Title:
Toy that reacts in response to information from a motion sensor
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A toy includes a motion sensor and an output device. The motion sensor optically detects motion of the toy with respect to an underlying surface. The output device receives information from the motion sensor and generates output signals based on the information from the motion sensor.



Inventors:
Feldmeier, David Charles (Sunnyvale, CA, US)
Application Number:
10/975980
Publication Date:
05/04/2006
Filing Date:
10/28/2004
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63H17/00; A63H5/00; A63H18/16; A63H33/22; A63H13/00; A63H17/28; A63H17/30; A63H17/32; A63H17/34
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
NGUYEN, KIEN T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Kathy Manke (Fort Collins, CO, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A toy, comprising: a motion sensor that optically detects motion of the toy with respect to an underlying surface; and, an output device that receives information from the motion sensor and generates output signals based on the information from the motion sensor.

2. The toy of claim 1 wherein the output signals include at least one of the following: sound related to motion of the toy; lighting based on motion of the toy; movement of at least one part of the toy based on motion of the toy.

3. The toy of claim 1 wherein the toy is a toy car, and the output signals include the following simulated sounds: squealing tires simulating sound from a car taking a turn at a fast speed; a high rev sound simulating sound from a car traveling at a fast speed; a low rev sound simulating sound from a car traveling at a moderate speed; and, an idle sound simulating sound from a car idling.

4. The toy of claim 1 wherein the motion sensor indicates when the motion sensor is unable to detect sufficient navigable features to accurately detect motion.

5. The toy of claim 1: wherein the motion sensor indicates when the motion sensor is unable to detect sufficient navigable features to accurately detect motion; wherein the toy is a car; and wherein the plurality of different sounds includes a simulated car crash sound that is played when the motion sensor is unable to detect sufficient navigable features to accurately detect motion.

6. The toy of claim 1 wherein when the motion sensor is unable to detect sufficient navigable features to accurately detect motion, this indicates one of the following: a surface underlying the motion sensor is out of focus because it is too far from the motion sensor; a surface underlying the motion sensor is out of focus because it is too near the motion sensor.

7. The toy of claim 1: wherein the information from the motion sensor is a plurality of values, each value representing an amount of movement of the toy with respect to the underlying device within a first predetermined length of time; and, wherein to generate the output signals, the output device averages the values in the plurality of values over a second predetermined length of time; and, wherein the second predetermined length of time is greater than the first predetermined length of time.

8. A toy, comprising: means for generating information based on optically detected motion of the toy with respect to an underlying surface; and, means for generating output signals for the toy based on the information.

9. The toy of claim 8 wherein the toy is a toy car, and the output signals include the following simulated sounds: squealing tires simulating sound from a car taking a turn at a fast speed; a high rev sound simulating sound from a car traveling at a fast speed; a low rev sound simulating sound from a car traveling at a moderate speed; and, an idle sound simulating sound from a car idling.

10. The toy of claim 8 additionally comprising: means for determining when the toy is unable to detect sufficient navigable features to accurately detect motion.

11. The toy of claim 8 wherein the toy is a car and wherein the output signals include a simulated car crash sound that is played when the toy is unable to detect sufficient navigable features to accurately detect motion.

12. The toy of claim 8 wherein the output signals include at least one of the following: sound related to motion of the toy; lighting based on motion of the toy; movement of at least one part of the toy based on motion of the toy.

13. The toy of claim 8: wherein the information includes a plurality of values, each value representing an amount of movement of the toy with respect to the underlying device within a first predetermined length of time; and, wherein the means for generating output signals includes means for averaging the values in the plurality of values over a second predetermined length of time; and, wherein the second predetermined length of time is greater than the first predetermined length of time.

14. A method, comprising: optically detecting motion of a toy with respect to an underlying surface; and, generating output signals based on the detected motion of the toy with respect to the underlying surface.

15. The method of claim 14 wherein the toy is a toy car, and the output signals include the following simulated sounds: squealing tires simulating sound from a car taking a turn at a fast speed; a high rev sound simulating sound from a car traveling at a fast speed; a low rev sound simulating sound from a car traveling at a moderate speed; and, an idle sound simulating sound from a car idling.

16. The method of claim 14 additionally comprising: determining when the toy is unable to detect sufficient navigable features to accurately detect motion.

17. The method of claim 14 wherein the toy is a car and wherein the plurality of different sounds includes a simulated car crash sound that is played when the toy is unable to detect sufficient navigable features to accurately detect motion.

18. The method of claim 14 wherein the output signals include at least one of the following: sound related to motion of the toy; lighting based on motion of the toy; movement of at least one part of the toy based on motion of the toy.

19. The method of claim 14 wherein when the toy is unable to detect sufficient navigable features to accurately detect motion, this indicates one of the following: a surface underlying the motion sensor is out of focus because it is too far from the motion sensor; a surface underlying the motion sensor is out of focus because it is too near the motion sensor.

20. The method of claim 14: wherein optically detecting motion of the toy with respect to the underlying surface includes obtaining a plurality of values, each value representing an amount of movement of the toy with respect to the underlying device within a first predetermined length of time; wherein generating the output signals includes averaging the values in the plurality of values over a second predetermined length of time; and, wherein the second predetermined length of time is greater than the first predetermined length of time.

Description:

BACKGROUND

Toys that are responsive to their environments can often serve to entertain a child. For example, a toy car may have a switch on the front or rear that causes the toy car to change directions when an obstacle is encountered.

Motion sensors are utilized in devices such as optical mice used to input information to a computing system. Optical sensors have been used in robots for detecting motion and for adjusting the propulsion mechanisms of the robots.

In one type of optical mouse, the optical mouse uses photodetectors arranged as an image array of pixels to image the spatial features of generally any micro textured or micro detailed work surface located below the optical mouse. Photodetector responses are digitized and stored as a frame into memory. Motion produces successive frames of translated patterns of pixel information. The successive frames are compared by cross-correlation to ascertain the direction and amount of movement. For more information on this type of optical mouse, see, for example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,281,882 B1.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, a toy includes a motion sensor and an output device. The motion sensor optically detects motion of the toy with respect to an underlying surface. The output device receives information from the motion sensor and generates output signals based on the information from the motion sensor.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a simplified underside view of a toy in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a simplified block diagram of optical motion sensor circuitry used to control generation of output signals in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is a simplified flowchart illustrating sound generation for a toy in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE EMBODIMENT

FIG. 1 is a simplified view of the underside of a toy 10. For example toy 10 is a toy car or some other type of toy that utilizes motion. A wheel 11, a wheel 12, a wheel 13 and a wheel 14 of toy 10 are used to roll toy 10 along an underlying surface. Wheels 11 through 14 are illustrative as more or fewer wheels may be used. Alternatively, wheels may be eliminated and one or more low friction surfaces on the bottom of toy 10 may be used to make contact with the underlying surface.

Within an orifice 15 is shown an illuminator 17 and an image array 16. For example, various optics, as necessary or desirable, are included within illuminator 17 and/or image array 16. For example, illuminator 17 is implemented using a light emitting diode (LED), an infrared (IR) LED, or a laser. In cases where it is anticipated that in normal use ambient light is sufficient for image array to detect navigable features of an underlying surface without additional illumination, illuminator 17 can be omitted.

FIG. 2 is a simplified block diagram of an optical motion sensing system. Image array 16 is implemented, for example, using a 32 by 32 array of photodetectors. Alternatively, image array 16 can be implemented using other technology and/or other array sizes can be used.

An analog-to-digital converter (ADC) 21 receives analog signals from image array 16 and converts the signals to digital data. For example, the interface between image array 16 and ADC 21 is a serial interface. Alternatively, the interface between image array 16 and ADC 21 is a parallel interface.

An automatic gain control (AGC) 22 evaluates digital data received from ADC 21 and controls shutter speed and gain adjust within image array 16. This is done, for example, to prevent saturation or underexposure of images captured by image array 16.

A navigation engine 24 evaluates the digital data from ADC 21 and performs a series of correlations to estimate the direction and magnitude of motion most likely to account for the difference between images taken at different times. Navigation engine 24 then determines a delta x (ΔX) value to be placed on an output 28 and determines a delta y (ΔY) value to be placed on an output 29. For example, ΔY represents movement in the forward or reverse direction of the toy and ΔX represents sideways motion of the toy. In a preferred embodiment, ΔX and ΔY are absolute values, indicating only amount of movement. In other embodiments of the invention, ΔX and ΔY can be either positive or negative. In this case, a positive ΔY indicates forward motion, a negative ΔY indicates motion in a reverse direction, a positive ΔX indicates motion toward one side, and a negative ΔX indicates motion towards another side.

Navigation engine 24 also generates a quality signal 27 that indicates the quality of the image detected by image array 16. For example, quality signal 27 represents an estimation of the likelihood that the ΔX and ΔY values represent the true motion of the toy with respect to an underlying surface. For example, this likelihood is based on the number of navigable features detected by image array 16. Alternatively, other methodology may be used to determine the quality of the image detected by image array 16. See, for example, ways quality is determined in U.S. Pat. No. 6,433,780.

Typically, when quality signal 27 indicates the likelihood that the ΔX and ΔY values do not represent the true motion of the toy with respect to an underlying surface, this indicates that the surface underlying image array 16 is out of focus. For example, if a lens or lenses for image array 16 is/are selected so that an underlying surface very near image array 16 is in focus, quality signal 27 will indicate unacceptable quality when a “lift-off” has occurred. Lift-off indicates that image array 16 has been removed away from an underlying surface, or that the current underlying surface does not have sufficient detectable features to allow motion to be detected. This is useful, for example, for a toy car where a “lift-off” triggers a crash sound.

On the other hand, if a lens or lenses for image array 16 is/are selected so that an underlying surface far (e.g., 1 or 2 meters) from image array 16 is in focus, quality signal 27 will indicate unacceptable quality when a “set down” has occurred. This is useful, for example, for a flying toy, such as toy plane, where a “set down” triggers a crash sound. Alternative to use of a lens or lenses, image array 16 can rely on pinholes or other means to obtained desired focus of photodetectors within the image array. Also, when an underlying surface far (e.g., 1 or 2 meters) from image array 16 is in focus, use of an illuminator such as illuminator 17 may not be effective. In this case, no illuminator is used, but instead ambient light is used by image array 16.

Quality signal 27 is, for example, a binary signal indicating whether quality is acceptable or not acceptable. Alternatively, quality signal 27 is a numeric value indicating level of quality.

Existing optical mice include functionality identical or similar to image array 16, ADC 21, AGC 22 and navigation engine 24. For further information on how this standard functionality or similar functionality of optical mice are implemented, see, for example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,644,139, U.S. Pat. No. 5,578,813, U.S. Pat. No. 5,786,804 and/or U.S. Pat. No. 6,281,882 B1. For an example of the detection of lift-off see, for example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,433,780 B1.

An output device 25 receives ΔX on output 28 and ΔY on output 29, and based on the values of ΔX and ΔY generates an output appropriate to the toy. For example, if the toy is a car, plane or other transportation vehicle, the action may be generation of various sound effects appropriate to the vehicle. Alternatively, if the toy is a toy animal, the values of ΔX and ΔY can determine the frequency of some movement of the animal or sound made by the animal. For a toy bird, for example, the values of ΔX and ΔY can determine the rate at which wings are made to flap, and so on.

For example, FIG. 3 is a simplified flowchart illustrating sounds generated for a toy car. In a block 30, the toy is turned on or some other event triggers start of the output signal generation process.

In a block 31, output device 25 obtains a ΔX value and a ΔY value. In this embodiment, for example, ΔX and ΔY are each absolute values. This means that the same sound will be generated for equivalent forward and reverse motion, and the same sound will be generated for equivalent for left and right motion.

In many cases, navigation engine 24 is able to generate hundreds of ΔX values and ΔY values per second. In this case, the ΔX values and the ΔY values received by output device 25 can be averaged over a predetermined amount of time. The predetermined amount of time may be, for example, one half second, or any other length of time that results in generation of optimal sound feedback to a child playing with the toy.

In a block 32, a check is made to see if quality signal 27 is at an acceptable level. If in block 32, quality signal 27 is not acceptable, this indicates lift-off has detected and in a block 33 a “crash” sound is made, like the sound of a car that has crashed. When the sound is complete, in block 31 new values for ΔX value and a ΔY are obtained.

In a block 34, a check is made to see if ΔX is greater than a first value. The first value is a predetermined value by the toy designer to provide optimal sound feedback to a child playing with the toy. If in block 34, ΔX is greater than the first value, in a block 35 a squeal sound is made, like the sound of tires squealing. Since ΔX indicates motion in a sideways direction, the tire squealing sound simulates the sound of a car taking a turn at a fast speed. When the sound is complete, in block 31 new values for ΔX value and a ΔY are obtained.

In a block 36, a check is made to see if ΔY is greater than a second value. The second value is a predetermined value by the toy designer to provide optimal sound feedback to a child playing with the toy. If in block 36, ΔY is greater than the second value, in a block 37 a “high rev” sound is made, like that of an engine running at high speed. Since AY indicates motion in a forward or reverse direction, the “high rev” sound simulates the sound of a car traveling at a fast speed. When the sound is complete, in block 31 new values for ΔX value and a ΔY are obtained.

In a block 38, a check is made to see if ΔY is greater than a third value while being less than or equal to the second value. The third value is a predetermined value by the toy designer to provide optimal sound feedback to a child playing with the toy. If in block 38, ΔY is greater than the third value while being less than or equal to the second value, in a block 39 a “low rev” sound is made, like that of an engine running at a moderate speed. Since ΔY indicates motion in a forward or reverse direction, the “low rev” sound simulates the sound of a car traveling at a moderate speed. When the sound is complete, in block 31 new values for ΔX value and a ΔY are obtained.

In a block 40, an idle sound is made like that of a car idling or moving very slowly. When the sound is complete, in block 31 new values for ΔX value and a ΔY are obtained.

As will be understood by persons of ordinary skill in the art, the sounds and sound triggers given above are exemplary. Other types of toys would make other sounds. For example, if the toy were a dinosaur or other animal, sounds appropriate to the particular animal would be generated based on values of ΔX, ΔY, lift-off and/or set down. Instead of sound generation, other output signals can be generated in response to motion. For example, such output signals include varying the intensity or color of light generated, varying the frequency of light pulses, varying the type or frequency of motion of different appendages of the toy, and so.

The foregoing discussion discloses and describes merely exemplary methods and embodiments of the present invention. As will be understood by those familiar with the art, the invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from the spirit or essential characteristics thereof. Accordingly, the disclosure of the present invention is intended to be illustrative, but not limiting, of the scope of the invention, which is set forth in the following claims.