Title:
Ball speed measuring device
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A ball speed measuring device comprises a ball pitching target having an electronic compression sensor in the ball target area, and having a digital readout display unit connected to the compression sensor through a solid state unit which converts the compression force, measured when a ball strikes the target area, to the speed of the ball, and displays the impact speed. The ball speed measuring device may be incorporated into a modified ball catching mitt, wherein the ball pitching target is the ball catching area of the mitt, or into a unit which may be attached to vertical supports including backstops and baseball rebound nets.



Inventors:
Cracolici, James (Monroe, NY, US)
Application Number:
11/106079
Publication Date:
10/20/2005
Filing Date:
04/14/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B59/06; A63B63/00; A63B71/06; A63B71/14; (IPC1-7): A63B59/06
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GARNER, WERNER G
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Frank V. DeRosa, Esq. (Spring Hill, FL, US)
Claims:
1. A ball speed measuring device comprising in combination: a ball pitching target having one or more compression sensors located in the ball target area of said device; a solid state control unit, said control unit being connected to said sensor or sensors by one input signal conductor from each sensor; said control unit having a signal conversion element; said conversion element being designed to convert the sensor signal produced by the impact of a baseball on said target area into a digital output signal corresponding to the impact speed of the baseball; said control unit also having a reset function initiated by reset means, said reset function producing a digital output signal corresponding to zero and said reset means including a reset control switch and off/on power; a digital readout display unit, said display unit being connected to said control unit by an output signal conductor, said display unit presenting the ball impact speed to the user, and presenting a readout of zero after resetting; an optional connector on said control unit, said connector being connected to said output signal conductor, and providing said output signal to a self-powered external digital readout display unit; an optional calibration element of said control unit, to adjust the accuracy of the force to speed conversion of the signal conversion element, said calibration element having adjustment means, said adjustment means preferably having a rotating control knob; a source of electrical current, preferably a replaceable battery, said source providing power for operation of said control unit and said display unit, said source being connected to said control unit and said display unit by first and second electrical conductors; an off/on switch, preferably a button switch, between said source and said first and second electrical conductors; an optional self-turnoff element of said control unit, which interrupts power to the control unit and display unit after a predetermined time period of inactivity of all sensors and controls.

2. A device of claim 1, wherein the components of the device are incorporated into a ball catching mitt, and the ball target area is the ball catching area of said mitt.

3. A device of claim 2, wherein the number of sensors and input signal conductors is one.

4. A device of claim 3, wherein said optional connector on said control unit is not present.

5. A device of claim 3, wherein said optional calibration element is not present.

6. A device of claim 4, wherein said optional calibration element is not present.

7. A device of claim 6, wherein said optional self-turnoff element is not present.

8. A device of claim 2, wherein the number of sensors and input signal conductors is more than one.

9. A device of claim 8, wherein said optional connector on said control unit is not present.

10. A device of claim 8, wherein said optional calibration element is not present.

11. A device of claim 9, wherein said optional calibration element is not present.

12. A device of claim 11, wherein said optional self-turnoff element is not present.

13. A device of claim 1, wherein the components of the device are incorporated into a target unit which may be attached to a vertical or near-vertical surface.

14. A device of claim 13, wherein the number of sensors and input signal conductors is one.

15. A device of claim 14, wherein said optional connector on said control unit is not present.

16. A device of claim 14, wherein said optional calibration element is not present.

17. A device of claim 15, wherein said optional calibration element is not present.

18. A device of claim 17, wherein said optional self-turnoff element is not present.

19. A device of claim 13, wherein the number of sensors and input signal conductors is more than one.

20. A device of claim 19, wherein said optional connector on said control unit is not present.

21. A device of claim 19, wherein said optional calibration element is not present.

22. A device of claim 20, wherein said optional calibration element is not present.

23. A device of claim 22, wherein said optional self-turnoff element is not present.

Description:

REFERENCE TO RELATED U.S. APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/562,404 filed Apr. 15, 2004.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to a sports device, and, more particularly, to a ball pitching target which presents to the user the impact speed of the baseball or softball when the ball strikes the target. The target device may be incorporated into a modified ball catching mitt and the catcher of a baseball or softball may immediately read the impact speed when the ball is caught, or the target device may be a unit which may be attached to vertical or near-vertical structures including backstops and baseball rebound nets and users including coaches may immediately read the impact speed of the ball.

Information as to the speed of a thrown baseball or softball, and of the speed of balls and sports implements in sports other than baseball, is of great interest to both professional and amateur players and coaches, and to spectators. Radar devices are commonly used to measure the speed of pitched baseballs, and the speeds are commonly used in the evaluation and comparison of pitchers, and in written and broadcast reports and commentaries. A radar device designed to measure the speed of a baseball, attached to a catching mitt, is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,864,061. An acoustic device designed to measure the impact speed of a baseball on a target surface is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,447,315. A timing device incorporated into a baseball, designed to indirectly measure the speed of the thrown baseball or other projectile over a fixed distance, is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,806,848 and U.S. Pat. No. 5,946,643. Other devices are disclosed for the measurement of the speed of baseballs and other sports objects by use of capacitive sensor technology (U.S. Pat. No. 6,033,370); measurement of the force of boxing and other blows (U.S. Patent Application No. 2003/0217582); measurement and broadcast of the motion of sporting equipment (U.S. Patent Application No. 2003/0207718 A1) and measurement of the speed of impact of a baseball bat, tennis racquet or other sports implement with a ball or other sports object (U.S. Pat. No. 6,173,610; U.S. Pat. No. 6,565,449; U.S. Pat. No. 6,134,965).

Radar devices are inherently complex, emit radiation and utilize significant energy, characteristics that are disadvantageous or undesirable to many users.

There is thus a need for a compact and inexpensive ball speed measuring device that does not utilize radar technology.

Advances in the design and production of solid state force sensors, including accelerometers and compression sensors, provide capabilities for the measurement of impact forces by the use of smaller and less expensive devices. For example, MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical system) accelerometers incorporate mechanical and electronic components on a single silicon chip (http://weaveserve.egr.duke.edu:8080/weave/Modules/Module1/3dof-tut/node12.html).

Known prior art devices do not avoid these disadvantages or do not take advantage of the capabilities of solid state force sensors or other advances in impact measurement modes.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In response to the needs described I have invented a sports device in the form of a ball pitching target having one or more compression sensors which provide one or more impact force signals to a control unit, which in turn provides the ball impact speed to a digital display unit.

In the preferred embodiment of the invention, the target device is incorporated into a modified ball catching mitt. The modified ball catching mitt has one or more electronic compression sensors in the ball catching area of the mitt. The electronic signal or signals produced by the sensor or sensors as a result of the impact of a baseball or softball are transmitted by one or more signal conductors to a solid state unit, which converts the electronic sensor signal or signals into a digital signal corresponding to the ball's impact speed. The digital signal corresponding to the ball's impact speed is transmitted by a signal conductor to a digital readout display, which the catcher of the ball observes. Optionally, the digital signal corresponding to the ball's impact speed may also be provided to a connector for conduction to an external digital readout display. The device includes an electrical power source, preferably a battery power supply, an on-off switch and optional calibration means by which the accurate conversion of the electronic signals produced by the sensor or sensors can be adjusted to produce the correct ball impact speed.

In a second embodiment of the invention, the target device is a unit which may be attached to vertical or near-vertical surfaces, including baseball rebound nets, backstops and walls.

It is therefore a general object of this invention to provide a sports device in the form of a set of components which provide an accurate digital display of the impact speed of a baseball or softball, immediately after the baseball or softball is caught by the user or strikes the target device.

A further object of the invention is to provide a sports device in the form of a modified ball catching mitt, which displays a digital readout of the impact speed of a baseball or softball immediately after the ball is caught, and which does not interfere with the normal catching of a baseball or softball, in comparison to an unmodified ball catching mitt.

A further object of the invention is provide a sports device in the form of a modified ball catching mitt, which displays a digital readout of the impact speed of a baseball or softball immediately after the ball is caught, and which can be calibrated to provide an accurate digital display of the impact speed of a baseball or softball.

A further object of the invention is to provide a sports device in the form of a target unit which may be attached to a vertical or near-vertical surface, which displays a digital readout of the impact speed of a baseball or softball immediately after the ball strikes the target unit.

A further object of the invention is provide a sports device in the form of a target unit which may be attached to a vertical or near-vertical surface, which displays a digital readout of the impact speed of a baseball or softball immediately after the ball is caught, and which can be calibrated to provide an accurate digital display of the impact speed of a baseball or softball.

Other objects and advantages of this invention will become apparent from the following description taken in connection with the accompanying drawings, wherein is set forth by way of illustration and example, an embodiment of this invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view showing a modified ball catching mitt, including a control unit and digital readout display unit;

FIG. 2 is a partial cutaway view showing a modified ball catching mitt, including a compression sensor and a solid state control unit which converts the sensor signal into a digital signal for transmission to the digital readout display unit, and signal conductors.

FIG. 3 is a diagram showing elements of the solid state control unit, the compression sensor, the source of electrical power, signal and electrical conductors, and switches and controls.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a baseball rebound net having an attached ball pitching target device.

FIG. 5 is a partial cutaway view showing the back of the ball pitching target device, including a compression sensor and a solid state control unit which converts the sensor signal into a digital signal for transmission to the digital readout display unit, the source of electrical power, signal and electrical conductors, and switches and controls.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Turning more particularly to the drawings, FIG. 1 shows the mitt 1 modified by attachment of a solid state control unit 2 and a digital readout display unit 3. FIG. 1 further shows a baseball or softball 4 approaching the mitt 1 to be caught by the user 5.

FIG. 2 shows the mitt 1 modified by attachment of a compression sensor 6, input signal conductor 7 between the compression sensor 6 and control unit 2, and output signal conductor 8 between control unit 2 and display unit 3. The solid state control unit 2 has an on/off switch 9, a reset button 10 and optionally a calibration control 11. The solid state control unit 2 and digital readout display unit 3 are powered by a source of electrical power, preferably a miniature replaceable battery 14, via the on/off switch 9 and electrical conductors 15A and 15B. Optional connector 3A provides the digital display output signal for conduction to an optional external display unit.

FIG. 3 shows elements of the solid state control unit 2 including the signal conversion element 12, which receives the impact force signal from the compression sensor via input signal conductor 7 and sends a digital speed signal to the display unit 3 via output signal conductor 8. The optional connector 3A receives the same output signal via output signal conductor 8A as the signal sent to display unit 3 via output signal conductor 8. A reset button 10 is used to instruct the control unit to reset the display unit to a reading of zero, in preparation for receiving a subsequent impact force signal. An optional calibration element 13 of the solid state control unit is used to adjust the accuracy of the force to speed conversion of the signal conversion element, via the calibration control 11.

An external digital display unit having self-contained power may receive the digital speed output signal via optional output signal conductor 8A and optional connector 3A.

FIG. 4 shows a baseball rebound net device 16 and the attached ball pitching target device 17, having a target area 17A. The target device may be attached to any of a set of vertical or near-vertical surfaces, including baseball rebound nets, backstops and walls.

FIG. 5 shows a partial cutaway view of the back of the ball pitching target unit including a compression sensor 18, control unit 19 and display unit 20. The solid state control unit 19 and digital readout display unit 20 are powered by a source of electrical power, preferably a miniature replaceable battery 21. Optional connector 22 provides the digital display output signal for conduction to an optional external display unit. The solid state control unit 19 has an on/off switch 9, a reset button 10 and optionally a calibration control 11. The control unit circuits include an algorithmic expression for conversion of the impact force signal to the corresponding digital output signal for display of said impact speed in miles per hour or, optionally, kilometers per hour.

It is understood that the mitt 1 as shown is made to fit on the left hand of a user who is right-handed, and that a mitt made to fit on the right hand of a user who is left-handed is modified in mirror image fashion for this invention.

The compression sensor 6 and input signal conductor 7 can optionally be replaced by more than one compression sensor, arrayed within the ball catching area of the mitt, and an equal number of input signal conductors; the solid state control unit 2 would select the largest impact force signal received via the input signal conductors for conversion to the corresponding digital output signal.

The control unit can optionally include a function to turn itself off after a predetermined non-use time.

Said on/off switch and said reset button can optionally be replaced by a single control button, which functions as an on switch when the device is off, as a reset control when pressed for a short period while the device is on, and as an off switch when pressed for a predetermined longer period while the device is on.

The digital readout display unit is preferably a liquid crystal display or optionally a light-emitting diode.

The source of electrical current is preferably a conventional miniature replaceable battery, or optionally can be a solar powered storage battery or mechanical electrical generation device.

It is also understood that a compression sensor is equivalent to an accelerometer.

The compression sensor or sensosrs 6 may be of any strong material, but the preferred embodiment is that the material be a metal or high impact plastic.

It is important that the compression sensor 6 be located at the center of the ball catching area of the mitt 1 or, if more than one sensor is used that the sensors be arrayed within the ball catching area of the mitt, said area being positioned by the user 5 in preparation for catching the ball.

The compression sensor 6, or multiple sensors if used, must be minimal in size so as to not to interfere with the catching of the ball 4, as the user 5 supports the mitt 1, as shown in FIG. 1.

The mitt 1 may be of any strong and flexible material but the preferred embodiment is that the material be of leather.

It is important that the sensor 18 be located at the center of the target area 17.

In use of the mitt 1, the user presses the on/off switch to activate the display, or if the display is on, the reset button to reset the display to zero; supports the mitt 1 with the left or right hand, according to the mitt design, and positions the catching area of the mitt so that an approaching ball strikes the center of the catching area. After noting the ball impact speed presented in the display, the user presses the reset button and positions the catching area of the mitt to catch the next ball in the catching area. The device may be inactivated by pressing the on/off button, or holding down the optional single on/off/reset button, or optionally by allowing the device to turn itself off after a predetermined time without input from sensors or controls.

In use of the ball pitching target unit, the user presses the on/off switch to activate the display, or if the display is on, the reset button to reset the display to zero; notes the ball impact speed after the pitch and presses the reset button prior to the next pitch. The device may be inactivated by pressing the on/off button, or holding down the optional single on/off/reset button, or optionally by allowing the device to turn itself off after a predetermined time without input from sensors or controls.

The solid state control unit may optionally have a calibration element, so that the impact speed presented by the digital readout display unit may be adjusted to a correct value. For example, if the displayed impact speed varies as a result of changes in the compression sensor or sensors, the displayed value may be corrected. The displayed impact speed may also be adjusted according to the mass of the ball used, for example a regulation baseball or a regulation softball. The correct value may be determined by any accepted method, including a properly calibrated radar unit.

It is to be understood that while certain forms of this invention have been illustrated and described, it is not limited thereto except insofar as such limitations are included in the following claims and allowable functional equivalents thereof.