Title:
Apparatus and method designed for the detection, location and velocity of impacts for sports game feedback on player accuracy
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Methods, systems and apparatus for detecting sports object impact location detection and object velocity are provided. Integrated game systems for simulating sports for use as player and coaching aids are also provided.



Inventors:
Ziola, Steven M. (Littleton, CO, US)
Gorman, Michael R. (Englewood, CO, US)
Application Number:
11/045864
Publication Date:
08/25/2005
Filing Date:
01/28/2005
Assignee:
BlackSound Sports, Inc. (Greenwood Village, CO, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B63/00; A63B69/00; A63B69/36; A63B71/06; A63B24/00; (IPC1-7): A63B69/36
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
RENWICK, REGINALD A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Quine IP Law Group (Alameda, CA, US)
Claims:
1. A sport equipment apparatus, comprising: an impact surface; an impact surface frame that supports the impact surface; one or more impact detection sensor or sensors operably mounted on or proximal to the impact surface or impact surface frame; and, a location and/or velocity measurement module that correlates data from the impact detection sensor to: velocity of an object detected by the sensor, detection of an object impacting the surface by the sensor, detection of a location of an object striking the impact surface by the sensor, or a combination thereof.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the impact surface comprises an impact plate attached to the impact surface frame to hold the impact surface upright.

3. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the impact detection sensor or sensors are glued or mechanically fastened to the impact plate.

4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the impact surface comprises a sound deadening material.

5. The apparatus of claim 4, wherein the sound deadining material comprises foam glued to the impact plate.

6. The apparatus of claim 1, the impact detection sensor or sensors comprising: a piezoelectric element or strain gage apparatus that converts a mechanical sound wave, pressure wave or mechanical strain field into an electrical analog signal, wherein the sensor or sensors are acoustically or mechanically operably coupled to the impact plate.

7. The apparatus of claim 1, the location and/or velocity measurement module comprising: an amplifier that amplifies a signal from the impact sensor or sensors, highpass and lowpass filtering electronics to filter the signal, an analog-to-digital converter that converts an analog signal from the sensor or sensors into digital data, and software that analyzes the digital data.

8. The apparatus of claim 7, wherein the apparatus comprises a user viewable display coupled to the location and/or velocity measurement module, which display, during operation of the apparatus, displays the digital data, a user-viewable transformation of the digital data, or an analysis of the digital data.

9. The apparatus of claim 7, wherein the module determines an object arrival time, calculates object impact location, and correlates energy of the signal from the sensor or sensors to velocity of an object impact.

10. The apparatus of claim 1, comprising a game system, and game and training software that provides results to a user, which results are determined from the data.

11. The apparatus of claim 1, comprising training and/or game software, a microprocessor that executes commands from the software, and a display that displays user-viewable outputs from the software, wherein the software accepts digital data from the location and/or velocity measurement module and provides training and game information, based on the digital data, via the display.

12. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the training and/or game software determines a target location for a user to pitch at, analyzes object impact location data in relation to the target location, and determines one or more of: whether the target location was hit, whether the object impact corresponds to a ball or strike, or whether there is an error in the impact location; and, stores the object impact location data.

13. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein the game software analyzes the location data, determines whether the the object impact corresponds to a ball or a strike and, in the event of a strike, where the object impact within the strike zone, or in the event of a ball where the object impact is relative to the strike zone, and determines a game situation based on the object impact location.

14. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the apparatus is battery operated.

15. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the apparatus comprises a radar gun that measures velocity of the object.

16. A method of monitoring sport object impact detection, location and/or velocity, the method comprising: detecting a mechanical sound wave, pressure wave or mechanical strain field resulting from impact of the object on a target impact surface; converting the mechanical sound wave, pressure wave or mechanical strain field into an electrical signal; and, converting the electrical signal into one or more measurement of impact location and/or velocity of the impact.

17. The method of claim 16, wherein the object is a ball, disk, or puck.

18. The method of claim 16, wherein the mechanical sound wave, pressure wave or mechanical strain field is detected by one or more sensor or sensors that are mechanically or acoustically coupled to the target impact surface.

19. The method of claim 16, further comprising correlating mechanical sound wave, pressure wave or mechanical strain field data to velocity, impact detection or location of the sport object striking the target impact surface.

20. The method of claim 16, further comprising determining a target location on the target impact surface to pitch the sport object at, and analyzing object impact location data for impact of the sport object against the target impact surface, to determine whether an object impact is a ball or strike, and/or if the target location was hit, thereby determining accuracy of the pitch.

21. The method of claim 20, comprising displaying the target impact location data and one or more difference between object impact location data and the target location.

22. The method of claim 20, comprising storing the impact location or velocity data.

23. The method of claim 20, comprising displaying pitch accuracy information to a user, storing the pitch accuracy information, rating the player's performance or performance change over time, assigning one or more player rating to the player based upon the pitch accuracy information and displaying or printing the pitch accuracy information or player rating.

24. The method of claim 16, comprising transmitting the measurement of impact location and/or velocity to a microprocessor.

25. The method of claim 24, wherein the transmission is a wired or wireless transmission.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCES TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a non-provisional of U.S. Ser. No. 60/540,582, filed Jan. 29, 2004, entitled “DEVICE AND METHOD DESIGNED FOR THE DETECTION, LOCATION AND VELOCITY OF IMPACTS FOR SPORTS GAME FEEDBACK ON PLAYER ACCURACY” by Steven M. Ziola and Michael R. Gorman. The subject application claims priority to and benefit of 60/540,582, which is incorporated herein by reference for all purposes.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention is in the field of sports object impact detection, location and velocity measurement for use in sports games benefiting from feedback on participant accuracy and training progress.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Many sports games rely on a player accurately throwing, hitting, kicking, shooting or otherwise moving objects such as baseballs, footballs, soccer balls, basketballs, hockey pucks, golf balls, Frisbees™, arrows, darts, etc. A variety of sport aids that help train the player to more accurately and powerfully move (hit, kick, throw, etc.) objects during a game now exist. For example, some sports aids automatically feed back object location information during training to provide a player with information about their performance. This information is useful in improving a player's skill level.

Most sports aids that relate to moving objects do not provide the player with electronically storable feedback data on their performance. For example, in baseball, strike zones are painted onto nets or tarps, which are then hung on a fence or frame. The pitcher throws at the tarp or net and visually determines if the target was hit. In hockey training, the player hits into a net, usually with no goalie in the net. A system that could be placed in the net, and which could decide where the puck hits in the net and/or whether a resulting goal is likely to be allowed would significantly aid in improving performance.

The present invention overcomes the limitations of prior art sport aids by providing methods and systems/apparatus that automatically detect, locate and/or determine velocity of thrown, hit, kicked or otherwise propelled objects. The methods, systems and apparatus can include an ability to electronically store, analyze and/or recall this data, which is used to assist in training a player and/or to simulate a game.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Apparatus, systems and methods for detecting the impact, location and velocity of a pitched, hit or otherwise propelled sports object (ball, puck, disk, etc.) and electronically storing the results for feedback are provided. In the apparatus, systems and methods of the invention, a target such as a plate, net or tarp is impacted with a propelled object such as a ball (or puck or other sports object). Sensors are arrayed on the target (plate, net, tarp, etc.) and the sound wave or force created by the impact of the ball or puck is detected by the sensors. The location of the impact is determined by measuring arrival times of a solid wave at various sensors (or load or strain differential at the sensors). Velocity is determined by measuring energy detected by the sensors, and correlating the energy to velocity (and/or through an incorporated radar gun). These systems, apparatus and methods are distinct from prior art systems, apparatus and methods that used tarps or nets with targets painted on them and, typically, an observer, to determine the player's accuracy. The present apparatus, systems and methods provide feedback to the player, which can be stored in digital format, for later review and analysis.

Accordingly, in a first aspect, the invention provides a sport equipment apparatus. The apparatus includes an impact surface, an impact surface frame that supports the impact surface, and one or more impact detection sensor or sensors operably mounted on or proximal to the impact surface or impact surface frame. A location and/or velocity measurement module correlates data from the impact detection sensor to one or more of: velocity of an object detected by the sensor, detection of an object impacting the surface by the sensor, detection of a location of an object striking the impact surface by the sensor, or a combination thereof.

The impact surface can include any of a variety of forms, e.g., an impact plate attached to the impact surface frame to hold the impact surface upright (as compared to being horizontal-the impact surface can be fully upright (vertical), or can be partially upright). The impact surface can include a sound deadening material such as a foam laminate (e.g., neoprene or rubber). The impact detection sensor or sensors can be, e.g., glued or mechanically fastened to the impact plate. The sensor or sensors can include, e.g., a piezoelectric element or strain gage device that converts a mechanical sound wave, pressure wave or mechanical strain field into an electrical analog signal, with the sensor or sensors being acoustically or mechanically coupled to the impact plate.

The location and/or velocity measurement module can include, e.g., an amplifier that amplifies a signal from the impact sensor or sensors, highpass and lowpass filtering electronics to filter the signal, an analog-to-digital converter that converts an analog signal from the sensor or sensors into digital data, and software that analyzes the digital data. The apparatus can also include a user viewable display coupled to the location and/or velocity measurement module, that, during operation of the apparatus, displays the digital data, a user-viewable transformation of the digital data, or an analysis of the digital data. Typically, the module determines an object arrival time, calculates object impact location, and correlates energy of the signal from the sensor or sensors to velocity of an object impact. An auxiliary radar gun can also be incorporated for velocity determination or confirmation, with the information from the radar gun being assessed by the module, along with the object impact information.

The apparatus optionally includes a game system, and/or game and/or training software that provides results, determined from the data, to a user. Typically, a microprocessor executes commands from the software, and a display displays user-viewable outputs from the software, which, in turn, accepts digital data from the location and/or velocity measurement module and provides training and game information, based on the digital data, via the display. Optionally, the training and/or game software determines a target location for a user to pitch at, analyzes object impact location data in relation to the target location, and determines whether the target location was hit, whether the object impact corresponds to a ball or strike, or whether there is an error in the impact location, and stores the object impact location data. For example, the game software optionally analyzes the location data, determines whether the object impact corresponds to a ball or a strike and, in the event of a strike, where the object impacts within the strike zone, or in the event of a ball, where the object impact is relative to the strike zone, and determines a game situation based on the object impact location.

The apparatus can be incorporated into a gym, an arcade, or can be a stand alone and/or portable apparatus. The apparatus can be battery powered (which is advantageous especially in stand alone portable field-use embodiments), or can be powered conventionally (which is advantageous in gyms, arcades or other permanent or semi-permanent installations).

A variety of related methods are also within the scope of the invention. In a first method, a method of monitoring sport object (e.g., ball, disk, arrow or puck) impact detection, location and/or velocity is provided. The method includes detecting a mechanical sound wave, pressure wave or mechanical strain field resulting from impact of the object on a target impact surface, converting the mechanical sound wave, pressure wave or mechanical strain field into an electrical signal, and converting the electrical signal into one or more measurement of impact location and/or velocity of the impact. The mechanical sound wave, pressure wave or mechanical strain field is typically detected by one or more sensor or sensors that are mechanically or acoustically coupled to the target impact surface. Mechanical sound wave, pressure wave or mechanical strain field data is optionally correlated to velocity, impact detection or location of the sport object striking the target impact surface.

Optionally, the methods can include determining a target location on the target impact surface to pitch (or hit, kick, shoot, etc.) the sport object at, and analyzing object impact location data for impact of the sport object against the target impact surface, to determine whether an object impact is within the target zone. For example, in the context of baseball, the system can determine whether a pitch is a ball or strike, and/or if the target location was hit, thereby determining accuracy of the pitch. The target impact location data and one or more difference between object impact location data and the target location can be displayed to the user (or to a coach, a second player, or another observer). The impact location data can be stored for future reference and/or analysis. Pitch accuracy information can be displayed to a user (the player, coach, or other observer), stored, a player's performance or performance change over time rated, etc. One or more player rating can be assigned to the player based upon the pitch accuracy information and displayed or printed along with the pitch accuracy information or player's overall comparative rating. The measurement of impact location and/or velocity can be transmitted (via any standard linkage, e.g., wired or wireless transmission) to a microprocessor for analysis, display, storage, etc.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION ON THE FIGURES

FIG. 1, Panels A and B are a schematic drawing of a plate and frame with sensors. Panel A shows an example apparatus; Panel B includes an optional sound dampening plate.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram of electronic hardware and operation.

FIG. 3 is a software flow chart of system operation.

FIG. 4 is the flow chart of training software.

FIG. 5 is an example of training software display.

FIG. 6 is a flow chart of game software.

FIG. 7 is an example of a game software display.

FIG. 8 is an example of batter statistics for a strike zone.

DETAILED DISCUSSION

The invention provides a new approach to impact detection and impact location of baseballs and other sports equipment. The apparatus and methods relating to their use allow one or more player(s) to pitch baseballs or other sports equipment at the apparatus, and to have the apparatus determine if the pitch was a ball or strike, where it was located within the designated strike zone, and to electronically store the data, pitch-by-pitch, for later review by the player, coach, or other interested persons, or to print the data in a hard copy format. Similarly, other sports equipment can be propelled (thrown, hit, kicked, etc.) by the appropriate means into contact with the apparatus for essentially the same purpose.

The following provides a description of apparatus (and or systems, e.g., that comprise the apparatus) and related methods designed to locate the impact of balls, pucks and other sports equipment used in games, on an instrumented plate or surface. Although often discussed in terms of baseball for convenience, it will be recognized that softballs, hockey pucks, soccer balls, footballs, Frisbees™, disks, arrows and a wide variety of other sports equipment can be used with the apparatus/systems in essentially the same way.

In one class of embodiments, the invention provides an impact target such as a plate for the player to throw objects such as baseballs against. In one example, the apparatus comprises a flat plate with piezoelectric transducers acoustically coupled to the plate. The plate is mounted into a frame, which holds the plate vertically. When the plate is impacted by a ball, a sound wave propagates along the plate to the sensors, and the surface displacement of the plate due to the wave excites the transducers. Gain and filter electronics are used to amplify and filter the analog signal from the sensors. Analog threshold circuitry is then used to detect the arrival of the waves at each transducer, and a clock measures the difference in arrival times of the wave at the transducers, or the analog signal is digitized and stored using an analog-to-digital converter, and a microprocessor. The digitized signals are then analyzed to determine when the wave arrived at each sensor. These arrival times are then transferred to a computer, via either cable or wireless transfer. Software on the computer then calculates the location of the impact based on the differences in the arrival times and the velocity of the waves in the plate. Software then displays the location on a video screen or similar apparatus.

A variety of sensors can be used to detect and locate the impact. These can be acoustic microphones arrayed near the plate, net or tarp, accelerometers arrayed on the plate, strain gages arrayed on the plate, or other sensors that will detect either the propagating sound wave in the air or plate, or changes in stress, strain or load levels of the plate.

Software can compare the location of the pitch with a location requested by the computer. The player gets feedback on accuracy during the training session. All pitch data, such as location and velocity information, are displayed and stored on the computer for later review and analysis.

In one example, a baseball game is simulated by inputting batter statistics, such as batting average, slugging percentage and on base percentage, e.g., for nine batters. The player then pitches to the apparatus, which determines the location of the pitch. Based on the pitch location and batter statistics, the software determines if the player hit the ball or not. Base runner positions, pitch count, number of outs, number of innings played, score, etc, can be kept track of in the computer, based on pitch location. At the end of the game, a box score can be printed, and the pitching and game statistics saved and added to year-to-date pitching statistics.

The apparatus can similarly be configured for such sports as hockey, where a player can shoot the puck at the apparatus, and have the location of the shot recorded and shown. Any sports game that involved a player moving a sports object (e.g., ball, puck, disk, arrow, etc.) can be treated in an essentially similar fashion, to determine the velocity and accuracy of any pitched, hit, thrown, kicked, shot or otherwise player-propelled object.

Current pitching systems use targets either painted or sewn onto mats, tarps or nets. The tarp or net is hung from a fence or frame. The pitcher throws at the target, and then looks to determine with their own vision if the pitch was a ball or strike. The player has no opportunity to review past performance and see if progress is being made, unless the results are manually written down. The same is true in hockey and other ball and stick or ball sports. In this invention, in contrast, the location of the pitch is determined by detecting the impact using sensors. The output of the sensors can be used to locate the impact of the baseball. Once the location of the baseball impact is known, software determines if the pitch was a ball or a strike. This data is then recorded and saved in electronic digital format, allowing the player to monitor performance.

Training software has also been written that tells the pitcher what area of the strike zone to pitch to. The apparatus then monitors the location of the pitch, and compares the actual pitch location to the location requested by the software. Pitch location accuracy is calculated, and this information displayed on a pitch-by-pitch basis. Other statistical parameters are measured and stored, such as pitch count, pitch accuracy versus pitch velocity, the number of times the requested zone was hit, balls and strikes, etc.

Similarly, game software has been written that uses the input of the pitch location to simulate a game. Statistics for a batter, such as batting average, slugging percentage and on base percentage, is input into the software. From this, the software can be programmed to determine if the batter hit the ball, got a hit, made an out, scored a run, etc. A similar approach can be used in hockey, where the software can determine if a goal has been scored, based on a goal tenders statistics and tendencies. At the end of the game, a box score of the game can be printed out, as well as the pitchers statistics, such as ERA, W-L, etc, and these added to the pitchers year-to-date statistics. Realistic situations can be visually presented by projecting images on the plate of catchers and batters if the plate is opaque, or a video screen behind the plate if the plate is clear.

A system was built and tested to confirm that the apparatus would detect and locate the impact from baseballs, softballs or other sports equipment. Software was written to automate the detection and location and storage of the data to a computer in an electronic digital format. All impacts were quickly computed, displayed and digitally stored, for a coach or player to review, on a computer.

DESCRIPTION OF EXAMPLE EMBODIMENTS

FIGS. 1A, 1B and 2 provide an example apparatus of the invention. The apparatus is comprised of impact plate 1, impact plate frame 2, piezoelectric (or other, e.g., acoustic or strain gauge) sensors 3, target 4, filtering and gain electronics 5, arrival time detection circuitry 6, location/velocity microprocessor 7, radar gun 8, hardware cables or wireless data transfer electronics 9, game system 10, computer or microprocessor 11, and game display 12. In this example, location and velocity measurement module 13 comprises filtering and gain electronics 5, arrival time detection circuitry 6, location/velocity microprocessor 7, and, optionally, radar gun 8 and hardware cables or wireless data transfer electronics 9. Optional foam sheet 14 (typically comprising foam rubber, neoprene, or the like) is schematically illustrated in 1B; in use, sheet 14 is fastened (e.g., glued or mechanically fastened) to impact plate 2 and/or impact plate 1.

When in use, a player throws a baseball or other sports object at impact plate 1, which has target 4 painted, projected on or attached to it. Impact plate 1 is held vertically in place by impact plate frame 2. When the ball or other sports object impacts impact plate 1, a sound wave (mechanical strain waves in a solid) propagates through impact plate 1 to, in one example, piezoelectric sensors 3. Piezoelectric sensors 3 convert the mechanical displacement of the sound wave to a voltage output. The voltage signal is amplified and filtered using filtering and gain electronics 5. The signal(s) is/are then either digitized and stored using A/D converters or the arrival times are detected using threshold crossing analog circuitry and counters in arrival time electronics 6. Location/velocity microprocessor 7 is programmed to analyze digital data to determine arrival times of sound waves at the sensors and peak amplitude and energy of the signals. Microprocessor 7 then stores the arrival times, peak amplitude and energy in memory (and/or in an appropriate computer readable medium such as a floppy disk, hard drive or CD-ROM). Location of the impact is calculated by triangulation or lookup table software running on location/velocity microprocessor 7 using difference in the arrival times of the sound waves at sensors 3. The velocity is determined either by software running on the location/velocity microprocessor 7 by correlating the peak amplitude and the energy (or energy related quantities) of the signal with the impact velocity, and/or by automatically reading an integrated radar gun 8. In the illustrated example, location and velocity measurement module 13 collectively comprises electronics 5, arrival time detection circuitry 6, and location/velocity microprocessor 7. Module 13 can also be considered, in alternate aspects, to include radar gun 8, and/or transfer electronics 9. Module 13 can consist of a single appliance that includes the relevant elements noted herein, or can consist of multiple appliances.

In portable embodiments, power source 15 typically comprises a battery, while in fixed applications, power source 15 typically comprises a conventional AC power source. Optionally, power source 15 can include provisions for either battery or AC power, along with an automatic or user-selectable switching mechanism for selecting or switching between AC and battery power, and/or charging the battery.

Location and velocity information is transferred to the game system 10, typically via either hardware cable or wireless data transfer electronics 9. Game system 10 receives location and velocity data from microprocessor 7. Game system 10 uses the location and velocity data as inputs for training and game software. Calculations for the games are performed on the computer or microprocessor 11, and results are displayed on game display 12.

FIG. 1b shows the apparatus with optional foam sound dampening sheet 14. Sheet 14 is attached, typically either mechanically or adhesively to impact plate frame 2. Impact plate 1 is then attached, typically either mechanically or adhesively, to the sheet 14 (or through sheet 14 to frame 2). Alternately, sheet 14 can be attached to plate 1 and then the resulting laminate fastened to frame 2. Sheet 14 provides structural support to impact plate 1 and sound dampening upon object impact (e.g., a ball hitting impact plate 1). The thickness of sheet 14 is typically 0.5 to 1 inch thick, and typically covers the entire back of the impact plate 1. Sheet 14 can comprise a single layer of material (e.g., foam) or can comprise laminated layers of material. Contact adhesive is typically used to adhere sheet 14 to impact plate 1 and to impact plate frame 2.

The above description uses an example of piezoelectric sensors either mechanically attached or glued to the impact plate to detect the sound wave in the impact plate. These can be, e.g., ceramic crystal or thin film piezoelectric sensors. The location of the impact can also be performed by placing acoustic microphones near the impact plate, and detecting sound propagating through the air as a result of object impact. Strain gages, fiber optics or load cell sensors can similarly be used to detect the strain or load variation in the impact plate, and these variations are also used to calculate the impact location and velocity.

The impact plate material should be a material that is resistant to impact damage, but that can still support a sound wave in the material. A material such as clear polycarbonate works well for both applications. Other materials, such as plywood, will work, but tend to degrade over time. Very hard rubber, ultra-high molecular weight plastics and other such materials can also be used.

To perform 2-dimensional (planar) source location, a minimum of three sensors are used, arrayed around the target area. More sensors can be used to increase location and velocity measurement accuracy.

Typical frequencies encountered in impact detection are in the range of 20 kHz to 100 kHz, and filtering and gain electronics 5 should be designed for this frequency range. Highpass filtering below this frequency range eliminates noise from sonic acoustic sources, such as clapping, yelling and other loud noises, while lowpass filtering above this frequency range eliminates noise from higher frequencies, such as radio stations. Signal amplification by filtering and gain electronics 5 is typically in the range of 20 to 60 dB.

Arrival time detection can be performed by either digitizing signals from sensors 3 (a typical digitization rate of 500 kHz is used for the signals from the impact plate) and then programming location and velocity microprocessor 7 to analyze the signals for a first detectable arrival of the signal, or by using analog threshold crossing circuitry to detect the arrival of the wave. The threshold crossing circuitry sends a trigger signal to start a counter for each channel, the counters being clocked at a known rate. Typical clock rates would be 1 MHz to 10 MHz, depending on the location accuracy desired. The number of counts for each arrival time at each sensor is then used to determine the location of the impact.

Sound absorbing material, such as soft rubber, can be mounted or glued on the back of impact plate 1 so that it is between the impact plate and frame 2 to reduce the sound of the impact from the baseball or other sports object on the impact plate. Gluing appropriate durometer rubbers and foam over the back or front of the impact plate reduces unwanted noise and stiffens the impact plate to enhance durability as well.

Target 4 can be painted, silk-screened, drawn, projected, etc., on either the front of impact plate 1, or if the plate is clear, the back, to provide visual areas for the pitcher or other participant to throw (or hit, kick, etc.) at. If plate 1 is opaque, target 4 can also be projected on the screen, taking an application appropriate form (such as a catcher where the application is baseball), and the images can also be changed to provide different targets. If the plate is clear, a video monitor can be placed behind the impact plate to provide the images for the target. The same target can be programmed into game display 12, and areas within the display highlighted, so that game system 10 can direct the pitcher when and/or where to throw the pitch.

The apparatus can be battery powered so that it can be used on baseball fields, hockey rinks, etc., without the necessity of power cords. Alternately, the apparatus can be installed permanently or semi-permanently, e.g., in a gym or arcade and can use conventional power sources for such applications.

The game system optionally comprises any electronic apparatus on which the game software of the system can be loaded and run. This include, but are not limited to, desktop computers, laptop or notebook computers, cell phones, electronic organizers, or purpose built electronics. The data can be stored on these apparatus, and the results plotted on a day-to-day basis to determine progress and results.

Software Operations

FIG. 3 shows a flow chart of example software operations for the apparatus.

The software is used for impact detection, arrival time measurement, location calculation, peak amplitude measurement, energy measurement and velocity measurement.

The software arms arrival time detection circuitry. When a signal large enough to trigger the circuitry occurs, the signals are analyzed to determine arrival times. The energy in the signal can also be calculated. Ball impacts have a large energy content. The software checks to see if the signal is valid. A stick hitting the impact plate has a small energy, and the system ignores this impact. If the signal is valid, the system calculates location and velocity. Velocity is determined by correlating the energy in the signal with the velocity, or by integrating a radar gun into the system and reading the velocity of the ball for the pitch. The location and velocity data is then sent in digital format to the game system computer, via hardwire cable or wireless transfer.

FIG. 4 shows a software flow diagram for training software. FIG. 5 shows one example embodiment of the display for the training software. The software provides pitch location information for the pitcher.

In this embodiment, the software determines a target for the pitcher to throw at. In this example, the strike zone has been divided into 16 sub-zones. The pitcher attempts to hit the requested zone. The impact is detected and located, and the location displayed. Statistics for the session are stored in a digital format. Pitch count, balls, strikes, number of times a requested zone was hit, distance error, average distance error and other pitching statistics are digitally stored. These data can be plotted on a pitch-by-pitch basis to allow the pitcher or coach to see the results of the training session. The software allows the player to print out the results on a printer for hardcopy archival.

FIG. 6 shows the software flow diagram for the game software. FIG. 7 shows one embodiment of the display for the game software. FIG. 8 shows the batting average input for a batter. The game software allows a pitcher to pitch a simulated game, based on batter statistics input into the software.

The game software uses location data to determine if a pitch was a ball or strike. If the pitch was a ball, the software increments the pitch count and waits for new location data. If the pitch was a strike, the software then uses the batter statistics to determine if the batter hit the ball, or if it was a strike. If the batter hit the ball, the software determines if the batter reached base, or was put out. If he reached base, it determines which base, and if other runners were on base, it moves them to appropriate locations. The base runner positions are shown on the display. If a runner scored, the score is incremented accordingly. Outs are kept track of by the software, and if three outs have occurred, the inning is over, and the inning incremented to a new inning. This is repeated for the number of innings selected for the game by the player.

Batter statistics are entered into the game software. In this embodiment of the software, the strike zone is divided into 16 sub-zones, as shown in FIG. 8. Each of these zones is given a batting average. In the example, zones over the middle of the plate have higher averages than those near the edges of the strike zone. The average of all 16 zones is the same as the player's batting average. When an impact is located, the batting average for the zone the impact was located in is used to determine if the batter hit the ball. Thus, if a player can pitch to the zones with the lower averages, they have a better chance of getting the batter out.

The software can also automatically adjust the batter's performance from game-to-game, accounting for good and bad performance days for the players. The software can also adjust the strike zone, to simulate umpires variations in calling strikes and balls. Other performance parameters can be programmed into the software as well, to simulate weather conditions, stadium dimensions, right handed and left handed batters, etc.

While the foregoing invention has been described in some detail for purposes of clarity and understanding, it will be clear to one skilled in the art from a reading of this disclosure that various changes in form and detail can be made without departing from the scope of the invention. For example, all the techniques and apparatus described above can be used in various combinations. All publications, patents, patent applications, and/or other documents cited in this application are incorporated by reference in their entirety for all purposes to the same extent as if each individual publication, patent, patent application, and/or other document were individually indicated to be incorporated by reference for all purposes.





 
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