Title:
Gaming Machine With Composite Symbols
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A gaming machine for providing a game based on a wager, the gaming machine comprising a user interface in communication with a game controller. The game controller is adapted to select and display a plurality of game symbols on a display, the plurality of game symbols selected from a set of game symbols, and the gaming machine is further adapted to award an award if a winning combination of game symbols occurs. The set of game symbols includes a plurality of special symbols, each special symbol associated with a special symbol attribute. The set of game symbols further includes at least one composite symbol, the or each composite symbol associated with a composite attribute, the composite attribute composed of two or more special symbol attributes.



Inventors:
Gupta, Lipi (Newington, AU)
Application Number:
12/402299
Publication Date:
09/17/2009
Filing Date:
03/11/2009
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:
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20100075753Marketing System and Methods for Use with Electronic Gaming MachinesMarch, 2010Atkinson
20090081923ROBOTIC GAME SYSTEMS AND METHODSMarch, 2009Dooley et al.
20050159200Awards based on multiplicity of game eventsJuly, 2005Nicely et al.
20080182659IN-PLAY DETECTION OF ALTERED GAME DATAJuly, 2008Sabella et al.
20040033832Casino money handling systemFebruary, 2004Solomon
20090026706Sports wagering based on player verses player matchupsJanuary, 2009St. Clair et al.
20070232393Gaming tournament based on predicting results of contests within a real sports leagueOctober, 2007Dreyer
20080207328INTERSTITIAL ADVERTISING IN A GAMING ENVIRONMENTAugust, 2008Slough et al.



Primary Examiner:
ENAD, CHRISTINE A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MCANDREWS HELD & MALLOY, LTD (500 WEST MADISON STREET, SUITE 3400, CHICAGO, IL, 60661, US)
Claims:
1. A gaming machine that provides a game based on a wager, the gaming machine comprising a user interface in communication with a game controller, the game controller adapted to select and display a plurality of game symbols on a display, the plurality of game symbols selected from a set of game symbols, the gaming machine further adapted to award an award if a winning combination of game symbols occurs, wherein the set of game symbols includes a plurality of special symbols, each special symbol associated with a special symbol attribute, and wherein the set of game symbols further includes at least one composite symbol, the or each composite symbol associated with a composite attribute, the composite attribute composed of two or more special symbol attributes.

2. The gaming machine of claim 1, wherein each different special symbol has a distinctive visual appearance, and wherein the visual appearance of the or each composite symbol is composed of the visual appearances of the two or more special symbols associated with the special symbol attributes from which the composite attribute is composed.

3. The gaming machine of claim 1, wherein if a winning combination of game symbols which includes a composite symbol occurs, the award is determined by the game controller in accordance with all special symbol attributes from which the composite attribute of the composite symbol is composed.

4. The gaming machine of claim 1, wherein if an activation event occurs the gaming machine adds one or more special symbols to the set of game symbols.

5. The gaming machine of claim 1, wherein if a deactivation event occurs the gaming machine removes one or more special symbols from the set of game symbols.

6. A method for use with a gaming machine, the method comprising: selecting a plurality of game symbols from a set of game symbols, the set of game symbols including a plurality of special symbols, each special symbol associated with a special symbol attribute, the set of game symbols further including at least one composite symbol, the or each composite symbol associated with a composite attribute, the composite attribute composed of two or more special symbol attributes; presenting the selected symbols on a display; and awarding an award if a winning outcome occurs.

7. The method of claim 6, wherein each different special symbol has a distinctive visual appearance, and wherein the visual appearance of the or each composite symbol is composed of the visual appearances of the two or more special symbols associated with the special symbol attributes from which the composite attribute is composed.

8. The method of either claim 6, wherein if a winning outcome includes a composite symbol, the award is determined in accordance with all special symbol attributes from which the composite attribute of the composite symbol is composed.

9. The method of any one of claim 6, wherein if an activation event occurs one or more special symbols is added to the set of game symbols.

10. The method of any one of claim 6, wherein if a deactivation event occurs one or more special symbols is removed from the set of game symbols.

11. A method according to claim 6 and further including a computer program comprising machine-readable program code for controlling the operation of a data processing apparatus.

12. A method according to claim 6 and further including a computer program product comprising machine-readable program code recorded on a machine-readable medium, for controlling the operation of a data processing apparatus.

13. A method according to claim 6 and further including a data signal carrying instructions and/or data.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to Australia Provisional Patent Application No. 2008901190 having a filing date of Mar. 11, 2008, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

[Not Applicable]

MICROFICHE/COPYRIGHT REFERENCE

[Not Applicable]

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

With the increase of gambling at gaming venues has come increased competition between gaming venues to obtain a larger share of the total gambling spend. Gaming venue operators have therefore continuously looked for new variations and types of games in order to attract both new and return customers to their venues.

In response to this need, suppliers of gaming devices and systems have attempted to provide the sought after variety, while still developing games that comply with the relevant regulations in the jurisdiction of the gaming venue operator. Suppliers of gaming devices therefore are faced with restrictions on the types of games and gaming machines that are allowable, both in terms of the prevailing regulations and in terms of providing a return on investment to the gaming venue operators.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to a first aspect, the present invention broadly resides in a gaming machine that provides a game based on a wager, the gaming machine comprising a user interface in communication with a game controller, the game controller adapted to select and display a plurality of game symbols on a display, the plurality of game symbols selected from a set of game symbols, the gaming machine further adapted to award an award if a winning combination of game symbols occurs, wherein

the set of game symbols includes a plurality of special symbols, each special symbol associated with a special symbol attribute, and wherein

the set of game symbols further includes at least one composite symbol, the or each composite symbol associated with a composite attribute, the composite attribute composed of two or more special symbol attributes.

According to a second aspect, the present invention broadly resides in a method for use with a gaming machine, the method comprising:

selecting a plurality of game symbols from a set of game symbols, the set of game symbols including a plurality of special symbols, each special symbol associated with a special symbol attribute, the set of game symbols further including at least one composite symbol, the or each composite symbol associated with a composite attribute, the composite attribute composed of two or more special symbol attributes;

presenting the selected symbols on a display; and

awarding an award if a winning outcome occurs.

Each different special symbol may have a distinctive visual appearance, and the visual appearance of the or each composite symbol may be composed of the visual appearances of the two or more special symbols associated with the special symbol attributes from which the composite attribute is composed.

If a winning combination of game symbols which includes a composite symbol occurs, the award may be determined by the game controller in accordance with all special symbol attributes from which the composite attribute of the composite symbol is composed.

If an activation event occurs, the gaming machine may add one or more special symbols to the set of game symbols.

If a deactivation event occurs, the gaming machine may remove one or more special symbols from the set of game symbols.

According to a third aspect, the invention broadly resides in instructions executable by a game controller to implement the method as described in the immediately preceding paragraphs and to such instructions when stored in a storage medium readable by the game controller.

According to a fourth aspect, the invention broadly relates to a data signal carrying instructions and/or data executable to implement the method as described above.

Further aspects of the present invention and further embodiments of the aspects described in the preceding paragraphs will become apparent from the following description, given by way of example and with reference to the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1: shows diagrammatically, a view of a gaming console suitable for implementing the present invention.

FIG. 2: shows a block diagram of gaming machine suitable for implementing the present invention.

FIG. 3: shows a block diagram of components of the memory of the gaming machine represented in FIG. 2.

FIG. 4: shows diagrammatically, a network gaming system suitable for implementing the present invention.

FIG. 5: provides an example of a partial set of game symbols for use with embodiments of the present invention.

FIGS. 6A to 6D: provide sample screen shots depicting different game outcomes.

FIG. 7: shows a flow diagram of a process performed in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

In FIG. 1 of the accompanying drawings, one example of a gaming console that is suitable to implement the present invention is generally referenced by arrow 114.

The gaming console 114 includes two displays 106A, 106B on one or both of which is displayed representations of a game that can be played by a player and a bank of buttons 107A and/or a touch screen 107B to enable a player to play the game. The displays 106 may be video display units, such as a cathode ray tube screen device, a liquid crystal display, plasma screen, any other suitable video display unit, or the visible portion of an electromechanical device. The display 106B may display artwork, including for example, pay tables and details of bonus awards and other information or images relating to the game. In alternative gaming consoles the display 106B may be omitted, optionally replaced by a static display.

A credit input including a coin input 110A and/or bill collector 110B allows a player to provide credit for wagering and a coin output 111 is provided for cash payouts from the gaming console 114. A card and/or ticket reader 108 and a printer 109 may be provided to provide player tracking, cashless game play or other gaming and non-gaming related functions.

FIG. 2 shows a block diagram of a gaming machine, generally referenced by arrow 100, suitable for implementing the present invention. The gaming machine 100 may include the gaming console 114 shown in FIG. 1 and accordingly like reference numerals have been used to describe like components in FIGS. 1 and 2.

The gaming machine 100 includes a game controller 101, which in the illustrated example includes a computational device 102, which may be a microprocessor, microcontroller, programmable logic device or other suitable device. Instructions and data to control operation of the computational device 102 are stored in a memory 103, which is in data communication with, or forms part of, the computational device 102. Typically, the gaming machine 100 will include both volatile and non-volatile memory and more than one of each type of memory, with such memories being collectively represented by the memory 103. The instructions to cause the game controller 101 to implement the present invention will be stored in the memory 103. The instructions and data for controlling operation of the computational device 102 may be stored on a computer readable medium from which they are loaded into the gaming machine memory 103. The instructions and data may be conveyed to the gaming machine by means of a data signal in a transmission channel. Examples of such transmission channels include network connections, the Internet or an intranet and wireless communication channels.

The game controller 101 may include hardware credit meters 104 for the purposes of regulatory compliance and also include an input/output (I/O) interface 105 for communicating with the peripheral devices of the gaming machine 100. The input/output interface 105 and/or the peripheral devices may be intelligent devices with their own memory for instructions and data.

In the example shown in FIG. 2, the peripheral devices that communicate with the controller are the displays 106, bank of buttons/touch screen 107, the card and/or ticket reader 108, the printer 109, a bill acceptor and/or coin input 110 and a coin output 111. Additional devices may be included as part of the gaming machine 100, or devices omitted as required for the specific implementation.

The bank of buttons 107A and/or touch screen 107B together with one or both of the displays 106 may provide a user interface 115 through which the gaming machine 100 and player communicate. If a card/ticket reader 108 is provided, this may also form part of the user interface 115.

In addition, the gaming machine 100 may include a communications interface, for example a network card 112. The network card 112, may for example, send status information, accounting information or other information to a central controller, server or database and receive data or commands from the central controller, server or database. The network card 112 may also enable communication with a central player account, allowing cashless gaming. One or more of the peripheral devices, for example the card/ticket reader 108 may be able to communicate directly with the network card 112. The network card 112 and the I/O interface 105 may be suitably implemented as a single machine communications interface.

The game controller 101 may also include a random number generator 113, which generates a series of random numbers that are used by the computational device 102 to determine the outcomes of games played on the gaming machine 100.

The game controller 101 may have distributed hardware and software components that communicate with each other directly or through a network or other communication channel. The game controller 101 may also be located in part or in its entirety remote from the user interface 115. Also, the computational device 102 may comprise a plurality of devices, which may be local or remote from each other. Instructions and data for controlling the operation of the user interface 115 may be conveyed to the user interface 115 by means of a data signal in a transmission channel. The user interface 115 may be a computational device, for example a personal computer, used by a person to play a game provided from a remote game controller 101.

FIG. 3 shows an exemplary block diagram of the main components of the memory 103. The RAM 103A typically temporarily holds instructions and data related to the execution of game programs and communication functions performed by the computational controller 102. The EPROM 103B may be a boot ROM device and/or may contain system and game related code. The mass storage device 103C may be used to store game programs, the integrity of which may be verified and/or authenticated by the computational controller 102 using protected code from the EPROM 103B or elsewhere.

FIG. 4 shows a gaming system 200 in the form of a network of devices. The gaming system 200 includes a network infrastructure 201, which for example may be in the form of an Ethernet network. Alternatively, a wireless network and/or direct communication channels, or a different type of network may be used to link the gaming machines to a server, each other and/or other devices. Gaming consoles 114, shown arranged in three banks 203 of two gaming consoles 114 in FIG. 4, are connected to the network infrastructure 201. The gaming consoles 114 may form part or all of a gaming machine 100. Single gaming consoles 114 and banks 203 containing three or more gaming devices 202 may also be connected to the network infrastructure 201, which may also include bank controllers, hubs, routers, bridges to other networks and other devices (not shown).

One or more displays 204 may also be connected to the network 201. The displays 204 may, for example, be associated with a bank 203 of gaming consoles 114. The displays 204 may be used to display representations associated with game play on the gaming devices 202, and/or used to display other representations, for example promotional or informational material.

Servers may also be connected to the network 201. For example, a game server 205 may generate game outcomes for games played on one or more of the gaming consoles 114, a database management server 206 may manage the storage of game programs and associated data in a database 206A so that they are available for downloading to, or access by, game controllers 101, and a jackpot server 207 may control one or more jackpots for the gaming system 200.

Further servers may be provided to assist in the administration of the gaming system 200, including for example a gaming floor management server 208, and a licensing server 209 to monitor the use of licenses to particular games. An administrator terminal 210 is provided to allow an administrator to manage the network 201 and the devices connected to the network. The different servers depicted can be distinct physical servers or logically distinct server processes running on a single physical server.

The gaming system 200 may communicate with other gaming systems, other local networks, for example a corporate network and/or a wide area network such as the Internet through a firewall 211.

By way of example, an embodiment of the invention will be described in relation to an illustrative partial set of game symbols 500 as depicted in FIG. 5. It will of course be appreciated that any number of different symbols may be used without departing from the spirit of the invention. In this embodiment the set of game symbols includes ordinary game symbols 502, special game symbols 520 and composite game symbols 530. The symbols may, for example, be used in a spinning reel type game, a card game, a dice game, or other type of game.

Ordinary and Special Game Symbols

The set of ordinary game symbols 502 and special game symbols 520 may include any number and variety of different symbols, as well as multiple instances of the same symbol. The partial set of game symbols 500 only provides one representation of each type of symbol depicted. Typically, each ordinary symbol 502 and special symbol 520 is distinguishable by its visual appearance. While FIG. 5 provides an example partial set of game symbols 500, any other symbols could also be used, such as symbols with visual appearances representing:

    • letters;
    • numbers;
    • characters;
    • everyday objects; and/or
    • any other item or object.

The visual appearances may also, of course, be abstract and not relate to any identifiable object or item, the primary requirement simply being that one type of symbol is distinguishable from a different type of symbol.

During game play, the game controller 101 determines normal awards based on winning combinations of ordinary symbols. These awards are generally determined with reference to a paytable which sets out the requirements of an award and the value of the award. For example, the occurrence of 3 of the same type of ordinary symbol 502 along a payline may attract an award that results in the wager placed by the player on the game being doubled.

In addition to the awards associated with winning combinations of ordinary symbols 502, each special symbol 520 also has an associated special symbol attribute which may serve to increase the possibility of being awarded an award, change the nature of an award, or provide an additional award. Different types of special symbols 520 and associated special symbol attributes are known in the art, but may (again by way of example only) include special symbols which, when they occur during game play:

    • are able to substitute for any ordinary game symbol (i.e. a wild symbol);
    • multiply the wager placed by the player;
    • award additional credits;
    • award one or more free games;
    • enable access to a bonus game or feature;
    • enable access to a tournament game;
    • award of one or more entries into a jackpot draw; and/or
    • award of a specific prize (e.g. white goods, a trip etc).

In describing this particular embodiment of the invention the set of game symbols 500 includes the following symbols and associated award attributes:

Symbol typeSymbol appearanceSpecial symbol attribute
OrdinaryStandard playing cardsNone.
(504-518).
SpecialJoker playing card (522)Provides access to bonus game.
SpecialCrown (524)Provides entry into a jackpot.
SpecialCat (526)Award of 5 free games
when three or more black
cat symbols occur anywhere.
SpecialRibbon (528)Substitutable for any
ordinary symbol. Doubles
any wins to be awarded.

Composite Symbols

In addition to ordinary symbols 502 and special symbols 520, the set of game symbols 500 also includes composite symbols 530. As can be seen, the appearance of each of the composite symbols 530 is composed of a combination of the visual appearance of two or more special symbols 520.

In addition to being visually composed of two or more special symbols, the composite symbol attribute associated with each composite symbol is also composed of a combination of the attributes of the special symbols from which the composite symbol is formed. The composite symbols 530 depicted in FIG. 5 (by way of non-exhaustive example only) include:

Symbol typeSymbol appearanceSpecial symbol attribute
CompositeJoker with Crown (532)Access to bonus game
AND entry to jackpot
CompositeCat with Ribbon (534)Symbol may be substituted
for any other symbol and all
wins are doubled
AND (provided three cat
symbols occur) 5 free bonus
games
CompositeJoker with Ribbon (536)Symbol may be substituted
for any other symbol and all
wins are doubled
AND access to bonus game
CompositeCat with Crown and RibbonSymbol may be substituted
(538)for any other symbol and all
wins are doubled
AND (provided three cat
symbols occur) 5 free bonus
games
AND entry to jackpot

The particular number, type, and distribution of the ordinary symbols 502, special symbols (and associated special symbol attributes) 520, and composite symbols 530 in the set of game symbols will depend on the particular type of game to be played and the desired statistical return to the player of the game.

While the invention has been described in relation to a particular and relatively small set of game symbols it will be appreciated that different and far larger sets of game symbols may be used. Further, the greater the number of “special” symbols included in the set of game symbols the greater the number of combinations and permutations of those symbols into composite symbols. If an embodiment of the invention is implemented which requires a user to buy access to the various composite symbols (as discussed below), by providing a large number of composite symbols the user can, to a degree, customize their game by selecting which of the composite symbols they wish to buy.

In one embodiment of the invention the set of game symbols may further be split into active and inactive game symbols. As used herein the term “active” game symbols refers to those symbols from which the game controller 101 makes random selections during game play. If a symbol is not active it is removed from the set of symbols the game controller 101 makes symbol selections from and therefore cannot occur during game play.

In one embodiment, the set of active game symbols at the start of a game play session may be limited to the ordinary symbols 502 and special symbols 520 only (i.e. until an activation event occurs composite symbols will not occur during game play). During game play activation and deactivation events may occur which have the effect of moving composite symbols into and out of the set of active symbols. Activation events may, for example, include:

    • the occurrence of a particular winning combination of ordinary and/or special symbols;
    • explicit selection of a composite symbol by a user. This may require the user to “buy” access to one or more composite symbols of choice. Such a purchase by the user may be made to permanently include the composite symbol the set of active symbols, or to include the composite symbol in the set of active symbols for a set number of games only. Further, different composite symbols (with different attributes) may be assigned different prices;
    • a random activation of a composite symbol by the game controller 101;
    • the reaching of a threshold number of successive game plays;
    • the reaching of a threshold amount of credits;
    • the reaching of a threshold amount of winnings;
    • the placement of a particular wager; and/or
    • the reaching of a threshold time period of continual game play.

Deactivation events may, again by way of example only, include:

    • a certain number of games having been played;
    • a random deactivation of a composite symbol by the game controller 101;
    • user credits falling below a particular threshold; and/or
    • the lapsing of a certain period of time.

While the above embodiments of the invention have been described in relation to a set of game symbols in which special symbols are combined to create composite symbols, alternative embodiments of the invention may be implemented where composite symbols are formed of ordinary symbols. Using the terminology of ordinary, special and composite symbols adopted above, a composite symbol may be a combination of the appearance and attributes of:

    • two or more ordinary symbols (for example a combination King and Queen symbol having the visual appearance with one side a King and the other side a Queen, and which may be interpreted by the game controller 101 as both a King and a Queen);
    • two or more special symbols (as discussed above);
    • one or more ordinary symbols with one or more special symbols (for example a combination Ten and Crown symbol having the visual appearance of a Ten with a Crown, and which may be interpreted by the game controller 101 as having the attributes of both the Ten symbol and the Crown symbol);

Further, composite symbols may themselves be combined to create new composite symbols. In this case, however (and noting that a composite symbol is a combination of ordinary and/or special symbols) the resulting composite symbol will merely be a combination of a greater number of ordinary and/or special symbols.

Example Game Play

A sample play of a game in accordance with an embodiment of the invention will now be described with reference to FIGS. 6A to 6D. For the purposes of this description the sample screen 600 is depicted with a 5×3 matrix of displayed symbols 602 (comprising columns 604 to 612 and rows 614 to 618) however it will be appreciated that any display arrangement may be used. Also displayed is a wager indicator 620 showing the amount wagered by the user on the instant game, a winnings indicator 622 showing the amount won by the user, and a message area 624 used by the game controller 101 to display relevant messages to the user.

In each of the example game outcomes the wager is 100 credits. Further, and for the purposes of explanation only, it will be presumed that for the game described below the occurrence of three King symbols in a line is a winning combination for which the game controller 101 awards an award of twice the placed wager.

FIG. 6A shows a first example of a game play result. The player wager was 100 credits (620) and the win awarded to the player on the basis of the symbols randomly selected by the game controller 101 is zero (622). In this instance no winning combinations have occurred and no award is awarded.

FIG. 6B shows a second example of a game play result. Recalling that the Ribbon symbol (column 608 row 616) can substitute as a King symbol and serves to double any win, the symbol arrangement in FIG. 6B results in an award of 400 credits (twice the win of the 200 credits that would have been associated with three King symbols in a line). Further, a Joker symbol has also occurred (column 612 row 614) which enables the user to access a bonus game. This is conveyed to the user in the message area 624.

FIG. 6C shows a third example of a game play result and differs from FIG. 6B in that the symbol at the intersection of column 608 and row 616 is now a composite Cat and Ribbon symbol (rather than the Ribbon symbol of FIG. 6B). The symbol arrangement in FIG. 6C results in the same award as described in relation to FIG. 6B with the addition that the user is also awarded 5 free games (due to the fact that there are now three Cat symbols).

FIG. 6D provides a fourth example of a game play result and differs from FIG. 6C in that that symbol at the intersection of column 608 and row 616 is now a composite Cat and Ribbon and Crown symbol (rather than the composite Cat and Ribbon symbol of FIG. 6C). Once again the award is the same as for FIG. 6C however with the addition that the occurrence of the Crown symbol provides the user with an entry to a jackpot (this is conveyed to the user in message area 624).

FIG. 7 shows a process flow diagram of a process performed in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The process may be performed by the gaming system 200, in which the gaming consoles 114 each include game controllers 101 to form gaming machines 100 and the following description assumes this implementation. However, those skilled in the relevant arts will appreciate that the process will also be able to be implemented by other gaming systems.

In step 1, the game controller 101 monitors the bill acceptor and/or coin input 110 and/or information received by the card/ticket reader 108 or network card 112 for a deposit of credit and in response causes the hardware meters 104 to increment according to the denomination of the game. The game controller 101 then monitors the user interface 107 for the input of a wager.

If there are sufficient credits in the meters 104 to support the wager, a game play is commenced in step 2 by the game controller 101. A game play involves the game controller 101 making a random selection of game symbols from the set of active game symbols and displaying those game symbols selected on the display 106.

In step 3 the game controller 101 determines any award(s) due as a result of the displayed symbols. Awards are determined with reference to any paytables as well as any special symbols with specific associated award attributes. Further, the game controller 101 is configured to recognize composite symbols (as discussed above) and if required compute multiple awards based on a single symbol which has multiple associated attributes.

In step 4 the game controller 101 determines whether an activation event (or events) occurred during game play and, if so, in step 5 updates the set of active symbols.

Similarly, in step 6 the game controller 101 determines whether a deactivation event (or events) occurred during game play and, if so, updates the set of active game symbols in step 7.

While the foregoing description has been provided by way of example of the preferred embodiments of the present invention as presently contemplated, which utilize gaming machines of the type found in casinos, those skilled in the relevant arts will appreciate that the present invention also may have application to internet gaming and/or have application to gaming over a telecommunications network, where handsets are used to display game outcomes and receive player inputs.

Where in the foregoing description reference has been made to integers having known equivalents, then those equivalents are hereby incorporated herein as if individually set forth.

Those skilled in the relevant arts will appreciate that modifications and additions to the embodiments of the present invention may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention.

It will be understood that the invention disclosed and defined in this specification extends to all alternative combinations of two or more of the individual features mentioned or evident from the text or drawings. All of these different combinations constitute various alternative aspects of the invention.

It will also be understood that the term “comprises” (or its grammatical variants) as used in this specification is equivalent to the term “includes” and should not be taken as excluding the presence of other elements or features.