Systems and methods of sports training using specific biofeedback
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Apparatus for providing biofeedback sports training are described to improve training in a convenient form. Aspects include a sparring device that converts impact and training rates into audio streams following human speech patterns. A device is described for coaching swings such as in golf. Another aspect of the invention is a strength training device utiling a multicylinder piston device.

Rast, Rodger H. (Gold River, CA, US)
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International Classes:
A63B21/008; A63B47/02; A63B69/20; A63B69/32; A63B69/36; A63B24/00; (IPC1-7): A63B71/00; A63B69/32; A63B69/34
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Rastar Corporation (Gold River, CA, US)

What is claimed is:

1. A sparring device providing an audio output in response to impacts registered thereupon, comprising: a striking input member adapted for receiving blows from a user sparring against said striking input member; an impact sensor coupled to said striking input member to register the impact force imparted by said user to said strking input member; and means for converting the registered impact force to an audio output which represents the intensity of the impact.

2. A sparring device as recited in claim 1, wherein the audio output comprises sounds which simulate a human being struck.

3. A sparring device as recited in claim 2, wherein said sounds may be selected from organic human sounds consisting of moans, groans, sighs, and verbal banter.

4. A sparring device as recited in claim 1, further comprising means for tracking the amount of damage accumulated in response to the impacts within a given sparring session.

5. A sparring device as recited in claim 4: further comprising means for establishing an accumulated damage threshold above which the sparring session is considered to be complete; wherein audio output may be generated that is indicative of completion of the sparring session.

6. A sparring device as recited in claim 5, further comprising means for reducing the accumulated damage per unit of time to simulate the recovery of the opponent during a sparring match.

7. A sparring device as recited in claim 1, wherein said means for converting the registered impact force to an audio output which represents the intensity of the impact comprises a microcontroller registering the impact force which is mapped to a selected audio output.

8. A sparring device as recited in claim 7, wherein said selected audio output comprises humanlike sounds consisting of groans and moans.

9. A sparring device as recited in claim 7, wherein said selected audio output comprises humanlike sounds consisting of verbal banter.

10. A sparring unit for attachment to a striking device used for sparring that provides audio feedback in response to the force of impact and the simulated “damage” incurred by a user on said sparring unit for a given session, comprising: an impact sensor adapted for registering the force of impacts during sparring; a computer processing element coupled to said impact sensor having programming for, registering said impact forces, determining an amount of damage to accrue for a given impact and adding the damage for successive impacts during said session, generating appropriate humanlike sounds according to the force of the impact registered and the accrued damage; a housing for retaining said computer processing element adapted for attachment to a striking device and containing a power source for said impact sensor and said computer processing element.

11. A sparring unit as recited in claim 10, wherein impact is registered as G-forces by an accelerometer.

12. A sparring unit as recited in claim 10, wherein wherein audio may include simulated verbal commentary, moans, groans, grunts, and other sounds which may be associated with an individual being struck during combat or a match.

13. A sparring unit as recited in claim 10, wherein an audio sound is output to augment the sound of the strike itself on a selected surface.

14. A sparring unit as recited in claim 13, wherein said augmented strike sound comprises snapping sounds similar to that used in a karate movie for accentuating the action.

15. A sparring unit as recited in claim 10, wherein the nature of the audio generated in response to the striking impacts may be selected by the user.

16. A sparring unit as recited in claim 15, wherein the nature of the audio is associated with a “personality” for the virtual opponent.

17. A sparring unit as recited in claim 16, wherein the language spoken, the types of phrasing used, and the attitude, and situation of an opponent may be simulated.

18. A sparring unit as recited in claim 10, wherein the impacts registered by the impact sensor may be scaled, linearly or non-linearly, according to the mode of the sparring unit prior to being summed

19. A sparring unit as recited in claim 10, further comprising an impact registration control that adjusts the relationship between the amount of impact and the amount of verbal output. (For example, small inexperienced users hit less hard than larger more experienced individuals).

20. A sparring unit as recited in claim 10, wherein the audio output is responsive to the setting of the impact control to match the skill level of the individual to the sounds being generated.

21. A sparring unit as recited in claim 20, wherein setting the impact control to a low setting for a small person or one of limited skill, results in the generation of humanlike sounds from a small person or one of otherwise limited ability.

22. A sparring unit as recited in claim 21, wherein said humanlike sounds from a small person or one of limited ability comprise sounds having a higher pitch.

23. A sparring unit as recited in claim 10, further comprising a match end, Technical KnockOut (TKO) control that establishes an end of match condition based on the amount of damage accumulated during the session.

24. A sparring unit as recited in claim 23, further comprising damage recovery occuring at a predetermined or selectable rate, wherein higher strike frequency is encouraged to quickly bring a match to a conclusion.

25. A sparring unit as recited in claim 23, further comprising audio circuits for generating an output representing the final sounds of the match in response to reaching the TKO threshold indicator.

26. A sparring unit as recited in claim 25, wherein said final sounds may be selected from the set of audio representations consisting of gasps, groans, sound of a body falling to the ground, match bell sounding, sounds of a referee or other party.

27. A sparring unit as recited in claim 23, further comprising after match commentary which may include statistics about the “match” output in audio form.

28. A sparring unit as recited in claim 23, wherein said statistics may include user name, opponent information, fight duration, total impact power, maximum impact power, number of hits.

29. A sparring unit as recited in claim 10, wherein the sparring unit has controls comprising a volume control, impact registration control, and final (TKO) threshold.

30. A sparring unit as recited in claim 10, wherein the type of striking device to which the sparring unit is attached is selectable by the user for the type of bag being used.

31. A sparring unit as recited in claim 30, wherein the type of striking device may be selected from types consisting of small bags, large bags, 40# bags, 60# bags, 80# bags, foam torsos.

32. A sparring unit as recited in claim 10, wherein the type of striking being performed by said user may be selected by said user to determine the types of sounds and method of registering the hits.

33. A sparring unit as recited in claim 32, wherein the type of striking, impacts, include boxing, karate, kicking, and kickboxing.

34. A sparring unit as recited in claim 10: further comprising a situation control that may be set in response to user input to indicate how the strikes are to be registered and the audio to be output; wherein the programming associated with said programmable element generates audio responses based on the setting of the situation control for given impact values and accumulated damage.

35. A sparring unit as recited in claim 34, wherein the situations may be selected from pugilist situations consisting of mortal combat, street fighting, brawl, prize fight, training fight, sparring match, training, statistics only, and TKO only.

36. A sparring unit as recited in claim 10, further comprising an audio strike augmentation control which selects the type and amount of sound to be generated for a given strike impact force and amount of accumulated damage.

37. A sparring unit as recited in claim 10: wherein the characteristics of the opponent may be selected by said user; and wherein said programming associated with said programmable element selects the type of sounds being generated based on said selected characteristics.

38. A sparring unit as recited in claim 37, wherein said characteristics may comprise level of aggression, national origin, language, diction, and extent of usage of street language.

39. A sparring unit as recited in claim 38, wherein specific characters may be selected that have predetermined characteristics which have certain levels of the above.

40. A sparring unit as recited in claim 39, wherein said specific characters include fictional or actual persons such as Rambo, Darth Vader, and fun characters such as Mickey mouse, Barney, Tella Tubby, Goofy, and so forth.

41. A sparring unit as recited in claim 10: wherein said sparring unit includes user input controls for selecting aspects of the audio output; wherein said controls are configured with detents or other mechanisms to allow for readily duplicating the settings from one use to the next.

42. A sparring unit as recited in claim 41, wherein the settings for a given user are stored from one use to the next.

43. A sparring unit as recited in claim 10, further comprising a microphone operable connected to said computational element for inputting audio for interpretation and storage within said sparring unit.

44. A sparring unit as recited in claim 43, wherein said audio comprises user recorded sounds and/or comments recorded during the match.

45. A sparring unit as recited in claim 44, wherein said audio is registered by said computer element which is adapted for generating simulated responses from the sparring opponent.

46. A sparring unit as recited in claim 43, wherein said audio is registered by said computer element which is adapted for voice control of match parameters. (i.e. “Get tougher”, “Take it easy”, “Sound off”, “Pipe down”)

47. A sparring unit as recited in claim 10, wherein said sparring unit housing is adapted for attachment to any form of striking bag.

48. A sparring unit as recited in claim 10, wherein said sparring unit is powered by a battery or similar portable power source.

49. A sparring unit as recited in claim 10, further comprising a transmitter for remotely communicating audio information for playback to said user.

50. A sparring unit as recited in claim 10, further comprising a communication link for communicating setup and historical information.

51. A sparring unit as recited in claim 50, wherein said communication link comprises a network connection for uploading match information, and to load new sets of control parameters and personalities.

52. An apparatus for audible output to a user of swing metrics to enhance the speed with which a swing yielding the desired results may be attained and retained by a user, comprising: a housing adapted for attachment to a user performing a swing or to a piece of equipment that said user is swinging; an acceleration sensing means within said housing which is adapted to register swing accelerations spanning at least two axis of acceleration; a computer circuit receiving inputs from said acceleration sensing means, and adapted with executable programming for converting accelerations along each axis to a uniquely identifiable audio signal for that axis whose characteristics are responsive to the magnitude of said accelerations; and an audio output means configured to receive the identifiable audio signals from said computer circuit and to convert these audio signals into acoustic energy directed at said user.

53. An apparatus for the strength training of users against a controlled resistive force, comprising: input receiving member adapted for movement in response to the receipt of force as applied by a user; means for converting the motion of said input receiving member to a rotational movement; a multi-cylinder non-combustion piston engine, having, a housing adapted with multiple piston cylinders; pistons adapted to slidably engage within said multiple piston cylinders; a crankshaft mounted on an axis within said housing and adapted to rotate therein, connecting rods connecting each piston to an off-axis location on said crankshaft wherein crankshaft rotation results in movement along an axis coupled to said piston; and means of regulating fluid flow to each of said pistons; wherein force applied to said input receiving member is converted to a rotational motion of said multi-cylinder engine as said crankshaft sequentially drives said pistons within said cylinders; wherein the revolutions per minute of said engine is responsive to the force being input by the user and the adjustment of said fluid flow regulating means. (the term cable is used herein, however, it will be appreciated that cords, belts, chains, and other forms of flexible tension coupling members may be utilized)

54. An apparatus as recited in claim 53, wherein said input receiving member is coupled by a cable, or equivalent, to said means for converting motion.

55. An apparatus as recited in claim 53, wherein said means for converting the motion of said input receiving member to a rotational movement comprises a cable spool; wherein said cable spool has multiple spindles from which cables simultaneously wind and unwind on the different spindles in response to the movement of said input receiving member; further comprising a transmission unit adapted to alter the ratio of rotation of said crankshaft to the movement of said input receiving member; wherein said transmission is adapted for adjustment by said user to different ratios of input movement to crankshaft rotation; wherein said means of regulating fluid flow comprises at least one fluid flow valve mechanism; wherein a fluid flow valve is coupled to said piston cylinders to controllably restrict the flow of fluid control through said valve.

56. A weight training machine having a brake to stop free weight release as described herein.

57. A pulley device for use in a weight training device as described herein.

58. A method of limited the unrestricted free fall of weight on a weight training machine as described herein.

59. An apparatus for autonomously collecting golf balls on a driving range, comprising: robotic device having, a drive mechanism, a steering mechanism, means for collecting or directing golf balls, (optional) means of detecting ball position, collection area or receptacle; and means for directing the general movement of the robotic device, to collect or direct the balls to said collection area or receptacle.

60. An apparatus as recited in claim 59, further comprising: an automated “garage” into which the robot is received when not in use; an automated collection station, which moves the balls collected to a dispensing station for cleaning and storage in preparation for being dispensed.

61. An apparatus for autonomously collecting golf balls on a driving range, comprising: a motorized ball collection robot; means for detecting location on said driving range of said robot to direct the collection of balls therein; means of locating golf balls along said driving range of said robot; means for collecting individual golf balls within said robot; and a receptacle adapted for receiving balls from said robot.



[0001] This application claims priority from U.S. provisional application serial No. 60/381,730 filed on May 18, 2002 and No. 60/413,199 as filed on Sep. 23, 2002.


[0002] Not Applicable


[0003] Not Applicable


[0004] 1. Field of the Invention

[0005] This invention pertains generally to generating user-oriented forms of biofeedback for consumer-based athletic equipment and more particularly to a sparring apparatus which generates audio in response to strike “damage”, an apparatus for attachment to swinging forms of athletic equipment that generates audio in response to patterns of motion, and a strength training apparatus that generates tactile, visual, and audio feedback in response to workout repetitions.

[0006] 2. Description of the Background Art

[0007] Athletes can enhance their specific form of workout when they are provided with sufficient feedback. To this end many devices have been created for athletic performance labs, such as associated with various teams, olympic programs, and so forth, that measure aspects of performance. However, these devices typically provide measurement data in a statistical form, or in a form that is otherwise unsuitable for use by athletes during daily training and in a form that the athlete can readily adapt to. Athletes in a number of athletic fields are subject to these feedback limitations and thereby are unable to maximize their performance.

[0008] Athletes practicing boxing, karate, kick-boxing, and other strike related techniques generally related to self-defense, employ a number of striking apparatus for receiving impacts. Typically these devices comprise a padded member which in many cases simulates the density, shape, and/or weight of an opponent. One form of these sparring devices have conventionally been constructed as a bag having a cylindrical shape which contains a material, such as sawdust, sand, or other impact absorbing material. The cylindrical shape allows the bag to be struck from any side and these striking bags are generally supported either vertically from a ceiling, a ceiling and floor, a wall, or supported on a stand. Other sparring devices have been manufactured having a torso shape, while some additionally add LEDs to indicate locations where the user is to strike. These striking devices will be referred to herein generically as “striking bags”, although it will be appreciated that this term is meant to cover any striking device for receiving the striking impacts associated with boxing, karate, and other forms of self-defense.

[0009] In using the current forms of these sparring devices, the user does not get a regulated workout, nor do they get sufficient feedback to provide motivation and assure maximum benefits. This is unfortunate, because in many respects sparring is a nearly perfect form of exercise that provides a number of benefits similar to weight training. However, with sparring, the user can't readily set the force or easily count the number of repetitions, thereby they have no way to determine how much power they have expended during the workout. It will be appreciated that a weight training machine would be far less effective if the weight lifted changed each time and user didn't know what the amount of weight being lifted, and was also unable to count the number of repetitions. Furthermore, sparring with a “striking bag” is often considered boring in relation to active competitions, or sparring against an actual sparring partner.

[0010] Therefore, a need exists for a sparring device which allows the user to get a predetermined stimulating workout, similar to that achieved when sparring against an actual opponent. The sparring partner in accordance with the present invention satisfies that need, as well as others, and overcomes deficiencies in previously known techniques.

[0011] A large segment of athletes are involved in sports that involve properly executing a “swing”, such as a golf swing using a golf club, a tennis swing using a tennis racket, a baseball swing using a bat, and so forth. Variations in the swing dynamics effect the results produced by the swing. Although many sports enthusiasts occasionally hit a great shot they find it very difficult to arrive at a consistent swing which produces consistently good results. Perhaps the largest number of conventional swing training devices are available for improving a golf swing, and this will generally be the focus of the following descriptions, however, it should be appreciated that similar swing training is involved in tennis, baseball, and so forth.

[0012] A number of golf swing training aids have arrived on the market to promote the kinesthetic swing sense so that an athlete can improve the consistency of their golf swing. A diverse set of devices exist on the market, from articulated clubs that “break” during the swing in response to discontinuities in the swing; heavy clubs that intend to increase the kinesthetic “muscle memory” sense of the swing; even devices which attach to a club or other athletic device which are filled with water or equipped with an acoustic device that is intended to whistle in response to the speed of the club.

[0013] Electronic swing training devices have been considered for use in both the laboratory setting and in actual practical usage, devices having pressure sensors beneath the feet and under the arms to sense changes in the swing; metronomic devices to aid in swing timing; devices which sense the speed and path of the club in relation to a ground location; camera-based equipment which registers certain aspects of the swing; nerve sensing biofeedback systems to accentuate muscle movement; laser alignment devices, and others. With approximately twelve percent of the population involved in the sport of golf alone, it is not surprising that the market is getting very crowded for swing improvement devices.

[0014] However, the available devices generally offer rather marginal help in “grooving” a swing for golf, tennis, baseball, and other swing related sports, for a number of reasons. The feedback provided is generally indicative of only one aspect, or a small subset, of the swing dynamics wherein the user is not provided with an integrated “full-swing” set of information. Often the devices compare an aspect of the swing with a fixed benchmark that ignores the body dynamics and style of the user. It will be appreciated that even professional golfers each swing the club differently to achieve optimum results for their particular body dynamics and style. If that is ignored, the user may be trying to reconfigure their stroke to suite the machine, and actually can train toward a sub optimal goal that may provide worse results than their current swing patterns. Feedback generated by the devices may be of a nature that the user can not readily relate to in order to change aspects of the swing in moving toward an optimal swing.

[0015] For example, a club “breaking” sometime during the swing may infer that the swing is not smooth but it provides little information to allow the user to correct the swing. Sensing the speed of the swing may indicate which hit could travel the farthest, however, the golfer can also watch the track of the ball to see that information. To be effective the feedback needs to be something to which the user can relate such that the user can alter their swing to reach an optimal level. Furthermore, a number of the devices are directed at laboratory use, or are otherwise too cumbersome or expensive to be utilized by average persons participating in the sport.

[0016] Therefore, a need exists for a swing training device that is portable and inexpensive, which provides a sufficient level of total swing characteristic feedback to allow correction of numerous swing problems, that takes user style into account, and that provides feedback in a manner to which the user can readily relate and correct swing problems. The present invention satisfies those needs, as well as others, and overcomes deficiencies in previously known techniques.

[0017] Numerous forms of weight training equipment exist for working each of the muscle groups of the body. Conventional strength training is performed with either free weights or weight machines. The weight machines are generally preferred due to safety size, and the ease of adjustment. The most popular weight machines utilize cables which redirect the applied force whether from a lat, curl, leg press, or whatever bio-mechanical force is converted into tension on a cable which lifts the designated number of weights as set by the user.

[0018] A number of drawbacks exist with these current machines. The use of weight stacks result in a bulky unit that is difficult to transport. Weight stacks still pose a safety hazard as fingers or hands may be crushed in the equipment.

[0019] Another risk is that a person that becomes tired, pulls a muscle, or is otherwise fatigued can drop the stack wherein the bar into which their force is directed can strike them or cause them to hyperextend. Resistance provided by the weights is like a free weight, wherein the user can accelerate, “jerk”, the weight and not attain optimum muscle development. Furthermore, the use of weights generally restricts force application to a single direction of resistance.

[0020] Some attempts have been made to eliminate weights using what is commonly referred to as “shock absorber” technology, wherein the resistance of a shock absorber is placed to receive the force input by the user. The transfer function of these devices is not conducive to an exercise regime and such systems are rarely made today as they are considered “cheap”. These piston driven systems really are just dashpots used to dampen the movement of the user.

[0021] Others have put forth “bow-style” mechanisms and other force inducing means, however, these suffer from many of the problems associated with weights, such as inability to properly register work input, and they pose additional problems.

[0022] It is hardly surprising, therefore, that weights are still the standard form of system used for strength training. Yet the use of weights is not exciting as the user is provided little feedback and the weight lift itself unspectacular. Finally, the incorporation of measurement equipment to track the workout is difficult as the time, distance, weight, and character of each lift would need to be measured.

[0023] Therefore, a need exists for strength training machines that provide additional safety, comfort, reduced weight, increased feedback, and higher levels of enjoyment. The present invention satisfies those needs, as well as others, and overcomes the limitations of present systems.


[0024] The present invention describes athletic training devices that provide forms of feedback useful to the athlete in training for that specific activity. A number of categories of embodiments are described which are directed at improving the efficiency with which the average athlete can train while performing the given activity.

[0025] A sparring partner device is described which may be attached to, or incorporated within striking devices such as “big-bags”, punching bags, striking torsos, and similar striking devices which provide additional feedback on the blows being landed and preferably on the progression of the workout. Feedback is provided as audio and optionally visual feedback. The sparring partner device can be easily attached to any form of striking bag and it gauges the strikes in the user's workout, such as boxing or karate, and so forth. In addition, the design of the system may be incorporated within the design of any striking unit to provide impact and workout feedback. The unit will be described as being attached to “a striking bag”, which is defined herein as being any form of device configured to receive strikes and blows to train the athlete. Feedback is provided in response to the intensity with the user strikes the bag for a given set of input settings. The user learns to strike harder, and gain endurance because the feedback provides more consistent training that has been possible in the past.

[0026] It will be appreciated that for a boxer, or martial-artist, to take down a real opponent they must be able to produce high-impact-hits over a sufficient duration, and be able to control those hits. Impact may be measured by the G-forces registered by the device in response to blows received. Alternatively or additionally, the unit can register displacement and time (i.e. inertial sensing).

[0027] Cumulative “damage” is recorded by the unit as the “work” contained in the workout, or power input which is work with respect to time. It will be noted that as Force=Mass×Acceleration, and Work=Force×Distance, the unit can generally determine work input as a function of acceleration and number of strikes for the fixed mass of the bag being struck, assuming the displacement distance is generally in relation with the mass and registered acceleration profile to which said mass is subject. This power input is indicative of the intensity of the workout while the cumulative amount of work is preferably registered and feedback provided when the work input reaches a workout threshold.

[0028] To discourage low intensity workouts, the unit is preferably configured to apply a “recovery” profile against the work input over time or the power input. One preferred mechanism for this is a rate based recovery coupled with a workout completion threshold referred to as a TKO (technical knockout) feature. Work is subtracted from the work input by the athlete as a function of time, for example a fixed amount subtracted per unit of time, with the resultant work not allowed to drop below zero. If the rate of work performed exceeds the recovery rate for a sufficient period of time it reaches the TKO threshold resulting in the generation of feedback indicating that the workout, or portion of the workout, has been completed. The function of work over time applied is preferably user selectable, such as to amplitude and or functional response.

[0029] The recovery in combination with the TKO thresholds discourages overly slow workouts, as the user will be required to execute the workout for a longer period of time. The recovery rate feature generally simulates aspects of actual pugilisitic conditions, wherein an opponent recovers from blows received. In this way the user is encouraged through the provided feedback to strike the bag both hard and fast within the constraints of their training program.

[0030] A number of aspects of the present invention are described which increase the usefulness of the workout, and it should be readily appreciated that these aspects of the invention may be incorporated within a sparring device singly and in various combinations without departing from the teachings of the present invention. A few of these aspects are as follows.

[0031] A biofeedback audio opponent: The unit registers the impact of each blow, such as by registering G-force changes. These registered impacts are processed by the electronics of the device for generating audio feedback, and other optional forms of feedback. On each blow the unit is preferably configured to generate audio feedback whose nature and intensity are commensurate with the level of impact being received, along with user selected settings and other metrics about the training, along with the condition of the simulated sparring partner (i.e. amount of simulated damage inflicted so far in the workout). Preferably, these audio sounds are in the form of groans, grunts, cries, words, and so forth whose selection and voicing is executed in response to the intensity of the impacts.

[0032] Monitoring of cumulative damage: Impacts registered by the device are accumulated wherein the user is provided feedback as to the extent of their total “workout”, in view of the amount of damage done to a “virtual opponent”, which the feedback from the unit represents. The preferred method of registering the accumulation follows a physiological “damage” pattern, wherein the severity of each impact is registered as accelerations, or alternatively displacement distance (or speed) registered with respect to time.

[0033] These accelerations may be scaled, linearly or non-linearly, according to the mode of the unit prior to being summed. The virtual opponent is subject to recovery which is most easily implemented by periodically subtracting damage from the sum of work input. The recovery rate is an important factor in gauging the effectiveness of a workout, as it will be readily recognized that striking the virtual opponent with a total accumulated power per interval which is less than or equal to the recovery rate would never be effective at overcoming the simulated opponent. Therefore, the user sparring with the unit is encouraged to strike with high-power and a high repetition rate in order to achieve victory in a timely manner.

[0034] The audio feedback being generated, such as the groans, and so forth are preferably also associated with the “state” of the sparring partner, such as in terms of their state of damage/recovery, as described above. For example, a light punch may cause the unit to generate a short low groan, harder punching can cause the groans to reach higher volumes and intensity, while the type of sound generated can change in response to intensity, damage, periodically, randomly, according to how the bag is struck, and so forth. With feedback on every hit, the user readily learns to strike the bag more effectively. It will be appreciated that this form of feedback is user friendly, in that the user need not learn what a given indication represents, pugilists are generally familiar with sound and intensity profiles associated with pain inflicted on the opponent. This is a marked departure from clinical forms of athletic training in which data is collected, or displayed in a manner that provides little motivation or immediate usable feedback.

[0035] TKO indicator: One or more thresholds may be selected that is responsive to the accumulated damage. As described, this threshold is a technical knock-out indicator which signals that the “damage” inflicted on the virtual opponent is sufficient to cause unconsciousness or otherwise to conclude the match, or a portion of the workout such as a round. Small inexperienced users typically set the threshold at a lower level than a larger and/or more experienced pugilist. The unit records the power and number of hits during the user's “match” with the sparring partner represented by the present inventive device, which calculates damage and recovery factors. Depending upon user setting, the sparring partner device can be set to generate final sounds from the opponent, such as a gasp, the sound of him/her falling to the mat, and/or the sound of the match bell sounding upon reaching the TKO threshold.

[0036] Controls on the unit allow it to be set up for a variety of situations. The controls preferably include the following: volume control, ambient audio compensation, bag weight and mounting type, impact amplification, recovery rate, audio sound selection {e.g. tones, physiol (polite), physio2 (medium), physio3 (rough bout), thresholds only}, and TKO threshold. The controls on the sparring unit are preferably configured with detents or other mechanisms to allow for readily duplicating the settings from one sparring session to the next. The unit is capable of registering user training in a manner that is similar to the settings provided on a weight machine. It should be appreciated, that in the above and throughout the description, that a number of features will be taught which may be implemented individually or in various combinations without departing from the present invention.

[0037] The present sparring unit may be implemented in a number of ways incorporating the following features separately or in combinations thereof:

[0038] At least one impact intensity sensor, such as accelerometer, attached to “strike impact receiving member”, such as a striking bag, or similar training/competition device to register information about received blows, such as impact power.

[0039] Means for generating audio feedback in response to the impact intensity being registered within the striking impacts.

[0040] Means for generating audio feedback in response to the cumulative power or work input to the bag from user strikes.

[0041] following are optional features

[0042] Audio feedback comprises tones, sound effects, speech, music, and combinations thereof.

[0043] sound data is preferably stored in a digital format, such as MP3, or similar.

[0044] audio played out over an audio conversion means, such as audio transducer (i.e. piezoelectric, coil, etc.); external speakers; wireless communication to audio device (audio unit, speakers, wireless headphone/earbud).

[0045] “sparring partner”—Audio of sparring partner may include simulated verbal commentary, moans, groans, grunts, and other sounds which may be associated with an individual being struck during combat or a match.

[0046] Unit Power—control of activation. Preferably turns off automatically after “deactivation period” has elapsed in which no striking activity is occurring.

[0047] Volume Control—adjust the volume for a given setup of the unit.

[0048] Ambient Noise Compensation—unit registers the ambient noise and modulates volume to fully or partially compensate for the ambient conditions. Many workout facilities are subject to wide variations in ambient noise as athletic activity waxes and wanes.

[0049] Visual display—whereupon the configuration settings of the device may be seen and upon which historical information and so forth may be displayed. Preferably a small LCD, or other low power display of one or two lines is provided to simplify configuration.

[0050] Auxiliary display port—to support enhanced displays a port is preferably provided (wired, IR, RF, etc.) to an outside display device. For example, communication with a PDA can allow for downloading of settings to the unit and the display/storage of complex statistical information, such as measured hit impact graphs.

[0051] Presets/detented controls—the controls are preferably configured with detents, presets, or other similar mechanisms which allow the rapid duplication of usage settings from one “session” to the next. This aids in achieving the objective of allowing the sparring partner to be used to give a predetermined workout, in similar manner that one performs a given number of sets, with a specific number of reps, at a specific weight setting when weight training. The workout received then becomes measurable, and the advantage of using the sparring partner device for training is enhanced.

[0052] Controls preferably utilize pots, such as digitally encoded rotary or linear encoding, which provide discrete position related settings (e.g. digital encoder with wiper assembly). Also conventional resistive pots may be used with a detented user control so that a limited number of discrete settings are provided to simplify repeating a given setting.

[0053] “stored settings”—wherein the settings for any given user are stored from one use to the next, to facilitate a training program. It will be appreciated that preprogrammed or downloadable training regimes may accompany the unit so that users need not configure a regime on their own. They may also modify existing regimes. The stored settings may be stored by user, or collectively, and the amount of memory may determine what may be stored. (additionally, it will be appreciated that sparring partner personalities and voice characteristics may be stored separately or in association with selected settings.)

[0054] “remote setting”—configuration controls may be overridden with settings received remotely, such as from a PDA with an interface program, a website download, and similar information communication mechanisms.

[0055] “Striking bag impact compensation” control—Allows adjusting of the response to impacts for a given striking bag, preferably in response to mass of the unit and how the unit is supported which determine the accelerations of the bag for a given impact intensity. This aspect is particularly well suited for applications in which the sparring partner device is configured for use with a variety of “strike impact receiving members”, so that the impact response may be “tuned” to the given striking bag being used. For example a forty pound (40 lb.) striking bag would generate a higher impact response than an 80# striking bag for a given impact without the use of compensation. Default settings are preferably provided so that the user need not calibrate the bag to a given application. By way of example the following may be applications {speed bag (<10#), 40# bag, 60# bag, 80# bag, foam torso X100, etc.}

[0056] “impact scaling”—the impact force (accelerations) may be scaled, linearly or nonlinearly, according to the mode of the unit and/or setting of impact scaling prior to being summed. (This is set for a particular user and not for a particular striking bag to which the sparring partner unit is attached.)

[0057] “impact registration control” adjusts the relationship between the actual amount of impact and the registered impact and associated amount of verbal output (although a separate control may be utilized for controlling the relative level of registered impact and the relative level of verbal output in relation to the impact). (For example, small inexperienced users aren't able to strike with as much force as larger more experienced individuals. A pro boxer for instance would generally use the device at a very high setting, (i.e. 10), whereas a young novice would use a low setting (i.e. 0.5, or 1).

[0058] “inverse impact” relationship may be set, wherein low-power striking is accentuated with the audio, and the registration of hit impacts toward the threshold; so as to encourage low-power hitting during warmups.

[0059] “audio scaling of opponent” can be set, wherein the setting of the impact registration control also alters sparring partner audio. For example, at a low impact setting (for a small person, etc) the moaning output can optionally be set for a small sized sparring partner, such as generating a higher pitched voice, change in inflections, more meek temperament, etc.

[0060] “impact registration control” may be automatically varied according to a user selected pattern. For example, a multiple TKO series may be set wherein each “round” could be configured to accentuate a different aspect of the sport. A first round may be a warm-up round with inverse impact scaling followed by conventional rounds that stress speed, hit power, and so forth.

[0061] “sound repertoire selection” allows sound setting to be selected that operate in response to impact range setting, or other setting or use aspects—It may be preferable to couple the selection of sound output with the impact range, wherein the sounds generated for a person using the device on the lowest setting would be indicative of the sounds generated by smaller, less physical, individuals (i.e. higher pitched & less aggressive verbalizations; whereas the sounds generated at the higher imapct settings would be more indicative of sounds generated by individuals of larger stature, or physicality. In this way individuals would be less inclined to set the impact setting artificially low, as the sounds generated would be indicative of the “size of individual” they had chose to “spar” with, example the sounds generated from a big six foot five guy using the unit set on low setting for a five foot weak individual would make it sound as if they were beating up a small boy—not an image builder.

[0062] “Session statistics”—Sparring Unit tracks information about the strikes registered during a “session”, or bout, which may be output in various forms, such as audio, a display, or communicated to other devices. For example: impact range, number of hits, maximum impact force, settings of the device.

[0063] “Impact History”—Historical information may be retained about the impacts registered, such as during a session. This data may be output in various forms such as graphical, data stream, audio, and statistics may be recovered from the impact history.

[0064] “accumulated damage” is tracked to the “sparring partner” (striking bag) based on impact history.

[0065] “damage recovery” occurs at a predetermined or user selectable function with respect to time or input (or selectable rate=“recovery rate setting”) so that high strike frequency generally causes more damage than low strike frequency. (One of the exceptions is for a warm-up setting, or equivalent.) A simple implementation provides a fixed recovery (subtracting a given work pre unit of time based on the scaling of the input so that opponent recovery rate faster at higher intensity levels.)

[0066] “damage state” is the level of accumulated damage at a given time, generally in relation to a predetermined, or selected, threshold; such as a TKO threshold.

[0067] Audio output modulated based on audio feedback—changes in audio response to the “damage state” of the sparring partner. For example, opponent even sounds worn down as the match progresses, they get less cocky and more sore. The sounds of induced pain increase and the amount of snappy reparte generally decreases.

[0068] “TKO indicator”, or equivalent, provides an unambiguous workout completion signal that is generated when accumulated damage reaches preset level.

[0069] “TKO Threshold setting”—determines the amount of damage which must be accumulated to reach a TKO.

[0070] Preferably setting is made readily repeatable by a user, either through providing a limited number of settings (e.g. detents), or by storing the settings electronically for recall.

[0071] Workout intensity is preferably determined by the settings of the impact registration control and the TKO threshold setting in combination with one another, which found analogues in weight training as amount of weight and number of repetitions, respectively.

[0072] multiple “KO” levels may be set—(1) wherein the speed at which the threshold is reached can determine which “KO” level is to be indicated, (2) sequential thresholds may be set wherein a training pattern is followed. Example—set short warm-up round, slow and steady (low recovery rate), with high impacts downgraded to encourage a slow and steady warm-up, then followed by more conventional rounds that may emphasize different aspects of sparring.

[0073] audio is generated in response to the TKO indicator, or equivalent, which is preferably configured to represent the final sounds of the match or opponent.

[0074] the final sounds of a round or match (exceeding TKO threshold) may be selected from the set of audio representations consisting of gasps, groans, sound of a body falling to the ground, match bell sounding, sounds/voice of a referee or other party.

[0075] “augmented strike audio”—audio sound is output to augment the sound of the strike itself on a selected surface (like the snapping sounds in a karate movie which accentuate the action)

[0076] “strike activity setting, type”, “strike activity setting, activity” controls the augmented strike audio which can be set according to the type of “striking bag” in use and/or the type of activity being executed on the “striking bag” such as karate, boxing, kick-boxing, kung-fu, and other striking activities and striking sound characteristics and a level of accentuation from mild accentuation to dramatic accentuation.

[0077] “progressive augmented strike audio”—the amount of augmentation of impact can be a non-linear function of impact, wherein substantial augmentation requires a substantial strike impact for the given setting. For example, based on the square of the sum of the impact minus the given setting.

[0078] “theme music” may be selected and activated, wherein music is played to accompany the sparring workout. (These may be loaded in the unit—such as MP3 download from unit manufacturer or other site. The relative volume of the music can be controlled and it can be used as background for the impact responsive audio or replace it.

[0079] “striking rhythm” may be selected and activated, wherein a pattern of “trigger sounds” is generated to which the user is to strike the bag according to.

[0080] list of striking rhythms—user can select from one of multiple rhythms that can stress different patterns of activity, such as stressing speed, or power. The use of different rhythms can be used to prevent the user from falling into recognizable patterns of hitting that an opponent may capitalize on.

[0081] “timing registration” can be activated to record the user strike timing in relation with the trigger sounds within the strike rhythm.

[0082] Varying audio in response to how struck—different sounds may be generated to indicate a metric about how the bag is to be struck. (1) by impact force—sound indicates how hard bag is to be struck; (2) by type of blow—sound indicates how bag is to be struck (punch, chop, kick, etc.); (3) by location—where the striking bag is to be struck; or combinations thereof.

[0083] timing registration in response to the one or more given metrics of bag striking, wherein information is registered in relation to how well the user followed the specified strike rhythm. Example, was it struck with the appropriate force, at the appropriate location, and so forth.

[0084] amount of damage being registered for the hits is optionally responsive to the time delay between the trigger sounds and the registration of an associated strike. The speed of the user is therefore encouraged, in that the more quickly the user responds to the triggers, that more readily the “sparring partner” will be dispatched.

[0085] “personality” settings of sparring partner—nature of the audio generated in response to the striking impacts may be selected by the user, along with characteristics, such as recovery rate.

[0086] “sparring partner language”—characteristics of language may be set individually, and/or automatically in response to a “personality” setting which is either preprogrammed, downloaded, and/or user selected.

[0087] amount of banter—how talkative the “sparring partner” should be

[0088] voice—what type of voice

[0089] language spoken—(hi-English, low-English, German, Japanese, Spanish, French, Russian, Ebonics, Creole, etc.)

[0090] intensity—example: levels from “ultra-calm” to “Berzerker”

[0091] wimp-factor—how well does partner take damage (Example: from “complaining wimp” up to a “stoic warrior”)

[0092] phrasing—attitude and level of “intelligence” street-phrasing—allowable use of street phrases (preferably—this feature defaults to non-use of any street phrases and requires activation by the purchaser, such as by download. (No intention toward encouraging poor language use—“garbage in garbage out”))

[0093] “personifications” allow setting defaults of a combination of the above language settings, preferably along with other metrics such as recovery rate. These personifications may be from serious to comical. The following is a list provided by way of example: Arnold Schwartzeneggar, Rambo, Chuck Norris, Gomer Pyle, Mickey Mouse, Batman, Barney, Wicked witch of the North, Darth Vader, and so forth. It will be appreciated that one can have a really fun sparring match with these various characters which provide different forms of impact response and banter, including jokes, remembrances and so forth. Even a fact learning mode may be included in which facts are presented during the sparring session, a language lesson could be appropriate.

[0094] “downloadable personifications” allow the user to retrieve different preset personalities, such as from a web site, for use within the sparring partner unit, without requiring extensive system memory.

[0095] “situation setting”—the intensity, and impact registration characteristics may be modulated in accord with a user selected situation setting. A list of possible situations by way of example may comprise: {mortal combat, street fighting, brawl, prize fight, training fight, sparring match, training, warm-up, calibration (setting adjustment)}.

[0096] “crowd audio”—setting of the environment, wherein audio is generated in response to user selected size, type, and nature of a crowd is generated. For example a list of settings: {prize-fight w/favorable crowd, prize-fight w/unfavorable crowd, bar fight, street brawl, +loud, +raucous, +referee}

[0097] “After bout commentary”—the statistics about the “match” can be output in audio.

[0098] statistics output may include user name, opponent information (characteristics, name, etc.), fight duration, total impact power, maximum impact power, number of hits.

[0099] Microphone operably connected to electronics and an audio memory.

[0100] record user comments—wherein user information may be recorded and sounds/comments from the user recorded during the match. By way of example the comments may be played back at the conclusion of the match.

[0101] audio response triggers—sparring partner can respond to existence or even the content of comments.

[0102] voice control of match parameters—sparring unit can be configured with voice recognition to allow adjusting match parameters. (i.e. “Get tougher”, “Take it easy”, “Sound off”, “Pipe down”)

[0103] Heart Monitor Control—the unit may be configured for use with heart monitors, wherein a target heart rate is entered, and the device modulates aspects of the session to maintain the desired heart rate, such as impact ranging and may even output information as to how the workout is proceeding in relation to the desired heart rate (i.e. display actual heart rate, flash an LED indicating heart rate below, or above setting, or verbally output a message to speed up the workout or to slow it down.).

[0104] User ID recognition—It is contemplated that deluxe versions of the unit provide the capability to recognize a particular user and to provide added benefits thereof, such as establishing the custom settings for the particular user, wherein they need not remember and set the device themselves prior to each session. Furthermore, statistics about the workout sessions may be logged into a historical multisession log which may be displayed or otherwise communicated on a per user basis. The user may be identified by any convenient means according to the present invention, such as an ID code transmitted from a heart rate monitor, the entry of a code, the use of a biometric (fingerprint, voiceprint, etc.) and so forth. It is further contemplated that the historical information may be utilized to provide coaching to the user to maximize their training sessions, such as encouraging them to bump up the duration (TKO), or impact scaling of a workout, and so forth in a manner that a real coach might instruct.

[0105] Memory device—Unit is preferably configured with an interface to which an electronic device containing memory may be connected. For example, a memory stick, USB memory fob, smart card, credit card device, and so forth. The unit may store the users identity, use factors, session logs, and so forth within the memory. In this way the user can simply insert, or otherwise configure, their memory device to communicate with the unit.

[0106] Mechanical configuration—may be adapted for attachment to any form of striking bag, or integrated within a specific unit.

[0107] electronic unit attaches to “striking bag”

[0108] Mount to the top of a striking bag (sensor within the module)

[0109] Mount through the interior of the striking bag, such as a rod down through the middle of the bag.

[0110] remote electronic unit receives signals from registration electronics joined to the “striking bag”

[0111] electronics may generate audio signal for receipt and amplification within a sound system, or similar audio component, such that surround sound may be achieved at a low cost.

[0112] multiple sensors—sparring unit is preferably configured for the connection of additional sensor elements, which would be placed in different locations within the striking bag to increase measurement accuracy and the type of feedback.

[0113] “sensor configuration setting”—allows a user selectable number of sensors to be used, or set for a specific impact receiving member into which the sparring partner is integrated. Knowing the configuration of the sensors and the type of bag, the unit can properly register impact forces. For example: a “Top and Bottom sensor arrangement on a heavy bag” provides for determining the actual impact force regardless of where the hit is on the bag. The location of the hit is also determined by the electronics in relation to the relative impacts registered by each of the sensors. It will be appreciated that a number of configurations may be supported or entered.

[0114] “strike location sensing”—this feature is enabled when multiple sensors are connected to the unit, for example near the two ends of a movable striking bag, such as a hanging heavy bag. The relative amplitudes of acceleration are compared and the location of the hit in the plane of the sensors is determined, such as by using a table lookup or an algebraic calculation.

[0115] Wireless sensors—allow simple connection of sensors. Sparring units may then be configured for a variety of applications. Units integrated with a striking bag would preferably utilize wired sensors due to their lower cost, however, sparring units being added to a striking bag may be preferably configured as wireless variety to simplify the adding of sensors to the sparring device. The wireless sensors preferably incorporate an RF circuit which may be in the form of an active or passive RFID (transponder).

[0116] Coded wireless sensors—If more than one wireless sensor is utilized, then it is generally preferable that they be adapted with a coded response, so that a single RF channel may be utilized without confusion.

[0117] Powered by a battery or similar portable power source.

[0118] Information receipt and storage—device may be configured with removable storage, and/or download capability, wherein the configuration, personalities, voices, and so forth may be easily loaded, stored, etc. For example: the use of download ports, memory sticks or equivalent, audio couplings, and so forth may be optionally provided for the unit.

[0119] configuration website—user can configure the device remotely, such as on a website related to the manufacturer of the device, and load device parameters to the device.

[0120] remote communications means

[0121] upload match information to a system, such as an instructor's, for recording

[0122] wherein a series of units can operate in concert, simulate a gang

[0123] download configuration settings and audio personalities (including voices) to the unit.

[0124] Impact (strike) registration signal conditioning—conditioning is dependent on the type of impact sensing means being utilized. In a simple implementation, the signal may be evaluated to determine a maximum impact, such as by detecting the signal peak. It will be appreciated, however, that additional characteristics may be extracted from the strike to which the sparring unit may be adapted to respond. These additional characteristics for example, may be extracted by performing analog signal conditioning, digital signal processing, or a combination thereof, wherein the waveforms peaks and transitions are interpreted to provide a more accurate value for impact and may determine additional aspects of the strike such as depth.

[0125] Weighting of impact force—the registered impact force is modified by parameters such as striking bag impact compensation control and the impact scaling control.

[0126] (1) It is preferred that the value of the striking bag impact compensation control be applied to the registered impact force directly to compensate for the type of striking bag. Alternatively, the striking bag impact compensation control may be used to directly modulate the output of the impact sensor, such as by altering the gain sensor amplification circuit.

[0127] (2) The value of the impact scaling control may be applied to the sensor signal at any stage. One preferred method is to compensate with impact scaling being a parameter during a linearization and/or translation operation which produces a normalized signal, or data, from which the history impact data is recorded and from which the audio output is responsive. A combination of computations and table lookups are preferably performed on the signal to generate the normalized signal or data.

[0128] (3) Selecting audio generation—audio is generated according with the selected settings. It will be appreciated that a number of techniques may be utilized for generating the responsive audio. For example: The audio may be generated from WAV table synthesis and one audio sequence may be utilized in various ways by altering the speed and sequence method, so that fewer tables are required to generate a wide variety of audio effects, speech, and so forth.

[0129] “Blend Routine”—when a strike is registered for a second impact, while a word or phase is being generated, or other audio output is being generated, for a first audio output, then a blend routine determines how to join the first audio response with the second audio response. In many cases, such as moans, and similar, the blend allows starting the second audio response with little or no blending between sounds in the transition. In the case of speech, the context is generally examined, if the new strike is in the same context as the old strike, then the speech may be continued with pitch, inflection, or other changes to respond to the registration of the new impact.

[0130] “Swing” filtering—the swinging motions of the bag are filtered out and differentiated from impacts, so that swaying or a cocked position of the striking bag does not substantially alter the output of the unit. This is preferably performed as a combination high pass filtering, and simple signal processing in software.

[0131] Alternative workout duration limits—A number of similar but less preferred alternatives exist to registering accumulated damage based on scaled impact force until a threshold is reached. The following are provided by way of example:

[0132] Workout duration contingent upon a minimum predetermined amount of strikes of a given force. A duration is specified for the workout, which is qualified by the strikes being received. Such as requiring that at least a certain number of strikes are received of at least a certain force, otherwise the workout length is extended.

[0133] Workout duration determined by the number of hits registered. A given number of hits may be selected to define the length of the workout. These hits may be optionally scaled by the registered impact force if desired.

[0134] Workout duration determined by meeting rhythm conditions. A rhythm is selected which is to trigger the user's blows. The rhythm itself may determine the duration, and this may be optionally modulated by the registered force of impacts, or the time which elapses between indicating the trigger condition and receiving the impact, wherein the user is trained to react rapidly to the triggers.

[0135] Holographic striking rhythm—instead of generating an audio striking rhythm, the striking rhythm may be set by generating a holograhic representation of strikes geing generated by the striking bag toward the user to which the user must respond.

[0136] This application includes by reference U.S. provisional application serial No. 60/381,730 filed on May 18, 2002, and No. 60/413,199 as filed on Sep. 23, 2002.

[0137] An object of the invention is to provide sparring training in a regulated manner wherein the level of the workout may be selected by the user.

[0138] Another object of the invention is to provide realistic audio sparring feedback to the user.

[0139] Another object of the invention is to provide realistic groans, spoken words, and similar human sounds associated with a pugilistic endeavor.

[0140] Another object of the invention is to provide for registering the damage incurred on the sparring partner.

[0141] Another object of the invention is to provide for recovery in the registration of damage imposed on the sparring partner.

[0142] Another object of the invention is to provide repeatable control of the setting of the unit wherein a user can elect to set up the unit for any particular level of sparring.

[0143] Another object of the invention is to provide a unit that may be powered from a battery, or similar portable power source.

[0144] Another object of the invention is to provide a sparring partner unit that may register impact information on more than one impact sensor to increase the accuracy of impact registration.

[0145] Another object of the invention is to provide a sparring partner unit that may register impact information on more than one impact sensor wherein the location of the impact on the striking bag may be determined.

[0146] Another object of the invention is to provide a sparring partner unit which is capable of indicating a striking rhythm to the user to which received blows are compared.

[0147] Another object of the invention is to provide for augmenting the sound of strikes impacting on the striking bag with audio generated from the sparring partner.

[0148] Another object of the invention is to provide a sparring partner unit in which the impact statistics are logged during a sparring session.

[0149] Further objects and advantages of the invention will be brought out in the following portions of the specification, wherein the detailed description is for the purpose of fully disclosing preferred embodiments of the invention without placing limitations thereon.

[0150] A device for providing continuous audible feedback of a sports swing is described which expedites the learning and retention of the most desirable swing patterns. The swing coach is a small portable electronic device which mounts near the hands of an athlete or more preferably to the associated sports equipment, such as a golf club, tennis racket, baseball bat, and so forth, to convert the kinesthetics of swing metrics to a discernable multidimensional acoustic pattern which represents the important aspects of the swing. This device makes use of the incredible discernment of the human ear to variations in pitch, timbre, melody, beat and so forth which are characteristic in our appreciation of music. The tempo, speed, path, and movement of the sports equipment or hands along the path of the swing are all represented in real time within the resultant multidimensional audio output.

[0151] A good analogy for the present invention is that it converts the golf club, or other device being swung, into a musical instrument wherein each swing produces audio suggestive of a chord being played on that instrument. Toward that understanding the sound generated by the invention is herein referred to as a “swing chord” to denote the generally complex multidimensional nature of the audio output which represents the accelerations.

[0152] To accomplish this level of feedback, the multidimensional dynamics of the swing are converted to a multidimensional pattern of sound, and aspects of the swing, such as discontinuities (glitches) can be accentuated in the resultant sound pattern. The device therefore provides a generally continuous form of audible feedback of the multidimensional acceleration swing pattern of the sports apparatus being swung. Accelerations are preferably detected in from two to three physical dimensions, wherein the unique contribution of each axis of acceleration is discernable within the sound pattern being output, such as the use of multiple overlapping tones, or alterations to sound patterns such as timbre and so forth.

[0153] It will be appreciated that a polar axis, such as for measuring a centripetal acceleration, may be utilized as one of the acceleration axis or to augment conventional Cartesian axis. The time dimension is inherently incorporated in the output of the device due to the use of a continuous output tonal pattern, wherein the time dimension of the swing is represented. The device could be less preferably configured with a single axis to provide a slightly less expensive form of swing feedback, however, it will be readily appreciated that many swing problems result from “out of plane” motions which would not be properly registered in a single physical dimension.

[0154] Stated another way, the unit generates a multidimensional audio signature associated with the multidimensional kinesthetics of each swing, thereby allowing the user to mentally modify and train their swing to conform to one or more of their swings that provided the desired optimum results.

[0155] The swing training device preferably takes into account the different styles and body types of the user since the user relates the feedback to their own best swing efforts. The user compares the multidimensional sound pattern created by the device when making a shot with that which has been heard for their best shots. The invention appreciates that a fixed reference upon which to compare the swing of all golfers is as likely to damage the beneficial aspects of a swing as to improve the detracting aspects. Thereby the device aids the golfer to improve the beneficial aspect of each swing and to substantially increase the percentage of correct swings.

[0156] A preferable embodiment of the device allows the user to store these sound patterns wherein they may actually listen to the “chord” played by their best shots to aid their swing training. The user then groves their muscles and such in a similar manner that a violinist or other musician trains their body to make the proper motions based on the sound output produced. It is important therefore that the present invention represent multiple acceleration dimensions into a sound within which each dimension of acceleration is easily discerned.

[0157] It should be noted that after utilizing the device for a period of time a user can even train by simple meditating on the sounds, swing chords, associated with their best shots while mentally practicing the shot. Surprisingly, athletes in a number of studies have been found to improve at about the same rate using mental training techniques as those involved in the actual physical activity of the sport.

[0158] The many training devices that exist for swing training do not provide the immediate continuous feedback required to establish a biofeedback training loop. The human ear/brain combination is extremely adept at discerning and memorizing short musical patterns. This device converts the swing into a short musical sequence. The additional musical feedback speeds up the process of mastering a perfect stroke. The sound pattern will easily identify any motion ‘hitches’ in the swing. ‘Hitches’ in the stroke are heard as points of tonal discontinuity in the smooth tonal progressions of a perfect swing. When the user makes a good stroke they will lock in the ‘music’ of it in their memory, or store it within the device. The present invention is no substitute for proper training, but for a person that has mastered the fundamentals of a game, the present invention believes that a stroke is good when it produces optimum or near optimum results. In golf, the proper long-iron stroke for an individual results in a long straight ball trajectory toward the intended target. Using the present invention, the user attempts to repeat the same “good stroke” by replicating the same “music” generated by the device associated with the good stroke. It turns the sports instrument into a musical instrument, so the user has additional feedback, a good stroke truly becomes music to the user's ear.

[0159] A number of features are supported within the present invention. It should be appreciated that the unit may be implemented with or without these options, singly or in combinations thereof, without departing from the teachings of the present invention.

[0160] Earphone/headphone audio—worn for listening (wired or wireless).

[0161] RF output—allows sound to be directed to a wireless earpiece.

[0162] Auto sensing of star/end of swing—motions in preparing for a swing, or that occur after a swing, are ignored and no output sound is generated until the swing commences. This also facilitates storing of the previous swing without saving extraneous movements. This can be sensed as swings start from a common G-reference starting point where ball is addressed.

[0163] Storing sound patterns is not as useful in a constant movement sport such as tennis, as it is unknown which movement or swing is desired. Although a time based storage mechanism is preferably provided.

[0164] Stored user patterns—user can save a swing chord after a particular swing occurs. These can be played as a reminder of the correct resultant swing chord.

[0165] Preferably multiple chords may be stored, such as one for each club or situation for which a swing is performed. In this way the athlete (i.e. golfer) can establish their own audio benchmarks for each club or situation, and train continuously to improve consistency and their best efforts.

[0166] Storing representative sound patterns from known sources, such as professionals in that field. These provide a baseline that the user can consider the differences between their own swing and that of the professionals.

[0167] “Glitch” detection—also referred to as “hitch” detection. This feature provides audio accentuations of sudden changes to the acceleration profiles within the swing. For example these hitches are converted to an identifiable tonal pattern, or sound quality, within the multidimensional sound which may be extended in duration if the event itself spans an otherwise insignificant time period.

[0168] Adjusting relative contributions of physical metrics being communicated by audio: sensitivity of acceleration sensing, “glitch detection”, and so forth.

[0169] Acceleration range control—(if the unit may be mounted at different locations on the equipment being swung, or the user swinging it, then a scaling factor may be entered to allows the unit to better detect and represent the range of motion. For example, after making a full power swing with the device in the desired mounting, the full scale button is pressed, or other input means selected, wherein the device can approximate what the full scale acceleration ranges needs to be.

[0170] Audio controls—volume, tone, balance, and tonal pattern selection.

[0171] Tonal pattern selection—allows the user to select the nature of the sound produced by his/her “swinging instrument”, in a similar manner that one may select a violin or an oboe to create different sound patterns, timbre, and so forth.

[0172] Auto-shutoff—the unit preferably powers off if not being swung for a period of time, such as five minutes, to reduce battery power consumption.

[0173] A related aspect of swing training for golfing is a golf ball transmitter. It will be appreciated that a number of advantages may be obtained when the ball itself is configured with a means to communicate.

[0174] The transmitter, preferably a radio frequency transmitter, may be powered by a method selected from the following (1) primary batteries, (2) sealed rechargable cells, (3) inductive charging (of battery or capacitor), (4) convert impact accelerations to energy, (5) passive RFID—energy coupled to unit from external transmitter.

[0175] The ball itself can transmit information about itself, such as identity of owner, impact acceleration, time of flight, rolling status, rolling pressure, location, and so forth. The following is a partial list of applications provided by way of example and not of limitation.

[0176] (1) Range balls—Range ball with an RF transducer located within it that is preferably powered in response to impact. Once struck the ball begins communicating via RF for a short period of time, such as an identifier and a time of flight reference. The ball contains a transmitter, a source of electrical power, sensors for registered any desired metric of ball travel. A sensor grid at the driving range receives the transmitted signal and can route the data associated with a given identifier to the proper user, such as displaying results on a screen or other form of output device. The sensor grid may be alternatively utilized for controlling the operation of automated ball collection equipment, described later.

[0177] In this application the ball is configured to transmit only for a short period of time after being struck, such as five to ten seconds, wherein the ball stops transmitting within a short period of time after coming to rest on the driving range, in this way less confusion arises from the plurality of balls that are generally strewn about the driving range. The results can include distance hit, distance from cup, time of flight, rollout distance. The information may be communicated to the user in textual and/or graphical format. The time of flight reference is useful in its own right, but also provides an identifier to help discern the different shots from a given user. Alernatively, a ball number reference may be encoded that allows different balls from different users to be discerned. The data collected by the ball can be

[0178] The balls may have an identifier programmed into them at the time they are dispensed to the user. This may be accomplished utilizing a small amount of memory, which can be programmed utilizing an RF or inductive coupling proximal to the time the user is dispensing the balls, or alternatively, at the particular tee of the user. Programming may be fixed or programmable.

[0179] (2) On the golf course—a portable “finder” may be utilized for generating a signal to which the ball responds. This allows the user to readily find their ball and differentiate it from other balls.

[0180] A number of aspects of the balls are taught herein, including the following.

[0181] (1) Generating and storing energy associated with impact. It will be appreciated that a number of sensors are fabricated that can generate a voltage in response to acceleration or material stress. Sensors utilizing piezo electric material have been incorporated into tennis racquets to generate electricity in response to flexure, while other materials may be utilized also.

[0182] (2) Communicating touch down point and roll out to a set of sensors, user can then better track their session.

[0183] (3) Programming an ID that can be associated with a given user. For example each ball can be temporarily programmed with an ID associated with the user (i.e. the dispensing instance). Also each ball can have a large unique ID that is associated with the user prior to or at the time of striking the ball. In either case the system is configured to differentiate which ball goes to which individual, wherein feedback may be provided to the user, and optionally a form of scoring may be provided as an incentive for greater concentration and practice. In this way there is no ambiguity as to whose ball is whom.

[0184] (4) User can be provided with information about their practice. For example text or graphics resulting from data collected about the location of each ball can be calculated. User session results can be “Scored”, wherein the system weighs the value of the shots in response to a user selection of hole, or otherwise a position reference. For example, a map displayed and/or printed which shows the grouping of balls hit to each desired location. Scoring can really increase the effectiveness of range work, because the intensity and motivation can be boosted significantly. In essence one can play a game while on the range, even without moving from hole to hole.

[0185] Another related aspect of the invention is a driving range automated ball collection system for automatically collecting golf balls on a driving range. This system may be utilized in combination with the sensor mesh described above for interrogating the position of the golf balls, yet in this case it can communicate position to or with a robotic system for collecting the balls.

[0186] The unit preferably operates differently than present large scale systems which utilize sets of vertical disks between which the balls are engaged and then collected into a bin. The use of these systems in a scaled down form would be overly costly and prone to failure. The present invention provides new methods and systems for collecting golf balls that are suited for its robotic nature.

[0187] The robot may contain electronics that allow it to operate autonomously over the course, or it may receive signals from fixed units that direct the operations of the device. The use of a fixed station sending commands can reduce the power and weight requirements, while reducing the likelyhood of theft of the robot unit, and cost factors therein.

[0188] Generally the apparatus for autonomously collecting golf balls on a driving range is a robotic device comprising (a) a drive mechanism, a steering mechanism, means for collecting or directing golf balls, an optional means of detecting ball position, a collection area or receptacle; and a means for directing the general movement of the robotic device, to collect or direct the balls to said collection area or receptacle.

[0189] The apparatus for autonomously collecting golf balls on a driving range, may also be desribed as comprising: (a) a motorized ball collection robot; (b) means for detecting location on the driving range of the robot to direct the collection of balls therein; (c) means of locating golf balls along the driving range of the robot; (d) means for collecting individual golf balls within the robot; and (e) a receptacle adapted for receiving balls from the robot for later redistribution.

[0190] The ball collection device may further comprise: (1) an automated “garage” into which the robot is received when not in use. (prevent the chance for theft while protecting it from the environment); (2) an automated collection station, which moves the balls collected to a dispensing station for cleaning and storage in preparation for being dispensed.

[0191] The unit may operate in a launcher or pusher mode for collecting the balls from the driving range or other type of field.

[0192] Utilizing a ball launcher technique for rounding up the golf balls. The robot actually imparts movement to the golf balls towards a collection area. This may be by pushing the balls, hitting each ball, launching each ball (i.e. using pressurized gas), or otherwise “sending” the golf balls to a collection mechanism, such as fixed location station or other robotic device. The collection area may have a collection recess into which the balls are directed, or there may be another process that then moves them into a collection recess or otherwise loads then for collection. The direction of hit is processed in relation to compass direction based on the present location of the robotic unit.

[0193] The balls may be launched using a striking device which moves through a striking path only when a ball is located and properly positioned, or it may utilize a constantly moving head, such as rotating, that when brought into contact with the ball imparts momentum to the ball to direct it fully or partially toward the collection area, or container. One preferred “launcher” uses a motor for setting a striker assembly biased by a spring, into a cocked position, upon detecting a ball the robot moves to position the ball properly in relation to the striker and then triggers the striker. The ball may be made to roll or to be directed over a portion of the ground, to reduce interference with other balls. Where the striker is positioned and the location to which the striker is cocked may be modulated to control the amount of momentum imparted on the ball being struck, such as in response to the distance to the collection container, or area, to which the ball is being directed. Alternatively, balls may be collected and then directed to a collection station when the robot becomes sufficiently near the collection unit.

[0194] A ball pusher mode may also be utilized for collecting the golf balls. The robot is configured with arms for pushing golf balls along the surface of the ground to be collected. This collection mechanism may be utilized in combination with the ball launcher approach of (1) wherein the pusher approach may be used by the same, or other robot, to direct the balls near the collection area into a collection bucket or trough.

[0195] It will be appreciated that although a raised collection receptacle may be used, it is preferable that the robot unit not be required to elevate the balls to deposit them in a collection receptacle, if this is required, then a dedicated system would be preferred such as an escalator form of device for raising balls up into a collection unit, or for directing them down tubes back to a cleaning and dispensing unit.

[0196] A scoop form of collection mechanism may be utilized. Since the robot collection device covers only a small footprint on the driving range and generally conforms to the surface therein, it is therefore able to collect balls using a scoop mechanism that allows for the collection of a limited number of golf balls, before being emptied. The unit can traverse a portion of the field until adequate numbers of balls are collected, then move to a collection station, such as a trough, wherein the balls are deposited, prior to it returning to collect more balls.

[0197] The robot mechanism preferably provides a ball detection mechanism so that balls sparsely distributed may be identified and collected without the need for the robots to traverse the entire area. For example, an optical light beam, such as on a first arm, directed at a detector, such as on a second arm. In addition, the balls may be detected from light reflections from the surface of the balls, it will be appreciated that these can generate a unique reflection pattern by virtue of the spherical dimpled, and generally high reflective surface. The light source being preferably a laser light source.

[0198] The present invention therefore is directed at the following objectives, which may be accomplished singly or in combinations thereof.

[0199] An object of the invention is to provide continuous swing feedback wherein the athlete may learn to recognize and reproduce an optimum swing.

[0200] Another object of the invention is to produce a small portable electronic swing coaching device that may be mounted to the athlete, or the equipment.

[0201] Another object of the invention is to produce an electronic swing coaching device that may be battery powered.

[0202] Another object of the invention is to produce an electronic swing coaching device in which continuous sound patterns may be stored for retrieval.

[0203] Another object of the invention is to produce an electronic swing coaching device in which the continuous sound patterns are generated as a multicomponent tonal pattern, wherein each component of the tonal pattern registers an aspect of the swing.

[0204] Another object of the invention is to produce an electronic swing coaching device in which the registration of various swing metrics may be adjusted for a given individual to match their style of swinging and the style of sounds they desire to hear.

[0205] Another object of the invention is to produce an electronic swing coaching device that can output continuous tones to an ear mounted sound reproduction device, such as a set of headphone, an earbud, or similar that may be wire connected or wireless.

[0206] Another object of the invention is to produce a golf ball having a transmitter for communicating information relating to its travel and final location after being struck.

[0207] Another object of the invention is to produce a golf ball capable of storing sufficient electrical charge to operate a transmitter for a period of about five to fifteen seconds.

[0208] Another object of the invention is to produce a golf ball capable of transmitting an identifier.

[0209] Another object of the invention is to produce an autonomous ball collection device, such as for a driving range.

[0210] Another object of the invention is to produce an autonomous ball collection device that launches, scopps, collects, pushes, or combination thereof, the balls at or into a collection station for later redistribution.

[0211] An aspect of the present invention is a safe and fun weight training device, that is based on the sequential reciprocation of multiple pistons during one repetition of the motion involved in the particular exercise. The device is referred to herein as a reciprocating piston motion (RPM) power training device. (Although the term RPM also can refer to the RPM of the crankshaft that results from the user input.) Training devices based on the present invention are described as being generally comprised of two components: the “RPM power engine” which is installed within a “muscle group chassis” configured for coupling user power into the power engine from one or more selected muscle groups. Control of the RPM power engine may be configured for either manual or electronic control by means of a power engine controller.

[0212] By way of example the “RPM power engine” can be implemented to provide compression according to various configurations such as fixed cylinders in a radial, gnome, in-line, v-twin, opposed flat, rotary, or other configurations such as configurations similar to those utilized in combustion engines. It will be appreciated that the present invention utilizes these basis of compressive forms for creating controlled levels of drag which is evidenced by the different structures employed. The use of multiple cylinders provides a number of advantages (1) optional “notching” output wherein the required applied force is not a smooth function with respect to distance and thereby more accurately simulates actual muscle use conditions; (2) dynamic drag is added to the traditionally nearly static drag of a damper (single piston); (3) it is contemplated that providing a similarity to combustion engines will be popular with a large segment of athletes which are interested in engines, cars, and motorcycles. To further this end the configuration of the RPM power engine may be implemented to mimic the basic planform of specific types of engines, for example the V-twin of a Harley-Davidson motorcyle, the flat six of a Porsche 911, the rotary of a Mazda Rx-8, the dual in-line of a Rolls-Royce, the radial of a WWII Corsair, and so forth. These aspects of the machine can even be co-sponsored by automotive or motorcycle manufacturers as a form of advertising and to increase brand awareness and loyalty.

[0213] The RPM power unit can provide increased workout efficiency as it allows for a controlled workout in either direction of movement and provides a user selectable amount of what is referred to as “notching” wherein the resistance pattern during a given workout stroke has a series of peaks and valleys that stimulate muscles in two ways. It will be appreciated that muscles are optimally worked using both slow force movements, such as provided by traditional weightlifting, and rapid movement, such as provided by boxing, or similar activities. However, in traditional weightlifting the slow force movement benefits are lost, or diminished, if the muscle group is worked rapidly and many neophytes tend to “bounce” the weights to increase their apparent strength as judged by the mass being operated on. The present system provides dual benefits in a workout with both a controlled slow force movement to which a rapid movement is overlayed. The rapid variation in force provided by the present invention causes the muscles to react rapidly over the baseline power stroke and thereby it is contemplated that workout efficiency may be dramatically increased.

[0214] The term “rep” is a common term in weightlifting for a repetition that involves moving the power input device from a first position, through a range of motion and back to the first position, and is used herein for the sake of brevity.

[0215] The RPM power training device may be implemented in a number of ways without departing from the teachings of the present invention. The unit may be integrated within the design of a strength training system (muscle group chassis), providing single or dual action, or the RPM power training device may be implemented as an add-on unit for existing weight training systems and other forms of strength training systems.

[0216] Every form of conventional strength training device may be modified for use by operably coupling the RPM power engine core with a muscle group chassis by means of a power coupling, such as cables and pulleys. Thereby, strength training machines such as bench press, lat pulls, and any force over distance exercise system may utilize the RPM power engine for controlling the resistance profiles of the workout. Power may be coupled from the muscle group chassis to the RPM power engine in either one or two directions of motion. It will be appreciated that the MGC input device, for instance a lat bar, within the present device will not cause the user to hyperextend as sometimes occurs with the use of weights. The input device can be conveniently positioned and will not cause overextension as it is not pulling or pushing the user toward one of the machine limits.

[0217] (a) Single direction—rotational coupling with a biasing mechanism to allow input power receiving member to return back to starting point. Resistance in the return direction generally minimized so that only a small biasing force is required.

[0218] Biasing force may be provided by any conventional biasing means, such as a linear or rotational spring, weights, or other energy storage elements.

[0219] (b) Dual direction—user movement of the user input member is coupled through the RPM power training core over the full range of motion, typically just two opposing directions (linear or polar).

[0220] In addition, the RPM power training core may be attached to existing strength training devices, such as cable driven weight training equipment, to provide enhanced features. Another embodiment is described for a notching pulley device that can be readily added to conventional weight training machines as an alternative to adding an RPM Power Unit. A partial list of the features of the present invention include the following:

[0221] Dual direction resistance (DDR)—wherein opposing muscle groups may be worked with each rep.

[0222] Full range resistance setting—resistance can be set for any desired value, and may be set to vary in response to the velocity of the workout.

[0223] Warm-up button—An input, such as a button, that directs the controller to drop the resistance, such as by a percentage, for a given period of time and ramp it up to the set resistance value. Use of a button gives the user total control of how and when they want the warm-up feature.

[0224] Automatic warm-up period—The controller may automatically invoke a warm-up interval after any new resistance is set, or substantial delay between use has occurred. During the warm-up period the machine preferably operates at a predetermined, or user selected, lower amount of resistance. For example, preferably the unit starts at −10%, −15%, −20%, 25% of the user selected resistance setting and gradually increases the resistance up to the programmed setting. Preferably the unit provides an initial partial cycle at the rated resistance to facilitate finding the correct resistance setting. After the first cycle, or a delay in the cycle, such as after test and before commencing; the unit adjusts resistance to the lower warm-up value and then ramps up as the work-out progresses. A warm up interval preferably spans a predetermined, or user selected, amount such as one minutes to three minutes. Unless the power changes or a substantial delay ensues, delays between sets will not invoke the warm-up interval.

[0225] Power shifter—the user can optionally select the gearing within the RPM power training device wherein the ratio of the relative speed of reciprocation, in relation to the speed of the input member is shifted. It will be appreciated that the resistance setting in combination with the power shifter setting determines the setting of the machine which equates to the amount of weight on a conventional machine.

[0226] Notched rep—a unique feature in which the resistance curve (pounds-force) is not smooth, it contains “notches” associated with each of the multiple compression of the associated pistons. The system may be implemented to smooth out the notches or to accentuate the notches. For example using a larger number of cylinders smoothes out the transfer function. In addition, gearing may be adapted which provides a compliant coupling that can allow selective adjustment of the notches. It is anticipated that a “notched workout” will better prepare muscles for actual conditions of use, since real work rarely moves smoothly.

[0227] Workout power meters—a display preferably outputs both the instantaneous power input and/or the total amount of work (PxT) during the given workout. The power input may be generally determined by the resistance settings X RPM X constant, which is integrated over time to generate a work value.

[0228] Numerous types of displays may be utilized, such as LCD, LED, Electronic ink, plasma, analog, and so forth. Alternatively, or preferably in addition to which, an audio output render certain information or sound effects associated with the workout session. One appealing arrangement for the power meters is as a conventional automotive or motorcycle tachometer (power) and speedometer (work) so that it appears that the harder the athlete works the faster they can reach. If an electronic ink display is utilized, techniques described in Patent Application Serial number ______ may be employed for making a polar display wherein the display face sweep is coupled either directly or indirectly to the movement of the crankshaft of the power unit.

[0229] Memorized machine setup—preferably a machine that is configured with a number of adjustments as to power, autoshifting, notching, and so forth is configured to memorize each users desired settings from one workout to the next. Preferably, the user identifies themselves at a station, such as by biometric identifier (finger print, voice code, etc.) or the use of the bracelet, ring, card, fob, or heart monitor containing unique ID, that uniquely identifies the user to the system. The system them retrieves setting data from a database and adjust the machine for the given user. Furthermore, the system provides a number of settings for a given user, such as Hard, Medium, and Soft workout, wherein the user can select the workout for that day, as it may be a light day on a particular machine. This setting may be entered by means of an input selector such as buttons switches and so forth.

[0230] Heart monitor with unique ID—preferably the heart monitor is adapted with a unique multidigit identifier associated with the given user that is coupled to the transmitter of the heart monitor. Wherein the system can automatically register the presence of the user when in proper position for a workout.

[0231] “Sending workouts home” (transmission of workout information to user)—High end versions of the system are preferably configured to automatically transmit the users workout data to a selected address. Although other forms of packetized data routing may be utilized, it will be appreciated that email is ubiquitous and easy to configure and send, providing the workout stations are interconnected, can access the Internet, and contain IP control hardware. This data may be automatically entered by the user into a spreadsheet or other analysis/display application to allow the user to chart their own progress without additional overhead.

[0232] “Throttle” (in-situ resistance adjustment)—user can alter the amount of resistance, referred to as a power setting, while performing the exercise. The throttle may be implemented in many forms, such as a crank throttle, a shift style throttle, a foot pedal, a crank, a voice activated throttle control, a workout sensitive “autoresistance” controller, and other forms of directing user input to alter the setting of the resistance.

[0233] Autoresistance controller—controls the throttle setting automatically based on user input forces, such as off-path, reversals, speed changes, and so forth, which are applied during the workout. For example, speed of movement during the repetition is a simple metric by which the resistance can be controlled. The autoresistance controller receives input from a motion sensing means which is detected by a processor. When the flow of the workout falls outside of the desired speed range, the unit automatically shifts the power setting. For example, if the user slows down too much then it shifts to less resistance, if the user speeds up then it shifts to increase resistance. This feature is preferably utilized in conjunction with registering and displaying the power of the workout.

[0234] Adding Penalty Time—If the workout is proceeding slower than called for in the workout profile, then penalty time accrues. Preferably the penalty time is shown accruing on a separate time counter, so that the user is aware of what their lack-luster performance is costing. Preferably the power input requirement of the penalty time should be determined to be larger than the missing difference, for example 125%, 150%, 200%, and so forth. In this way the user is discouraged from trying to cheat their way through the workouts by setting a high power setting but not following through with sufficient power output.

[0235] Multiple fluid use—The system may be implemented using air or other fluids, such as water or oils, within the system against which the force of the pistons is directed. An air filled system does not need to be closed, whereas a system filled with a non-ambient fluid will require proper containment.

[0236] Copower generation—optionally can generate own power if it is used in a standalone configuration with low power displays. For example, magnetic pistons may be adapted to slide through coils integrated with the cylinders, or the crankshaft may be coupled to or configured with a conventional generator.

[0237] The present invention therefore is directed at the following objectives, which may be accomplished singly or in combinations thereof.

[0238] An object of the invention is to provide safe and efficient strength training for serious athletes and occasional athlete alike.

[0239] Another object of the invention is to provide enhanced user feedback to increase both the efficiency and control within a workout, while increasing the entertainment value.

[0240] Another object of the invention is to provide a strength training device in which the user can actually feel, and optionally hear, the power that they are inputting to the the device.

[0241] Another object of the invention is to provide a form of resistance that itself is motivating.

[0242] Another object of the invention is to provide a workout in which the user if preventing from “bouncing” the weights resistance and lowering the effectiveness of their workout.

[0243] Another object of the invention is to provide resistance that can be predetermined or user selected.

[0244] Another object of the invention is to provide a non-smooth resistance profile, referred to as notching (non-linear force versus distance) which increases the effectiveness of the workout.

[0245] Another object of the invention is to provide sensing of the motion of the system, wherein the power and use of the machine may be recorded.

[0246] Another object of the invention is to provide a system in which additional elements of sight and sound may be appropriately added, such as the sounds of reciprocating power and associated, to enhance the ambiance of the workout.

[0247] Another object of the invention is to provide a multicylinder compression load that simulates the operation of a reciprocating engine.

[0248] Another object of the invention is to provide a user interface on which are displayed workout statistics.

[0249] Another object of the invention is to provide a user interface implemented as an instrument cluster to appear similar to those utilized within vehicles.

[0250] Another object of the invention is to provide a power control mounted within reach of the individual while operating the strength training machine.

[0251] Another object of the invention is to provide a power transmission on the input of the multicylinder compressive load that has selectable ranges.

[0252] Another object of the invention is to provide a means for varying the compressive resistance for a first and/or second direction of travel.

[0253] Another object of the invention is to provide a strength training device that may be added to existing weight machines to provide notching and other additional benefits.

[0254] Another object of the invention is to provide a device for augmenting strength training that may be incorporated within a cable or belt pulley.

[0255] Another object of the invention is to provide a pulley device which provides integrated motion sensing to facilitate automation of training equipment.

[0256] Another object of the invention is to provide a pulley for cable operating weight training equipment that operates as a speed brake to increase the safety of conventional weight machines that otherwise can subject users to hyperextension and other problems during workouts.

[0257] Another object of the invention is to provide a strength training unit that is lighter and easier to move than existing systems.

[0258] Another object of the invention is to provide a strength training device that may be held in place by a retained weight of water held as ballast.


[0259] The invention will be more fully understood by reference to the following drawings which are for illustrative purposes only:

[0260] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a sparring partner control unit mounted to a free-standing striking bag according an embodiment of the present invention.

[0261] FIG. 2 is a side view of the sparring partner control unit as shown in FIG. 1, showing omnidirectional audio output and control inputs.

[0262] FIG. 3 is a top view of the sparring partner control unit as shown in FIG. 2.

[0263] FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a sparring partner control unit mounted to a hanging “big-bag” form of striking bag, shown with optional RF link to an external audio generation unit and the receipt of impact information from multiple impact sensors.

[0264] FIG. 5 is a side view of a sparring partner control unit integrated within a torso-shaped impact receiving striking member.

[0265] FIG. 6 is a block diagram of the sparring partner circuitry according to an embodiment of the present invention, showing an acceleration sensor coupled to a microcontroller for mapping the impacts to organic human sound outputs.

[0266] FIG. 7 is a flowchart of a simple routine for converting the impacts to the organic human sound output of the device according to an embodiment of the present invention.

[0267] FIG. 8 is a flowchart of a routine for processing impacts and summing accumulated damage according to an embodiment of the present invention.

[0268] FIG. 9 are front views of a sports swing training device mounted to golf club shaft and to a tennis racket according to embodiments of the present invention.

[0269] FIG. 10 is a block diagram of an embodiment of the sports swing training device shown with the functions for processing a multitude of accelerations axis and other swing metrics which are converted to a multidimensional sound pattern.

[0270] FIG. 11 is a waveform diagram exemplifying a segment of a sound output having multidimensional aspects controlled within the present invention.

[0271] FIG. 12 is a waveform diagram of a single acceleration metric and the glitch detection aspect of the invention being detected therein.

[0272] FIG. 13 is a block diagram of an embodiment of the swing feedback device of present invention shown implemented using a microcontroller.

[0273] FIG. 14 is a flowchart of processing accelerations to render multidimensional audio output according to an aspect of the present invention.

[0274] FIG. 15 is a side view of a golf ball according to an aspect of the present invention which is configured for communicating position and other information.

[0275] FIG. 16 is a cross-section of the golf ball shown in FIG. 15.

[0276] FIG. 17 is a block diagram of the golf ball of FIG. 16.

[0277] FIG. 18 is a block diagram of a robotic device for collecting or assembling golf balls from a range or field according to an aspect of the present invention.

[0278] FIG. 19 is a block diagram of a reciprocating piston motion (RPM) power training device according to an embodiment of the present invention, showing the device along with optional electronic controls and interfaces.

[0279] FIG. 20 is a front view of a notching device according to an aspect of the present invention shown mounted on a conventional weight machine.

[0280] FIG. 21 is a front view of another notching device according to an aspect of the present invention shown mounted on a conventional weight machine.

[0281] FIG. 22 is a front view of a speed restriction device according to an aspect of the present invention shown mounted on a conventional weight machine.

[0282] FIG. 23 is an alternate embodiment of the RPM power device according to an aspect of the present invention.


[0283] Referring more specifically to the drawings, for illustrative purposes the present invention is embodied in the apparatus generally shown in FIG. 1 through FIG. 23. The detailed description exemplifies specific embodiments of the invention which are described in sufficient detail so as to allow a person of ordinary skill in the art to practice the invention without undue experimentation. It will be appreciated that the apparatus may vary as to configuration and as to details of the parts without departing from the basic concepts as disclosed herein.

[0284] FIG. 1 through FIG. 8 depict embodiments and aspects of a sparring partner device which can be attached somewhere to a striking bag, or other device configured to be struck during athletic events or practice. When turned on the unit measures the relative acceleration of the bag to determine the power of each hit. Upon each hit the device outputs a tone sound whose tone and/or amplitude denotes the power of the hit. The person sparring is thereby given feedback as to their workout, they will be motivated to hit harder. It is more enjoyable when one has feedback.

[0285] The unit also will track or keep a running “damage” count with each hit.

[0286] When enough “damage” (hits sufficiently hard and enough of them), then the device will signal TKO—match/workout over. The TKO indicator sums up the power of each hit and subtracts damage in proportion to the delay between hits, so the simulated enemy/combatant slowly recovers from each hit. This forces the person to work more quickly at finishing the opponent, which is very much like real life.

[0287] A “hit power” to “sound” adjustment allows the bag to be used by young sprouts or heavyweight champs. The adjustment knob has numbered settings that click for specific setting not vague regions.

[0288] Also a TKO adjustment allows one to set how tough the opponent is to take down. This is like setting the length of the workout or number of reps. Internally—the HW operates as follows:

[0289] One or more acceleration sensors are used to sense bag strikes. If more than one sensor they are placed so that accelerations in any horizontal direction can be sensed. These sensors produce a small voltage in response to a change in acceleration.

[0290] The signal conditioning circuit amplifies and eliminates noise from the sensors, then sums the sensor outputs into a single output that is sent to the A-D in the microcontroller for processing. The microcontroller may send back a signal based on the setting of the force potentiometer so that the gain of the amplifiers is adjusted. Otherwise the A-D will need to cover a full spectrum of settings and the resolution on any setting may be inadequate. Once the microcontroller measures the signal strength through A-D and applies correction factors based on force setting and internal lookup that compensates for hardware to compute an force value. The resultant force value is then averaged with last reading. The result is used to lookup a tone sequence to be played on the speaker. The unit then sends out an appropriate tone corresponding to the hit intensity duration and force setting. Each resultant force value is added to the existing level of damage. Also an amount of damage is subtracted with each sense mode the amount depends on force setting and TKO setting.

[0291] When the sum of these force values equals a preset value corresponding to the TKO setting, then the microprocessor sends out a tone sequence to indicate that the workout is over/match ended.

[0292] FIG. 1 through FIG. 3 exemplify a sparring training/workout device 10 having a sparring partner control unit 12 which attaches to the strike impact receiving member 14 such as on a top surface 16. The strike impact receiving member 14 may also be referred to as a striking bag 14, and it is shown in a typically configuration with sides 18 for receiving impacts, and a vertical support 20 which is stabilized by a base member 22.

[0293] The figures depict a simple embodiment of the sparring partner control unit 12, having a small number of features implemented on a total of four controls. It will be noted that the unit is shown as a self-contained unit for mounting to a striking bag, and does not provide an electronic readout.

[0294] FIG. 2 and FIG. 3 are detailed views of the sparring partner control unit 12 shown within a housing 24, which is configured with apertures 26 through which the generated audio is directed. An acoustic deflector 28 is shown mounted proximal to an audio transducer 30, such as a conventional speaker or piezoelectric transducer. The depicted configuration provides for directing the generated audio in a circular pattern from the unit 12, wherein the user receives substantially equal audio feedback regardless of where they are positioned when striking the bag. It will be appreciated that other speaker arrangements may be utilized, and that multiple audio transducers may be incorporated. Furthermore, the speaker may be eliminated from the unit altogether wherein audio signals may be transmitted via a standard AM or FM broadcast channel to an audio system, or via a dedicated communication link to an means for generating audio.

[0295] A printed circuit board (PCB) 32, or similar retention structure, to which electronics and mechanical elements may be joined. A preferred method of sensing impacts is with the use of acceleration sensors, along at least one axis. Registering accelerations in three axis provides for the greatest accuracy in registering impact forces, however, this is achieved at a slightly increased cost. One of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that tilt sensors, and other forms of sensors may be alternatively utilized for registering impacts without departing from the present invention.

[0296] Two rotary encoders 34, 36 are shown attached to the PCB 32 with knobs 38, 40 whose shafts extend from the encoders 34, 36. Preferably these encoders provide detented positions, such as illustrated by the surrounding legends marked from 1 to 10 with ½ indicias, which in this instance provides 20 positions for each of the impact scaling control knob 38 and the optional TKO threshold control knob 40. It will be appreciated that a device may be implemented according to the present invention which lacks either or both of these controls 38, 40, however, this would generally be a less preferable arrangement as the device would not readily accommodate the power and endurance requirements of a given athlete. Similarly, the sparring device of the invention may be configured to automatically determine an impact setting based upon an initial user strike, and may heuristically determine a TKO setting and even recovery from a known use history from an individual, or from sample inputs or other information that may be extracted from the user/bag interaction. A pushbutton power switch 42 is shown protruding from the top of the housing.

[0297] Although a power control may be incorporated within the other controls, its use would then require altering the settings of the controls. Preferably power control switch 42 is configured with a power activation circuit which turns off unit power if no impacts are registered within a given period of time. A volume control 44 is depicted for controlling the overall audio amplitude, such as with an audio taper potentiometer within the audio amplifier. It will also be appreciated that a D-class (digital output) audio amplifier may be utilized wherein the volume may be controlled digitally in response to setting of a volume control encoder. One of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that a number of control types may be substituted for controlling the described aspects of the invention without departing from the present invention.

[0298] In operation, the user sets the impact 38 and TKO 40 controls according to their size, level of skill, and intended workout intensity and duration. It will be appreciated that the combination of impact and TKO settings define a workout regime wherein the user can get a defined workout to facilitate a training program. It will be noted that should the user deliver blows at lower frequency or power to the bag during the workout that their workout time is extended, and could in fact be extended indefinitely if the damage input is less than the recovery set for the device.

[0299] The recovery level may be alternatively set within the device, wherein the user may determine if they want the recovery feature, and to what extent the accumulated damage (preferably in relation to a given power setting), should lesson per unit of time during the workout. This aspect of the invention can discourage sloppy, non-aggressive workouts. The user is further encouraged as the device emits organic human sound, such as moans, groans, and even screams, in response to the intensity of the impacts being registered. The device also can generate voiced audio, such as verbal banter, or abuse, from the sparring partner device.

[0300] A number of further aspects of the invention are contemplated including the ability to select the type of sounds that the device is to generate in response to the sparring event, these may be configured as a selection of a particular simulated opponent, such as a celebrity pugilist, or other characters. The intensity of the verbal audio may be preferably selected in addition to whether abusive or foul language is to be allowed.

[0301] The device may also be configured to allow the user to record their own sounds and verbal banter for output by the device in response to impacts. For example, a microphone and audio programming controls may be incorporated to allow the user to record sounds and to indicate what and how those sounds are to be used by the device during a sparring workout.

[0302] The sparring device may be configured to interact with a heart monitor for establishing the pace of the workout. The user would enter, or otherwise establish, a desired heart rate for the workout session, and the unit would modulate one or more device settings in response to the actual heart rate relative to the desired heart rate setting. For example, the impact range setting may be adjusted so as to attempt to maintain the user at the given heart rate setting. Furthermore, damage recovery and TKO setting may be modulated in conjunction with the heart rate monitor.

[0303] Statistics are preferably retained within the device for a given workout which may be displayed, accessed, or conveyed, during or subsequent to the sparring workout for tracking workout progress. For example, the unit may display statistics such as workout duration, maximum impact, average impact rate, and so forth to aid the user in gauging the progress of workouts. Furthermore, the data may be communicated, such as to a remote device or computer for logging and tracking purposes.

[0304] FIG. 4 exemplifies a sparring training/workout device 50 as a “heavy” striking bag 51 and a control unit which comprises an external audio generation/control unit 52 whose receiver picks up signals from a sending unit 54 attached to the striking bag, or similar. The embodiment depicted is more sophisticated than that shown in FIG. 1 through FIG. 3, and provides a number of additional features. It should be appreciated that the aspects of the invention shown in FIG. 4 may be implemented singly or in combination to a sparring unit, such as shown in FIG. 1 through FIG. 3, without departing from the present invention.

[0305] Sending unit 54 is configured for registering impacts and communicating the impact information to an external control and audio generation unit 52. Although the receiving unit is depicted as a customized controller, the present invention may be implemented to use a PDA, computer, laptop computer, or other device configured with a receiver and which executes an application that provides the features described herein. The sending unit is shown with a single control, which is a power activation button 55, that preferably is connected with a power deactivation circuit to power off the unit after a sufficient period of inactivity. In contrast to the self-contained unit of FIG. 1 through FIG. 3, this device has the controls and performs the bulk of the operations on a device external to the impact receiving member.

[0306] It should be appreciated that the aspects of the present invention may be variously divided as a matter of design between local and remote units without departing from the present invention. Furthermore, the device may be implemented within an intermediary receiver unit which registers the signals and communicates them to a subsequent unit, either by RF or other remote communication means, or by a wired connection. For example, a receiver unit may comprise a small receiver with optional controls that may be configured to be connected to a sound system for audio output, and/or to a computerized device, such as a PC, laptop, PDA, and so forth which can provide additional features. It should be readily appreciated that the functions described for the present invention may be implemented in various alternative ways without departing from the teachings herein.

[0307] The striking bag 51 is shown vertically suspended by chains 56, or similar, which attach to an upper portion 57. The impact sensor may be mounted within sending unit 54, however, an optional configuration is shown wherein one or more sensors are mounted remote from the sending unit. The present embodiment depicts a mounting tube 58 which houses a lower sensor 60a, and an upper sensor 60b. The impacts registered from sensors 60a, 60b are transmitted through antenna 62 to the audio generation/control unit 52. The use of multiple sensors within a striking bag 51 allows for more accurate registration of impact intensity, while it additionally allows for the determination of hit location in relation to the two impact sensors.

[0308] An alternative form of impact registration may be utilized by incorporating sensors on the exterior surface of the bag which are capable of registering the intensity of impacts being received. For example, these sensors may incorporate piezoelectric materials which generate electrical signals in response to their rate and extent of deflection. Optical sensing could be utilized, such as by sensing optical attenuation in response to deflections along fiber optics.

[0309] Audio generation/control unit 52 comprises a housing 64 and is configured with an external antenna 66, or an internal antenna (such as on the PCB) for receiving signal from sending unit 54. Controls are depicted to control audio volume 68, impact scaling 70, and TKO threshold 72. A separate set of controls is shown for selecting a number of additional user settings, and comprises a display 74, selection knob 76, setting buttons 78 (i.e. up and down) and a menu control button 80. The user may then select items such as personality, recovery parameters and so forth by following a menu displayed on display 74 and making selections with knob 76 in combination with the setting buttons, such as up and down. These parameters to be selected have been discussed throughout the summary and descriptions herein. It should also be appreciated that instead of incorporating sensors at the ends of tube 58, as shown, that separate sensors may be incorporated, such as remote sensor 84 shown attached to the bottom of the bag. These remote sensors may be configured as transducer elements which are powered by an internal source or by received RF or inductive power. Remote sensor 84 transmits acceleration information either to another device such as sensor 54, or directly to the remote station 52.

[0310] Audio is preferably generated from the remote unit, shown having a speaker grill 82 beneath which on or more speakers are provided to generate audio. The remote unit may be alternatively, or additionally, coupled to a sound system which may then generate the audio for the unit.

[0311] FIG. 5 depicts an impact training device 90 incorporating a sparring partner device 92 according with the present invention within a torso-style striking device 94 having a head, chest 98, and abdomen 100 which is configured to absorb impacts during training. Sparring partner electronics 92 are shown with simple controls 102, such as for impact range, TKO setting, and volume. A wired acceleration sensor 104 is shown coupled to the electronics in a position to more readily detect accelerations, by virtue of being further from the pivot point of the torso. An audio transducer 106 is shown for generating the sounds of the device. It will be appreciated that the unit may similarly generate acceleration or other impact information which is communicated to one or more remote (wired, or wireless) units that operate to provide the audio feedback from the unit.

[0312] FIG. 6 exemplifies an implementation of the sparring partner device using a microcontroller. One or more acceleration sensors 110 are provided to register user impact, although other forms of impact sensing may be utilized. The acceleration information is communicated either directly, or via an optional transmitter-receiver pair (i.e. radio-frequency transmission) to a microcontroller 114. A power control circuit 116 is shown with an ON button 118. Pressing button 118 applies power to the power controller which latches in an ON state. Power is turned off by microprocessor 114 after a sufficient period of time has elapsed wherein the device is inactive. Microcontroller 114 generates audio output coupled to an audio device 120 coupled with audio transducer 122 (i.e. coil speaker, or piezoelectric transducer), shown having a volume control 124. Any convenient form of audio generation and amplification may be implemented by one of ordinary skill in the art without departing from the present invention, such as A, B, C, or D-class amplifiers and others. It will be recognized that D-class amplifiers are becoming increasingly popular for use with microcontrollers due to the logic level inputs.

[0313] A set of controls are shown coupled to microcontroller 114, comprising: (1) An impact range control 126 which determines the amount of audio generated for a given impact and the amount of relative damage accumulation. Impact range can be considered similar to setting the amount of weight in a weight training machine, the higher the strength of the user, the higher this control is set. (2) a recover rate control 128 allowing the user to control how rapidly the sparring partner recovers from damage, and thereby how much the workout is extended as a result of low impact rates. This control is optional and may be set to a predetermined value, such as in response to the impact range or TKO setting, or combination thereof. (3) TKO threshold 130 setting the endpoint for the workout. The threshold is set for the accumulated damage that the user has wrought on the sparring partner, preferably less the recovery that occurred between strikes. This control finds equivalence in the number of repetitions for a given weight during weight training, because the impact range and TKO define the scaling the threshold for the sparring workout. (4) A sound selection control 132 allowing the user to select how they want the unit to react for the impacts being registered. This control may be simple or elaborate as described previously, wherein the user may select a given type, define their own types, control the characteristics of personalities and so forth. A memory device 134, is shown operatively coupled to microcontroller 114, although all or a portion of the memory may be incorporated within the microcontroller (or microprocessor) itself.

[0314] It is presumed that microcontroller 114 contains at least a program store and registers for executing the firmware for performing the described functions described herein. Memory 134 is shown adapted for storing the impact sounds, such as groans, moans, sighs, screams, and verbal banter for the device, and the tables that control the selection of the particular sounds. In addition the memory may store sounds associated with rhythm settings, crowd noises, TKO sound effects, personality data for different sparring partners and so forth. A secondary impact sensor, acceleration sensor 136 is shown for collecting additional information to more accurately determine the impacts being received, such as detected the accelerations at the opposing end of a free-standing striking device.

[0315] FIG. 7 depicts a flowchart for a simple sparring device according to the present invention. Once the unit is powered up and initialized as per block 200, impacts are registered as represented by block 202 and then optionally normalized as per block 204 according to the impact range setting to allow equalizing the output for various users. It may be preferable to couple the selection of sound output with the impact range, wherein the sounds generated for a person using the device on the lowest setting would be indicative of the sounds generated by smaller, less physical, individuals; whereas the sounds generated at the higher impact settings would be more indicative of sounds generated by individuals of larger stature, or physicality. In this way individuals would be less inclined to set the impact setting artificially low, as the sounds generated would be indicative of the “size of individual” they had chose to “spar” with. The sounds are then selected based on the current state of the unit and the normalized impact setting as represented in block 206.

[0316] For example if no sound is being generated then a generated random number may be used to point to a sound string, such as “Uggh”, “ouch”, groan, a verbal response or any audio output, that is then commenced. If a sound or string is in progress such as within the phrase, “come on an hit me you sissy man”, then the tonation of the phrase may change within the phrase or in some cases the phrase may be cut short to generate a different phrase. In this way continuity of phrasing may be provided, while the unit provides realistic responses to the blows being received. The audio segment is then output to the speaker as per block 208, or alternatively through a remote unit providing audio output, and the loop ends 210.

[0317] Audio output may be provided in a number of forms, such as direct from a bag mounted unit, from a remote unit, or from earpieces or headsets mounted on the user. For example, the user may be provided with a headset, or earpiece through which they can hear the generated audio, the headset/earpiece may be wired to a receiver unit, such as belt mounted, or be coupled by RF to a remote transmitter. This form of individualized audio allows the user to experience a workout with intense audio feedback without disturbing other individuals nearby.

[0318] It should be noted that the sound is not just generated during the duration of the impact but continues to be sequenced after the impact is registered, as it will be appreciated that a sound, or phrase may span a time period that greatly exceeds any registered impact, while verbal banter may be generated that is generated spontaneously without a hit being registered. The above sequence continues for additional impacts being registered by the device.

[0319] FIG. 8 depicts a flowchart for an embodiment of the sparring device which accumulates damage toward a TKO setting. Operation commences as represented by block 212 and impacts are registered at block 214. It will be appreciated that impact registration using an acceleration sensor comprises converting discerning the amount of impact which has taken place based on one or more acceleration profiles in combination with the acceleration history. Impacts, therefore, are not registered as the bag swings, or is otherwise moved or moving, for these are readily discerned from historical and from acceleration slope values as being non-impacts. The impact value is preferably normalized at block 216 and the state of accumulated damage is retrieved at block 218 and the sound state at block 220. The next sound output is then determined in response to the received impact in view of the current state of the sound and the accumulated damage registered to date as represented by block 222, and output as a segment of audio as per block 224. For example, the sounds generated by an exhausted opponent that is close to being knocked out, differs from that generated by a fresh opponent. Furthermore, the state of the sound, or verbal string being voiced, is taken into account so that continuity and realism are provided.

[0320] It will be appreciated by one of ordinary skill in the art that an interrupt routine would preferably be used for generating sound segments through the audio system between events based on the setting for a given event. For example a tick interrupt may be set to output a new sound phase every 100 uS based on values retained in an audio sequence memory, a pointer to which may be established in response to the impacts registered and the interpretation based on accumulated damage and impact range. Therefore, the impacts are used for altering the selection of sound outputs, but the actual sound outputs are generated by the lower level firmware, in this case the interrupts which sequence out the portions of audio necessary to generate the selected sounds.

[0321] Impacts are preferably logged at block 226 for historical use, and may be optionally displayed or communicated as per block 228. The damage is then recalculated, such as by adding the impact value to the accumulated damage minus a temporally derived recovery value as represented by block 230. A check is made on the progress of the match wherein the accumulated damage is checked in relation to the TKO setting as per block 232. If the TKO threshold has been reached, then the match (workout) is over, and the unit preferably generates “match end” sound effects as represented at block 234, such as the opponent hitting the mat and the sound of cheering. The sequence ends at block 236 as it awaits additional events.

[0322] FIG. 9 through FIG. 14 depict embodiments and aspects of a swing coach device for mounting to sports equipment. FIG. 9 depicts the swing coach mounted to a golf club 10 and a tennis racket 30, which are configured to transmit information to a remote device 50 for generating multidimensional audio feedback in response to the swing metrics. The swing coach unit senses multidimensional club acceleration which is converted to a multidimensional audio pattern akin to the sound output of a musical instrument. A golf club 12 having a grip 14 shaft 16 and head 18 is shown with a swing coach 20 attached to an upper portion of the shaft and configured with user controls 22, such as power, volume, and swing storage/replay controls. A tennis racket 32 having a string-bed 34, shaft 36, handle 38, is shown with a yolk 40 within the upper portion of shaft 36 within which a swing coach device 42 has been mounted, that communicates with a remote audio output device herein exemplified as a receiver unit 50 having a housing 52 and a optional personal listening device 54, such as an earpiece, headset, or similar, that is coupled to the unit by wire, or preferably wireless communication. Personal listening device 54 comprises an earhoop attached to an audio output annunciator 56 and an RF section with antenna 58, if the device is wirelessly coupled to the receiver unit. Receiver unit 52 is shown with a volume control 60, and a user interface comprising selection buttons 62, knob 64, and knob 66. Optional speaker output 68 is shown depicted as a speaker 68, which may be used instead of, or in addition to, the use of the personal listening device 54.

[0323] Housing 52 may be configured for attachment to the belt of the user, so that aspects of the audio output may be controlled by the user. It will be appreciated that the unit mounted to the golf club, tennis racket, or other swingable sporting device, may be adapted with controls and an audio output device, wherein external control and audio output units are not required, however, the size of the resultant unit may prove cumbersome to mount, especially on small devices such as tennis rackets.

[0324] FIG. 10 represents the swing coach 100 in a block diagram which may be implemented in analog circuitry or executed as firmware within a microcontroller or microprocessor. The device, or portion of the body of the person, performing the swing is represented as device 102. An acceleration sensor 104 is adapted for registering accelerations from device 104, preferably in more than one axis of acceleration, such as in three axes. The output of acceleration sensor 104 is conditioned for use within the device within a conditioning circuit 106, and may be scaled such as by a scale input, or fullscale setting based on range of acceleration in one or more axes. The acceleration data after conditioning may be communicated directly, or via a communication protocol 108 such as via wireless communication pathway. The acceleration data is checked to determine if a swing is taking place by a swing detect circuit 110 depicted as a comparator 112 having a predetermined threshold (for one or more of the acceleration axis). If the unit is relatively static, then no sound output is generated and the unit may remain in a relatively quiescent state, whereby power consumption is minimized.

[0325] Acceleration data, preferably in two to three axes, is input to a mapping unit 114 that performs mapping of the multidimensional accelerations to corresponding multidimensional sound patterns. The mapping is performed according to a predetermined response pattern that may be considered akin to a musical instrument. It will be appreciated that although each musical instrument plays a given collection of notes it outputs a different sound, for example a violin compared with an oboe. The mapping function may be considered to map the acceleration data to notes from one or more instruments and to control the metrics of the instrument producing the sound.

[0326] Acceleration data may retained within a memory 116 to allow the user to refer to previous swings. Preferably the data on each swing is stored in a temporary buffer within memory 116, and stored for long-term storage upon the user pressing a store button 118, or similar. The user may also select stored sounds through a selector 120, and a play control 122. This allows the user to reinforce the sound made by a particular good swing (i.e. a long straight drive) or hear the problems within a particular bad swing. The stored patterns may also be compared with new swing data via as represented by comparator 124 which synchronizes a memorized pattern with the occurring pattern and generates an output in response to the difference therein which is communicated to the audio output. The difference data may be fed into the sound mapping unit as another axis for the mapping, or instead of the acceleration data normally received. Alternatively, the difference information may be fed into a conditioning and conversion circuit 126 which generates sound data which may be coupled to the output through switch 136 and rheostat 138.

[0327] A glitch detection circuit 128 is represented for detecting the non-smooth transitions within a swing, often referred to as “hitches”, “glitches”, and so forth which typically appear in the acceleration profile in one or more axes as discontinuities. Glitch detection is shown comprising a slope detection circuit 130 coupled to a comparator 132 wherein discontinuous changes in slope are detected as glitches. It will be appreciated that “glitches” may be defined by various slope related information and historical information about the swing and that signal processing techniques may be utilized to provide for enhanced glitch detection. Furthermore, the type of glitch may be characterized to provide additional feedback to the user to aid them in “grooving” their swing. The glitch detect output may be fed to mapping unit 114 as one or more additional axis to be mapped to the sound output, wherein glitches in the audio output are thereby accentuated. The glitch information may also be processed within a separate conditioning and conversion circuit 134 and selectively fed into the audio output amplifier through selection switch 140 and rheostat 142.

[0328] Audio output from the swing coach is generated from an audio amplifier stage 144 coupled to an audio transducer 146, such as a speaker or piezoelectric transducer. The input to the audio amplifier stage is preferably configured for outputting any of the metrics detected within the circuit, such as provided by a switching device 148, which is shown for selecting input from the mapping unit 114, the memory unit 116, or the difference unit 124. The audio amplifier stage is shown with an input from the swing detection circuit 110 to control the activity of the audio output so as to eliminate buzz and such associated with nearly static values of accelerations when a swing is not taking place. The audio amplifier stage is also shown with inputs from the glitch detection 128 and difference detection circuits 124, wherein the difference and/or glitches may be summed with the conventional audio output to accentuate user discernment of swing metrics.

[0329] The audio output from the device is also optionally shown coupled through a video interface 150 for output to a video recorder device to allow the sounds generated by the swing coach unit to be superimposed, or to replace, the standard audio input of the recorder so that the user can both see and hear the swing metrics.

[0330] Audio output directed from a unit attached to the equipment or person, should be preferably configured to direct the sound toward the ears of the user, to reduce the possibility of annoying others nearby. This may be accomplished by directing the audio output such as with “waveguide” pipe sections to collimate the sound directly toward the user to minimize disruption to others. A removable plastic screen over the pipe section can be used to prevent accumulation of debris therein. The speaker may be configured in other ways as well, such as configured in a nonpreferred direction, such as horizontally, and for being reflected from a pull-out flap/cover or similar structure that redirects the sound toward the ears of the user.

[0331] A number of controls on the unit allow the user to control aspects of the device. Audio controls 152 are shown coupled to amplifier stage 144, exemplified as volume 158, tone 160, and balance 162, although other controls may be included. A pattern control 154 allows the user to select the type of mapping that is to be performed by the unit. The mapping determines the relationship between the acceleration input(s) to the sound output which is indicative of the swing metrics during the entire swing. Patterns may be selected according to the types of sound the user finds most conducive to using the device (similar to choosing an instrument), or to accentuate certain aspects of the swing during the training. Patterns may be selected based on which acceleration axis is to be mapped to which metric of the generated audio output. For example, should axis 1 of acceleration be mapped to a frequency, or to a second harmonic, or to what. Additionally, the mapping can provide other relationships, for example the overall amplitude of the audio may be determined by the sum of the chosen acceleration axes, or may be determined by other metrics, or set to a predetermined level.

[0332] FIG. 11 illustrates an example waveform showing a couple of aspects of the sound which may be mapped, such as frequency, amplitude, and harmonics. Additionally the characteristics of the waveform may be altered according to shape based on one or more axes of acceleration input, or input from glitch detection circuits, difference circuits and so forth within the present invention.

[0333] FIG. 12 depicts glitch detection on one axis within the present invention, wherein as acceleration waveform contains discontinuities which are detected and for which audio signals are shown being generated in response.

[0334] FIG. 13 illustrates a block diagram for the swing coach 190 shown implemented on a microcontroller based device configured for outputting sound to a personal listening device 210 shown as an earpiece. The swing coach is shown as a self contained unit 192 configured for mounting to the equipment, or person, at a location for that allows for properly registering the swing. It is preferable that a fixed location be used with a given piece of sports equipment wherein the responses being generated may be compared from user to user, thereby allowing predetermined ranges, and the use of stored data for swings performed by experts.

[0335] One or more acceleration sensors 194 provide the sensing of at least one and preferably three axis is acceleration data to a microcontroller 196, or other programmable element such as a DSP chip, microprocessor, and so forth. A user interface 198 is provided to allow the user to control aspects of the device, such as audio mapping, audio output, and memory storage and control. An audio output stage 200 is shown for use with an audio transducer 202, herein shown as a piezoelectric transducer, or wired to a hearing device 210. The unit may also be configured with an RF circuit 206 which communicates to an RF circuit 208 connected with and preferably integrated within personal hearing device 210 which is wireless, thereby eliminating any possibly cumbersome wiring between the device and the user. Additional memory 204 is preferably provided with microcontroller 196 for the storage of various mapping routines, preprogrammed audio segments or algorithms from which audio is generated, for storing user swing data, and for preprogrammed swing data such as from experts in the field.

[0336] Power for the unit is provided by a power source 212 as controlled through a power activation control, such as an ON/OFF switch or a momentary switch that activates the unit which is subsequently deactivated if the unit sits in a quiescent state (i.e. accelerations below a given swing threshold) for a sufficient period of time. It will be appreciated that the programming that is adapted for execution within the microprocessor generally performs the functions as shown in the block diagram shown in FIG. 10, which may be implemented by one of ordinary skill in the art without creative effort and without departing from the teachings of the present invention.

[0337] FIG. 14 depicts the basic operation of the swing coach unit. The unit is powered-on as per block 300, and initialized as per block 302. Initialization optionally includes the output of a sound to indicate that unit has been powered on, such as a single beep. The initial audio output may optionally include information about the state of the unit (self test) and power source. For example, a low battery condition may be indicated using sound (i.e. three beeps), or audio string (i.e. “battery low 25%”). The use may then set the parameters of use according to block 304, after which the unit is ready for use and begins registering accelerations as per block 306. Accelerations, in one or more axis that exceed swing thresholds, as represented by block 308, are then normalized according to the setting of the device, (i.e. taking into account the type of use, positioning on the device, and the strength of the user) as represented by block 310.

[0338] The normalized acceleration data is then mapped, as per block 312, to generate a multidimensional sound output in response to a multidimensional sound input, and taking into account the settings for glitch detection, and use prescribed mapping. The sound is then output at block 314, preferably as a sound segment spanning between acceleration measurements. The user controls are then checked to determine if the user wants to alter the settings, if so the device enters a setup mode and inputs the user settings, otherwise registration of the inputs continues at block 306.

[0339] Mechanical mounting of the swing coach unit to the swing detection location, such as on a golf club or tennis racquet must be secure. This is particularly true if the device is mounted near the head of a sports device such as a golf club that may move at a high rate of speed. Preferably the means of attachment such as a spring clamp is provided with a safety such as a screw clamp, or safety cable, that prevents separation of the unit should the spring clamp fail.

[0340] The unit is preferably operated from a single battery, such as a coin cell, or AAA battery, although any power source may be utilized such as capacitive power, solar power, fuel cell power, and the like.

[0341] If the device is configured for use with a variety of equipment or types of training is it preferably that a control be provided allowing the user to set the approximate maximum range of the device, so that all acceleration registration is performed on the optimal ranges. For example inclusion of a “set maximum G button” that the user would press before or after a “highest power” swing. This acceleration registered would then set the range of the device, and/or the normalization of the accelerations being registered.

[0342] It should be appreciated that the swing coach device may be implemented using a number of circuit variations within a number of configurations for use with a variety of sports devices for which a user desires to improve swing consistency.

[0343] The device generates a complex audio representation of the metrics of the swing, as detected using acceleration sensing in preferably two or more axes.

[0344] The device may generate audio output directly, or through remote units via a wired or wireless connection.

[0345] FIG. 15 through FIG. 17 depict a golf ball configured for transmitting position and optionally other information.

[0346] FIG. 15 exemplifies what appears to be a traditional golf ball 400 having out shell 402 with dimples 404. FIG. 16 depcits a cross section of the ball wherein the intermediate energy absorbant material 406 is retained about an inner core 406. In the center of the inner core 406 is an electronic unit housed within a sperical shell 410, shown with antennas 412 extending therefrom. FIG. 17 is a block diagram of the device showing a power control block 414 which controls the collection and use of power stored in capacitor 416, or other form of energy storage device. An impact power device 418, such as piezo-electric is shown which can register impact force the energy from which can be stored to maintain transmission from the device for a short period of time. An optional inductive block 420 is also shown which may be utilized to charge the energy storage device, and/or to load the memory of the device with information reagrding ID information, control information, and so forth. A controller 422 regulates the activity of the ball and registers inputs sources, such as motion 424, and information such as ID 426, as well as controlling transmissions from an RF unit 428 shown with antenna 412.

[0347] One embodiment of the unit transmits a beacon with ID so that the position of the ball can be detected within a system using a mesh or grid of detectors or with a portable finder, such as used on the rough next to a fairway.

[0348] FIG. 18 exemplifies a robotic device 500 for collecting golf balls on a range, or other select area. A controller 502 receives power from a power source 504 controlled by a power controller. It will be appreciated that the device is preferably powered by a fuel cell, battery or other portable unit. A field position sensor 508 detects the relative position on the field, and direction of the unit such as using a compass along with a sense grid arrangment, GPS, or any other convenient position sensing method. A ball sensor 510 allows detecting the position of balls proximal the unit for collection. Optional RF output 512 allows remote control of the unit, updating commands, and informing other units of activity. A motor drive 514 is shown for controlling motors 516a, 516b, connected to gearing 518a, 518b, such as for a tracked vehicle. An optional steering control 520 with motor 522 and gearing 524 is shown for use on an untracked vehicle wherein steering control is desired. A ball mover is shown 526 with motor 528 and gearing 530, which may be utilized for launching balls toward a collection device or for pushing or moving balls directly or in combination with ball receptacle 532. A user interface 532 allows user selection of features as well as determining aspects of device functioning.

[0349] FIG. 19 through FIG. 23 depicts embodiments and aspects of a strength training device. FIG. 19 exemplifies a block diagram of a reciprocating piston motion (RPM) power training device 10 that provides for a notched power transfer workout that is controllable by the user in a first and second direction through any convenient muscle group chassis, such as lat-pull. It should be appreciated that the RPM power unit may be coupled to various muscle group chassis using substantially conventional cable linkages. The system further allows power to be input to the unit in both a forward and reverse direction at the discretion of the user, and the user can select how much resistance to provide, or relative percentage in either direction. Following is a short list of example exercises that may be performed using an RPM power unit integrated within a workout machine:

[0350] Chest: Arm Pullover, Chest Fly, Chest Press, Crossover Chest Fly, Decline Chest Fly, Decline Chest Press, Decline Push Up, Incline Chest Fly, Incline Chest Press, Kneeling Single-Arm, Chest Fly, Parallel Grip Chest, Press, Reverse Grip Chest, Press, Reverse Grip Decline, Chest Press, Reverse Grip Incline, Chest Press, Single Arm Chest Fly, Single Arm Chest, Press, Wide Chest Press

[0351] Abdominals: Abdominal Crunch, Cable Abdominal, Crunch, Cross-body Pull Over, Crunch, Incline Sit-Up, Kneeling Torso Twist, Lying Knee Raise, Lying Leg Lift, Prone Jack Knife, Pullover Crunch, Reverse Crunch, Seated Torso Twist, Single Leg Lying Leg, Lift, Single Leg Prone Jack, Knife, Trunk Side Bend

[0352] Shoulders: Behind Neck Military, Press, Cross Cable Reverse, Fly, Cross Body Shoulder, Raises, External Shoulder, Rotation, Front Deltoid Raises, Inward Shoulder, Rotation, Kneeling Lateral, Shoulder Press, Kneeling Reverse Fly, Lateral Shoulder Press, Lateral Shoulder Raise, Military Press, Outward Shoulder, Rotation, Prone Reverse Fly, Rear Deltoid Pull, Rear Deltoid Raises, Reverse Fly, Shoulder Abduction, Shoulder Shrug, Supine Cross-Body, Shoulder Raises, Upright Row.

[0353] Triceps: Close Grip Chest, Press, Kneeling Reverse, Tricep Kickback, Kneeling Tricep, Kickback, Lateral Tricep, Extension, Overhead Tricep, Press, Reverse Grip, Overhead Tricep, Press, Reverse Grip Tricep, Pressdown, Tricep Dip, Tricep Pressdown.

[0354] Biceps: Forearm Curl, Incline Biceps Curl, Kneeling Biceps Curl, Kneeling Lateral Biceps, Curl, Kneeling Reverse, Biceps Curl, Lateral Biceps Curl, Preacher Concentration, Curl, Preacher Curl, Preacher Reverse Curl, Prone Biceps Curl, Reverse Forearm Curl, Seated Biceps Curl, Seated Concentration, Curl, Seated Reverse Biceps, Curl, Supine Biceps Curl, Supine Concentration, Supine Reverse Biceps.

[0355] Back: High Crossover Lat, Row, High Lat Row, Kneeling Lat Row, Lat Fly, Lat Pull-Down, Lat Row, Low Back Extension, Low Crossover Lat Row, Parallel Grip Kneeling, Lat Row, Parallel Grip Lat, Pull-Down, Parallel Grip Lat Row, Pull Up, Reverse Grip Kneeling, Lat Row, Reverse Grip Lat, Pull-Down, Reverse Grip Lat Row, Reverse Grip Pull Up, Single Arm Lat Row, Single Arm Pull Up, Surfer Lat Pull.

[0356] Legs: Buns-Up Leg Press, Calf Raise, Cardio Pull, Decline Lunge, Hamstring Curl, Hip Abduction, Hip Adduction, Hip Extension, Incline Lunge, Lateral Lunge, Leg Extension, Leg Thrust, Lying Hip Adduction, Plyometric Split Squat, Plyometric Squat, Rowing Machine, Single Leg Calf Raise, Single Leg Side Squat, Skiing, Split Squat, Sprint Squat, Squat, Standing Split Squat, Swimmer, Toes In Squat, Toes Out Squat.

[0357] Aerobics: Bicycling, Rowing, Stairstepper, Climber, Treadmill, etc.

[0358] The RPM power input device 10 is shown with an input unit 12 which accepts rotational energy to which resistance is applied through the multiple reciprocating pistons. Input unit 12 preferably comprises rotating power coupling 14, such as a pulley having a first winding direction 16 and an optional second wind direction 18 shown interfaced to a cable 20. The second wind direction is not necessary if a biasing device is utilized in a similar manner as a weight machine to restore the original position. However, the device preferably requires the user to provide the restoration force in a two direction mode.

[0359] Cable 20 is shown interfacing with a set of pulleys 22a, 22b, 22c, (by way of example) which provide the interface with any desired muscle group chassis (MGC) 24. It will be appreciated that many MGCs, for example aerobic devices such as cycling, may be coupled to the input unit 12 using chains, belts, or gears, wherein the device provides resistance in either a forward or reverse direction without any up or down travel limits. By way of example, a bicycle chain may be coupled from a bicycle pedal-crank to the input unit. Similarly, other forms of aerobic devices may be coupled to the RPM power unit.

[0360] Input unit 12 may be adapted to allow a single RPM power input unit to be shared with a number of stations within a circuit training machine. By incorporating a releasable coupling, such as into power input shaft 26, a single RPM power input unit may be adapted for a number of stations to reduce the cost per station. One of ordinary skill in the art will appreciated that a number of releasable power couplings exist that may be utilized for this purpose. By way of example and not of limitation, the input unit 12 may be configured on a separate shaft free to rotate and with peripheral gear teeth that mesh with a crown gear attached to the end of input shaft 26. In this way the RPM power unit can be selectably engaged with any one of a number of input units. To reduce setup time, it is preferred that electronic resistance control be provided and that the station to the RPM power unit be electronically registered wherein the setup may change automatically based on the which station has been selected.

[0361] Input unit 12 is connected to a power input shaft 26 to an optional transmission 28 which provides gearing of the input power. Although the couplings may be configured so that a transmission is not necessary, it is preferred that a variable ratio transmission be utilized to allow the user to select different speed/force ranges for the RPM power unit. The transmission is shown with a range controller 30 in the form of a stick shift which provides an intuitive control of the power ranges. Transmission 28 is coupled to an RPM power engine 32, which by way of example is depicted as a four cylinder version of the device.

[0362] A set of one-way valves 34 connect to each of the four cylinders in an IN and OUT direction for controlling the flow in either direction from the combination of pistons within cylinder sleeves 36. It will be appreciated, however, that a single valve per cylinder may be utilized in which the flow restriction in each direction is controlled. A crankshaft 38 is depicted receiving the energy from transmission 28. A set of pressure passageways 40 are shown in within a head unit above the cylinders which routes the fluid flow to and from the cylinders.

[0363] The input flow to the pistons is routed through input pressure regulator 42a and the output flow is routed through output pressure regulator 42b. These regulators are shown with manual input and output pressure controls 44a, 44b, for regulating the amount of restriction provided in the forward and reverse directions.

[0364] It will be appreciated that the difference between the output and input pressure determine the amount of “notching” provided in the workout. The “notching” being the local force variation during a given up or down stroke, which increases the amount that the muscle is worked during a given session. These regulators are preferably coupled so as to change settings depending on the direction of travel, wherein the user can set the resistance provided in either direction.

[0365] It will be appreciated that two input regulators, and two output regulators may be provided with the flow being coupled to the correct regulator depending on the direction of travel. Furthermore, electronically controlled regulators may be utilized wherein the settings for input and output flow restriction may be modulated according to the direction and other metrics, such as position, speed and so forth. Still further, the flow restriction provided by the regulators may be of a simple orifice restriction type or provide any desired resistance profile in response to the flow rate through the flow restrictor.

[0366] For example, a rotating flowvane may be incorporated to control the speed/power function of the restriction. The flowvane may be configured for a predetermined speed/power setting or implemented for allow adjustability. It will be appreciated that flowvanes adapted with magnetic poles, such as from permanent magnets mounted therein, may be resistance controlled using sets of magnetic windings on the housing that operate in a manner similar to a motor/generator to modulate the resistance of the spinning flowvane according to any desired profile.

[0367] Although the RPM power input unit is preferably configured for use with ambient air, it may be utilized with any desired non-ambient fluid. Optional fluid reservoir 46 is shown for use if the unit is operated with these non-ambient fluids, such as water, oil, or inert gasses. The RPM power unit preferably includes electronic controls, although it may be configured fully manually. A power supply 48 is utilized for operating the electronics and some or all of the electrical power may be provided by a generator to provide the necessary power output 50.

[0368] An optional electronic controller 52 may be incorporated with the unit for providing additional feedback and controlling the workout. The electronic controller is configured to adjust the flow resistance provided by the input and output pressure regulators, or equivalent, to and from the pistons according to the user selected settings. A section of memory associated with the controller provides for storing numerous operating parameters and information, such as setup memory 54 which stores how different users want the device configured for their workouts, and also for how the RPM power unit is to be configured for each exercise and for each MGC to which it may be coupled (as described earlier for attaching a single RPM power unit to different input units 12). The memory may also contain audio patterns 56 for augmenting the sounds of the workout and providing feedback and encouragement.

[0369] For example, the audio sounds may be used to enhance the piston power sounds, such as by adding the sounds of dragster engines, peeling out and so forth to increase the entertainment value while providing incentive for hard workouts. The sounds may be generated on an audio transducer such as a speaker or piezoelectric transducer, or they may be generated over an RF link to a personal listening device such as a headset, earpiece, or earbud configured with an RF link, or RFID link. Another aspect of the invention utilizes phased speakers for directing one or more beams of audio to ward the ears of the user while not bothering others exercising nearby.

[0370] A section of memory preferably provides for timing and logging 58 of various workout aspects, such as during a given session and historically for a given individual on the strength training program. A remote transmitter/receiver 60 may be coupled to the controller unit to allow the RPM power unit to be controlled by remote devices. One aspect of this is the incorporation of workout controls within a remote controller on a muscle group chassis 62, shown herein as a “throttle” to control workout power input on the handle of a lat pull handle 64. It will be appreciated that all aspects of the invention may be remotely controlled in a similar manner. The control may be provided via wired or wireless links.

[0371] A preferred method of providing remote control is by the incorporation of RFID devices coupled to input sensors, such switches for selecting up and down, that may be attached to the muscle group chassis input units to aid in user control of the RPM power unit. Using passive RFID technology can provide for remote controls without the need of remote batteries. Remote RFID tags providing inputs such as these are described in pending patent application serial No. 60/346,753 filed Oct. 23, 2001 entitled “Method And System Of Controlling Automotive Equipment Remotely”, which is included herein by reference. The remote control feature may also be implemented by way of physiological monitoring devices, such as a conventional heart monitor 66.

[0372] The user can then set the RPM power unit to modulate aspects of the workout such as the resistance to maintain a given heart rate, or may otherwise provide feedback to the user of the heart rate. The heart rate monitor is preferably adapted to incorporate a unique ID value 68 that is registered by the controller when the heart rate monitor comes within range of the controller. The inclusion of the unique ID allows the controller to determine what person is working out each particular station, wherein the controller can automatically set up the station according to the preferences of the given user. The controller is preferably provided with a user interface 70 allowing user control of the unit and for outputting status information about the progress of the workout. An audio output 72 is provided to annunciate aspects of the workout, such as above or below the given target, background sounds that provide encouragement for instance engine sounds, drag racers, and so forth, and rhythm patterns provided for the user to follow. The generation of rhythms may be user selected individually, or as part of a selected workout program, and provide an output to which the user is to synchronize their workout. The rhythms may be generated as lights, audio, video, or combinations thereof. As the controller is configured to measure the rotational speed input unit, such as by measuring the output voltage and polarity from the generator, it is able to detect how well the user is matching the selected rhythm.

[0373] The rhythm feature can be used to provide additional “points” to the user, or the power requirements for gaining a particular “speed” may be lessened when synchronized with the rhythm wherein the user is encouraged to follow the rhythm. The controller can preferably vary the rhythm according to a predetermined, user selected, or random pattern. Using widely varying rhythms and power settings by the controller the user can gain better muscle mastery and dexterity while enjoying a more engaging and challenging workout. The user interface may optionally include a video output 74 that may be used with the rhythm system, such as by providing videos in which the user generates a given rhythm according to the needs of the video, such as providing the speed of a vehicle about the turns and such on a road coarse, wherein too much speed causes it to spin out and too little may cause it to hit the shoulder. Furthermore, the muscle group chassis, or a separate control such as foot pedals for an upper body MGC, may be configured to measure user input for controlling additional aspects as shown in the video, for instance steering.

[0374] User interface 70 is preferably provided with a setup control 76 allowing the user to select one of numerous predetermined, or programmed workout selections for the chosen MGC (if multiple MGC are provided to a single RPM power unit). The audio output of the user interface is controlled with volume 78, and a jack for connection to headsets is preferably provided, or a selector for generating RF for receipt by a remote personal listening device. A shifter 80 is shown provided on the console for controlling the range of the workout. This device may be continuous, or have fixed levels. In a simple version it may simply control the gear ratio within transmission 28, which in this case would not require a manual shifter. The controller may also receive the input from the shifter to control both the transmission and the flow resistance to achieve a desired setting. To encourage the user and provide information about their workout a set of displays are preferably provided, such as in the form of an instrument cluster upon which workout metrics are displayed.

[0375] By way of example and not of limitation an RPM gauge 82 is displayed which indicates the input speed of the input unit 12, such as registered by the output of a generator, or by registering an input from sensors 94a, such as Hall-effect, or optical sensors for registering the positions 94b on input unit 12. A speed gauge 84 indicates power input (RPM X Power Setting) which is determined by the range, flow resistance at the given RPM, and the RPM. A timer 86 may display elapsed time or it may be configured to display any combination of time metrics for the given workout, including elapsed time, time remaining, penalty time, and so forth. A distance gauge 88 provides feedback on the amount of energy that has been put into the RPM power meter, which essentially can be thought of as the amount of workout that the user has received. The distance gauge registers the value of the speed times time, (RPM×Power Setting×Time). The user can set a workout for being a certain amount of energy to be input, which in this instance is represented as a distance covered.

[0376] The user may optionally select the directions that the MGC is to be operated using a direction control 90 allowing the user to select either up or down only, or both directions. It will be appreciated that the directions supported depend on the particular MGC utilized and the implementation of the system. It will be recognized that the an MGC such as a lat pull may be operated to provide working resistance when pulling down, lifting up, or in both directions. The RPM power unit of the present invention is preferably implemented to allow the user to set the direction and amount of resistance provided by the unit. The user may select the amount of resistance according to an up direction force selection 91a, and a down direction force selection 91b, that operate in combination with the range setting 80 to determine the resistance being applied to the selected MGC.

[0377] An optional network interface 92 is coupled to controller 52 allowing communication over a network 94 with user devices 96, such as computers 98, PDAs and other internet enable appliances 100, and telephones 102, for communicating workout statistics and information. Furthermore, the user can download workout regimes, rhythms, videos, and other control information for use with the RPM power unit of the present invention. This allows the user to send their workouts home for logging purposes, and an application is preferably provided for remote operation or for viewing from a web site, such as that of the manufacturer of the RPM power unit, wherein the user can track their workout progress.

[0378] FIG. 20 depicts a mechanism for adding “notching” to a conventional weight machine, such as on the pulley. A number of ways are available to conveniently add notching to existing systems, such as to the pulleys. Wherein the tension required varies during the pull.

[0379] Pulley 202 for cable 204 connected through center 206. A piston module 208 is connected with piston 210 and rod 212 connected to periphery of pulley 202 at axle 214. A pressure control 216 is connected with an input 218 and output control 220.

[0380] A rotating piston “notching” pulley. A piston rod is attached near the exterior of the pulley connected to a piston that is slidably engaged within a cylinder having an external pivot point that pivots at a stationary location (adjacent to the pulley pivot). The piston-cylinder can provide fixed valves for letting fluid in and out. The diagram is shown with two controllable valves. Alternatively a single control may be utilized for controlling both flow valves.

[0381] It will be appreciated that a single valve may be utilized that connected between the top of the cylinder and the bottom to control the amount of pressure required to overcome the movement. A closed system facilitates the use of liquids, but unfortunately can reduce the feel of the notching and reduce or eliminate the desired sounds.

[0382] As the pulley rotates about a backside axis, the piston moves about the front side of the pulley connected to a second axis. The user can set the desired amount of notching by adjusting the valve settings. Preferably the valves prevent flow until sufficient pressure builds up on that side, whereupon the pressure is exhausted. The intake pressure can be set to allow free flow of air into the cylinder. Alternatively, the compression can allowed to free flow with the intake air restricted, but not a very “natural” arrangement.

[0383] FIG. 21 depicts a simple mechanical arrangement 230 for providing notching. A pulley 232 for holding cable 234 about center 236. A control handle 238 is shown for regulating the distace of the pulley 232 from structure 248. Aperture 244 is shown with wheels 246 attached at axles 246.

[0384] Compliant wheels, such as silicon wheels, are attached to the pulley which depending on the amount of standoff of the pulley as set by the control, strike a structural element, shown as the upright. The axle on the pulley may also provide additional compliance, such as having a flex connection, or spring loaded axles mounts. Extra compliance can provide for a larger range of notching to be provided. The wheels compress, or move, when they strike the structure, wherein the operating force increases. A notching pulley may be configured from any convenient mechanical means without departing from the teachings of the present invention.

[0385] A magnetic notching element may be constructed (not shown) wherein the magnetic attraction (and/or repulsion) between portions of the pulley and other element is utilized for creating a simple notching effect. For example, with magnets coupled into the interior of the pulley (e.g. replacing the wheels in FIG. 21 with magnets) which are brought proximal to a large ferrometallic portions of the weight machine, such as steel structure, the effect is changes to the force as the pulley moves. The addition of alternating N and S magnets in relation to magnets mounted on the structure, (or other location) can provide increased notching at a slightly higher cost. The magnets may be made removable or the pulley configured with variable positioning to change the attraction of the magnets to the structure.

[0386] FIG. 22 depicts the addition of a speed “release” brake 300 to a cable operated strength training machine. Pulley 302 with interior gear teeth is shown for retaining cable 304 about pivot 306. A centrifugal type of brake unit 308 is shown with pivot 310, core 312, brake pads 314, sliders 316, weights 318, and springs 320. Under acceleration the weights over come the spring tension to engage the brakes.

[0387] If the device slips from the hands of the user the brake engages to stop or slow the decent of the weights to prevent injury, damage, and noise. In addition, the unit may be set to restrict the maximum speed at which the weights are moved. It will be appreciated that ballistic weight pumping is not very effective, but certain unsophisticated persons like the appearance of it. The device therefore can increase the load placed on the cable when ballistic weight pumping is attempted.

[0388] A centrifugal brake is coupled to one of the cable pulleys, wherein upon the brake engages in response to the speed of motion. To increase the rapidity of action of the device it is preferably that it is geared up from the pulley motion. It will be appreciated that the pulleys are often large and the rotational velocity to drive a centrifugal brake limited. Therefore, by gearing up a coupling the activation of the device can be simplified. It may be possible in some instances to utilize conventional centrifugal clutch mechanisms for use in engaging engines as they reach sufficient RPM setting, however, in this case they are utilized to provide a braking action.

[0389] The centrifugal clutch shown rotates about 50× the pulley by virtue of its small pinion gear engaging the large gear track. The brakes within the unit are biased toward center wherein centrifugal force drives the brakes out toward the interior of the housing to induce drag. The brake shown uses four pads coupled to sliding rods which terminate at weights within a rotating inner housing. A biasing means is provided to bias the weights toward the center, which is depicted as springs acting to push the weight toward the center. An optional housing is shown to cover the whole pulley so that the gear teeth are not exposed.

[0390] The centrifugal clutch mechanism may also be coupled to the pulley using a compliant wheel without the need of gearing, such as a rubber that contacts an inner track, however, the braking force is then limited to the traction between the clutch and pulley wheel. Furthermore, once traction is broken the speed is generally unrestrained as the dynamic friction (wheel sliding) is less than when it stays coupled to the pulley. An alternative is to provide a wavy pattern gear engagement wherein no sharp end gear teeth are exposed, yet the coupling force is retained; this may also provide for smoother operation.

[0391] Although a specific centrifugal sensing mechanism is described above, it should be appreciated that the present invention may be practiced using any form of velocity sensor coupled to a braking device.

[0392] Embodiments of the piston device of FIG. 19 may also be structured in a manner like a radial engine, or a gnome engine (rotating radial), such as from one to four cylinder. A “+” sign shaped configuration is easy to mount, and may provide about the right about of “notching” as described in the patent.

[0393] The use of a gnome configuration, has some advantages as to cooling (since spinning) while paddles on the exterior can provide some additional drag (these may be extendable). Unfortunately controlling the valve operation can be more difficult, in particular if remote electronic or mechanical control is desired.

[0394] Materials are preferably selected such that as the piston mechanism heats up the compression actually decreases, therein reducing the risk of damage to the unit. Therefore, the cylinder should expand in diameter more rapidly than the piston. Unlike a combustion engine this device preferably operates near room temperature to reduce material requirements and safety risks.

[0395] FIG. 23 depicts a four cylinder radial design 350 with plumbing to route the inlet and output pressures to a power control, shown with separate controls for inlet and outlet pressure, although these are coupled to a single control. Crank 352 is shown engaging rods 354 attached to pistons 356 within cylinders 358 attached to a housing 360. The valves 362 on each cylinder are one way (inlet 364 and outlet 366) wherein the separate inlet and outlet plumbing may be provided to a central controller. It will be appreciated that either the inlet or outlet valve may be configured to intake or exhaust without being plumbed to the pressure regulator, wherein the opposing intake or outlet becomes the controlling element for controlling the amount of force required to move the input of the weight machine. A power control 368 is shown that may be mechanical or electromechanical. Controls are shown for outlet pressure 370 and inlet pressure 372. The pressure lines to the power controller are shown 374, 376.

[0396] Although the description above contains many specificities, these should not be construed as limiting the scope of the invention but as merely providing illustrations of some of the presently preferred embodiments of this invention. Thus the scope of this invention should be determined by the appended claims and their legal equivalents. Therefore, it will be appreciated that the scope of the present invention fully encompasses other embodiments which may become obvious to those skilled in the art, and that the scope of the present invention is accordingly to be limited by nothing other than the appended claims, in which reference to an element in the singular is not intended to mean “one and only one” unless explicitly so stated, but rather “one or more.” All structural, chemical, and functional equivalents to the elements of the above-described preferred embodiment that are known to those of ordinary skill in the art are expressly incorporated herein by reference and are intended to be encompassed by the present claims. Moreover, it is not necessary for a device or method to address each and every problem sought to be solved by the present invention, for it to be encompassed by the present claims. Furthermore, no element, component, or method step in the present disclosure is intended to be dedicated to the public regardless of whether the element, component, or method step is explicitly recited in the claims. No claim element herein is to be construed under the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 112, sixth paragraph, unless the element is expressly recited using the phrase “means for.”