Title:
Interactive toy including transparent container
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A device in a form of an interactive toy having a transparent container, a sensor positioned in proximity to and/or within the container to sense a user interaction in proximity to the container, a rendering device, operationally coupled to the sensor and arranged to render a user perceivable response if the sensor senses the interaction in proximity to the container; and an object positioned within the container and operationally positioned regarding the rendering device. The rendered user perceivable response may occur in proximity to the object. The sensor may be a passive infrared motion sensor and the container may be arranged to enable the sensor to sense the interaction in proximity to the container.



Inventors:
Wendorf, Sonia (Wyoming, MI, US)
Application Number:
11/549630
Publication Date:
04/19/2007
Filing Date:
10/13/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63H29/22
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HARPER, TRAMAR
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
THORNE & HALAJIAN, LLP (Northport, NY, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An interactive toy comprising: a transparent container; a sensor operationally positioned to the container and configured to sense an interaction in proximity to the container; a rendering device, operationally coupled to the sensor and configured to render a user perceivable response if the sensor senses the interaction in proximity to the container; and an object positioned within the container and operationally positioned regarding the rendering device, wherein the rendered user perceivable response occurs in proximity to the object.

2. The interactive toy of claim 1, wherein the sensor is a passive infrared motion sensor, and wherein the container is configured to enable the sensor to sense the interaction in proximity to the container.

3. The interactive toy of claim 2, wherein the sensor is positioned within the container, wherein the container comprises a lid and wherein the lid is configured to enable the sensor to sense the interaction in proximity to the container.

4. The interactive toy of claim 3, wherein the sensor is arranged to be concealed within an underside of the lid.

5. The interactive toy of claim 1, wherein the sensor is configured to sense a characteristic of the interaction, wherein the rendering device is configured to render the user perceivable response in dependence on the sensed characteristic.

6. The interactive toy of claim 5, wherein the sensed characteristic is at least one of a degree of motion, a degree of proximity, and a degree of interaction.

7. The interactive toy of claim 6, wherein the sensed characteristic includes at least a duration of interaction.

8. The interactive toy of claim 5, wherein the rendering device is configured to render different user perceivable responses in dependence on different sensed characteristics.

9. The interactive toy of claim 1, wherein the rendering device is arranged to diminish the user perceivable response over time to no user perceivable response starting after the sensor not sensing interaction in proximity to the container that follows the sensor sensing interaction in proximity to the container.

10. The interactive toy of claim 1, wherein the rendering device is a light source and wherein the user perceivable response is a lighting effect.

11. The interactive toy of claim 1, wherein the object is configured in a form of one of a fantasy creature and an insect creature.

12. The interactive toy of claim 10, wherein the object is configured in a form of a fairy comprising wings, wherein the rendering device is arranged behind the wings, and wherein the rendered user perceivable response is visible to the user as modified by the wings.

13. The interactive toy of claim 12, wherein the wings are arranged as translucent wings and the rendered user perceivable response is visible to the user through the translucent wings.

14. The interactive toy of claim 12, wherein the wings are arranged as opaque wings and the rendered user perceivable response is visible to the user around the opaque wings.

15. The interactive toy of claim 1, wherein the object is arranged as a translucent object and the rendered user perceivable response is visible to the user through the translucent system.

16. The interactive toy of claim 1, wherein the object is arranged as an opaque object and the rendered user perceivable response is visible to the user around the opaque object.

17. The interactive toy of claim 1, wherein the interaction in proximity to the container is a user interaction.

18. The interactive toy of claim 1, wherein the container is configured in a form of a mason jar.

19. The interactive toy of claim 1, wherein the rendering device comprises a plurality of light sources and wherein the user perceivable response is a lighting pattern.

20. The interactive toy of claim 1, wherein the rendering device is arranged to produce a response in multiple modalities and wherein the user perceivable response is a pattern of modalities.

Description:

The present system relates to an interactive light emitting toy.

Many commercial systems are known that respond to user interaction by turning on a light. Sound and/or motion sensor may be incorporated as a switch to control turning on a light source.

For example, outdoor lighting may respond to motion across a field of view for both lighting a path of travel and security, by providing a lighting source responsive to the motion. Switches responsive to sound may be utilized for convenience such as the advertised Smart Clapper™ which is an acoustically operated electromechanical switch that responds to sound, by closing a switch, thereby providing power to an electrical device, such as a light. This type of system usually stays in a given state (connected appliance on or off) until a subsequent triggering sound.

Interactive toys are known that respond to sound and touch. For example Furbies™ are interactive creatures that respond to a limited speech set. Touch sensitive toys, such as Tickle Me Elmo™ respond to touch. Each of these toys elicits user interaction through a given modality, such as sound or touch.

It is an object of the present system to overcome disadvantages in the prior art and/or to provide a different type of interactive toy.

The present system includes a device formed as an interactive toy having a transparent container, a sensor positioned in proximity to and/or within the container to sense a user interaction in proximity to the container. The device further includes a rendering device, operationally coupled to the sensor and arranged to render a user perceivable response if the sensor senses the interaction in proximity to the container; and an object positioned within the container and operationally positioned regarding the rendering device. The rendered user perceivable response may occur in proximity to the object.

In one embodiment, the sensor may be a passive infrared motion sensor and the container may be arranged to enable the sensor to sense the interaction in proximity to the container. The container may include a lid arranged to enable the sensor to sense the interaction in proximity to the container. In an embodiment including a lid, the sensor may be arranged concealed within an underside of the lid.

The sensor may be arranged to sense a characteristic of the interaction and the rendering device may render the user perceivable response in dependence on the sensed characteristic. The sensed characteristic may be a degree of motion, a degree of proximity, and/or a degree of interaction.

The rendering device may render different user perceivable responses in dependence on different sensed characteristics of the interaction. The rendering device may diminish the user perceivable response over time to no user perceivable response starting after the sensor not sensing interaction in proximity to the container that follows the sensor sensing interaction in proximity to the container. The rendering device may be a light source and the user perceivable response may be a lighting effect.

The object may be in a form of a fantasy creature or an insect creature. When the object is in a form of a fairy comprising wings, the rendering device may be arranged behind the wings, and the rendered user perceivable response may be visible to the user as modified by the wings. In an embodiment wherein the wings are arranged as translucent wings, the rendered user perceivable response may be visible to the user through the translucent wings. In an alternate embodiment wherein the wings are arranged as opaque wings, the rendered user perceivable response may be visible to the user around the opaque wings.

Similarly, in an embodiment wherein the object is arranged as a translucent object, the rendered user perceivable response may be visible to the user through the translucent object. In another embodiment, where the object is arranged as an opaque object, the rendered user perceivable response may be visible to the user around the opaque object. The interaction in proximity to the container may be a user interaction. The container may be in a form of a mason jar.

The present invention is explained in further detail, and by way of example, with reference to the accompanying drawings wherein:

FIGS. 1A, 1B, 1C shows an illustrative device in accordance with an embodiment of the present system;

FIG. 2 shows illustrative details of a device in accordance with an embodiment of the present system;

FIG. 3 shows details of a portion of an illustrative device in accordance with an embodiment of the present system;

FIG. 4 shows illustrative details of a further device in accordance with an embodiment of the present system;

FIG. 5 shows details of a portion of an illustrative device in accordance with an embodiment of the present system;

FIG. 6 shows an illustrative device in accordance with an embodiment of the present system;

FIG. 7 shows a further illustrative device in accordance with an embodiment of the present system; and

FIGS. 8A, 8B show an illustrative interaction with an embodiment in accordance with the present system.

The following are descriptions of illustrative embodiments that when taken in conjunction with the following drawings will demonstrate the above noted features and advantages, as well as further ones. In the following description, for purposes of explanation rather than limitation, specific details are set forth such as the particular architecture, interfaces, techniques, etc., for illustration. However, it will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art that other embodiments that depart from these specific details would still be understood to be within the scope of the appended claims. Moreover, for the purpose of clarity, detailed descriptions of well-known devices, circuits, and methods are omitted so as not to obscure the description of the present system.

It should be expressly understood that the drawings are included for illustrative purposes and do not represent the scope of the present system. In the accompanying drawings, like reference numerals in different drawings may designate similar functional elements.

The present system is an interactive toy which responds to an interaction, such as a user's interaction with the interactive toy. For example, in one embodiment the present device may glow in response to a user's movements towards and/or around it. The interactive toy is portable in size and thereby allows the user to transport it to different locations as desired. An embodiment in accordance with the present system is shown in FIGS. 1A, 1B, 1C which depict an embodiment 100 in a form of a fairy-shaped object 110 in a transparent container depicted as a mason jar shaped container 120. The container may be formed from a plastic, glass, or other suitable transparent material, including a translucent (e.g., tinted) material. The fairy 110 is illustratively shown having two pairs of wings 112, 114 although even in this fairy-shaped embodiment, more or less wings may be suitably utilized. In one embodiment, the wings 112, 114 may be formed from any suitable translucent material For example, the wings 112, 114 may be formed from an inorganic material, such as plastic, and/or an organic material, such as cotton, silk, etc. In another embodiment, the wings 112, 114 may be formed from an opaque material. As may be readily apparent to a person of ordinary skill in the art, the fairy 110 and/or the container 120 may be made from other suitable materials in accordance with the present system. The shape of the fairy 110 in this embodiment may evoke a connection in a user with butterflies, fireflies, and/or other familiar creatures or insects that may be captured in a mason jar, and in this way, the present system 100 may be perceptually connected by the user back to memories of capturing such insects and/or be perceived as nostalgic of such a time. The fairy 110 responds to the user's interaction, such as movement, for example of a hand of the user, before a sensor (e.g., motion sensor) as described further herein.

FIG. 2 shows a device 200 in accordance with an embodiment of the present system. The device 200 has a sensor 210, illustratively shown as a motion sensor, operationally coupled to a power source 220 and a ground reference potential 230. The sensor 210 may be any type of sensor that responds to a proximity condition such as motion of a radiant body as for example may be produced by a hand of a user moving in proximity to the sensor 210. For example, in one embodiment, the sensor 210 may be a passive infrared motion sensor that detects motion, for example of a radiant object, as may be readily appreciated by a person of ordinary skill in the art. In another embodiment, the sensor 210 may be an active device that establishes an electric field and detects disturbances within the electric field that may be caused by an object passing though the electric field. The sensor 210 may alternately or additionally detect radiant energy, such as sound or light, whether or not the radiant energy originates from a moving source. As may be readily appreciated by a person of ordinary skill in the art, numerous alternate types of sensors and/or combinations of sensor may be suitably applied.

In any event, the illustrative sensor 210 may be operationally formed and positioned to detect motion in proximity to the container 120. The sensor 210 may be positioned proximate to the fairy 110 or may be positioned proximate to a portion of the container 120, such as a covering portion 122, illustratively formed as a lid for the mason jar shaped container 120 embodiment shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 shows a detail 324 of a similar lid 322. In this embodiment, the lid 322 has a cut-out portion 326 under which, a sensor in accordance with the present system may be operationally positioned to detect user interaction in proximity to the lid 322. In other embodiments, a sensor in accordance with the present system may be positioned and/or be configured to detect user interaction. For example, in one embodiment, the sensor may be positioned within the container (e.g., container 120) as long as the sensor, container and/or lid is configured to enable detection of an interaction, such as an interaction by the user. For example, the sensor may be a passive infrared sensor positioned within the container as long as the container and/or lid is configured to pass infrared radiation into the container.

Returning to FIG. 2, the sensor 210 is further coupled through as output 212 to an activated response, illustratively shown as a light emitting source 260 including a pair of light emitting diodes (LEDs), though a resistor 250. The output 212 of the sensor 210 is also operationally coupled to a first capacitive coupling 242 of a capacitor 240. A second capacitive coupling 244 of the capacitor 240 may be operationally coupled to a similar ground reference potential as the ground reference potential 230.

In operation, the sensor 210 in detecting motion that is proximate to the device 200 (e.g., interactive toy depicted in FIG. 1), provides a voltage and current through the output 212 to the light emitting source 260 via the resistor 250. In response to the voltage and current, the light emitting source 260 begins emitting light which continues for the duration of detected proximate motion. During the interval of user interaction, the capacitor 240 charges to the voltage provided by the output 212. After the proximate motion ceases to be detected, the sensor 210 stops providing the voltage and current to the output 212. During this time, voltage is provided by the charged capacitor 240 which discharges at an exponential rate related to the impedance provided by the resistor 250 and the light emitting source 260, and the capacitance of the capacitor 240 as is known in the art. By selecting the combination of capacitance of the capacitor 240 and resistance of the resistor 250, the light emitting source 260 may remain illuminated for a period of time after the proximate motion has ceased or at least is ceased to be detected by the sensor 210.

In an embodiment wherein the light emitting source 260 is configured as such, for example as an incandescent light source, the light emitting source 260 may dim as the voltage provided by the capacitor 240 discharges.

In this or further embodiments, the sensor 210 may be configured to adjust a brightness of illumination of the light emitting source 260 based on characteristics of the user interaction, such as proximate motion. This characteristic is illustratively shown in FIGS. 1B and 1C through use of illumination indications 130, 130A wherein the size of the indication is intended to relate to a level of brightness of a light emitting source 160. As shown, as a hand 190 of a user enters into (e.g., FIG. 1B), and thereafter moves further into a detectable region of a sensor (e.g., FIG. 1C), such as the sensor 210 of FIG. 2, the illumination indication 130 first begins, and thereafter increases in size, thereby indicating an increase in illumination from the light emitting source 160.

Returning to FIG. 2, in one embodiment the sensor 210 may provide a higher voltage to the light emitting source 260 in response to a more proximate motion as opposed to a less proximate motion. In another embodiment, the sensor 210 may provide a higher voltage to the light emitting source 260 in response to more rapid proximate motion as opposed to a less rapid proximate motion. In this way, the fairy 110 may have various reactions corresponding to various user interactions. The various reactions may be any of a user perceivable tactile, auditory, and/or a visual reaction.

FIG. 4 shows an illustrative embodiment of a control circuit 400 in accordance with an embodiment of the present system. The control circuit 400 has an input sensor 410 operationally coupled to an activated response 460 through logic 470. Portions of the control circuit 400 are operationally coupled to a power supply 420, illustratively shown as a battery.

The embodiment shown in FIG. 4 may provide an expansion on or replacement of the embodiment depicted in FIG. 2 by adding logic 470 that may vary the activated response 460 based on, for example, mode(s) and/or characteristic(s) of interaction including length of time of interaction, proximity of interaction, rate of motion, volume of auditory interaction, and other interactions that the input sensor 410 is configured to detect. It should be noted that in this embodiment or other embodiments, interaction with a device including the control circuit 400 may include user induced motion of the device (e.g., the user picking up and/or transporting the device) that may be sensed by the input sensor 410 as the user interaction. In any event, the activated response 460 may vary based on the modes of interaction, the number of modes of interaction (1 or more modes) and/or the characteristics of the modes of interaction. In accordance with an embodiment of the present system wherein the activated response 460 is due to a light source, an illumination pattern of the light source may vary in correspondence with what is detected by the input sensor 410. For example, in an embodiment wherein the input sensor 410 of the interactive toy detects a fast continuous motion, the activated response 460 may be provided in a form of a flickering light source. In this or a further embodiment, if the input sensor 410 detects a long period of interaction, a light intensity, number of illuminated lighting elements (e.g., LEDs) lit, etc., may increase. In a further embodiment, the activated response 460 may result in movement of the fairy 110, in response to a stimulus, such as, proximate motion and/or an auditory interaction. In this embodiment, the movement of the fairy 110 may result from an activated response 460 in a form of a vibrating device, which vibrates when provided with an activating signal. In another embodiment, the activated response may be in a form of or include an auditory response, such as a chirping sound or other auditory response. In any event, the activated response is intended to render a user perceivable response, such as a user perceivable tactile, auditory and/or visual response.

In one embodiment, the sensor 410 and/or logic 470 may be adjustable by a user to enable changes in the modes of interaction detectable by the sensor 410 and/or to enable changes in the produced activated response 460. For example, sensitivity and/or modes of detection of the sensor 410 may be adjustable. In addition or in place of this, the manner and characteristics of the activated response 460 may also be adjusted.

For example, in one embodiment, the activated response 460 may change the modality of the response based on a sensed characteristic of the interaction. In an embodiment wherein the activated response 460 includes a lighting response and a motion response, the activated response to a slow, measured approach to a device including the control circuit 400 may be production of a soft glow. This glow may be perceived as an inviting glow urging further slow interaction. In this or a further embodiment, an interaction that surpasses a threshold, such as caused by a rapid interaction (e.g., quicker motion towards the device) may result in a different activated response, such as a brighter light and/or a motion response moving an object (e.g., the fairy 110 of FIG. 1) away from a direction where the rapid interaction is sensed, as if the interaction has exceeded an acceptable level and the device is startled as exhibited by the different activated response. As the interaction ceases or returns below the threshold, the different activated response may diminish. In this way, the device may be interacted with in numerous ways and combinations.

In an embodiment wherein the activated response 460 is made up of multiple light emitting sources, the multiple light emitting sources may produce light patterns, such as sequencing of the multiple light emitting sources, in color and/or as on and off sequencing, in response to various user interactions. In an embodiment wherein the activated response 460 is operational to produce a response in multiple modalities, similar sequencing and/or combinations of modalities may be produced.

Other variations on the activated response 460 would readily occur to a person of ordinary skill in the art and are intended to be encompassed within the present system.

In accordance wit an embodiment, all or portions of the input sensor 410, logic 470, and/or activated response 460 may be arranged as a processor that may be programmed and/or may be programmable, such as a processor operationally coupled to a memory. In an embodiment with a memory, the memory may be any type of device for storing application data that may be received by the processor for configuring the processor to perform operation acts in accordance with the present system. In a programmed processor, the processor may perform the operation acts without use of a memory, such as an external memory. The operation acts may include controlling or causing the processor to operate as the input sensor 410, the logic 470 and/or the activated response 460.

FIG. 5 shows a portion of a device 500 in accordance with an embodiment of the present system that is similar to the device depicted in FIG. 1. As such, the portion shows a lid 522 that may be utilized to conceal circuitry of the device, such as logic circuitry 570, an input sensor 510, and a power source 520. In this embodiment, a light emitting source 560 (e.g., colored LEDs such as red LEDs) is operationally coupled to the device 500 with stiff wires 580 that may be utilized for positioning and maintaining the light emitting source 560 in a desired position. For example, as shown in FIG. 6, a stiff wire 680 may be utilized to position a light emitting source 660 behind a fairy 610, for example close to a point where wings 612, 614 attach to a body portion 616 of the fairy 610. The stiff wire 680 may be dimensioned (e.g., length of the stiff wire) to facilitate positioning of the light emitting source 660. The fairy 610 may be sized and/or shaped to retain its position within a container 620. For example, the wings 612, 614 may be sized to contact an inside surface of the container 620 to retain a positioning of the fairy 610 within the container 620. In another embodiment, the fairy 610 may be affixed to the inside surface of the container 620, for example using an adhesive between one or more portions of the fairy 610 and the container 620. Further, in an alternate embodiment, the fairy 610 may be sized and/or formed to be moveable within the container 620. The light emitting source 660 may be affixed to the fairy 610 such that the fairy 610 may move and/or sway as the container is held or moved, while the positioning of the light emitting source 660 is retained with reference to the fairy 610.

In accordance with the present system, an interactive toy 600 may respond (e.g., as in producing a lighting effect by an activated response such as the light emitting source 660) when the interactive toy 600 is moved, peered over, gestured at or otherwise cued to interact in a way that is detected by a sensor, such as the motion sensor described above. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 6, the sensor may be hidden by and contained within a container lid 622. When the user ceases interaction with the interactive toy (e.g., the user moves away from the toy), the effect of the interactive response (e.g., lighting effect) fades away. In a case wherein the interactive response is a lighting effect positioned behind the wings 612, 614 of the fairy 610, the lighting effect may produce a noticeable glow appearing to emanate from the wings 612, 614 in an embodiment wherein the wings 612, 614 are constructed from a translucent material. In this embodiment, after the user interaction ceases or merely after the user interaction ceases to be detected, the glow produced by the activated response may fade or may terminate immediately after the user interaction is detected. In an embodiment wherein the wings 612, 614 are constructed from an opaque material, the lighting effect produced during user interaction may produce a halo-like lighting effect around the opaque wings. In this embodiment, after the user interaction ceases or ceases to be detected, the halo-like lighting effect may fade.

The stiff wire 680 may be affixed to the fairy 610 in an embodiment to facilitate positioning of the fairy 610 within the container 620. In this embodiment and/or other embodiments, the fairy 610 may be suspended within the container 620 by the stiff wire 680 or the light emitting source 660. In this embodiment, the fairy 610 may move and/or sway in response to user interaction, such as for example may be initiated by the user moving the container 620.

FIG. 7 shows a further embodiment 700 of the present system wherein a fairy 710 is positioned within a container 720 formed in a shape of a mason jar. The fairy 710 may be sized to retain a given position within the container 720 or may be affixed to an inner surface of the container 720 as described above. In this embodiment, a light emitting source 760 is operationally coupled to control circuitry and a power source 770 that may be affixed to and contained within an underside portion of a lid 722 of the container 720. The coupling between the control circuitry 770 and the light emitting source 760 may be through a flexible wire 780 or other flexible connection. In an embodiment wherein the coupling is a flexible wire 780, a length of the wire may be sufficient to enable removal of the lid 722 to service the battery (e.g., change the battery) and control circuitry 770 (e.g., adjust control circuitry sensitivity and/or modes of interaction). In an embodiment wherein the fairy 710 is not affixed or securely positioned within the container 720, the fairy 710 may move and/or sway within the container 720 in response to user interaction with the embodiment 700.

FIGS. 8A and 8B show a plurality of interactive toys in accordance with the present system. In this embodiment, the interactive toys are positioned within a secondary container, such as a container shaped as a picnic basket 890. The picnic basket is opaque and thereby, the contents of the picnic basket are not readily discernable. However, one of the plurality of interactive toys are positioned to detect user interaction within a proximity of the picnic basket 890 and thereby, the one of the plurality of interactive toys responds by activating the activated response (e.g., a tactile, auditory, or visual response, such as a lighting response). In this configuration, when several interactive toys (e.g., fairies) are grouped within a secondary container (e.g., the picnic basket 890), the secondary container provides another means of interaction. For example, as a viewer approaches the basket, a fairy peeking out of the basket alights and draw the viewer in to open the basket. As the basket is opened, all the fairies within the basket may begin responding (e.g., lighting). The response of one or more of the plurality of fairies may be in response to user interaction and/or may be in response to the tactile, auditory, and/or visual response from another of the plurality of fairies. In addition, the response from one or more of the plurality of fairies may be a measured response (e.g., may be varied and/or incremented/decremented) in response to a degree of detected user interaction. In accordance with an embodiment, the response may be measured in response to a determined number of user interactions, simultaneous interactions, consecutive interactions, and/or different interactions.

Of course, it is to be appreciated that any one of the above embodiments or processes may be combined with one or more other embodiments or processes or be separated in accordance with the present system.

Finally, the above-discussion is intended to be merely illustrative of the present system and should not be construed as limiting the appended claims to any particular embodiment or group of embodiments. Thus, while the present system has been described with reference to exemplary embodiments, it should also be appreciated that numerous modifications and alternative embodiments may be devised by those having ordinary skill in the art without departing from the broader and intended spirit and scope of the present system as set forth in the claims that follow. For example, while the sensor has been described generally in terms of a motion sensor, such as a passive infrared notion sensor, the type of sensor and/or the type of stimulus that the sensor is responsive to may be varied without departing from the intended scope of the present system. Further, alternate containers and/or lids of different sizes, shapes and types may be used, provided that the container is transparent, however, the container may be tinted a particular color. In another embodiment, the sensor may be configured to be responsive to sound and/or may be arranged as an ultrasonic sensor. In addition, while the power supply for the interactive toy is illustratively shown as a battery, alternate sources of power, such as a solar panel and battery (e.g., rechargeable battery) may be readily utilized. Different colors, sizes, numbers, and types of objects within the container may be varied. For example, the creature within the container may be changed to other things, including insects or other fantasy creatures. Additional activated responses, such as LEDs, LEDs of different colors, etc. may be used. Accordingly, the specification and drawings are to be regarded in an illustrative manner and are not intended to limit the scope of the appended claims.

In interpreting the appended claims, it should be understood that:

a) the word “comprising” does not exclude the presence of other elements or acts than those listed in a given claim;

b) the word “a” or “an” preceding an element does not exclude the presence of a plurality of such elements;

c) any reference signs in the claims do not limit their scope;

d) several “means” may be represented by the same item or hardware or software implemented structure or function;

e) any of the disclosed elements may be comprised of hardware portions (e.g., including discrete and integrated electronic circuitry), software portions (e.g., computer programming), and any combination thereof;

f) hardware portions may be comprised of one or both of analog and digital portions;

g) any of the disclosed devices or portions thereof may be combined together or separated into further portions unless specifically stated otherwise; and

h) no specific sequence of acts or steps is intended to be required unless specifically indicated.