542,897 and U.S. Pat. No. 4,637,605 each describe a purpose-built games and exercise machine arranged so that the user cannot control the game unless they are exercising at a particular rate. WO0/64542A1 describes an exercise machine connected to a game port of a computer running a game such that the exercise machine acts as a throttle control for the game. U.S. Pat. No. 6,179,746B1 describes a switch box controlled by an exercise machine and connected to an RF input of a television set so that the television set can receive RF input only if the exercise machine is being operated fast enough. The RF signal can be supplied by a games machine.

An aim of the present invention, or at least of specific embodiments of it, is to provide an improved way of encouraging people who are playing a games machine also to take exercise, and of encouraging users of exercise machines who simultaneously play a games machine to exercise at a particular rate.

In accordance with a first aspect of the present invention, there is provided a method of modifying operation of an electronic games machine having a game controller which is arranged to be connected to the games machine by an existing connection to control the games machine, the method comprising: adding an interrupter system to the existing connection so as to provide a modified connection between the game controller and the games machine; providing an exercise machine; detecting operation of the exercise machine; and using the interrupter system selectively to enable and interrupt the modified connection between the game controller and the games machine to enable and interrupt normal operation of the games machine in dependence upon the detected operation of the exercise machine.

The method can therefore be applied be an existing games machine and existing exercise machine without requiring a purpose-built combined machine as described in U.S. Pat. No. 4,542,897 and U.S. Pat. No. 4,637,605. The interrupter system used in the method of the invention is operable to interrupt the normal operation of the games machine, whereas in WO0/64542A1 the exercise machine plays a part in the normal operation of the games computer (i.e. acts as the throttle control), and in U.S. Pat. No. 6,179,746B1 the exercise machine has no effect on the normal operation of the games machine.

The normal operation of the games machine may be interrupted if the rate of operation of the exercise machine is detected as being below a predetermined threshold. Additionally or alternatively, normal operation of the games machine may be interrupted if the rate of operation of the exercise machine is detected as being above a predetermined threshold. Accordingly, a parent can arrange it such that their child cannot play normally on a games machine unless the child also exercises on the exercise machine. Also, a user of an exercise machine and games machine can be encouraged to exercise in a particular manner, otherwise their game will be interrupted. The invention can be put into effect without modifying the games machine and possibly invalidating its warranty as a result.

The predetermined threshold, or at least one of the predetermined thresholds, is preferably adjustable to take account of different exercise regimes.

The normal operation of the games machine is preferably interrupted simply by disconnecting a power supply connection from the games machine to the game controller.

In one example of the invention, in the case where the existing connection includes a first connector of the game controller that is releasably connectable to a complementary second connector of the games machine, the interrupter system is added by connecting a third connector of the interrupter system to the first connector of the game controller and by connecting a fourth connector of the interrupter system to the second connector of the games machine. In another example of the invention, the interrupter system is added by permanently wiring the interrupter system to the game controller.

In a preferred embodiment, at least one magnet is attached (for example by a double-sided sticky pad) to a moving part of the exercise machine, and operation of the exercise machine is detected magnetically. The invention can therefore be put into effect without any significant modification to the exercise machine.

In accordance with a second aspect of the invention, there is provided a game controller in combination with an interrupter system, for use with an electronic games machine and an exercise machine, the game controller having a first connector for releasable connection to a complementary second connector of the games machine, and the interrupter system comprising means for detecting operation of the exercise machine, and means for changing, in dependence upon the detected operation of the exercise machine, an electrical connection between the game controller and the games machine selectively to enable and interrupt normal operation of the games machine.

In one embodiment, the interrupter system includes a third connector connected to the first connector of the game controller and a fourth connector for connection to the second connector of the games machine so that the interrupter system is connected between the first and second connectors. In this case, the invention can be put into effect without modifying the games machine or the game controller and possibly invalidating their warranties as a result. In another embodiment, the interrupter system is permanently wired to the game controller.

Further aspects of the invention relate to the game controller and interrupter system in combination with a games machine and/or an exercise machine.

A specific embodiment of the present invention will now be described, purely by way of example, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a block diagram of a conventional games machine system;

FIG. 2 is a block diagram of the system of FIG. 1, to which a game interrupter system of the present invention has been added;

FIG. 3 is a circuit diagram of the game interrupter system of FIG. 2;

FIGS. 4A-4D are diagrams illustrating operation of the circuit of FIG. 3 in one phase of its cycle;

FIGS. 5A-5D are diagrams illustrating operation of the circuit of FIG. 3 in another phase of its cycle;

FIGS. 6A-6D are diagrams illustrating operation of the circuit of FIG. 3 with a relatively long cycle period;

FIGS. 7A-7D are diagrams illustrating operation of the circuit of FIG. 3 with a shorter cycle period;

FIG. 8 shows a modification to part of the interrupter system;

FIG. 9 shows another modification to part of the interrupter system; and

FIG. 10 shows a modification to the interrupter circuit.

Referring to FIG. 1, a conventional games machine system 10 comprises a games machine 12, a game controller 14 and a television set 16. The game controller 14 has a connecting lead 18 with a plug 20 at its distal end that is connected to a complementary controller socket 22 of the games machine 12. A further connecting lead 24 has plugs 26 at one end that are connected to complementary audio-video sockets 28 of the games machine 12 and plugs 30 at the other end that are connected to complementary audio-video sockets 32 of the television set 16. As is well known, in use, a player controls a game that is running on the games machine 12 using the controller 14, and the progress of the game is displayed on the television set 16. Typically, a games machine 12 has two or more such controller sockets 22 and can be used with two or more game controllers 14 controlled by two or more players so that the players can play a game between themselves. However, many games are designed to be played by one player, or have a mode in which they can be played by one player, or have a mode in which one player controlling one games machine 12 can play one or more other players controlling one or more other games machines 12, with all of the games machines 12 being interconnected, for example by means of the internet.

The connecting lead 18 of the game controller 14 typically has six cores, one of which is ground, another of which carries a supply voltage to the games controller 14, and the others of which provide signals back to the games machine 12 depending upon the operation of the controls (such as switches, joysticks and D-pads) of the game controller 14 by the player. A typical games machine 12 is designed to detect whether a required game controller 14 is connected to the games machine 12, for example by detecting current drawn by the supply core of the controller lead 18, or by detecting the voltage or voltages on one or more of the signal cores of the controller lead 18. When a game is running, different games machines and games are designed to react differently to the loss of connection to a required game controller 14, for example, by continuing the game abnormally without any input from the player, by pausing the game until the game controller is reconnected, or by aborting the game. Some games machine systems allow a game controller to be disconnected for a short period of time, such as ¼ s, without reacting.

Referring to FIGS. 2 and 3, in the first embodiment of the invention, an interrupter system 34 is added between the controller socket 22 of the games machine 12 and the plug 20 of the controller connection lead 18. The interrupter system 34 includes an extension lead 36 having a plug 38 at one end that is complementary to the controller socket 22 of the games machine 12 and a socket 40 at the other end that is complementary to the plug 20 of the controller lead 18. The extension lead 36 provides permanent one-to-one connections between each of the terminals 42, except the supply voltage terminal 44, of the plug 38 and the respective terminals 46, except the supply voltage terminal 48, of the socket 40. An interrupter lead 50 also extends from the extension plug 38 to an interrupter housing 52 and contains two cores 54,56 that are connected to the supply voltage terminals 44,48 of the extension plug 38 and socket 40, respectively.

In the interrupter housing 52, the cores 54,56 of the interrupter lead 50 are connected across the switch contacts of a normally-open switch 58 of a reed relay 60. One terminal of the coil 62 of the reed relay 60 is connected in series with a resistor 64 and a capacitor 66 to a common contact of a two-pole, magnetically-operable reed switch 68. The other terminal of the relay coil 62 is connected directly to the normally-closed contact of the reed switch 68 and is also connected via a battery 70 to the normally-open contact of the reed switch 68.

The interrupter system 34 also includes one or more magnets 72 that, in use, are attached for example by double-sided sticky-pads to a moving part 74 of an exercise machine 76, such as a bottom bracket spindle of an exercise cycle on which the pedal cranks are mounted, or a pedal spindle of a stepper machine. The interrupter housing 52 is mounted on a static part of the exercise machine 76, for example by hook-and-loop fastening tape or double-sided sticky-pads, with the reed switch 68 within the influence of the magnet or magnets 72 such that, during steady operation of the exercise machine 76, the reed switch 68 opens and closes with the open time being about equal to the closed time.

The values of the coil resistance, pickup voltage Vp and dropout voltage Vd of the relay 60, the resistance of resistor 64, the capacitance of the capacitor 66, and the voltage of the battery 70 are chosen so that the interrupter system 34 operates as follows.

As shown in FIGS. 4A to 4D, if the state Ss of the reed switch 68 is initially in its normally-closed (NC) position and the capacitor 66 is initially discharged (Vc=0), the voltage Vr across the relay coil 62 is zero and so the state Sr of the relay switch 58 is open. When the state Ss of the reed switch 68 then changes to normally-open (NO) due to the influence of one of the magnets 72, the voltage Vr across the relay coil 62 initially rises to a value above the pickup voltage Vp of the relay 60, and so the state Sr of the relay switch 58 immediately changes to closed. As the capacitor 66 charges, the voltage Vc across it increases, and the voltage Vr across the relay coil 62 decays. When the voltage Vr across the relay coil 62 falls to the dropout voltage Vd of the relay 60, the state Sr of the relay switch 58 changes to open.

As shown in FIGS. 5A to 5D, if the state Ss of the reed switch 68 is initially NO and the capacitor 66 is initially fully charged, the voltage Vr across the relay coil 62 is zero and so the state Sr of the relay switch 58 is open. When the state Ss of the reed switch 68 then changes to NC due to the influence of the magnet 72 being removed, the voltage Vr across the relay coil 62 initially rises to a value below the negative pickup voltage −Vp of the relay 60, and so the state Sr of the relay switch 58 immediately changes to closed. As the capacitor 66 discharges, the voltage Vc across it decays, and the voltage Vr across the relay coil 62 increases towards zero. When the voltage Vr across the relay coil 62 increases to the negative dropout voltage −Vd of the relay 60, the state Sr of the relay switch 58 changes to open.

As shown in FIGS. 6A to 6D, if the effects described above with reference to FIGS. 4A to 5D are combined in a repeating sequence with a relatively long cycle period T=T1, relay switch 58 closes and opens twice in each period T1. However, as shown in FIGS. 7A to 7D, for a shorter cycle period T=T2, once the relay switch 58 closes, it remains closed because the voltage Vr across the relay coil 62 does not fall below the positive dropout voltage Vd before the reed switch 68 opens and does not rise above the negative dropout voltage −Vd before the reed switch 68 closes.

The period T of the cycle of operation of the reed switch 68 is inversely proportional to the rate of operation of exercise machine 76. The game being played on the games machine 12 will only operate normally if the relay switch 68 remains closed. Therefore, it is necessary for the user to operate the exercise machine at a rate in excess of a predetermined rate in order that the game can be played continuously without interruption.

It should be noted that the above is a simplified description of the operation of the interrupter system 34. It does not, for example, take into account the transition times of the reed switch 68 and relay switch 58 or the inductance of the relay coil 62 which will have an effect when the voltage Vr across the relay coil 62 suddenly changes from above Vd to below −Vd. The values of the circuit components can be chosen to provided a required cycle period T. In a prototype the chosen circuit values were: battery voltage=9V; resistance of resistor 64=470Ω; capacitance of capacitor 66=1000 μF; resistance of relay coil 62=500Ω; pickup voltage Vp of relay 60=1.6V; dropout voltage Vd of relay 60=1.5V; nominal switching time of relay 60=0.5 ms; and nominal switching time of reed switch 68=0.2 ms. This required the cycle period T to be less than about 3 s in order to maintain the relay switch 58 closed.

It will be appreciated that many modifications and developments may be made to the embodiment of the invention described above.

For example, as shown in FIG. 8, rather than providing the interrupter system 34 with an extension lead 36, the plug 38 and socket 40 may be combined into a single housing 78.

In either case, where the use of the interrupter system 34 is being enforced, for example by a parent upon their child, the plug 38 may be permanently or semi-permanently connected to the socket 22 of the games machine 12, or the socket 40 may be permanently or semi-permanently connected to the plug 20 of the controller lead 18, for example by adhesive, by adhesive, tamper-evident, security tape, by some other tamper-evident device, or by a lockable mechanism.

Alternatively, as shown in FIG. 9, the lead 50 of the interrupter system 34 may be permanently wired into the game controller 14 and indeed part of the other circuitry of the interrupter system 34 may be disposed inside the game controller 14. In this case, the games controller 14 and interrupter system 34 may be supplied and sold ready-wired, or the interrupter system 34 may be supplied and sold with instructions for permanently connecting it to an existing game controller 14.

As shown in FIG. 10, the threshold rate at which the interrupter system 34 permits normal operation of the games machine 12 may be made adjustable, for example by placing a variable resistor 80 of maximum value 1 kΩ in series with the resistor 64. Also, an override and/or disable facility may be provided by a key-operated switch 82 that in one position does not affect the operation of the interrupter system 34, but that in another position directly connects the cores 54,56 of the lead 50 so that the interrupter system 34 has no effect and/or in another position disconnects the relay switch 58 so that the games machine 12 cannot be operated normally.

Many other modifications may be made to the interrupter system 34. For example, it may also provide the facility to interrupt normal operation of the games machine 12 if the exercise machine 76 is operated too fast. Indeed, with suitable selection of components, the circuit described with reference to FIG. 3 may provide that effect. Also, a resistor may be placed in series with the battery 70 so that the time constant for charging the capacitor 66 is longer than the time constant for discharging it.

It should be noted that the embodiment of the invention has been described above purely by way of example and that many other modifications and developments may be made thereto within the scope of the present invention.