Title:
Movable device and receiver device for detecting contacts with the movable device
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The movable device includes a detector for detecting that an object is located in the vicinity of or at the movable device, as well as a transmitter module for transmitting two signals having different signals speeds. These two signals are received by a receiver, the receiver having a detector to ascertain whether the second signal arrives within a predetermined time period as of reception of the first signal, so as to provide, when this has been detected, a detector signal indicating that the movable device has been contacted by the object. Exemplary movable devices are game devices such as footballs. Exemplary objects are arms, legs, football shoes, rackets, bats, etc.



Inventors:
Kuenzler, Udo (Karlsbad, DE)
Englert, Walter (Burgrieden, DE)
Application Number:
11/460562
Publication Date:
03/15/2007
Filing Date:
07/27/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B43/06
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CHEUNG, VICTOR
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GLENN PATENT GROUP (Seattle, WA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A movable device comprising: a detector for detecting that an object is located in the vicinity or at the movable device; and a transmitter module for transmitting a first signal having a first signal speed, and for transmitting a second signal having a second signal speed which is smaller than the first signal speed, the transmitter module being configured to send out the first and second signals in response to the detector output signal.

2. The movable device as claimed in claim 1, wherein the detector is a touch sensor configured to detect the movable device being touched by the object.

3. The game device as claimed in claim 1, wherein the detector is a contactless sensor configured to detect, electrically, magnetically, electromagnetically, optically or acoustically, whether the object is located within a predetermined distance from the movable device.

4. The movable device as claimed in claim 3, wherein the predetermined distance is smaller than or equal to 10 cm.

5. The movable device as claimed in claim 1, wherein the transmitter module comprises: a radio transmitter for transmitting the first signal; and a sound transmitter for transmitting the second signal.

6. The movable device as claimed in claim 5, wherein the sound transmitter is an ultrasonic transmitter.

7. The movable device as claimed in claim 1, wherein the transmitter module is configured to send out the first and second signals at essentially the same time.

8. The movable device as claimed in claim 1, which is configured as a game device.

9. The movable device as claimed in claim 8, which is configured as a ball.

10. The movable device as claimed in claim 1, wherein the transmitter module is configured to send out the second signal prior to the first signal.

11. A receiver device for receiving signals from a movable device, comprising: a receiver module for receiving a first signal having a first signal speed, and a second signal having a second signal speed which is smaller than the first signal speed; and a detector configured to provide a detector signal which indicates whether the second signal has been received within a predetermined time period since reception of the first signal.

12. The receiver device as claimed in claim 11, further comprising: a memory for storing when the detector provides the detector signal.

13. The receiver device as claimed in claim 11, wherein the detector is configured to start a chronometer as a function of reception of the first signal, the chronometer being configured, or being controlled by the detector, to stop after the predetermined time period, the detector further being configured to provide the detector signal only if the second signal is received after starting and prior to stopping the chronometer.

14. The receiver device as claimed in claim 11, wherein the memory is configured to store a moment in time at which the detector provides the detector signal.

15. The receiver device as claimed in claim 11, wherein the memory is configured to store a number of times when the detector provides the detector signal.

16. The receiver device as claimed in claim 11, further comprising a transmitter to send out a radio signal having an identification of the receiver device when the detector provides the detector signal.

17. The receiver device as claimed in claim 10, wherein the receiver module comprises a radio receiver for receiving the first signal, which is a radio signal, and an ultrasonic receiver for receiving the second signal, which is an ultrasonic signal.

18. The receiver device as claimed in claim 11 wherein the predetermined time period is smaller than or equal to 5 ms.

19. A method of operating a movable device, comprising: detecting that an object is located in the vicinity of or at the movable device; and in response to the step of detecting, when it has been detected that the object is located in the vicinity of or at the movable device, transmitting a first signal having a first signal speed, and transmitting a second signal having a second signal speed which is smaller than the first signal speed.

20. A method of receiving signals from a movable device, comprising: receiving a first signal having a first signal speed and a second signal having a second signal speed which is smaller than the first signal speed; and detecting whether the second signal has been received within a predetermined time period since reception of the first signal, to provide a detection signal in response to the detecting step.

21. A computer program having a program code for performing the method of operating a movable device, the method comprising: detecting that an object is located in the vicinity of or at the movable device; and in response to the step of detecting, when it has been detected that the object is located in the vicinity of or at the movable device, transmitting a first signal having a first signal speed, and transmitting a second signal having a second signal speed which is smaller than the first signal speed, when the program runs on a computer.

22. A computer program having a program code for performing the method of receiving signals from a movable device, the method comprising: receiving a first signal having a first signal speed and a second signal having a second signal speed which is smaller than the first signal speed; and detecting whether the second signal has been received within a predetermined time period since reception of the first signal, to provide a detection signal in response to the detecting step, when the program runs on a computer.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims priority from German Patent Application No. 102005036355.5, which was filed on Jul. 29, 2005, and is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to movable devices and in particular to game devices such as balls, and to concepts for detecting any contact of an object with the movable device.

2. Description of Prior Art

For quite some time, various interest groups have wished to study and understand the sequence of movements of moving objects and/or persons, which requires an exact indication of the object's position in space and time. What is of particular interest here are, among other things, game balls, in particular in commercialized types of sport, such as footballs, or soccer balls, which are highly accelerated in three-dimensional space, as well as tennis or golf balls. The question of who was the last to touch the object of the game, how it was hit and in which direction it was accelerated further may be decisive for the outcome of the game, depending on the type of game.

Game devices that are used in high-performance sports, such as tennis balls, golf balls, footballs and the like, nowadays can be accelerated to extremely high speeds, so that the detection of the object during the movement requires highly sophisticated technology. The technical means employed so far—mainly cameras—either completely fail to meet the requirements set forth above, or meet them only to an insufficient degree; also the methods, hitherto known, for position finding by means of various transmitter and receiver combinations still leave a large error margin with regard to the spatial resolution of the position indication, with regard to the ease of use of the transmitter/receiver components required, and above all with regard to evaluating the data obtained by means of the transmitter/receiver system, so that it is not yet possible, or at least requires a large amount of effort, to evaluate the results obtained from this data as fast as possible.

It is the object of the present invention to provide an efficient and nevertheless robust and reliable concept for detecting contacts of an object with a movable device.

In accordance with a first aspect, the invention provides a movable device including:

  • a detector for detecting that an object is located in the vicinity or at the movable device; and
  • a transmitter module for transmitting a first signal having a first signal speed, and for transmitting a second signal having a second signal speed which is smaller than the first signal speed, the transmitter module being configured to send out the first and second signals in response to the detector output signal.

In accordance with a second aspect, the invention provides a receiver device for receiving signals from a movable device, including:

  • a receiver module for receiving a first signal having a first signal speed, and a second signal having a second signal speed which is smaller than the first signal speed; and
  • a detector configured to provide a detector signal which indicates whether the second signal has been received within a predetermined time period since reception of the first signal.

In accordance with a third aspect, the invention provides a method of operating a movable device, the method including the steps of:

  • detecting that an object is located in the vicinity of or at the movable device; and
  • in response to the step of detecting, when it has been detected that the object is located in the vicinity of or at the movable device, transmitting a first signal having a first signal speed, and transmitting a second signal having a second signal speed which is smaller than the first signal speed.

In accordance with a fourth aspect, the invention provides a method of receiving signals from a movable device, the method including the steps of:

  • receiving a first signal having a first signal speed and a second signal having a second signal speed which is smaller than the first signal speed; and
  • detecting whether the second signal has been received within a predetermined time period since reception of the first signal, to provide a detection signal in response to the detecting step.

In accordance with a fifth aspect, the invention provides a computer program having a program code for performing the method of operating a movable device, the method including the steps of:

    • detecting that an object is located in the vicinity of or at the movable device; and
    • in response to the step of detecting, when it has been detected that the object is located in the vicinity of or at the movable device, transmitting a first signal having a first signal speed, and transmitting a second signal having a second signal speed which is smaller than the first signal speed,
      when the program runs on a computer.

In accordance with a sixth aspect, the invention provides a computer program having a program code for performing the method of receiving signals from a movable device, the method including the steps of:

    • receiving a first signal having a first signal speed and a second signal having a second signal speed which is smaller than the first signal speed; and
    • detecting whether the second signal has been received within a predetermined time period since reception of the first signal, to provide a detection signal in response to the detecting step,
      when the program runs on a computer.

The present invention is based on the findings that the use of two signals having different signal speeds is optimal for achieving a robust and nevertheless/still efficient and accurate detection of a contact with a movable device. In accordance with the invention, a detector within the movable device, i.e., for example, within a football, detects whether an object, such as a football player's leg, is located in the vicinity of the football. This is performed, for example, by pressure, acceleration or vibration measurements or by contactless measurement.

Once a detection has been made to the effect that the object is located in the vicinity of the movable device, the transmitter module is controlled to transmit two signals having different signal speeds. A receiver device connected to the object will detect the first signal and then wait for a certain time period for reception of the second signal having a lower signal speed. If the signal having the lower signal speed is detected within the predetermined time period which starts upon reception of the first, fast signal, it shall be assumed, in accordance with the invention, that the object which has received both the first and, within the predetermined time period, also the second signal, was in contact with the movable device. This is reflected in that a detector which has detected reception of the second signal within the predetermined time period provides a detector output signal, a memory subsequently storing the fact that there has been a detector output signal, i.e. that it is very likely for a ball contact to have occurred. Alternatively or in addition, an absolute moment in time at which the detector signal has occurred may be stored in the memory, so that when one thinks of a football match, a sequence of moments result which may then, e.g. after a match or during a match, be read out to ascertain, as a function thereof, how many ball contacts a player had, or generally speaking, how many contacts an object had with the movable device.

If one assumes that, e.g., several football players are near a ball, the fast signal will be detected by several receiver devices. However, if the predetermined time duration is selected such that it is very likely that really only that receiver device which is located closest to the movable device can receive the second signal within the predetermined time period, while receiver devices which are more remote will also receive the second signal, but only after the predetermined time duration has expired, no ball contact will be registered for those players.

By setting the predetermined time duration in the receiver devices worn, or carried, by the player, it is thus possible to set the accuracy and/or the range to be detected. For this purpose, no access to the ball itself is required.

In addition, the use of two signals of different speeds allows to dispense with any complicated and, thus, failure-prone electronics in the ball itself. One only needs to make sure that the ball has a proximity detector which operates in a contact-controlled or non-contact manner and which will then control the transmission of the two signals of different delay times. Thus, no complicated electronics are required within the ball itself, which is a considerable advantage in particular since the forces and accelerations acting on the ball may be huge, so that there is a very rough environment for there to be an electronic system within the ball.

On the receiver side, no personal identification or the like is required, which is of considerable advantage -particularly if one considers that what is dealt with here is a mass product, i.e. that may players are to be provided with receiver devices—since thus, all receiver devices may operate in an identical manner and do not require any specific identification, which also renders the receiver devices simple and low in or even completely free from maintenance. In addition, a simple and robust structure also ensures safety from tampering.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

These and other objects and features of the present invention will become clear from the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawing, in which:

FIG. 1 is a schematic sketch of a pitch including a movable device and several objects provided with receivers;

FIG. 2 depicts a player with a football as an example of a movable device;

FIG. 3 is a schematic system sketch;

FIG. 4a is a more detailed view of the functional groups within the movable device;

FIG. 4b is a more detailed representation of the transmitter module of FIG. 4a;

FIG. 5a is a block diagram representation of the receiver device; and

FIG. 5b is a more detailed representation of the receiver device of FIG. 5a.

DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

To improve one's skills in a ball game or to be able to compare oneself to other players, objective data must be obtained in a simple manner. This data must be visualized such that a training feedback or a comparison to other players is possible. To this end, respective components are provided within the game device, and, if need be, a data detection device including a display unit is provided.

In a low-cost system, recognition of a person cannot be effected via delay times of the radio signals. To this end, the incoming radio signals would have to be compared to a highly accurate time reference. Also, a network would have to be built within which all times measured are compared to determine that player who is closest to the ball. Therefore, one concludes, from the transmission of a radio signal and an acoustic signal, as to who had the last ball contact.

By measuring the forces acting on the game device, one may also infer the shot force or the rotational speed of the game device. If this entails an energy observation, the individual player can learn to control his/her influence on the game device.

Further advantages result from the further claims and subclaims and from the following description.

Before the invention will be described in detail, it shall be pointed out that it is not limited to the particular components of the device or to the procedure discussed, since these components and methods may vary. The expressions used here are merely intended to describe particular embodiments, and are not used by way of limitation. If the singular form or indefinite articles are used in the description and in the claims, they also relate to the plural form of these elements, unless the overall context clearly indicates otherwise. The same applies in the opposite direction.

FIG. 3 shows a schematic system sketch. In particular, it shows a device for detecting the force and/or motion ratios on a game device 7, such as a ball, an assembly 15 being provided in the ball which is populated with several electronic components. Instead of the assembly, the electronic components may also be disposed on the ball's jacket, for example on the inside, or be suspended within the center of the ball.

At least one of the following electronic components is provided within the game device:

    • a transmitter 4 for acoustic or ultrasonic waves for transmitting an acoustic signal,
    • a pressure sensor 10,
    • an acceleration sensor,
    • at least one Hall sensor 16,
    • at least two magnetoresistive sensors,
    • at least two coils.

The electronic components are in connection with a receiver 2 via transmitter 4 for the acoustic or ultrasonic waves, or at least via a radio transmitter 3, for example via radio 1, for example to transfer the data detected by the electronic components. In addition, a microcontroller 11 is provided for processing the data. This data can then be transferred to a data detection device 12. An evaluation unit 13 is provided for evaluating the data detected which is presented, if need be, on a display unit 14. Data detection device 12 preferably is associated with at least one player 6, preferably however with all players of a game to thereby perform a localization, for example, of the nearest player, as will be explained later on.

For some games, such as in a football match, it is often interesting to know who had the most ball contacts. To determine this, one must ascertain, during the ball contact, who has touched the ball.

In a low-cost system, recognition of the person cannot be performed via delay times of the radio signals. To this end, the arriving radio signals would have to be compared with a highly accurate time reference, and a network would have to be built wherein all measured times are compared in order to determine that player who is located closest to the ball. Alternatively, the field strength of the transmitter at the ball could be used to estimate a distance. However, this is imprecise.

To keep cost low, the delay time of sound is measured within the device. To this end, game device 7 emits, when recognizing a force being exerted upon it, an acoustic signal as a sound or ultrasound by a transmitter 4. At the same time, a radio transmitter 3 transmits a radio signal. The receiver 2 of a data detection device associated with player 6 registers the acoustic signal and also the radio signal. The time difference yields the distance from the ball. As soon as the radio signal is recognized, the acoustic signal is awaited to arrive for 5 ms. If an acoustic impulse is recognized within this time period, one may assume that receiver 2 of the data detection device 12 associated with player 6 is spaced away from the ball by 1.5 meters at a maximum. It is then very likely that this player has touched the ball. Preferably, each player 6 carries, or wears, such a receiver. The number of acoustic impulses recognized is counted and displayed. Using this information and the hour of the event, one may then determine, in a subsequent interplay of all data of all data detection units 12, how many ball contacts a player 6 had. It is even possible to make statistic statements about how successful passes were, since the target of a pass may be determined by a time comparison. This may be used to detect the following, for example:

    • Who lost the ball how many times to the opponent?
    • Were the ball contacts constant over the playing time and was there a drop in performance?
    • Who played how many passes to whom?
    • How often did a move pass several players of the same team?

The evaluation unit 13 thus has a means for evaluating whether an acoustic signal of transmitter 4 for the ball or ultrasonic waves arrives within a predetermined time period after the arrival of the radio signal.

Equally important is the detection of the shot force and the flying speed of a game device 7 which may be determined therefrom. Thus, in a football game there is often the question of who has the “hardest” shot. In particular for this embodiment, but also for the other embodiments there is the possibility of integrating the evaluation unit 13 also into the assembly 15 within the game device 7. A sensor measuring the shot force may be mounted in game device 7. This sensor is preferably a pressure sensor 10 or an acceleration sensor. The information of this sensor is measured by an internal microcontroller and transferred, for example, to display unit 14 on data detection device 12 of the player. For determining the shot force, it is necessary to measure the energy the ball has been imparted during the shot. To this end, the evaluation unit 13 has means for detecting the pressure, determined by pressure sensor 10, over time or for detecting the acceleration detected by the acceleration sensor. In addition, provision is made for calculating means for calculating the force applied to ball 7 on the part of player 6 using the pressure curve or acceleration curve.

With the acceleration sensor, the acceleration is measured directly and reported to the microcontroller within game device 7. Said microcontroller calculates the force that has acted upon the ball from the known mass of the ball and the acceleration measured. These calculations also include the aerodynamics and the time curve of the energy transferred to the ball. The calculation comprises not only transferring the overall energy to the evaluation unit 13, but also comprises transferring the time curve of the energy transferral to the ball.

In the alternative use of a pressure sensor 10, one measures how the internal pressure of the ball increases during a shot. These pressure changes and the associated time curve allow the microcontroller within the ball to determine the force that has been exerted on the ball. Using the pressure measurement, it is possible to ascertain how much the ball was deformed. The higher the level of deformation, the larger the shot force. To this end, the peak value and the pressure curve of the internal pressure are measured using pressure sensor 10. Using a group of curves, the energy supplied to the ball is measured. For example, the group of curves may be determined in advance in a empirical manner, by means of a shooting system and is different for each type of ball.

Then the shot force may be determined in very accurately from the energy transferred and the time curve. Beside the shot force, the overall energy may also be displayed. This allows to obtain information about the type of shot. Thus, the ball may be played with much more precision on an even energy supply. Thus, if the duration of the energy supply is displayed additionally, for which purpose additional detection means may be provided, this may also be trained.

The energy may be used to infer the flying speed the ball has obtained. To this end, the weight and aerodynamics of the ball are taken into account. The flying speed determined is the value that is reached when the ball may fly off freely after the shot. In addition to the action of force, the time of the ball being hit, and the time of the ball touching down may also be determined using pressure sensor 10 and/or the acceleration sensor. By means of the force information and the time duration of the flight, it is quite readily possible to calculate the distance the ball must have flown.

In addition, components such as at least one Hall sensor 16, at least two magneto-resistive sensors or at least two coils may be provided for determining the rotational speed of game device 7. This information may be used for training so-called “curling crosses” in football. To this end, it is important for the user to immediately get a feedback about his/her shot. For this purpose, the rotational speed within the ball is measured and transmitted via radio 1 to the player's 6 data detection device 12. The components are to be arranged such that during their movement when the game device 7 is rotating in an energy field, a modulation frequency determinable by the evaluation unit 13 will result which can be converted into the rotational speed.

For example, the sensor, e.g. the Hall sensor 16, measures the earth's magnetic field and determines the field strength. When the ball rotates, the field strength undergoes a modulation. The frequency of the modulation is directly proportional to the rotational speed of the ball. During the measurement of the earth's magnetic field, the directional vector of the magnetic field is determined. The rotation of this vector is proportional to the rotation of the ball. Alternatively, the field strength may be measured with magneto-resistive sensors as resistors depending on the magnetic field. They may be connected to form a bridge. The output signal of the bridge may be amplified using a differential amplifier. The output voltage is a direct measure of the field strength of the magnetic field. For the purposes of measuring the rotation, neither a linearity of the voltage nor a determination of the direction of the field is required. When the ball rotates, the output voltage has an alternating voltage superimposed on it, the frequency of which is the rotational frequency of the ball. The frequency of this alternating voltage is the rotational frequency of the ball. Evaluation of this voltage may either be performed discretely via an analog circuit or using a microcontroller. To obtain a signal that can be evaluated for each possible axis of rotation of the ball, two sensors offset by 90° are used.

The field strength may also be measured using the Hall sensor 16. Hall sensors generate a voltage in proportion to the field strength. This voltage may be amplified using a differential amplifier. The output voltage is a direct measure of the field strength of the magnetic field. For the purposes of measuring the rotation, neither a linearity of the voltage nor a determination of the direction of the field is required. When the ball rotates, the output voltage has an alternating voltage superimposed on it, the frequency of which is the rotational frequency of the ball. Here, too, two sensors are preferably arranged such that they are offset by 90 degrees relative to one another.

Alternatively, it is also possible to make coils rotate in a magnetic field, so that a voltage is induced in the coils. The frequency of the voltage is proportional to the rotational frequency. However, the voltage must be amplified and filtered, since the coils may also act as antennas. Here, too, a discrete evaluation or an evaluation via the microcontroller is possible, and preferably two coils are arranged such that they are offset by 90 degrees relative to one another.

To determine the rotational speed, radio transmitters may also be used. In this case, the change of the field strength of any radio transmitter, for example a medium-wave transmitter, is used. The frequency of the change in field strength is proportional to the rotational frequency. Beside a dipole, a coil or a ferrite antenna may be used as an antenna. Since there are enough active long-, medium-, and short-wave transmitters in each country, there is no need in the system to operate one's own transmitters. If transmitters having a relatively high frequency are to be used as the reference, a dipole antenna is a possibility, which dipole antenna may be deposited, for example, on the ball's electronic system or even on the ball's envelope in the form of conductive traces. A frame antenna is suitable for low frequencies. It may be deposited as a coil in the form of conductive traces for assembly 15 of the ball's electronic system. A ferrite antenna is suitable for low frequencies. It may be constructed to be very small and will nevertheless generate a relatively large output signal. With all antennas it is necessary for two receive directions to be built up, so that a signal can be measured at any axis of rotation. The only thing that is important with signal measurement is the field strength. For this purpose, an amplifier having a high level of dynamics is necessary. The amplification should be logarithmic, for example, so that the A/D converter of the microcontroller need not be too wide.

An extremely low-power microcontroller takes on the data and the control of the ball's electronic system. Said microcontroller is woken up at the start of the game. If the microcontroller has not observed any game for a relatively long period, it will automatically switch off. The main task of microcontroller 11, which may be integrated in the data detection device in the game device as well as, or in addition to, microcontroller 11, is to process the data such that it can be transmitted via radio 1 with as little energy as possible. The data is preferably transmitted several times via radio, e.g. via a 2.4 GHz radio link, so as to be able to correct any errors.

Current supply may be realized in two known ways. On the one hand, one may use an accumulator, which, however, requires charging equipment. On the other hand, one may use a primary battery 21 within the data detection device and a primary battery 22 within game device 7, it not being possible, however, for the latter to be replaced within the ball.

In the accumulator version, a charging coil is mounted within the ball, using which the accumulator may be loaded in an inductive manner. With the version including battery 22, the ball is supplied using lithium batteries. The capacitance is designed such that the functionality of the electronic system is ensured for 1000 hours. With an average playing time of 1 hour per day, the battery would last for three years.

Within data detection device 12, a transceiver is integrated as a receive unit 2. Said transceiver receives the data from the ball and/or can establish a connection to other data detection devices in order to exchange data. Transmission and reception of data takes place, e.g., within the 2.4 GHz band.

The transceiver may receive and transmit data. Thus, it is possible to couple the data detection devices to one another. Thereby, the ball contacts can be transmitted to the other data detection devices during the game, so that a very accurate statistical set of data will be created in the network so as to be able to judge the game. If need be, it is also possible, by means of the data transmission, to facilitate small computer games in which the users may play in a networked manner.

The data within data detection device 12 is processed using a relatively large microcontroller 11. This microcontroller is extremely low in its power consumption. The data is exchanged via the transceiver and visualized on a display unit 14.

The data processed is displayed using a graphic display. The display has an integrated controller, to which the microcontroller is connected. Operation is effected via several keys 20, the function of which is dynamic.

The current supply of data detection device 12 must be highly power-saving. Battery 21 may be replaced. Microcontroller 11 and the display are extremely power-saving. Data transmission is designed such that the transceiver is in operation only for a very short time in each case.

With the ball version including an accumulator, a charging station is necessary. Since there is no line connection to the ball's electronic system, it is necessary to inductively charge the ball in a known manner. To this end, the charging station comprises a transmitter coil with which the energy is transferred into the ball.

In order to be able to communicate with other evaluation units, it is necessary to convert the radio communication to a different protocol. Since it is with a probability of 99% that a common PC will be used, a conversion in accordance with, e.g., USB is envisaged.

A more detailed description will be given below of the interacting components of the preferred concept, i.e. of the movable device of FIG. 4a and FIG. 4b, and of the receiver device of FIGS. 5a and 5b. Movable device 7 contains a detector 23 which may be, e.g., the pressure sensor 10 of FIG. 3 and which detects if ball 7 is touched. However, detector 23 may include a contactless sensor which operates in an electric, acoustic, optical or electromagnetic manner and detects, for example, whether a magnetic or electric field of any kind which is generated, e.g., by a respective transmitter within a football player's shoe approaches the ball. Detector 23 is configured to detect that an object, i.e., for example, a leg, a foot, a shoe, a racket, a bat, or the like, is positioned in the vicinity of or at the game device.

In addition, mobile device 7 includes a transmitter module 24 configured to transmit a first signal having a first signal speed, and to further transmit a second signal having a second signal speed which is smaller than the first signal speed. The transmitter module is configured to transmit the first and second signals in response to a detector output signal, as is shown by signal arrow 25 in FIG. 4a.

As has already been set forth, detector 23 is a touch sensor configured to detect the movable device being touched by the object. Such a touch sensor is, for example, the pressure sensor, however, it is also an acceleration sensor or any other sensor detecting whether the object engages with the surface of game device 7. Alternatively, the detector may also be configured as a contactless sensor which, as has been set forth, detects in some way that there is an object in the vicinity of the movable device. A contactless sensor which detects whether an object is located at a predetermined distance, which is smaller than or equal to 10 cm, from the movable device is suitable for specific embodiments. Then it is very likely for the object to actually touch the movable device, since the only aim is to cause the object to touch the movable device, for example when one thinks of a football as the movable device, or of a tennis ball. One may assume, with a probability of almost one hundred percent, that once the object is located within the predetermined distance, the object will eventually have contact with the movable device.

The transmitter module is configured to send two signals having different signal speeds. Preferably, a radio signal generated by radio transmitter 3 is used as the first, fast signal. The second signal is generated by a sound transmitter 26 preferably configured as an ultrasonic transmitter. Both transmitters are controlled by the detector signal supplied via line 25, so as to send both signals at the same time or essentially at the same time, i.e. within a period of, e.g., 1 to 2 ms, in response to the detector signal. Alternatively, however, the transmitters may be configured such that the radio transmitter sends the first signal at a specific moment determined by detector signal 25, and that the ultrasonic transmitter then waits for a predetermined time duration before the ultrasonic signal is transmitted. Here, the reception of the radio transmitter would also not immediately cause a chronometer to be activated on the receiver side, but the chronometer would be activated within a predefined time duration upon reception of the first signal, i.e. not immediately upon reception of the first signal, but depending on the reception of the first signal.

Alternatively, ball-contact detection could also be used to initially send the ultrasonic signal and then, after a specific time duration, the radio signal which will then overtake the ultrasonic signal, as it were, so that on the receiver side, a very short. predetermined time duration is sufficient, within which the radio signal and the ultrasonic signal will arrive. However, it is preferred that both transmitters send their signals at the same time and that an accordingly longer predetermined time duration be employed on the receiver side, and/or that on the receiver side, the chronometer be started immediately upon reception of the radio transmitter.

The predetermined time duration depends on the difference of the speeds of the first, fast signal and the second, slow signal. The smaller this difference in speeds, the smaller the predetermined time duration that may be selected. The larger the difference in speeds, the longer the predetermined time duration that must be set. In addition, the predetermined time duration depends on whether the first and second signals are really sent at the same time, or whether the first and second signals are sent with an offset in time, a delay in the second signal with regard to the first signals leading to a delay in the start of the predetermined time duration, while a delay of the first signal relative to the second signal leads to a smaller predetermined time duration. In general, however, predetermined time durations of less than 5 ms are preferred, as has already been set forth.

As is. depicted in FIG. 5b, on the receiver side, the receiver module is in connection with a detector 28 which may be coupled to a memory 29 or which may be coupled to a further radio transmitter within the receiver device, which is not shown in FIG. 5a, however. The detector and memory 29 are preferably contained within evaluation unit 13 of FIG. 3. The receiver device overall shown at the bottom of FIG. 3, or the receiver device shown in FIG. 5a, is preferably configured such that it is integrated into a watch, or has the shape and looks of a watch, so that it may readily be worn by, e.g., a football player or a tennis player without said player being adversely affected in practicing his/her sport. Generally speaking, the receiver device is mountable to the object whose vicinity to the mobile device is detected by detector 23 in FIG. 4a, and comprises an appropriate fixing device which is not shown in FIG. 5a but which has the shape, for example, of a watchstrap, a fixture for a watchstrap, a clip or a different mounting device which may be secured in some way to the object and/or to a player.

The receiver module 2 is configured to receive the first signal having the first signal speed and the second signal having the second signal speed, which is smaller than the first signal speed. In addition, detector 28 is configured to provide a detector signal indicating whether the second signal has been received within a predetermined time duration since reception of the first signal. In addition, the detector is preferably coupled to memory 29 which is configured to store the moment when the detector provides the detector signal. Alternatively, a further transmitter may be present instead of the memory, the transmitter being configured to send the detector signal to a central detection point where, e.g., an online evaluation of ball contacts for the individual players is performed.

Such an online detection point would be, for example, a receiver arranged somewhere in the vicinity of a football pitch. In this case, any receiver device would send, on the output side, a contact with the movable device together with an identification for the player wearing the receiver device, so that indisputable statistical data can be obtained as to which player had how many ball contacts.

Recently, one has found that such information about ball contacts etc. are increasingly detected, shown and provided to a large audience and/or the commentator, for example, in football matches, so as to increase the information content for the viewers.

In the implementation with memory 29, for example, no central receiver device is required on the football pitch. Instead, the memory may be evaluated, for example, at half-time or at the end of the game, or in a contactless manner during the game without any interaction on the part of any player, so as to either obtain a count value for each player indicating how often the player had contact with the movable device. In this case, player 29 would be implemented as a counter incremented by 1 during each detection of the detector signal. Alternatively or in addition, the memory may also detect an absolute time of a clock, or watch, preferably contained within the receiver device and depicted at 30 in FIG. 5b. Then the memory would store a sequence of moments in time which may then be. evaluated to be able to establish, for each player, a “ball-contact profile” over time. Here, it may also be possible to subsequently correct any erroneous detections that may have taken place, for example if one found out that more than two players had contact with the ball at the same time. Simultaneous contact of two players is relatively likely, for example when one thinks of a “50/50 ball”. However, a contact of, e.g., three players with the ball at the same time, becomes very unlikely in football. However, in tennis, for example, a contact of two tennis rackets at the same time is already impossible, so that here, additional information about typical situations, in a sport, involving the movable game device may be used to perform an evaluation wherein errors may be eliminated.

FIG. 5b shows a more specific embodiment of the receiver shown in FIG. 5a. The receiver module comprises, on the one hand, a radio receiver 32 for receiving the first, fast signal, and an ultrasonic receiver 32 for receiving the second, slower signal. Radio receivers and ultrasonic receivers may also be configured differently, as long as they receive any signals having different signal speeds. Depending on a radio signal received, a detector 28 activates a chronometer 31 via a start line 35. Once a predetermined time duration and/or the predetermined time period has expired, the chronometer is stopped, which will typically be performed such that the chronometer 31, which is set to the predetermined time period, will provide a stop signal to the detector via a stop line 36.

If the detector detects an ultrasonic signal upon receiving the stop signal, no detector signal will be output on a line 37. In this case, it is actually assumed that the receiver device is located at such a long distance from the movable device that it is very likely for the movable device to not have been hit. However, if an ultrasonic signal is received by the detector before receiving the stop signal, i.e. before the predetermined time period has expired, the detector signal 37 will be output, which will then be. stored by the memory, the memory being, for example, a counter incremented by 1 by the detector signal.

Alternatively, the detector signal is supplied to a clock, or watch, which performs absolute time measurement, which, e.g., may be an actual absolute time of the day, but which, e.g., is also an absolute time which begins, e.g., at the beginning of the game and is thus not directly an absolute time, but renders one minute of, e.g., a football game. At the time of the detector signal, clock 30 will then provide its current reading via a data line 38, so that the memory is then able to store this specific moment in time. A random evaluation of the players' activity may be performed by means of an evaluation unit having an interface, as may be implemented, for example, by display unit 14 in FIG. 3 or in Fig. 5b, which cooperates, in particular, with microcontroller 11 of FIG. 3.

Depending on the circumstances, the inventive methods may be implemented in hardware or in software. The implementation may be on a digital storage medium, in particular a disk or a CD with electronically readable control signals which may cooperate with a programmable computer system in such a manner that the respective method is performed. Generally, the invention thus also consists in a computer program product having a program code, stored on a machine-readable carrier, for performing the inventive method, when the computer program product runs on a computer. In other words, the present invention is thus also a computer program having a program code for performing the method of converting, when the computer program runs on a computer.

While this invention has been described in terms of several preferred embodiments, there are alterations, permutations, and equivalents which fall within the scope of this invention. It should also be noted that there are many alternative ways of implementing the methods and compositions of the present invention. It is therefore intended that the following appended claims be interpreted as including all such alterations, permutations, and equivalents as fall within the true spirit and scope of the present invention.