Title:
Controlling the position of an object in three dimensions
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A play piece may be positioned in three dimensions without actually contacting a play piece. A three dimensional structure may be include with a grid of electromagnetic actuators. By selectively controlling the current through such actuators, the position of the play piece, having a permanent magnet, may be adjusted. In addition, the current induced by the play piece may be utilized to determine the location of the play piece.



Inventors:
Rosenberg, Joel M. (Cambridge, MA, US)
Application Number:
09/836977
Publication Date:
02/06/2003
Filing Date:
04/18/2001
Assignee:
ROSENBERG JOEL M.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63H23/10; A63H30/04; A63H33/26; (IPC1-7): A63H33/26
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20070197126Magnetic SkateParkAugust, 2007Derrah
20050178774Whistle cap for drink containerAugust, 2005Howell
20070254556Curling structure for a simulated aquatic creature and the likeNovember, 2007Whitaker
20080096462Suspension Structure and Model VehicleApril, 2008Araki
20060270319Reconfigurable toy extreme sport skierNovember, 2006Campbell
20080125005Cloth Inflatable ToysMay, 2008Lu
20090258570Toy water shooterOctober, 2009Ma
20100015883Magic ButtonJanuary, 2010Boudreaux
20100091102Toy camera setApril, 2010Rudell
20020102909Cloth shape with pockets for objectsAugust, 2002Derraugh et al.
20050169484Apparatus and methods for synthesis of simulated internal combustion engine vehicle soundsAugust, 2005Cascone et al.



Primary Examiner:
COLLINS, DOLORES R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
TROP, PRUNER & HU, P.C. (HOUSTON, TX, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A toy comprising: a plurality of electrically controllable elements; and a controller to selectively actuate said elements to position a play piece in three dimensions without physically contacting said play piece.

2. The toy of claim 1 wherein said elements are electromagnets.

3. The toy of claim 2 including a three dimensional structure having at least one surface.

4. The toy of claim 3 wherein said surface includes a matrix of elements.

5. The toy of claim 4 wherein structure is in the form of a rectangular box having at least four walls, each of said walls including an array of electrically controllable elements.

6. The toy of claim 5 wherein said box is fluid tight.

7. The toy of claim 5 wherein said box contains a liquid.

8. The toy of claim 1 including a play piece having a permanent magnet.

9. The toy of claim 8 wherein said play piece is neutrally buoyant.

10. The toy of claim 1 including a controller to determine the location of said play piece in three dimensions.

11. The toy of claim 1 including an input device that enables a user to specify a position of the play piece in three dimensions, said controller adapted to position said play piece in response to a user input command.

12. A method comprising: receiving a play piece position command; and in response to receipt of said command, developing a plurality of signals to control electrically controllable elements to position a play piece in three dimensions without physically contacting said play piece.

13. The method of claim 12 including applying current to selected electromagnets in a matrix of electromagnets.

14. The method of claim 13 including applying current to electromagnets oriented in a three dimensional structure.

15. The method of claim 14 including causing said play piece to move in a liquid environment.

16. The method of claim 12 including detecting induced currents in said elements in order to locate the position of said play piece.

17. The method of claim 16 including converting said induced currents into position signals and displaying the position of said play piece.

18. An article comprising a medium storing instructions that enable a processor-based system to: receive a play piece position command; and in response to receipt of said command, develop a plurality of signals to control electrically controllable elements to position a play piece in three dimensions without physically contacting said play piece.

19. The article of claim 18 further storing instructions that enable the processor-based system to develop signals to control the current applied to selected electromagnets in a matrix of electromagnets to control the position of the play piece in three dimensions.

20. The article of claim 18 further storing instructions that enable the processor-based system to use induced currents in said elements in order to locate the position of said play piece.

21. The article of claim 20 further storing instructions that enable the processor-based system to receive information about said induced current, convert said information into position signals, and display the position of a play piece.

Description:

BACKGROUND

[0001] This invention relates generally to devices that are able to position other devices without contacting those devices.

[0002] In a number of toy applications, it is desirable to move a game piece or toy element in two or more dimensions. For example, in a number of play scenarios involving board games, a play piece may be moved by the user. In addition, play pieces may be manipulated by the user in various toy scenarios.

[0003] Generally, toy manipulation techniques require the child to actually grab the toy and to position the toy where desired. This limits the realism that is possible and thereby reduces the value of the toy.

[0004] Children have been fascinated by magicians who use so-called levitation techniques to cause objects to rise into the air, apparently without physical contact. Usually, these techniques involve using thin wires that are not visible to the user.

[0005] Nonetheless, levitation acts create a sense of wonderment and are entertaining for children of a variety of ages. Therefore, there would be a considerable interest in a toy which actually implements a levitation trick.

[0006] In particular, a toy that enables the levitation of play pieces would be of considerable potential play value.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0007] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of the present invention;

[0008] FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view taken generally along the line 2-2 in FIG. 1;

[0009] FIG. 3 is a block depiction of the embodiment shown in FIG. 2;

[0010] FIG. 4 is a depiction of a walls 12 in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

[0011] FIG. 5 is a flow chart for software in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention; and

[0012] FIG. 6 is a flow chart for software in accordance with another embodiment of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0013] Referring to FIG. 1, a three dimensional, partial enclosure or three dimensional structure 10 may facilitate the contact-free manipulation of the position of a toy play piece 11. In the illustrated embodiment, the play piece 11 is a toy submarine submerged in a liquid L contained by the structure 10. In one embodiment, the enclosure 10 includes a plurality of peripheral walls 12 and a bottom surface 15. The top surface of the structure 10 may be open for access and viewing in one embodiment.

[0014] As shown in FIG. 2, the play piece 11 may include a permanent magnet 13. As will be described in more detail, the play piece 11 may be eletromagnetically positionable due to the influence of electromagnets in the walls 12 on the permanent magnet 13. In addition, in some embodiments, the play piece 11 may include one or more air pockets to make the play piece 11 neutrally buoyant.

[0015] While the play piece 11 is illustrated as being neutrally buoyant in a liquid L, in other embodiments, the play piece 11 may be suspended in air. For example, the play piece 11 may include buoyancy enhancing material such as helium. Alternatives, the play piece 11 may be sufficiently light to be suspended by the electromagnetic fields described hereinafter. As still another embodiment, the play piece 11 may be uplifted by upwardly directed air flows.

[0016] Referring to FIG. 4, each wall 12, such as the wall 12d, includes a plurality of electromagnets 22. Each electromagnet 22 is capable of generating an electromagnetic field that attracts or repels the permanent magnet 13 in the play piece 11.

[0017] In some embodiments, the electromagnets 22 may be molded directly into the wall 12. In still another embodiment, the electromagnets 22 may be incorporated into a film which is attached on the inside surface of the wall 12. A variety of other techniques may be utilized to associate the electromagnets 22 with the walls 12.

[0018] A matrix of electromagnets 22 in each wall 12a to 12d may allow relatively fine control over the attractive or repulsive forces applied electromagnetically to the play piece 11. That is, current may be selectively applied to one or more of the electromagnets 22 to create the desired force that enables positioning of the toy play piece 11 relative to any set of electromagnets 22. Moreover, if electromagnets 22 are provided in each of the surface 15 and walls 12, the play piece 11 may be positioned relative to any of those surfaces as desired, in one embodiment of the present invention.

[0019] Referring to FIG. 3, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, arrays 18 of electromagnets 22 may be provided in each of the walls 12a, 12b, 12c, 12d and even in the bottom surface 15 in one embodiment. Each of the arrays 18 may be controlled by a controller 24. The controller 24 may receive user inputs from an input device 16 and may display information on a display 52. The controller 24 may be associated with a memory 30 that stores information including the software programs 32 and 42.

[0020] In accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, the software program 32 may enable the play piece 11 to be precisely positioned in response to user input commands received through the input device 16. In another embodiment of the present invention, the precise position of a play piece 11 may be determined by the software 42. The software 42 may enable the position of the device to be displayed on a display 52 in one embodiment.

[0021] In particular, the controller 24 selectively couples current to any one or more of the electromagnets 22 to develop a sufficient attractive or repulsive force to control the position of the play piece 11. This control may be implemented automatically by software running on the controller 24 which determines, based on the user input, how to appropriately supply current to the electromagnets 22 to achieve the desired play piece 11 positioning.

[0022] Referring to FIG. 5, the software 32, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention, may receive an input command from the input device 16, as indicated in block 34. In one embodiment of the present invention, the input device 16 may be a touch screen display that enables the user to simply touch a displayed image of the enclosure 10 to appropriately suggest a play piece 11 position. However, any input device may be used as the input device 16.

[0023] The software 32 then calculates the displacement needed to achieve the requested position, as indicated in block 36. Next the software 32 determines the appropriate electromagnet signals in order to appropriately displace the play piece 11, as indicated in block 38. Finally, the inductor signals may be issued, causing the play piece 11 to move appropriately, as indicated in block 40.

[0024] In response to a user request or otherwise, the position of the play piece 11 may be determined by the software 42 in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. When the play piece 11 is appropriately positioned where desired, the controller 24 may go into a receive mode wherein it receives induced current signals from the arrays 18, as indicated in block 44. Those induced current signals may be indicative of the relative position of the play piece 11 and particularly its permanent magnet 13 relative to various electromagnets 22. Those current signals may then be analyzed as indicated in block 46.

[0025] Based on the analysis of those induced current signals, a plurality of signals may be derived as indicated in block 48. Using known characteristics of inductors, those induced current signals may be translated into a corresponding play piece 11 location in three dimensions as indicated in block 48. Thereafter, the calculated play piece 11 location may be displayed on the display 52 as indicated at block 50.

[0026] By varying the flow of electricity through any given electromagnet 22, the strength of the field induced by the electromagnet's inductor may be altered. As a result, the attractive or repulsive applied force and, thus the position of the play piece 11 in three dimensions may be controlled.

[0027] In one embodiment of the present invention, an aquarium may be implemented as the enclosure 10. Other play scenarios may include a movie set or game pieces.

[0028] While the present invention has been described with respect to a limited number of embodiments, those skilled in the art will appreciate numerous modifications and variations therefrom. It is intended that the appended claims cover all such modifications and variations as fall within the true spirit and scope of this present invention.