Title:
Prize dispensing device
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The invention relates to systems and methods for automating prize selection and distribution, namely in the arcade industry. In one embodiment, a prize dispensing device is configured to be backwards-compatible with existing redemption and amusement game standards. In another embodiment, the prize dispensing device comprises a plurality of chambers allowing for the automated distribution of prizes. In yet another embodiment, the device comprises a removable section for containing prizes allowing for the quick replacement and restocking of prizes to be distributed.



Inventors:
Pellegrini, Frank J. (Elburn, IL, US)
Kostelancik, Timothy M. (Palatine, IL, US)
Application Number:
11/068703
Publication Date:
08/31/2006
Filing Date:
02/28/2005
Assignee:
Frank J. Pellegrini (Elburn, IL, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
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20070099696Method for distributing large payouts with minimal interruption of a gaming sessionMay, 2007Nguyen et al.
20070155471Bingo gaming machine capable of selecting different bingo poolsJuly, 2007Powell et al.
20080214285VIRTUAL GAMESeptember, 2008Guyer et al.
20100069137Lottery Game And MethodMarch, 2010D'angelo
20030186734Gaming machine including a lottery ticket dispenserOctober, 2003Lemay et al.
20060058101CREATING AND SELLING A MUSIC-BASED VIDEO GAMEMarch, 2006Rigopulos
20070004492Picture maze and method of generating the picture mazeJanuary, 2007Salmento
20020142832Gaming machine with an overhanging touch screenOctober, 2002Loose et al.



Primary Examiner:
KIM, ANDREW
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BANNER & WITCOFF, LTD. (CHICAGO, IL, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A prize dispensing device, comprising: an interface module that receives ticket dispensing information; a translation module that translates the ticket dispensing information to prize dispensing information; and a housing for containing prizes having at least one chamber, wherein at least one prize is dispensed from the chamber upon receiving prize dispensing information.

2. The prize dispensing device of claim 1, wherein the translation module further comprises a controller to determine which available prize to distribute based on a user's performance.

3. The prize dispensing device of claim 2, wherein the controller further determines the amount of time the chamber dispenses a prize.

4. The prize dispensing device of claim 1, wherein the housing comprises at least two chambers for encasing prizes and an adapter plate having at least one opening, the plate being in movable communication with a distal end of the chamber; wherein upon receiving information relating to prize dispensing the adapter plate is positioned so that an opening is aligned with one of the chambers, thereby dispensing at least one prize.

5. The prize dispensing device of claim 4, wherein the adaptor plate is in rotational communication with the housing.

6. The prize dispensing device of claim 1, wherein the ticket dispensing information comprises pulses.

7. The prize dispensing device of claim 1, wherein the ticket dispensing information comprises information obtained from counting notches in the tickets.

8. A method for dispensing prizes, the method comprising the steps of: (a) retrofitting a machine having a ticket dispensing device with an interface module that receives ticket dispensing information from the machine; (b) translating the ticket dispensing information to prize dispensing information; and (c) dispensing at least one prize, wherein the prize dispensed is determined by the prize dispensing information.

9. The method of claim 8, wherein the interface module is configured to fit onto the ticket dispensing device.

10. The method of claim 9, wherein fitting the interface module onto the ticket dispensing device prevents the dispensing of tickets.

11. A computer-readable medium having computer-executable instructions for performing steps comprising: (a) receiving ticket dispensing information; (b) translating the ticket dispensing information to prize dispensing information; (c) analyzing the prize dispensing information to determine which prize to dispense; and (d) causing the dispensing of at least one prize based upon the prize dispensing information.

12. The instructions of claim 11, further comprising the steps of: (e) detecting the presence of a ticket dispensing device on a machine; and (f) if a ticket dispensing device is present, disabling the dispensing of tickets.

13. The instructions of claim 11, further comprising the step of: (e) comparing the prize dispensing information with an inventory to determine if a first prize is available, wherein if the first prize is unavailable, a second prize is dispensed.

14. The instructions of claim 11, further comprising the steps of: (e) comparing the prize dispensing information with an inventory to determine if user is eligible for more than a single prize; and (f) allowing the user to select which prize the user is eligible to receive, wherein the selected prize is dispensed.

15. A prize dispensing device comprising: an interface module that receives information relating to ticket dispensing; a translation module for translating the ticket dispensing information to prize dispensing information, the translation module comprising computer-readable medium having computer-executable instructions to determine which available prize to distribute based on a user's performance; and a housing for containing prizes having at least one chamber, wherein at least one prize is dispensed from the chamber upon receiving prize dispensing information.

16. The prize dispensing device of claim 15, wherein the housing comprises at least two chambers for encasing prizes and an adapter plate having at least one opening, the plate being in movable communication with a distal end of the chamber; wherein upon receiving information relating to prize dispensing the adapter plate is positioned so that an opening is aligned with one of the chambers, thereby dispensing at least one prize.

17. A gaming apparatus comprising: a housing, the housing comprising a control unit having computer-readable medium having computer-executable instructions; a display device in communication with the control unit and configured to an output from the computer-executable instructions; a user interface configured to allow a user to provide a user input; a ticket dispenser configured to dispense tickets; an interface module that receives ticket dispensing information from the ticket dispenser; a translation module that translates the ticket dispensing information to prize dispensing information; and a housing for containing prizes having at least one chamber, wherein at least one prize is dispensed from the chamber upon receiving prize dispensing information.

18. The gaming apparatus of claim 16, wherein the interface module prevents the ticket dispenser from dispensing tickets.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to redemption devices in the arcade industry. More specifically, aspects of the invention relate to systems and methods for automating prize selection and distribution.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Generally, ticket dispensers are used wherever tickets can be used as a means for exchange of goods and/or services. One popular field for using tickets and ticket dispensers is the field of arcade games. Players of amusement games, such as arcade and redemption devices, can win tickets based on a final score or goals associated with a game. The tickets can be redeemed for prizes offered at the arcade.

Historically, tickets were manually counted by an arcade employee. More recent systems have replaced manual tabulation with a “ticket eating” mechanism. Generally, an operator manually inserts tickets into a machine that counts the tickets. The tickets are quantified by a physical feature on the tickets. For example, in some systems, each ticket has a notch that is counted as it is inserted, yet in more modem systems the tickets have more complex identifying mechanisms, such as a bar code. Upon being counted the tickets are destroyed and the user is issued a receipt for the number of inserted tickets that may be presented to redeem prizes.

These systems still require the presence of an employee to insert the tickets into the machine and to issue a voucher for the tickets to the consumer, thereby not reducing costs of producing and stocking the tickets and employee work time. While some modem arcade games have replaced the ticketing system with a prize delivery system, the majority of amusement games on the market still utilize the ticket system to distribute a prize to a player. It goes from the foregoing, therefore, there exists a need for an automated prize dispensing system.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In one embodiment, a prize dispensing device is configured to be backwards-compatible with existing redemption and amusement game standards. In another embodiment, the prize dispensing device comprises a plurality of chambers allowing for the automated distribution of prizes. In yet another embodiment, the device comprises a removable section for containing prizes allowing for the quick replacement and restocking of prizes to be distributed.

FIG. 1 illustrates a schematic diagram of a prize dispensing device in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 illustrates a schematic diagram of a prize dispensing device in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3 illustrates a flow diagram for a method of dispensing prizes in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 4 illustrates an exemplary prize dispensing housing according to one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5 illustrates an arcade-style game having an exemplary prize redemption device according to one embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 illustrates a schematic diagram of a prize dispensing device in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention configured to be connected to existing machines and convert ticket dispensing information to prize dispensing information. The device 100 comprises an interface module 102 that receives information relating to dispensing tickets. The interface module 102 may be configured to receive an input from existing ticket dispensing redemption games. For example, existing redemption or amusement games may reward a user by dispensing tickets in accordance with the user's performance. Several existing redemption games utilizing tickets having notches wherein the notches on the tickets trigger a quantifying mechanism during distribution to ensure an accurate distribution of tickets. The interface module 102 of one embodiment of the present invention is configured to be coupled with the existing infrastructure of the gaming apparatus wherein tickets are not dispersed but rather the quantified notches are tallied as points. In other existing redemption games, tickets may be dispensed in accordance with the number of pulses received. In embodiments designed for configuration with these redemption games, the interface module 102 is configured to count the number of pulses. In yet further embodiments, the interface module 102 is in communication with existing third-party arcade-style games that are not equipped with ticket-distributing capabilities. The interface module 102 may be configured to communicate with the game concerning the user's performance, such as for example, the highest score received, the hardest level accomplished or the amount of time playing the game.

The prize dispensing device also comprises a translation module 104 for translating the ticket dispensing information to prize dispensing information. The translating process performed in the module 104 depends on the embodiment. For example, if the interface module 102 is coupled to a redemption game that sends pulses as ticket dispensing information, the translation module 104 will quantify the pulses and convert the information into information relating to which prize is appropriate to dispense. The translation module may further comprise a controller 106 for controlling the prize distribution process. The controller 106 may comprise a memory and/or an electronic media device for storing and executing computer readable information or an algorithm to determine which available prize to distribute based upon the user's performance. For example, a sample program could be configured to not dispense a prize when no signal is received or when a value under a predetermined limit is received. Different values could be assigned to the dispensing of different prizes. For example, one possible computer-executable instructions may comprise an algorithm concerning dispensing prizes where a first prize would dispense if the value received from the translation module 104 was between a value of zero (0) and a predetermined value (Y), whereas a second prize of greater value would dispense upon the translation module 104 sending a value that is between Y+1 and a second predetermined value (Z).

In yet other embodiments, the controller 106 may be configured to determine the duration of time the chambers are open, and thus the number of dispensed prizes. For example, a final value calculated at the translation module 104 may signal the distribution of prizes for a fixed amount of time. This may be useful in the distribution of small prizes such as candy, where the amount of candy distributed is a function of the time. Optionally, the amount of an opening exposed during distribution may be controlled by the controller 106, and may be a function of the amount of points received the by user. For example, an input signaling 10 points may reveal a passageway for the distribution of candy that is only a fraction of a passageway that may be created for an input received signaling 20 points.

While the exemplary embodiment has separate interface and translation modules, it is within the scope of the invention to have one module that acts as an interface and translation module. Yet in further embodiments, there are multiple interface and/or translation modules for connecting a plurality of amusement games to the prize dispensing device that may have different ticket dispensing configurations.

FIG. 2 illustrates a schematic diagram of a prize dispensing device according to one embodiment of the present invention. The device 200 comprises computer-readable medium having computer-executable instructions 202, wherein the instructions relate to the distribution of prizes based upon a ticket dispensing input. The ticket dispensing input is received in at least one ticket dispensing input interface (204, 206). Multiple interfaces may be used, for example, an interface to receive a pulse input 204, may be used on the same device with an interface to receive notch input 206. This configuration would be especially advantageous where multiple gaming devices having different ticket dispensers are in communication with the prize dispensing device.

The exemplary embodiment utilizes controls (208, 210, 212) and optionally displays (214, 216, 218) to adjust the number of prizes dispensed from the device as well as to adjust the computer readable instructions relating to dispensing the prizes. For example, using the above example where a first prize would dispense if the value was between a value of zero (0) and a predetermined value (Y), whereas a second prize of greater value would dispense upon the translation module 104 sending a value that is between Y+1 and a second predetermined value (Z), the user could determine the values for Y and Z. For example, to configure the instructions to dispense a first prize if the ticket value was between zero (0) and five (5), the user would use control 208 to input to the processor 202 that the user is adjusting the value for the first prize. In the exemplary embodiment, display 214 would display a “1”. The user would then use control 210 to set the first range (zero), which may displayed on display 216. Similarly, using control 212, the user may set the second range for the selected prize to dispense, which will be displayed in display 218. While the illustrate embodiment utilizes controls (208, 210, 212) where the user presses buttons to raise or lower the displayed range, other embodiments may use a dial or even an electronic mechanism to adjust the range of tickets needed to dispense the selected prize. Indeed, any user input interface that may be configured to adjust the range of dispensed tickets is contemplated by the invention.

The processor 202 is also in communication with at least one prize dispensing mechanism (220, 222, 224), wherein based upon an input from a ticket dispensing input interface 204, 206, the processor 202 determines which prize dispensing mechanism is activated. The prize dispensing mechanism may be configured to mechanically dispense a prize, such as for example through a motor driver (226, 228, 230), an electronic interface (232, 234, 236), or a combination thereof. The prize dispensing mechanism may also comprise an inventory display 238 that registers the number of prizes dispensed for each prize dispensing mechanism.

FIG. 3 illustrates a flow diagram for a method of dispensing prizes in a system according to one embodiment of the present invention. In the exemplary method, ticket dispensing information is first received (step 302). This step may be performed by interface module 102 or other suitable means. Optional step 304 may also determine the presence of a ticket dispenser in the system, wherein the ticket dispenser may optionally be disabled at step 306. Upon receipt of ticket dispensing information, step 308 translates the ticket dispensing information to prize dispensing information. Step 308 may be performed by translation module 104, or other suitable means known in the art. Step 310 analyzes the prize dispensing information to determine the appropriate prize to be dispensed. An optional step, such as step 312, may be incorporated to ensure the appropriate prize is present in the inventory. This may be done for example by coordinating inventory display 308 with the dispensing process. Upon the determination that the appropriate prize chosen in step 310 is not available, step 314 may determine another prize to distribute. This determination may be based on a myriad factors including, but not limited to past user selection, monetary value, or size of the prize. Alternatively, step 316 may be included to determine if the prize dispensing information indicates multiple prizes are available. If multiple prizes are available to a user, step 318 may be initiated to allow the user to select the prize to be dispensed. After a user selection of a prize, step 320 will dispense the chosen prize. If step 316 is not incorporated, step 320 then distributes the appropriate prize chosen at 310 or 312. The prize may be dispensed from housing as illustrated in FIG. 4.

FIG. 4 illustrates an exemplary prize dispensing housing, such as housing 108, according to one embodiment of the present invention. The illustrated redemption housing 400 comprises a plurality of associated chambers 402, 404 for housing prizes. In one embodiment, the chambers are cylindrical to prevent lodging of the encased prizes, however, other configurations are contemplated in the present invention. For example, the distribution of boxed prizes may require the use of rectangular chambers. In further embodiments of the invention, each chamber is of a different configuration to allow the distribution of multiple prizes of different dimensions. The chambers 402, 404 may further be partially encapsulated by a housing 406 (not shown). The housing 406 may serve to minimize theft or wear and tear on the chambers. In further embodiments, a protective housing 406 is in rigid communication with the chambers 402, 404 and may include a handle or other carrying mechanism to allow the efficient removal and transfer of the chambers. Alternatively, a band or series of bands may encompass and/or bind the chambers 402, 404. In one contemplated use of the prize dispensing device 400, proximate portion of the chambers 402, 404 are in communication with an adapter plate 408. The adaptor plate may allow the use of chambers having multiple configurations to be utilized, or adapter plate 408 may be configured to ensure only the appropriate chambers having prizes of a known value may be fitted to the device.

In yet further embodiments, the device may include a plurality of adapter plates to be configured to receive a plurality of different configurations of chambers. The adaptor plates may have a plurality of openings for the distribution of prizes. For example, adapter plate 408 has two substantially round openings. In use, chambers 402 and 404 are aligned with an adapter plate, for example plate 408, wherein the openings of the adapter plate are aligned with chambers 402 and 404 such that prizes within the chambers will be distributed upon the alignment of the openings with the chambers.

In one embodiment, dispensing the prize, such as for example, alignment of the chamber (i.e., 403) with an adaptor plate (i.e., 408) may occur through the translation module 104, wherein the translation module 104 will receive an input from the interface module 102 that is in communication with a redemption game, wherein the translation module 104 will send information to align at least one opening of adapter plates, the opening being dependant on the information received. For example, an opening under chamber 102 can be aligned through the translation module 104 upon the winning or selection of a prize worth 1 point and whereas an opening under chamber 104 will align upon the selection of a prize worth 2 points.

In other embodiments, multiple adapter plates can be in communication with a plurality of chambers, each holding a prize of the same value. In such embodiments, prizes of similar value but of different shapes and/or sizes may be restocked without the concern of mixing with prizes of greater or lesser value. In these embodiments, the adapter plates may be notched, grooved, or otherwise configured to only accept pre-determined chambers that are shaped to house prizes of a known value. In other embodiments, the translation module interface 104 may receive an input to automatically trigger an opening based upon the performance of the user of a redemption game. In yet another embodiment, a user's performance will enable the user to determine which opening is triggered, thus dispensing a desired prize.

In yet other embodiments, the duration of time the openings are triggered, and thus the number of dispensed prizes, is determined by the optional controller 106 associated with the translation module 104. For example, the controller may be configured to permit an input through the translation module 104 signaling 10 points to trigger an opening to distribute prizes for 20 seconds, but an input signaling 20 points may trigger for 5 seconds. Optionally, the amount of opening exposed during distribution may be a function of the amount of points received the by user. This may be useful in the distribution of small prizes such as candy. For example, an input signaling 10 points may trigger an opening to reveal a passageway for the distribution of candy that is only a fraction of a passageway that may be created for an input received signaling 20 points.

While the embodiments have been described in relation to an adapter plate aligning with a chamber to release prizes, what has been described above is merely illustrative of the application of the principles of the invention. Indeed, the present invention is not limited to adapter plates having opening, but may be applied to a broad application of housings that may dispense prizes. Those skilled in the art can implement other systems, configurations, arrangements, and methods without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.

An exemplary prize redemption device configured for use with an arcade-style game in FIG. 5. The arcade video game 500 includes a control unit 505, a user controller 510, and a display 515. Within this cabinet, the user controller 510 and the display 515 are connected to the control unit 505. A central processing unit 520 in the control unit 505 may execute any gaming program stored on a hard disk 525, or other storage media, to create a visual representation on the display 515. The central processing unit 520 may also execute user-defined instructions stored in a random access memory 530. During game play, the user controller 510 is operated by a user to cause the control unit 505 to vary the visual representation on the display 515. Optionally, the configuration may include additional input/output sources (see, e.g. 535), such as, for example, LAN, WLAN, or interfaces, as known in the art. The video game 500 may also comprise a ticket dispenser 540 for dispensing tickets based upon a user input received at the user controller 510 or input/output source 535. A ticket dispensing device interface module 545 is in communication with the ticket dispenser 540. The exemplary ticket interface module 545 is encased in the video game 500, however, it may be external or integrated within another housing. The interface module 545 may be similar or identical to interface module 102. The interface module 545 may further be associated with a translation module 104 and controller 106 for dispensing of prizes based upon ticket dispensing information.

While the exemplary arcade-style game has a separate ticket dispensing device and interface module, it is within the scope of the invention to have one module that acts as a ticket dispensing device, an interface module and a translation module. Yet in further embodiments, there are multiple interface and/or translation modules for connecting a plurality of amusement games to the prize dispensing device that may have different ticket dispensing configurations.