Title:
Sleeping chair
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Chairs that are capable of moving in a fixed space to promote sleeping in the seated user are described. Also described are methods of inducing sleep in a subject using these sleeping chairs.



Inventors:
Collins, Amy Tsui L. (Alameda, CA, US)
Application Number:
09/906582
Publication Date:
07/04/2002
Filing Date:
07/13/2001
Assignee:
COLLINS AMY L. TSUI
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47C1/02; A47C3/02; A47C21/00; A47D9/02; (IPC1-7): A47C1/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
EDELL, JOSEPH F
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
COOLEY LLP (Washington, DC, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A sleeping chair comprising a chair portion, an articulator and a controller wherein the chair portion comprises: a base; a seat support for supporting a user, wherein the seat support is mounted on said base; and a back support for supporting the back of a user, wherein the back support is connected to the seat support; wherein the articulator is connected to the chair portion and to the controller, and the articulator is capable of conferring an upward, downward, forward and braking motion on the chair portion while the sleeping chair remains substantially in place; and wherein the controller is capable of controlling the movement of the articulator.

2. The sleeping chair of claim 1, wherein the articulator is capable of generating a motion that simulates the motion of a moving vehicle.

3. The sleeping chair of claim 1, wherein the chair portion further comprises a pair of armrests.

4. The sleeping chair of claim 1, wherein the chair portion further comprises a headrest that is connected to the back support.

5. The sleeping chair of claim 1, wherein the controller comprises a motor and a switch that is capable of turning the motor on and off.

6. The sleeping chair of claim 1, wherein the back support is adjustable to form an angle with the seat support, and the angle ranges from about 90 degrees to about 180 degrees.

7. The sleeping chair of claim 1, wherein the controller comprises a computer and a program designed to generate a motion on the seat support that simulates the motion of a moving vehicle.

8. The sleeping chair of claim 2, wherein the moving vehicle is a car.

9. The sleeping chair of claim 8, wherein the moving vehicle is moving at a speed between 10 mph and 90mph.

10. The sleeping chair of claim 9, wherein the moving vehicle is moving at a speed selected from the group consisting of 10 mph, 15 mph, 20 mph, 25 mph, 30 mph, 35 mph, and 40 mph.

11. The sleeping chair of claim 9, wherein the moving vehicle is moving at a speed selected from the group consisting of 45 mph, 50 mph, 55 mph, 60 mph, 65 mph, 70 mph, 75 mph, and 80 mph.

12. The sleeping chair of claim 2, wherein the moving vehicle is an airplane.

13. The sleeping chair of claim 2, wherein the moving vehicle is a boat.

14. The sleeping chair of claim 1, wherein the controller comprises a timer.

15. The sleeping chair of claim 1, wherein the chair portion is covered with one selected from the group consisting of leather, a synthetic material, a cotton fabric, a woolen material and combinations thereof.

16. The sleeping chair of claim 1, wherein the chair comprises a safety strap.

17. A method of inducing sleep comprising the step of: a. allowing a person to sit in a sleeping chair of claim 1; and b. turning on the controller to initiate movement of the sleeping chair.

18. The method of claim 17, further comprising the step of setting the controller to automatically turn off after a specified period of time.

19. The method of claim 17, further comprising the step of fastening the safety strap prior to turning on the controller.

20. The method of claim 17, further comprising the step of adjusting the back support to a reclining position.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] The present invention claims the benefit of provisional application serial No. 60/218,855 filed Jul. 13, 2000 under the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 119(e).

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The present invention relates to the field of chairs and, in particular, chairs that are capable of moving in a fixed space.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] Parents are familiar with situations in which they have difficulty putting a child to sleep. Rocking and vibrating chairs designed to provide soothing motion for the child are described, for example, in U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,948; 5,280,996; 5,887,944; and 6,024,409. However, very often, parents succeed in putting the child to sleep only driving around in a car. Somehow, the motion of a car is able to soothe such children and help them sleep.

[0004] Further, there is a growing aging population. Many older people find it difficult to go to sleep. Some sleep only a few hours and wake up, unable to sleep further. Yet, these same people are often able to fall asleep when they ride in a car, such as on a long distance trip.

[0005] Motion simulators are known for training purposes, such as U.S. Pat. No. 5,453,011 issued on Sep. 26, 1995 to Feuer et al., entitled “Flight Simulator,” and U.S. Pat. No. 4,019,261 to Pancoe, entitled “Motion System for a Flight Simulator,” the contents of both of which are hereby incorporated by reference in their entireties. Motion simulators are also known to be used in amusement rides, such as in U.S. Pat. No. 5,403,238 issued on Apr. 4, 1995 to Baxter et al., entitled “Amusement Park Attraction,” and U.S. Pat. No. 5,473,990 issued on Dec. 12, 1995 to Anderson et al., entitled “Ride Vehicle Control System,” the contents of both of which are also incorporated herein by reference in their entireties.

[0006] Control systems for motion simulators are also known, such as in U.S. Pat. No. 5,827,065 issued Oct. 27, 1998 to McClintic, entitled “Motion Simulator Operating System and Method,” and U.S. Pat. No. 6,050,823 issued Apr. 18, 2000 to McClintic, entitled Motion Simulator Operating System and Method,” the contents of both of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entireties.

[0007] It will be desirable if there is created a chair or reclining system in which a person can sit or recline and that generates a motion that will help that person to fall asleep.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] It is, therefore, an object of the present invention, to provide a chair or a reclining system (hereafter “a sleeping chair”) that is connected to a motion simulator that can generate a motion that helps a person to fall asleep. It is also an object of the present invention to provide a method of facilitating a person to fall asleep.

[0009] In accordance to one object of the present invention, there is provided a sleeping chair that has a chair portion, an articulating means and a control means, where the chair portion contains a base, a seat support for supporting the load of a user, where the seat support is mounted on the base, and a back support for supporting the back of a user and where the back is connected to the seat support, where the articulating means is connected to the chair portion and to the control means, and the articulating means is capable of conferring an upward, downward, forward and braking motion on the chair portion while the sleeping chair remains substantially in place, and where the control means is capable of controlling the movement of the articulating means.

[0010] In accordance to another object of the present invention, there is provided a sleeping chair as above, where the articulating means is capable of generating a motion that simulates the motion of a moving vehicle. The moving vehicle can be a car, a truck, a train, a boat, an ocean-liner, and an airplane. Further, the speed of the moving vehicle can be anywhere from 10 to over 500 miles per hour, including any integer in between these values.

[0011] In accordance to as yet another object of the present invention, there is provided the sleeping chair as above, where the chair portion further contains a pair of armrests.

[0012] In accordance to a further object of the present invention, there is provided a sleeping chair as above, where the chair portion further contains a headrest.

[0013] In a further aspect, the present invention includes a reclining system, such as one resembling a recliner in which the back support can vary between 90 degrees and 180 degrees, that is capable of generating a motion that facilitates a person to fall asleep.

[0014] In yet a further aspect, the chair portion may be covered with cushions and/or one or more fabrics such as leather, synthetic materials, cotton fabrics, woolen materials and combinations thereof.

[0015] In accordance to another object of the present invention, there is provided methods of inducing sleep in a subject by placing the subject in the chair described herein and actuating the articulator. The controller can be used to automatically determine the type, speed and duration of the motion. In certain embodiments, the chair is reclined, the foot rest extended and/or a safety strap fastened around the subject.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

[0016] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of the present invention showing various elements of the chair, articulator and controller.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0017] All publications, patents and patent applications cited herein, whether supra or infra, are hereby incorporated by reference in their entireties.

[0018] It must be noted that, as used in this specification and the appended claims, the singular forms “a”, “an”, and “the” include plural referents unless the content clearly dictates otherwise. Thus, for example, reference to “an articulating device” includes a mixture of two or more such devices and the like.

[0019] An exemplary chair (10) of the present invention is shown in FIG. 1. The chair includes a base (11); a seat support (12); a back support (13); an articulator (e.g., motion simulator) (14); and a controller (15). The chair may optionally include arm rests (16); head or neck rest (20) and/or cushions. Preferably, the back support (13) reclines at an angle of between about 90° and 180° relative to the seat support (12). The chair may also include a foot rest (21) that can be built into the base and be extended as desired by the user. The precise positioning of the back support relative to the seat (12) can be determined by the individual user and may be manually or otherwise adjustable. Reclining mechanisms for chairs are known and can be readily constructed. The back support may fully recline and there may be a restraining device to keep the user safely within the confines of the chair. Similarly, the back and/or seat portion may be curved upwards at the edges to provide a physical barrier for the user, for example an infant. Moreover, the chair may be constructed in a variety of sizes to fit adults, young children or infants. The chair portion can be covered with any number of fabrics and/or cushions, for instance a naturally occurring material (e.g., leather, cotton, wool, etc.); a synthetic material (e.g., polyester, etc.); or combinations thereof.

[0020] The present invention also includes an articulator which is any means capable of moving the chair within a fixed space. The articulator may be built into the chair, for instance as shown in FIG. 1 the articulator (14) is built into the base (11) of the chair. Alternatively, the articulator may be separate from, but connected to, the chair portion. Motion simulators that provide such movement functions are known and can be used to allow for rotational, forward, backward, upward, downward and/or braking motion of the chair. Typically, the articulator is capable of conferring the motion on the chair portion while the chair remains substantially in place. Preferably, during operation of the actuator, the base of the chair will not move more than 1 foot in any direction, more preferably no more than about 6 inches and even more preferably no more than about 3 inches in any direction. The articulator can simulate the movement of any moving vehicle, including but not limited to, a car, a truck, an airplane, a boat and the like. The articulator can simulate a wide range of speeds, anywhere from 5 mph to over 500 mph (e.g., airplane), and any integer values therebetween.

[0021] A controller is used to control and power the articulator, for example, to determine type of motion (e.g., forward, backward, upward, etc.) and to determine speed. The controller typically includes a power source and a user interface, for example knobs, switches, buttons and the like. Any suitable source of power can be used to power the articulator and other functions (e.g., timer, alarm, etc) of the chair. In one embodiment, conventional household power is provided by a suitable electrical cord to terminals of the chair. Other sources of power, for example batteries, can also be used in the present invention. The power source may be built into the chair or may be external. Further, there may be one or more motors or sources of power for the chair, for example an additional motor could be used in conjunction with a hydraulic base for the chair whereby the elevation of the seat (12) of the chair above the floor could be variety at the option the operator, all of which is conventional.

[0022] In certain embodiments, the controller comprises a computer and suitable computer programs designed to generate a motion on the seat support that simulates the motion of a moving vehicle. The programs may be pre-determined such that the user need only select one of them to provide motion of a specified type (e.g., forward, backward, etc.), speed and duration. Alternatively, the user may choose to set their own parameters to control the articulator.

[0023] The chair may also comprise a timer which, when actuated, controls a switch so as to cut off power to the articulator after the desired length of time. The timer may be located within the controller and may also control other functions, for example the timer may be linked to an alarm device, for example an audio alarm, to wake the individual seated in the chair.

[0024] The chair described herein allows for methods of inducing sleep in a subject. The subject is placed into the chair and the controller is turned on to the desired type, speed and duration of motion, for example by setting pre-determined program. In certain embodiments, the chair is reclined; the foot rest extended and/or a safety strap secured around the subject prior to the turning on the controller and articulator.

EXAMPLE 1

[0025] In one embodiment of the present invention, the articulator providing six degrees of freedom is a motion device known in the art, such as one described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,263,382 (“the '382 patent”), the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entireties, is used. The '382 patent was issued Nov. 23, 1993 to assignee, Hughes Aircraft Company and is entitled “Six Degree of Freedom Motion Device.” The '382 invention describes, for example, “an apparatus for transmitting movements in six degrees of freedom between a base plate and a top plate with a plurality of legs. Each leg has a lower link coupled to the bottom plate and an upper link coupled to the top plate. The lower and upper links are connected together by an elbow with one degree of freedom. A differential drive for each leg couples each leg's lower link to the bottom plate and a universal joint couples each leg's upper link to the top plate. The upper link also has a second roll joint for rotating about its axis of elongation. The differential drive preferably has a link gear at the end of the lower link of each leg for rotating the lower link about its axis of elongation and a pair of drive gears on opposite sides of the link for rotating the gear” (col. 1, lines 31-45). The motion device described in the '382 patent (“the Hughes motion device”) is sized to fit within the space of a chair bounded by the surface serving as the seat of the chair and a base resting on a floor and front and side supports between the seat of the chair and the base. In this example, the top plate 10 and the base plate 20 of the Hughes motion device, as shown in FIG. 1 of the '382 patent, are the seat of the chair and the base of the chair, respectively of the present invention.

EXAMPLE 2

[0026] In another embodiment of the present invention, the articulator providing six degrees of freedom is that shown in U.S. Pat. No. 5,835,198 (“the '198 patent”), the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entireties. The '198 patent was issued on Nov. 10, 1998 to assignee Etech Systems, Inc. and is entitled “Articulated Platform Mechanism for Laser Pattern Generation on a Workpiece.” The '198 patent describes, for example, “an articulated platform mechanism which includes a movable (tilting) platform, three shaft-mounted double-bevelled cams and six crowned cam followers. The cam followers are mounted in pairs on the triframe and seat on a respective ones of the double-bevelled cam and a pair of followers is mounted 120 degrees apart from the other two sets. Taken together the three sets comprise a kinematic (statistically determinate) mount in which the platform seats . . . . In a preferred embodiment, a central aperture in the triangular triframe accommodates a bearing which is the primary component of a theta (rotation about the Z-axis) stage which is mounted to the triframe” (the '198 patent at col. 1, line 65 to col. 2, line 15). In one embodiment, the seat of the chair of the current invention is made to sit on the theta stage, with or without the aperture and the components are sized and selected to bear the weight of a person but fit within the space circumscribed by the seat of the chair, the base of the chair and the sides supporting the seat of the chair of the present invention.

[0027] In other embodiments, one or more cams (e.g., each with 2 degrees of freedom) driven by an electrical motor can be used. For instance, three independently electrically-driven cams, each having 2 degrees of freedom can be readily adapted for use in the chairs described herein.

EXAMPLE 3

[0028] In another embodiment of the present invention, the actuator is a system such as one described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,829,982 (“the '982 patent”), issued Nov. 3,1998 to assignee Technische Universiteit Delft and is entitled, “Method of Manufacturing a Motion Simulator, and a Motion Simulator,” the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entireties. Here, the motion is supported by a number of “deck-supporting legs pivotally connected with the deck in first pivot points, the legs being actively and continuously length-adjustable, such that the deck is capable of describing a motion envelope comprising all desired deck positions” (col. 1, lines 5-10).

EXAMPLE 4

[0029] In this example, the motion simulator and operating system of the present invention is made such as described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,050,823 (“the '823 patent”), issued on Apr. 18, 2000 and is entitled, “Motion Simulator Operating System and Method,” the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entireties. Here, for example, “the control system contains a memory. Within the memory is a plurality of pre-programmed maneuvers that are capable of being simulated by the motion simulator. An interface is provided that enables a person to select some of the pre-programmed maneuvers from the memory in a desired sequence, prior to that person entering the motion simulator. Once a certain sequence of maneuvers is selected, the motion simulator simulates those maneuvers in the chosen sequence. This enables each rider of the motion simulator to design his/her own simulation each time that person uses the motion simulator. The control system also enables a rider to program the motion simulator at the sight of the motion simulator or at home, via a personal computer” (Abstract).

EXAMPLE 5

[0030] The present invention may be incorporated into a massaging chair such as one described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,813,727 issued Sep. 29, 1998 to assignee, Matsushita Electric Works, Ltd. and is entitled “Massaging Chair” (“the '727 patent), the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entireties. In this example, the sleeping chair of the present invention, for example, comprises “a seat, a reclining backrest pivotally connected about a pivot axis to the seat so as to be movable between an upright position and a horizontal position with respect to the seat, and a massager is disposed on the side of the reclining backrest to give a massage to a back of a user resting on said seat. A pair of armrests is disposed on the opposite sides of said seat. The armrests are designed to extend arcuately substantially about the pivot axis of the backrest” (Abstract).

EXAMPLE 6

[0031] In this example, another articulator system having six degrees of freedom is patterned after U.S. Pat. No. 6,047,610 (“the '610 patent”), issued Apr. 11, 2000 and is entitled (Hybrid Serial/Parallel Manipulator,” the contents of which are incorporated herein in their entireties. It is recognized that the components of the system of the '610 patent may have to be modified to support the weight of a person and to fit in the space intended between the seat of the chair of the present invention and the base of the chair next to the floor.

EXAMPLE 7

[0032] Another system providing six degrees of freedom that can be used herein is described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,850,759 (“the '759 patent”), issued on Dec. 22, 1998 to assignee Daewoo Electronics Co., Ltd., and is entitled “Force Feed Back Manipulator with Six Degrees of Freedom,” the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entireties. It is recognized that the components of the system of the '759 patent may have to be modified to support the weight of a person and to fit in the space intended between the seat of the chair of the present invention and the base of the chair next to the floor.

EXAMPLE 8

[0033] In this example, the present invention further includes shock absorbers to provide users of the sleeping chair with a smooth motion, such as ones described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,247,685 (“the '685 patent”), issued on Jun. 19, 2001 to assignee Unisia Jecs Corporation, and is entitled, “Suspension System for Motor Vehicles,” the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entireties. Depending on the configuration of the motion simulator used, the placement of the shock absorber varies in a manner known to a person skilled in the art.

EXAMPLE 9

[0034] In this example, the sleeping chair of the present invention is equipped with music.

EXAMPLE 10

[0035] In this example, the sleeping chair of the present invention is equipped with a heating element to heat the seat and/or the back of the chair.

[0036] The above detailed embodiments are given by way of example to facilitate a better understanding of the invention and are not intended to be limiting.