Title:
Multi-dimensional player loyalty rewards system and method
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Certain embodiments provide a multi-dimensional player loyalty rewards system and method. Certain embodiments of the method include dynamically defining rewards based on at least one of player activity and historical data, and assigning values to the rewards based on at least one criterion, wherein the values change as the at least one criterion changes. The method may further include accumulating player earnings in a base unit of measure. Player earnings may be accumulated in a base unit of measure using multiple rates of earning, for example. One or more rewards may be redeemed using the values assigned to the rewards and the accumulated player earnings, for example. The at least one criterion may include at least one earning rate, for example. The at least one criterion may include at least one criterion tailored to a player, a player characteristic, a location, a game, and/or a game characteristic, for example.



Inventors:
Hoover, Janae (Lynchburg, MD, US)
Janisch, Jennifer Sherer (Las Vegas, NV, US)
Sheldon, Alan Gael (Las Vegas, NV, US)
Dickerson, Scott (Henderson, NV, US)
Application Number:
11/530182
Publication Date:
05/24/2007
Filing Date:
09/08/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ROWLAND, STEVE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MCANDREWS HELD & MALLOY, LTD (CHICAGO, IL, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method for flexible award configuration in a gaming environment, said method comprising: dynamically defining rewards based on at least one of player activity and historical data; and assigning values to the rewards based on at least one criterion, wherein the values change as the at least one criterion changes.

2. The method of claim 1, further comprising accumulating player earnings in a base unit of measure.

3. The method of claim 2, wherein said step of accumulating player earnings comprises accumulating player earnings in a base unit of measure using multiple rates of earning.

4. The method of claim 2, further comprising redeeming one or more rewards using the values assigned to the rewards and the accumulated player earnings.

5. The method of claim 1, wherein the at least one criterion comprises at least one earning rate.

6. The method of claim 1, wherein the at least one criterion comprises at least one criterion tailored to at least one of a player, a player characteristic, a location, a game, and a game characteristic.

7. A method for providing multi-dimensional player rewards, said method comprising: defining player earnings using a base unit of measure; accumulating player earnings based on one or more criterion; configuring one or more reward categories for mapping player earnings to rewards; and mapping player earnings to one or more rewards using the one or more reward categories.

8. The method of claim 7, wherein the base unit of measure comprises points.

9. The method of claim 7, wherein the one or more reward categories include one or more redemption types for mapping player earnings to rewards.

10. The method of claim 7, further comprising allowing multiple and simultaneous rates of earning for accumulation of player earnings.

11. The method of claim 7, wherein the one or more criterion comprises one or more combinations of player, game and location attributes.

12. The method of claim 7, wherein said step of mapping comprises dynamically mapping player earnings to one or more rewards.

13. A computer-readable medium including a set of instructions for execution on a computing device, said set of instructions comprising: a point accumulation routine for accumulating player points based on at least one criterion; and a reward mapping routine for dynamically associating player points with one or more rewards.

14. The set of instructions of claim 13, wherein the at least one criterion comprises player earnings.

15. The set of instructions of claim 13, wherein the at least one criterion comprises a rate of earning.

16. The set of instructions of claim 15, wherein the rate of earning is a capable of being dynamically adjusted.

17. The set of instructions of claim 15, wherein the rate of earning comprises a plurality of simultaneous rates of earning.

18. The set of instructions of claim 13, wherein the reward mapping routine dynamically associates player points with one or more rewards using one or more reward categories.

19. The set of instructions of claim 18, wherein the one or more reward categories include one or more redemption types for dynamically associating player points with one or more rewards.

20. The set of instructions of claim 13, wherein the at least one criterion comprises at least one combination of player, game and location attributes.

21. A multi-dimensional player rewards system, said system comprising: a player account including a record of player points associated with a player; and a reward configuration module configured to dynamically associate player points with one or more rewards.

22. The system of claim 21, further comprising a player tracking system capable of tracking player points accumulated by the player.

23. The system of claim 21, wherein the player points comprise regular points and bonus points.

24. The system of claim 21, wherein the player points are organized in the player account according to one or more earn rates.

25. The system of claim 21, wherein the reward configuration module maps player points to rewards according to one or more reward categories.

26. The system of claim 21, wherein the reward configuration module maps player points to rewards according to one or more redemption types.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application relates to, and claims priority from, U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/715,026, filed on Sep. 8, 2005, entitled “Multi-Dimensional Player Loyalty Rewards System and Method,” which is herein incorporated by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to promotions in a gaming environment, and more particularly relates to a system and method for promotional messaging and management in a gaming environment.

Gaming machines, such as slot machines, fruit machines, or poker machines, have in recent years become one of the more popular, exciting, and sophisticated wagering activities available at casinos and other gambling locations. At the same time, gaming machines have also become a source of greater revenue for gaming establishments. Thus, competition between manufacturers of gaming machines has intensified as competitors vie for business from gaming establishments.

A large gaming casino typically employs thousands of gaming machines that can be operated simultaneously. A gaming system providing entertaining and enticing features for players would be highly desirable to attract both new and returning players to a gaming establishment. Additionally, casinos and other gaming environments often arrange promotions or other events to attract new customers and provide additional incentives for recurring customers.

Casinos traditionally use player tracking software in conjunction with membership clubs to monitor, evaluate and subsequently reward customers in proportion to their loyalty to the casino. Player tracking systems use points and complimentaries (hereinafter referred to as “comps”) as units of measurement and payment. Traditionally, comp is distributed in dollars or prizes, while points are accrued and exchanged for rewards. Thus, there are two parts to player tracking systems: earning (accruing points and comp) and redemption (exchanging points and comp for goods and services).

Current player tracking systems require that casinos define a type of value of reward before the reward is available to a player. Casinos are generally forced to limit criteria used to issue rewards for a single type of activity with one or two formulas that allow operators to evaluate the activity. Changing the formulas used to evaluate casino activity is often troublesome, costly or impossible, limiting the casino's ability to adjust its business expenditures for player loyalty programs.

Additionally, casinos may not control earning and redemption independent of one another. Casinos have also always been tied to comp dollars and points that are worth some fractional dollar value defmed per casino. A single dimension model involves one balance per player for comp accrued and one balance per player for points accrued. FIG. 1 shows an example of a single dimension model for rewards. The single dimension model dictates that points or comp earned in one part of the casino is worth the same as that which was earned in any other part of the casino. Similarly, player A earns at the same rate as player B.

Current reward systems offer a few basic reward functions. For example, reward systems may issue an unlimited number of rewards for specified activities. Reward systems may issue rewards based on source (i.e., location) of a specified activity. Additionally, reward system may issue rewards based on an event. Furthermore, systems may issue rewards based on player membership status and/or player group association. Reward systems may also allow multiple players within one account to combine their earnings for joint redemption.

Thus, there is a need for a system and method that provide multi-dimensional player loyalty rewards.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Certain embodiments provide a multi-dimensional player loyalty rewards system and method. Certain embodiments provide a method for flexible award configuration in a gaming environment. The method includes dynamically defining rewards based on at least one of player activity and historical data, and assigning values to the rewards based on at least one criterion, wherein the values change as the at least one criterion changes.

In an embodiment, the method further includes accumulating player earnings in a base unit of measure. Player earnings may be accumulated in a base unit of measure using multiple rates of earning, for example. One or more rewards may be redeemed using the values assigned to the rewards and the accumulated player earnings, for example.

In an embodiment, the at least one criterion includes at least one earning rate, for example. The at least one criterion may include at least one criterion tailored to at least one of a player, a player characteristic, a location, a game, and a game characteristic, for example.

Certain embodiments provide a method for providing multi-dimensional player rewards. The method includes defining player earnings using a base unit of measure, accumulating player earnings based on one or more criterion, configuring one or more reward categories for mapping player earnings to rewards, and mapping player earnings to one or more rewards using the one or more reward categories. In an embodiment, the base unit of measure comprises points. The one or more reward categories may include one or more redemption types for mapping player earnings to rewards, for example. The one or more criterion may include one or more combinations of player, game and location attributes, for example. In an embodiment, player earnings are dynamically mapped to one or more rewards. In an embodiment, the method allows multiple and simultaneous rates of earning for accumulation of player earnings.

Certain embodiments provide a computer-readable medium including a set of instructions for execution on a computing device. The set of instructions includes a point accumulation routine for accumulating player points based on at least one criterion, and a reward mapping routine for dynamically associating player points with one or more rewards. In an embodiment, the at least one criterion includes player earnings, for example. In an embodiment, the at least one criterion includes a rate of earning, for example. The rate of earning may be capable of being dynamically adjusted, for example. The rate of earning may include a plurality of simultaneous rates of earning, for example.

In an embodiment, the reward mapping routine dynamically associates player points with one or more rewards using one or more reward categories. The one or more reward categories may include one or more redemption types for dynamically associating player points with one or more rewards. In an embodiment, the at least one criterion comprises at least one combination of player, game and location attributes, for example.

Certain embodiments provide a multi-dimensional player rewards system. The system includes a player account including a record of player points associated with a player, and a reward configuration module configured to dynamically associate player points with one or more rewards. The system may also include a player tracking system capable of tracking player points accumulated by the player. The player points may include regular points and bonus points, for example. The player points may be organized in the player account according to one or more earn rates, for example. In an embodiment, the reward configuration module maps player points to rewards according to one or more reward categories. In an embodiment, the reward configuration module maps player points to rewards according to one or more redemption types.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows an example of a single dimension model for rewards.

FIG. 2 illustrates a flow diagram for a method for multi-dimensional player rewards used in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3 depicts an example of a multi-dimensional rewards system used in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 4 illustrates a multi-dimensional player loyalty rewards system used in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5 illustrates an example of a casino management system used in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 2 illustrates a flow diagram for a method 200 for multi-dimensional player rewards used in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. First, at step 210, a player is rewarded for a certain activity. For example, a player may be awarded for games played, restaurant dining, hotel stays, theater tickets, etc. At step 220, a certain number of one or more points is assigned to the player for the activity based on one or more criteria. In an embodiment, a player may simultaneously be awarded multiple points based on multiple rates of earning for participation in an activity, for example.

Next, at step 230, one or more reward redemption opportunities are created. For example, opportunities to redeem points for hotel stays, meals, tickets, vacations, prizes, etc. may be created statically and/or dynamically. Then, at step 240, a value is assigned to each of the one or more redemption opportunities. In an embodiment, points may be mapped to rewards at the time of award and/or at the time of redemption, for example. Rewards may be dynamically defined based on player activity and/or historical data, for example. Values may be assigned to rewards based on one or more criteria, wherein the values may change as the criteria change (i.e., static or dynamic value assignment), for example. Thus, certain embodiments allow earning and redemption to be controlled independently of one another while maintaining auditable integrity through all point transactions. At step 250, a player may redeem points for one or more rewards.

FIG. 3 depicts an example of a multi-dimensional rewards system used in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. In the multi-dimensional rewards system shown in FIG. 3, multiple balances enable varying, simultaneous earning rates. A single base reward unit allows reward categories to be detached from balance values. Configurable reward categories enable mixing and matching of earning rates. Additionally, configurable redemption types enable mixing and matching of reward categories. Furthermore, configurable first-in, first-out (FIFO) management of points helps ensure controlled redemption of points for rewards. Points may also be managed without FIFO. For example, redemption of points may be allowed based on the type of points (e.g., use slot points first, then use comp points, then use promo points, then use points from point of sale outlets, etc.

FIG. 4 illustrates a multi-dimensional player loyalty rewards system 400 used in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The system 400 includes a player tracking unit 410, a player points database 420, and a reward configuration module 430. The components of the system 400 may be implemented in software and/or in hardware, for example. The components of the system 400 may be implemented separately and/or may be integrated in various forms, for example. The system 400 may be implemented as a set of instructions stored on a computer-readable medium for execution on a computing device, such as a workstation, server, and/or gaming terminal, for example.

The player tracking unit 410 monitors a player's activity in a gaming environment, such as a casino, hotel, restaurant, theater, airport, or store. The player tracking unit 410 collects data regarding games played, items purchased, events accessed, memberships, promotions and/or other activities in which the player participates, for example. The player tracking unit 410 may track one or more players. The player tracking unit 410 may organize one or more player accounts to track player activity. The player tracking unit 410 may track player activity through a player loyalty card, a smart card, a radio frequency identifier (RFID) device or other wireless device, a username and password, and/or other identifier, for example.

The player points database 420 stores points for one or more players based on player activity and/or other criteria, for example. Player points may be stored in one or more player accounts, for example. Points may be assigned for player activity using one or more earning rates. In an embodiment, points may be divided into regular points and bonus points for each of one or more earning rates, for example. For example, a player account may include point totals for earning rates A, B and C. Within each earn rate point total, points may be organized into regular points and bonus points, for example. Such an example is illustrated in FIG. 3.

The reward configuration module 430 may configure rewards for redemption using player points, for example. Available rewards may be defined statically and/or dynamically. Rewards may be divided into one or more reward categories, for example, based on certain criteria. Additionally, each reward category may be divided into one or more redemption types for goods and/or services, for example. In an embodiment, points accumulated by a player at a variety of earning rates may be applied to redemption types within a reward category. For example, as shown in FIG. 3, regular points accumulated according to earn rates A, B and C may be applied to redemption types 1, 2, 3 and 4 within reward category A. Similarly, bonus points accumulated according to earn rates A, B and C may be applied to redemption types 1, 2, 3 and 4 within reward category B, for example.

Certain embodiments of a multi-dimensional player loyalty rewards system, such as the system 400, allow casinos to monitor, evaluate and reward a player's loyalty without having to 1) determine how awards will be spent or 2) define a reward's monetary value at the time of issuance. With a multi-dimensional system, casinos or other gaming establishments may award players a flexible reward and/or multiple rewards for the same activity with no limit to a number of formulas that may be applied. Flexible rewards and multiple rates of earning enable the casino or other gaming establishment to accurately predict planned expenditures for player loyalty programs. Such a capability is unavailable in traditional player loyalty systems.

In an embodiment, a player notices no significant change between a traditional single dimension reward system and a multi-dimensional rewards system. Observant players may notice that they have earned points from multiple sources in a time period. In single dimension systems, earning points was a one to one relationship, where play corresponded to one rate of earning at a time.

Multi-dimensional systems provide multiple rewards earned for different reasons on the same activity. Thus, a player's return may be increased. Additionally, multi-dimensional reward systems decrease a need for discretionary comps because rewards issued have flexibility in redemption opportunities. Furthermore, multi-dimensional rewards systems reduced out-of-pocket expenses for visits to casinos and other gaming establishments due to expanded redemption opportunities, such as gaining activities, goods and services.

Certain embodiments of a multi-dimensional rewards system create a vast range of possibilities. Casinos and gaming establishments may now tailor their loyalty programs and/or promotions to support specific marketing objectives. Rewards may be earned in a weighted manner for virtually unlimited combinations of player, game and location attributes, for example.

Using the multi-dimensional player loyalty rewards system, gaming establishments may create unlimited earning rates/formulas, including multiple rewards for the same activity. The system may be used to create redemption opportunities and assign redemption values anytime, even after the rewards are earned. The player loyalty system may be used to monitor liability based on actual redemption trends and/or estimates of expected redemption usage. The system may analyze redemption costs against activity revenue earning potential, with an exact method of earning associated with each reward redeemed. In addition to issuing rewards when special conditions are met, such as certain membership status, the system may limit a need for discretionary comps by issuing rewards based on a wider range of criteria. The rewards system may be used to encourage player participation in marketing campaigns, events and/or player groups be offering additional rewards.

The multi-dimensional reward system changes a paradigm on which casino reward systems have traditionally been based. The multi-dimensional system manages multiple balances allowing multiple and simultaneous rates of earning, such as tailored to a player, player characteristic, location, game, game characteristic, etc. The rates of earning may be independently tracked and controlled, for example. In certain embodiments, earning is enabled in a single base unit (e.g., a point) that has no value until it is redeemed for goods and/or services, for example. Use of a base unit enables earning and redemption to be controlled independently while maintaining auditable integrity throughout all point transactions, for example.

Thus, a casino or other gaming establishment may be precise in measuring and tracking a cost of a player loyalty program. Additionally, capabilities of a traditional single dimensional model may also be supported. For example, differentiating between points earned as a result of gaming activity (e.g., direct) and points earned as a result of other points earned (e.g., indirect), such as two points for every point earned on Mondays. Historical data and trends may be tracked and analyzed using the reward system and/or related components, for example.

For example, a player may insert his player card into a slot machine in a casino. A casino player tracking system tracks the player's activity at the machine using information from the slot machine and from the player card. For example, a player inserts a card (“cards in”) and starts playing a game. Points are earned at a default rate. After a player passes a certain threshold (e.g., plays more than 50 coin in per minute), a secondary earning rate may begin. The secondary earning rate may be an additional earning rate or the secondary earning rate may replace the default rate. Then, if a bonus event is enabled, the player may receive a multiplier (e.g., 2 times points) so that the player may be earning bonus points based on the multiplier. Reward categories may include a plurality of categories, such as good player, excellent player, fair player, and/or poor player. Reward categories may include categories such as tiered rewards where players move through the ranks of bronze, silver, gold, platinum, etc., with increasing rewards at each level. Redemption types may include cash, merchandise, food, entertainment, etc.

In an embodiment, the multi-dimensional player rewards system 400 and/or method 200 may be implemented on an architecture, such as a gaming architecture described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/935,514, entitled “N-tier architecture for a casino management system and method,” filed on Mar. 10, 2005, which is herein incorporated by reference. The system 400 and/or method 200 may be implemented in hardware, firmware, and/or software, for example. For example, the system 400 and/or method 200 may be implemented as one or more sets of instructions for execution on a computer or other processor.

The multi-dimensional player rewards system 400 and/or method 200 may be used separately or in conjunction with a gaming management system, such as a casino management system. An example of a casino management system is illustrated in FIG. 5. The casino management system 500 includes a casino manager 510, a controller 530, a scanner 540, a data port unit (DPU) 550, a display 560, and a plurality of gaming machines 570, 571, 572 with interface units 580, 581, 582. The system 500 may also include a casino management server/database 515, a progressive manager 520 and/or a progressive server/database 525. The components of the system 500 may be implemented in software and/or in hardware and may be separated and/or integrated in a variety of forms. The system 500 combines game management, player tracking, slot accounting, and features for bonuses, such as progressive games and other rewards or promotions, for example.

The interface units 580-582, such as Sentinel®-based communications interface boards, facilitate communication and monitoring of gaming machines 570-572 by the casino manager 510 and/or progressive manager 520. For example, the interface unit 580 monitors signals from the gaming machine 570. Information from the gaming machines 570-572 is provided to the DPU 550 via the interface units 580-582. A single DPU 550 may be dedicated to a single interface unit 580-582 or may interact with a plurality of interface units 580-582. The DPU 550 may be used to poll the interface units 580-582 for data from gaming machines 570-572. Alternatively, the interface units 580-582 initiate communication with the DPU 550. Gaming machine 570-572 information may include coin in, coin out, coin drop, bill transactions, jackpot signals, and/or jackpot amounts (e.g., progressive, bonus, and/or other winning amount), for example. In an embodiment, one or more of the gaming machines 570-572 may communicate with the system 500 without use of the interface units 580-582. For example, the gaming machines 570-572 may communicate with the DPU 550, the controller 530, and/or the scanner 540.

The scanner 540 receives data, such as transaction data, meter data and/or status information, from the interface units 580-582. In an embodiment, the scanner 540 obtains data from the interface units 580-582 and/or from the gaming machines 570-572. In another embodiment, the scanner 540 polls the DPU 550 which polls the interface units 580-582 to obtain data. The scanner 540 communicates with the controller 530 to store data in the database 515 and/or 525, for example. In an embodiment, the scanner 540 includes a user interface. The user interface may provide information regarding, for example, scanner 540 activity and control, real-time interface unit 580-582 information, real-time transaction information (e.g., the most recent 100 transactions), polling and other communication or message data, configuration information and control, and/or operator commands. The scanner 540 may be used to connect a plurality of interfaces 580-582 through zero or more DPUs 550. In an embodiment, the system 500 may include a plurality of scanners 540 for greater machine capacity, improved operational flexibility, data handling, and/or throughput, for example.

The controller 530 may be used to perform database updates in the system 500. Information inserted or updated in the casino management database 515 and/or progressive database 525 may be routed through the controller 530. The controller 530 may receive information requests from the scanner 540 and returns data from the database 515, 525. The controller 530 stores transaction information in the database 515 and/or database 525. The controller 530 may query the database 515, 525 for amount information and/or other data and transmit the data to the scanner 540. The controller 530 may clear and/or configure jackpot signals and/or other signals based on transaction data and/or other information, for example. The controller 530 may read configuration and input/output access information for the system 500.

The controller 530 may include a controller service manager. The controller service manager may be used to configure data paths and/or other parameters between servers, workstations, and/or databases in the system 500. The service manager may be used to provide debugging and/or status information, for example. The controller service manager may include a user interface, such as a graphical user interface, allowing a user to view system status and other information, for example.

The progressive manager 520 allows authorized users to configure progressive links/levels, including adding and removing games and/or progressive links/levels, meters, and/or setting jackpot reset amounts and rate of progression, for example. Users and/or software may configure progressive system parameters using a user interface running on the progressive manager 520 and/or a workstation in communication with the progressive manager 520, for example. The progressive manager 520 monitors, in real-time, for example, progressive levels, payouts, and statistics for machines 570-572 contributing to progressive jackpots. Progressive links/levels may be adjusted, configured, and/or reset via the progressive manager 520. Reports, such as accounting, diagnostic and administrative reports, may also be generated using the progressive manager 520. The progressive manager 520 may generate progressive amount and/or other information for display via display 560 and/or gaming machine 570-572 display, for example. The progressive manager 520 may access databases 515, 525 to aid in report generation, progressive configuration, and/or other system adjustment, for example.

Thus, the progressive manager 520, such as a ProTURBO™ progressive manager, allows centralized control of one or more progressives in a gaming environment. The progressive manager 520 may be used to monitor progressive activity and perform a variety of functions. For example, the manager 520 may allow assignment of user access rights to the casino management system 500. The manager 520 may allow a user to view current progressive amounts on all progressive links, for example. Additionally, the manager 520 may allow a user to view current and historical progressive transactions, for example. Progressive links may be cleared, reset, and/or adjusted via the progressive manager 520, for example. Furthermore, the progressive manager 520 may be used to assist in troubleshooting problems occurring in the DPU 550, interfaces 580-582, gaming machines 570-572, and/or other system components. In an embodiment, a progressive revenue audit may be performed via the progressive manager 520. Additional functions available via the progressive manager 520 may include set up and configuration of progressive link setting, such as jackpot levels, increment rates, and reset values, generation of a series of selectable reports, and viewing transactions and pending jackpot information, for example.

The casino manager 510 facilities player tracking, slot accounting, game configuration, and bouncing, for example, in the system 500. The casino manager 510, such as an OASIS™ casino management system, may also facilitate promotions, ticket generation, marketing, reporting, crediting, and communication between players, gaming employees, and the system 500, for example. The casino manager 510 may be used for game configuration and modification for gaming machines 570-572, for example. The casino manager 510 helps to provide centralized management of a gaming environment, such as one or more casinos. The casino manager 510 may facilitate flexible, multi-dimensional player rewards using a variety of criteria, as described above, such as the multi-dimensional player rewards system 400 and/or method 200.

Thus, certain embodiments provide a system and method for dynamic definition of rewards based on player activity and/or historical data, for example. Certain embodiments allow values to be assigned to rewards based on criteria, and values may change as the criteria change. Certain embodiments allow multiple rewards to be earned for a single activity and allow multiple, simultaneous rates of earning to be tracked and controlled independently. Player earnings may be defined in terms of a base unit, such as points, and may be tailored to a particular promotion, advertisement, or activity, for example. Player points may be mapped to rewards based on criteria such as configurable reward categories and/or redemption types.

While the invention has been described with reference to one or more preferred embodiments, those skilled in the art will understand that changes may be made and equivalents may be substituted without departing from the scope of the invention. In addition, many modifications may be made to adapt a particular step, structure, or material to the teachings of the invention without departing from its scope. Therefore, it is intended that the invention not be limited to the particular embodiment disclosed, but that the invention will include all embodiments falling within the scope of the appended claims.