Title:
APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR FACILITATING EMERGENCY HELMET REMOVAL
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A safety helmet, such as for use with motorcycles, race vehicles, off-road vehicles, boats, skiing, and similar activities which pose a risk to the head and neck of individuals. The inventive helmet is beneficially configured for being readily removed in the case of emergency, such as if the wearer experiences a collision. The helmet can only be readily separated electronically under proper conditions, therein allowing portions of the helmet to be removed without undue forces being applied to the head and neck of the wearer. A separation preparation indicator is also described for providing indications of whether an adjacent and/or remote assembly configured with releasable portions attached with electrically responsive adhesive has been deactivated, and has the advantage of accurately indicating the state of the releasable portion as the indicator is subject to the same electrical stimulation and electrically releasable adhesive.



Inventors:
Rast, Rodger H. (Gold River, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/476967
Publication Date:
11/29/2007
Filing Date:
06/27/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A42B1/06
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
WORRELL JR, LARRY D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Rodger Rast (Rastar Corp) (GOLD RIVER, CA, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A helmet apparatus worn on the head for preventing head and neck injury, comprising: at least a first and second outer shell section; a conductive interface proximal to where said at least first outer shell section and second outer shell section are to be joined to create the exterior of the helmet shell; an electrically responsive adhesive retained between the conductive interface portions of said first outer shell section and said second outer shell section; wherein the helmet outer shell is formed with at least said first and second sections joined by said adhesive is configured to remain intact despite encountering a collision event; at least one layer of inner padding within said helmet outer shell and configured to increase comfort and reduce impact forces on the head of a wearer inserted within the padding interior of the outer shell; and an emergency activation means configured for providing a sufficient electrical stimulus between conductive interfaces on at least said first and second sections of said outer shell for deactivating the bonding of said adhesive; thereby in response to emergency activation the sections of said helmet can be readily separated from each other and the head of the user without the conventional forces required to remove a helmet with an intact outer shell.

2. A helmet as recited in claim 1, wherein said helmet outer shell is formed by attaching two or more outer shell sections, each having a conductive interface, with said electrically responsive adhesive.

3. A helmet as recited in claim 1, wherein said electrically responsive adhesive debonds in response to a sufficient current being passed across the regions of the adhesive connection.

4. A helmet as recited in claim 1, further comprising a connector, jack, or receptacle providing connection with said conductive interfaces on said at least first and second helmet shell sections.

5. A helmet as recited in claim 1, further comprising means for authenticating the emergency situation prior to deactivation of adhesive bonding.

6. A helmet as recited in claim 1, wherein said authenticating means comprises: a first electrical circuit having outputs connecting to said conductive interface of said shell sections and inputs configured for receiving an electrical signal; and a signature validation circuit which responds to the receipt of a properly formatted electrical signal on its input by triggering said first electrical circuit into outputting an electrical signal to deactivate said electrically responsive adhesive retained between said conductive interfaces.

7. A helmet as recited in claim 1, wherein said authenticating means comprises: a control circuit, helmet coupled, having outputs connecting to said conductive interface of said shell sections and inputs configured for receiving an electrical signal; a memory within said electrical circuit configured for retaining a signature pattern; a microprocessor coupled to said memory and within said control circuit; and programming configured for execution on said microprocessor for, registering a signature received on said inputs, comparing said received signature with the signature pattern retained in said memory, generating a signal to deactivate said electrically responsive adhesive retained between said conductive interfaces in response to a sufficient match of the incoming signature with the pattern stored in memory.

8. A helmet as recited in claim 7: wherein said inputs configured for receiving an electrical signal comprise an electrical connection which remains accessible while the helmet is being worn; and wherein said control circuit is configured for receiving a voltage through said electrical connection which provides operating power; wherein said received signature is conveyed as an electrical signal superimposed on said voltage, or which is conveyed on one or more separate signal connections.

9. A helmet as recited in claim 1, wherein said at least first and second outer shell sections are configured for being joined at said conductive interface in an overlapping manner, therein providing additional adhesive surface area over that provided by adhering said first and said sections in a butt joint.

10. A helmet system worn on the head for preventing head and neck injury, comprising: at least a first and second outer shell section; a conductive interface proximal to where said at least first outer shell section and second outer shell section are to be joined to create the exterior of the helmet shell; an electrically responsive adhesive retained between the conductive interface portions of said first outer shell section and said second outer shell section; wherein the helmet outer shell is formed with at least said first and second sections joined by said adhesive and is configured to remain intact despite encountering a collision event; at least one layer of inner padding within said helmet outer shell and configured to increase comfort and reduce impact forces on the head of a wearer inserted within the padding on the interior of the outer shell; and a helmet release key assembly configured for deactivating the adhesive to allow removal of said first and second sections of said helmet, and comprising, a power source, a memory for retaining a signature pattern, a control circuit for supplying power and generating said signature pattern; a helmet release control circuit having outputs connecting to said conductive interface of said shell sections and an electrical input configured for receiving said helmet release key, and comprising, a power circuit configured for applying power to said helmet release control circuit in response to receiving electrical power from said helmet key release assembly, a memory configured for retaining a signature pattern, a microprocessor, programming configured for execution on said microprocessor for, registering a signature received on said electrical input from the helmet release key, comparing said received signature with the signature pattern retained in said memory, generating a signal to deactivate said electrically responsive adhesive retained between said conductive interfaces in response to a sufficient match of the incoming signature with the pattern stored in memory.

11. A method of fabricating a helmet which can be removed from the head of the wearer in sections in emergency situations, comprising: forming the exterior shell of the helmet as multiple separate sections configured for being joined to one another to form a complete helmet shell; adapting at least a portion of the edges of said separate sections with a conductor; joining said multiple separate sections of said shell with an electrically responsive adhesive whose bonding strength is significantly abated in response to the application of a sufficient electrical stimulus; and routing conductors from said conductors on said separate shell sections for access by persons while helmet is being worn.

12. A method as recited in claim 11, further comprising interconnecting a control circuit on said conductors to control the conditions under which the adhesive is deactivated.

13. A method as recited in claim 12, wherein said control circuit is configured for comparing a signature received from an external signal with an internal signature and generating an electrical signal for deactivating said adhesive in response.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority from provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/694,749 filed Jun. 27, 2005, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

STATEMENT OF FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not Applicable

REFERENCE TO A MICROFICHE APPENDIX

Not Applicable

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention pertains generally to motorcycle safety devices and more particularly to a safety helmet which can be readily split open after an accident without inducing neck or head trauma.

2. Description of the Background Art

Helmets, such as used by motorcycle riders, provide invaluable crash protection. Helmet manufacturers have gone to extreme lengths to create a very light-weight extremely high impact resistant shell. Motorcycle helmet shells are formed in a single piece, with no seam, to reduce weight and increase strength. Often carbon fiber, Kevlar, and other high tensile strength materials are used within the shell to assure that it does not crack open upon impact. Within the shell material a crush material layer is attached, such as a hard Styrofoam or material of similar compressibility, is retained as well as layers of padding.

In order to provide high levels of crash protection, as well as comfort, the helmets must fit very snug on the head of the wearer. The snug fit assures the helmet does not bounce around during use or change its position, possibly reducing visibility for the user. The snug fit also prevents helmet loss, dislodgement, loss of position in response to an impact. A snug fit is one of the most important criterion that motorcycle riders are often prompted to check for in a helmet.

However, after a crash, in particular if the rider is unconscious or has suspected head or neck injuries, the helmet can become a liability. In the process of removing the helmet the spinal nerves can be damaged, or other forms of head, neck or back damage induced. The very snug fit makes ingress or egress somewhat difficult within these helmets—even by the wearer who can feel where and how to apply the pressures to ingress or egress. A second party removing the helmet from a victim, however, has no such feedback and is removing the helmet from an individual that often has damage in those areas as well as swelling. It should be remembered that the weight and bulk of make it often subject to a great deal of rotational torques during an accident, such as in sliding, tumbling, and so forth. These torques are obviously applied through the neck and back of the wearer, wherein it is no surprise that so often spinal trauma arises.

It is difficult to administer first aid to a crash victim while still wearing their helmet, wherein the helmets are often removed by EMT personnel as well as individuals with little training that are attempting to administer first aid. The damage which results from helmet removal has prompted many riders to wear a tag on their helmet indicating that in case of accident DO NOT remove the helmet. Although, emergency rooms and possibly some emergency medical technicians (Mets), have the equipment for cutting the helmet off, this is not a suitable solution, as it can be very difficult to administer the necessary first aid and determine the extent of injuries with a helmet still on the patient. Furthermore, if a head trauma has occurred, then head swelling can make the helmet fit even tighter and may cut off blood supply.

Accordingly, an apparatus and method are needed which will facilitate emergency removal of a helmet without placing stresses or strains on the head and neck of an injured wearer. The present invention fulfills that need as well as others while being readily implemented with a wide range of current helmet designs.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A helmet according to the invention is configured for being readily removed from the wearer in emergency situations in response to an electrical stimulus which reconfigures the helmet from a first to a second configuration. Once the electrical signals prepare the helmet for separation, the portions of it can be readily removed from the head of the wearer without undue stress.

In one embodiment of the invention a helmet apparatus is constructed in at least two sections which are joined with an electrically responsive mechanical means for preparing for and/or effecting separation. For example, the helmet is formed from sections having a conductive portion at the joint between the sections. An electrically responsive epoxy is used to adhere the portions of the helmet. An electrical connection to the conductive portion of the joint allows receipt of a sufficient electrical stimulus across the epoxy, wherein it debonds from the joint. The helmet can then be readily separated into its component sections and removed from the head of the wearer without the usual trauma.

The electrical stimulus can be received by the helmet in a number of alternative ways. In one embodiment an electrical connection on the helmet is configured for receiving a key device for providing the electrical power to effect separation, or to complete a circuit wherein power from within the helmet itself is used to change the configuration. In another embodiment the power from an existing device, such as a portable heart defibrillation unit, is used to drive the change in configuration. For example, the paddles are placed on opposing sides of the helmet and the electrical output triggered, to deactivate the bonds on the helmet halves, thus rendering them easily removed without undue pressure on the head or neck of the injured, or potentially-injured, rider.

Optional aspects of the invention include a biasing means for forcing separation in response to adhesive deactivation. This separation preparation mechanism operates to separate the halves of the helmet upon the epoxy bond strength being electrically changed. For example, using piezoelectric, or explosive, actuation to separate the halves once the epoxy if debonded wherein the sections of helmet are more readily separated from one another without the application of undue forces.

One implementation of the invention can be described as a helmet apparatus for preventing head and neck injury, comprising: (a) at least a first and second outer shell section; (b) a conductive interface proximal to where the at least first outer shell section and second outer shell section are to be joined to create the exterior of the helmet shell; (c) an electrically responsive adhesive retained between the conductive interface portions of the first outer shell section and the second outer shell section; (d) wherein the helmet outer shell is formed with at least the first and second sections joined by the adhesive is configured to remain intact despite encountering a collision event; (e) at least one layer of inner padding within the helmet outer shell and configured to increase comfort and reduce impact forces on the head of a wearer inserted within the padding interior of the outer shell; and (f) an emergency activation means configured for providing a sufficient electrical stimulus between conductive interfaces on at least the first and second sections of the outer shell for deactivating the bonding of the adhesive; (g) thereby in response to emergency activation the sections of the helmet can be readily separated from each other and the head of the user without the conventional forces required to remove a helmet with an intact outer shell.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention will be more fully understood by reference to the following drawings which are for illustrative purposes only:

FIG. 1 is a side view of a safety helmet which can be readily separated after an accident to reduce the chances of head and neck trauma according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a front view of the safety helmet of FIG. 1, according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is a cross-section view of the interface between separable portions of the helmet according to an aspect of the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a cross-section view of another interface between separable portions of the helmet according to another aspect of the present invention.

FIG. 5 is a schematic block diagram of a helmet splitting control circuit according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 6 is a flowchart of the method of manufacturing the splitting safety helmet according to an aspect of the present invention.

FIG. 7 is a schematic block diagram of an apparatus for indicating that the helmet portions have been electrically de-bonded and can now be mechanically separated according to an aspect of the present invention.

FIG. 8 is a top view of a the separation indicator of FIG. 7 according to an aspect of the present invention.

FIGS. 9A and 9B are side views of a separation indicator shown, respectively, prior to and after actuation, according to an aspect of the present invention.

FIG. 9C is a top view of a separation preparation device according to another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 10 is a side view of a tractor-trailer rig configured with fire and explosion protection devices according to an aspect of the present invention.

FIG. 11 is a side view of a tractor-trailer rig configured with fire and explosion protection devices according to another aspect of the present invention.

FIG. 12 is a schematic block diagram of a trademark protected communications link between at least two electronic devices according to an aspect of the present invention.

FIGS. 13 and 14 are data structures containing trademarked material within a command code for gaining access to a distant end by the owner of the trademark, while others would be in trademark violation to send a similar communication, according to an aspect of the present invention.

FIG. 15 is a top view of a self-programming radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag according to an aspect of the present invention, shown configured to identify itself with an underlying bar code.

FIG. 16 is a schematic block diagram of the self-programming RFID tag according to an aspect of the present invention.

FIG. 17 is a cross-section view of an automated tag releasing RFID tag according to an aspect of the present invention.

FIG. 18 is a side view of an RFID tag programmer according to an aspect of the present invention.

FIG. 19 is a block diagram of a player piano sensor strip according to an aspect of the present invention.

FIG. 20 is a schematic block diagram of the piano sensor strip according to an aspect of the present invention.

FIG. 21 is a schematic of a compander for reducing distortion from high level inputs that would otherwise clip according to an aspect of the present invention.

FIG. 22 is a schematic of a dual compander-expander device for automatically controlling dynamic range in response to program types and content according to an aspect of the present invention.

FIG. 23 is a schematic block diagram of a fan controller which generates sound sequences and effects in response to modulating fan speed according to an aspect of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENT(S)

Referring more specifically to the drawings for illustrative purposes, the present invention is embodied in the method generally described in FIG. 1 to FIG. 23. The following description is presented to enable one of ordinary skill in the art to make and use the invention as provided in the context of a particular application and its requirements. Unnecessary technical details, which extend beyond the necessary information allowing a person of ordinary skill in the art to practice the invention, are preferably absent for the sake of clarity and brevity. Furthermore, it is to be understood that inventive aspects may be practiced in numerous alternative ways by one or ordinary skill without departing from the teachings of the invention. Therefore, various modifications to the preferred embodiments will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art, and the principles defined here may be applied to other embodiments. Thus the present invention is not intended to be limited to the embodiments shown, but is to be accorded the widest scope consistent with the principles and novel features disclosed herein.

The present invention describes a helmet configured for being readily separated from the wearer in an emergency situation. It has been appreciated by the inventor that helmet manufacturers are driven toward reducing the weight of the helmet, making the shell as tough and light as possible so that it will not separate in response to a crash. However, there are reasons for having a conditionally responsive helmet shell, for example to effect separating the helmet from the wearer after a collision.

1.1.1 Introduction.

To provide a helmet which can be removed in pieces after a collision it is formed in at least two sections. For example the helmet is formed from two halves which are joined at special joint (or joints) that can be selectably disconnected in response to an electrical stimulus. Electrical connections on the helmet are coupled to the conductive portions of the joint such that an activation current can be passed across the joint to debond the two halves of the material, therein allowing portions of the helmet to be separated by hand. Various embodiments of the electrical connectivity can provide added convenience, universality, and security features which will be discussed at length later on.

FIG. 1 and FIG. 2 illustrate by way of example of an electrically removable safety helmet 10. Helmet sections 12, 14 are shown by way of example as a right half 12 and left half 14, however, it should be appreciated that the helmet can be sectioned in a front to back manner or otherwise sectioned into any number of parts without departing from the teachings of the present invention.

Conductive interfaces 16 bound the edges of helmet sections 12, 14 to be joined forming a seam 18 at which the helmet sections are joined with an electrically responsive material, such as an adhesive, for example epoxy. An opening 20 in the helmet comprises a peripheral helmet portions 22 surrounding a typically oval or rectangular opening, although any suitable shape may be utilized. A visor 24 covers opening 20 and is typically hinged to the helmet, such as at hinges 26. An underside opening 28 provides ingress and egress for the head of the wearer.

In one optional implementation of the invention, the face shield connection, such as at hinges 26 are also adapted with an internal electrically responsive adhesive, or other form of electrically responsive disconnection. In this way, when the halves of the helmet are electrically separated, then the shield is likewise separated from the helmet halves. This can be implemented by forming the hinge pins in two pieces having a conductive interface joined by the electrically responsive adhesive. The conductive portions are connected to the control unit 30 to provide separation of the shield at the same time as the sections are separated.

The electrically responsive adhesive is a relatively new class of materials, such as ElectRelease™ by EIC Laboratories. The material can support shear leads of up to 3,500 pounds-per-square inch (psi) and can be released by a current applied by voltages as low as 3.5 volts to 9 volts at reasonably low currents. The current levels for release are low enough that they may be supplied from batteries, such as a 9 volt battery (i.e., commonly referred to as a “transistor radio” battery). The material is heat resistant, handing temperatures up to 212° F. with a new version coming out for temperatures up to 302° F., which may be a preferred choice for this application.

A control circuit 30 is shown coupled to the conductive interfaces 16 to provide a means for supplying current through the electrically responsive adhesive. Electrical connections 20 are shown as hidden lines interconnecting conductive interfaces 16, 18 with an optional electrical circuit 22 which is coupled via conductors 24 to an electrical connectors, and/or from electrodes 26. The electrical connections within the helmet are preferably made redundantly, so as to eliminate any single point of failure within the removable helmet system.

In one embodiment, control circuit 30 can provide signal conditioning for a raw electrical input, such as applied to electrodes 32 buried on each side of the helmet. This mode allows the helmet to be removed using a heart defibrillation unit, wherein the pads of the “defib” are placed on opposing sides of the helmet and activated. Although electrodes 32 may provide an exposed conductor, they can also be located beneath an insulating layer of paint. In the case of an insulated electrode 32 a capacitor is formed between electrode and defib electrode between which only AC current passes. Control circuit 30 is configured to convert the received voltage for effectively driving a current across conductive portions 16 through the electrically responsive adhesive.

In another embodiment of the invention, control circuit 30 is coupled to an electrical connector 34 for receiving an electrical signal for separating the helmet portions in an emergency situation. In one mode of the invention, connector 34 and/or control circuit 30 can be provided redundantly, such as on both sides of the helmet, making it extremely unlikely that both connectors/controllers would be damaged from a single collision—therein decreasing the likelihood of malfunction.

A helmet removal “key” 36 is inserted or otherwise makes contact with connector 34 and supplies current to change the state of the adhesive in seam 18. By way of example helmet removal key 36 provides the power (e.g., capacitor, battery, fuel cell, and so forth) for changing the state of the adhesive which retains the integrity of the helmet seam. In another embodiment a separation key device is kept in a small “black box” on the motorcycle which can be readily removed from the black box (for example so long as the key is in the motorcycle as this would be typical at the scene of an accident. The “key” is configured for interconnecting with the electrodes for controlling the helmet joint. A capacitor, preferably a double layer capacitor, or other high density capacitor is configured to be charged continuously while it is held in the “black box” retention housing on the motorcycle and to be discharged upon coupling to the connector on the helmet. Preferably matching indicia on the helmet and black box inform persons at the scene that a key is to be used for opening the helmet as well as where that key is located on the motorcycle. It is preferred that black boxes be positioned in a standard location on motorcycles, whether sold aftermarket or manufactured into the motorcycle originally. Optionally, the helmet and key system can provide secure changes of state, limiting how the helmet sections are to be separated. For example, only the key made for the helmet, or a master key held by emergency medical technicians/personnel (i.e., EMTs), will supply an appropriate electrical signal to signify to controller 30 to activate disconnection of the helmet portions.

The key also preferably includes a self-test mode switch, wherein the key and helmet can communicate, test the integrity of connections to the separable joint, such as by measuring conductance across the path, as well as test the operation of the controller circuits in both the helmet and key. In this way the user can be test and be assured that the helmet key combination is operating properly.

In one embodiment it is preferred that the key be retained in a housing on the motorcycle, wherein it is connected to the electrical system and is kept in a state of charge thereby. It is preferred that a label be adhered to the helmet which states, or more preferably provides a picture, or graphic, showing the location of the helmet removal key on the motorcycle. The housing is preferably configured to only allow the key to be removed when the ignition has been activated on the motorcycle, generally requiring insertion and turning of the ignition key. For example an electro-mechanical latch that is disengaged on a waterproof housing when the ignition is turned on. In this way others can not take the helmet key from the motorcycle unless the ignition key is in the ignition, such as is the case when the motorcycle and rider have been involved in a collision.

Other embodiments of the invention are contemplated, such as but not limited to the following. Electrical power and means for authentication are contained within the helmet itself. For instance, a keypad allows a number to be entered for removing the helmet. The power can be supplied by a flat battery pack such as used in disposable film packs. Other external devices, similar in function to the described key, may also be utilized for separating the sections of the helmet, such as devices carried by EMT crews. In addition, conductive regions 16, on either side of seam 18 can be made accessible either directly, or by removal of a covering (e.g., label, paint, and so forth) which then allows an electrical stimulus to be applied directly across the electrically response seam 18 to separate the portions of the helmet.

Although it does not seem warranted at this time, additional interlocking means may be coupled to the separation system assuring that the helmet is only separated into pieces in response to a collision. For example, in one embodiment the helmet system can provide a speed interlock wherein voltage can not be supplied to the helmet if the helmet is under any significant motion, and/or in response to airflow, such as arise while being worn during riding. In another embodiment the interlock is deactivated in response to a sufficient G force. It will be appreciated that if there is concern about removing the helmet, then it stands to reason the individual must have undergone some trauma which would necessarily involve an impact (G) force. The thinking being that if they did not hit anything, then there would be no reason to be extracting the individual from the helmet. If such an interlock is provided, then an override would be preferably provided for use by EMT personnel and the like, to assure that they could still readily split the helmet for removal. Again, these additional forms of interlock do not appear necessary at this time, however, certain applications or manufacturers may elect to include these or other interlock mechanisms while not departing from the teachings of the present invention.

In a preferred embodiment the joint between the sections of the helmet comprises overlapping finger joints having conductive surfaces. An electrically responsive epoxy is then used to join the halves of the helmet. Contacts from the joint are made available, perhaps through a special connector, removing a covering (peeling, scraping, scratching, chipping, smashing, and so forth) to access a set of contacts. A device providing sufficient power is applied to the contacts which causes a current to pass through the epoxy causing it to release the two halves at the joint, thereby allowing the helmet to be quickly separated from the individual without inducing neck trauma, or additional neck trauma.

FIG. 3 illustrates by way of example embodiment the joining of two sections of helmet, such as right half 12 and left half 14. The helmet cross section is shown with an exterior shell 43, for example such as ⅛ inch to 3/16 inch thick, within which padding layers 45 are retained. The conductive electrode portion 16 on each side of seam 18 can be seen. The conductive electrode is shown in some form of overlapped joint to increase the surface area joined by the electrically responsive adhesive, which reduces the likelihood of separation. In the example fingers 40 are configured to be inserted within receptacle 38. An interconnection mean is exemplified between the halves of the helmet, allowing electrical stimulation to be applied, such as through the control unit, from one side of the helmet. The interconnection means is exemplified as a first conductor 42 (i.e., male connector half) adapted for engagement with a connector 44 (i.e., female connector half). It can be seen in the figure that a connection is established through the connector 42, 44 allowing power supplied on one side of seam 18 to connect to the conductive joint on the other side of the seam, this allowing power to be supplied from a single side. These connectors being preferably substantially planar so as not to require any additional padding within the helmet. Electrical connections within the helmet are depicted on a first side as a single conductor 46 and on a second side with two conductors 48a and 48b. It will be appreciated that single conductors, or two conductors, or any combination of wiring can be utilized without departing from the present invention.

FIG. 4 illustrates an example of a simple sloped seam 50 which can be utilized, such as having a tapered inside portion with a first conductive surface 52 for attachment with electrically responsive adhesive to a second conductive portion 54 on a tapered outside portion of the helmet shell. For simplicity, the padding and electrical connections are not shown in FIG. 4.

FIG. 5 illustrates a key based control circuit 70 wherein key 36 with connector 76 is coupled at receptacle 34 with electronics 74 within helmet 10. In this embodiment power for disconnection is retained within key 36, such as within one or more high density capacitors 80 (i.e., dual-layer capacitor). A power supply 82 controls the charging, discharging, and any power conversion necessary. A control circuit, preferably a small inexpensive microcontroller (i.e., 8 bit microcontroller such as used in appliances) is coupled to a memory 86, although it more preferably includes internal memory. Codes are retained in memory 86, if optional security is to be maintained, thus preventing helmet sections from being separated by using a different helmet key than that provided for the specific helmet. An optional user interface 85 is shown exemplified as a switch input and LED output, to provide status information, and optional user control of the key. For example the user interface can provide activation of a self test mode via engaging the switch and indicate the results of the test on the LED. The indicator (i.e., LED) can also be utilized to show a ready state of charge for the unit to assure that the power supply portion is operating properly.

A circuit 74 within the helmet preferably operates from power supplied by key 36. A power supply 92 with storage capacitor 94 receives power upon coupling key 36 to connector 34, wherein power is supplied to a control circuit, such as microcontroller 88 and memory 90. In this example signals are passed over the power connection, as AC signals which can be detected by the controller, wherein a simple two wire interface can be utilized, although any desired number of interconnections can be supported by the invention. Codes corresponding to those of key 36 are retained within memory 88, as well as preferably master codes allowing equipment supplied to EMTs or other emergency personnel to activate helmet disassembly without using the specific key for that helmet. In response to receiving a proper communication and code or codes from key 36 control circuit 74 generates an appropriate power to activation lines 96 which change the state of the adhesive thus allowing the helmet to be manually separated readily in to sections and removed from the patient.

Optionally, the ease with which the helmet can be separated can be enhanced, by the inclusion of electrically activated force generation means within the seams, for example a piezoelectric transducer, or less preferably pyrotechnic elements. These elements aid separation and enhance removal. The piezoelectric device vibrates the seam, preferably opposing sides at an opposing phase, wherein the helmet portions could separate very quickly. The use of pyrotechnics can create gas which applied pressure to separate the sections of the helmet with no need of manual intervention.

It should be readily appreciated that the present invention has application to helmets for use in motorcycling or other high speed sporting events, and for use by the military such as for aircraft pilots.

The detailed description is not intended to limit the apparatus and methods for separating a safety helmet electrically to reduce the chance of injury. Instead the scope of the safety helmet apparatus and methods are identified by any inventive aspects which are described separately or in combination within the specification and a subset of which are defined by the appended claims and their equivalents.

2 PREPARED FOR SEPARATION INDICATOR

2.1 Background.

In considering the safety helmet described above, or similar devices, it will be appreciated that even after the adhesive has been deactivated the user may not know that an attempt at deactivation has been attempted, or the adhesive actually released. There is no indication to the user that the coupling strength of the adhesive has been significantly reduced, for example thus allowing the user to perform some other action, such as removal of helmet sections as in the application above. In some application it is difficult, or undesirable to force the separation of portions in response to deactivation.

Accordingly a need exists for a mechanism to readily indicate the state as to whether the separable portions are ready to be separated. The present invention fulfills that need as well as others.

2.2 Summary.

Numerous embodiments of separation preparation indicators, referred to herein as SepPrep indicators, are described for annunciating to the user the state of separation preparation. By way of example, on preferred indicator comprises a biasing means which is retained between two portions of an assembly adhered to one another with the electroresponsive adhesive. One portion of the assembly can even be the biasing means itself. The two portions are each configured with conductive elements electrically coupled to another assembly or portion of the assembly configured with electroresponsive adhesive for being separated. When the electrical current is applied to the main section of electroresponsive adhesive, then the electroresponsive adhesive on the two portions is deactivated wherein the biasing member by itself, or in combination with other portions of the indicator move to indicate the adhesive deactivation has taken place.

2.3 Detailed Description.

FIG. 7 and FIG. 8 illustrate by way of example an assembly having electrically separable portions which uses a separation preparation indicator 10 for indicating to the user when the adhesive of assembly 12 has been deactivated.

Assembly 12 is configured with multiple portions, such as 14a, 14b, which have conductive portions 16a, 16b, between which is retained, or configured for retention, electro-responsive adhesive 18, such as ElectRelease™ by EIC Laboratories. Conductors 20a, 20b are coupled for releasing the portions of assembly 12 either directly or through a controller.

The SepPrep indicator 21 is coupled directly, or less preferably indirectly (i.e., through an electronic control circuit) to the electrical drive lines configured for indicating to the user that the adhesive in assembly 12 has been deactivated. The SepPrep indicator is shown attached to a first element 22, which could be a portion of assembly 12 or other location where indication is required, such as located remotely from assembly 12. Conductors 24a, 24b in this embodiment are coupled for receiving adhesive deactivation power from that going to assembly 12. A mechanical biasing means, such as spring 26, provides mechanical displacement of attached second element 28 in response to deactivation of adhesive, such as the ridge of electroresponsive adhesive 30.

In FIG. 8 it can be seen that a first conductive portion 24a electrically connects to biasing member 26, which electrically connects to the center of element 28, which is preferably of a conductive material, or is adapted with conductive material at a connection with member 26 and at the area to which the electrically responsive adhesive is to be adhered. A second electrode 24b forms an unclosed ring about element 28. In manufacturing (or reloading) the SepPrep indicator the uncured electroresponsive adhesive is applied to surface 22 or the underside edges of element 28 and a force applied during curing to retain element 28 proximal to surface 22 keeping biasing member 26 compressed. It will be appreciated that conductors 24a, 24b may overly one another if an insulator is first disposed therebetween, however, that extra step is not required as a small gap in the electrode should not prevent movement of element 28 under the force from biasing member 26.

The material of biasing member 26 should be chosen so that extended time in a compressed state, even when exposed to thermal cycling, mechanical shock, and electromagnetic fields does not reduce the biasing force below what is required to separate element 28 from the adhesive after deactivation.

2.3.1 Remote Mechanical Indicator.

The SepPrep indicator can be utilized at a remote location from the materials which are being electrically configured for separation. The advantage to using a mechanical separation indicator, is that it can be subject to the same electrical stimulation as assembly 12, wherein the indicator should always provide a true indication of whether assembly 12 is ready for separation.

FIG. 9A-9C depict a modular SepPrep indicator 50 shown in an unactivated state in FIG. 9A and an activated state in FIG. 9B. A base 52 is shown in a bayonet mounting format used by conventional indicator lamps. An insulator 54 separates and insulates a second contact region 56 from base 52. A cap 58 is shown attached to base in FIG. 9A and in an active indicative state in FIG. 9B. A biasing member 60 is shown in hidden lines in FIG. 9A and partially exposed in FIG. 9B.

An embodiment can be readily implemented with cap 58 having a conductive interior, attached to the top of conductive base 52 with electroresponsive adhesive.

Spring 60, or a separate wire, is coupled between base electrode 56 and the conductive interior of cap 58. In response to the application of a sufficient voltage between base 52 and electrode 56 the electroresponsive adhesive is deactivated, wherein the force of spring 60 overcomes the remaining adhesive tension allowing cap 58 to extend from base 52. It should be readily appreciated by one of ordinary skill in the art that the biasing means may comprise other forms of springs, compressed gasses, and any convenient force applying element. In addition the indicator can be moved in response to adhesive deactivation in a linear manner, circular, hinged, and so forth. More than one element can be configured to move in response to adhesive deactivation. There are a number of variations which can be easily created from the teachings herein.

In FIG. 9C a panel 64 is shown in which a remote SepPrep indicator 62 has been activated. It will be appreciated that the SepPrep indicators can be configured to replace lighting elements or other standard devices while providing accurate indication of separation preparedness.

It should be appreciated that additional indications can be added to the mechanical SepPrep indicator, such as a light element which is activated or deactivated when the adhesive in the SepPrep indicator is activated. In one embodiment, the SepPrep mechanical indicator includes an optical, and/or audio based annunciator that changes state in response to a change of mechanical state of the SepPrep indicator in response to the adhesive deactivation. For example, the electrical conductivity through the electroresponsive adhesive between the electrodes can be sensed to detect whether the elements have physically separated from one another after deactivation of the adhesive, therein providing an additional level of indication. It should be appreciated that a number of alternative embodiments can be created using LED, piezoelectric annunciators, remote indicator panels, and other annunciator forms to complement the mechanical indication of the SepPrep device.

It should also be appreciated that the SepPrep device can be configured so that the mechanical movement of the indicator also provides a change of state for a switch or other electrical element, wherein the action can be sensed by other circuits or effect a change in those other circuits. For example, the electroresponsive adhesive retains a moveable indicator in a first position in which it provides electrical continuity along a path, and upon adhesive deactivation allows movement of the indicator element while changing the state of electrical continuity. The electrical signals across the electroresponsive adhesive may be driven in response to voltage, or voltage generated in response to current passing through a resistance in series with he electrical continuity path, or similar.

2.3.2 Scaled Separation Preparation Indicator.

In another embodiment the SepPrep indicator can be configured with multiple portions that are configured for being released in response to different levels of applied signal. In this way, the indicator can indicate the efficiency of the signal used to deactivate the electroresponsive adhesive. By way of simple example, a cluster, or series, of small indicators as in FIG. 7 may be connected with conductors 24a, 24b having different levels of voltage drop, so that in response to a signal applied to the main assembly to conductors 20a, 20b, the electroresponsive adhesive achieves a different voltage level. One form of indicator would provide two levels which “bracket” the electroresponsive performance of assembly 12, for example having a first level of resistance to the leads of a first indicator, a second level of resistance to the leads of the assembly, and a third level of resistance to the leads of a second indicator. In this way if both indicators are mechanically displaced, then it can be assured that the assembly is prepared for separation. It should be recognized that the signal for driving the electroresponsive adhesive portions may be altered other than with a resistor, such as by using diodes, active voltage generator circuits, pulse-width modulation, and other forms of modulating the applied signal.

In abstract, the present invention provides an indicator devices to announce when the adhesive has been subjected to a debonding operation, wherein the helmet or other apparatus can be separated.

2.3.3 Detailed Description in Claim Form.

The claims, and/or claim portions below comprise additional disclosure of the invention and are to be considered as such for all purposes.

1. An apparatus for indicating deactivation of the adhesive used for joining elements of an assembly with electrically responsive adhesive, comprising:

an indicator element configured for joining to an indicator location on the assembly or to a second indicator element;

a conductive interface on said indicator element, and on either said indicator location on the assembly or to the second indicator element;

an electrical connection coupling said conductive interfaces on said indicator element and either said indicator location on the assembly or the second indicator element to the conductors coupled to the elements of the assembly joined with said electrically responsive adhesive;

electroresponsive adhesive joining said indicator element with the indicator location or a second indicator element; and

means for generating a mechanical biasing force between said indicator element and said indicator location on the assembly or the second indicator element;

wherein said mechanical biasing force is sufficient to at least partially physically separate said indicator element from the indicator location or the second indicator element in response to a sufficient electrical stimulation for deactivating the adhesive joining elements of the assembly thereby generating an annunciation that the electrically responsive adhesive has been deactivated.

2. An apparatus as recited in claim 1, wherein said annunciation comprises an visual indication of indicator element separation.

3. An apparatus as recited in claim 1, further comprising:

means for detecting the physical separation of said indicator element from the indicator location or the second indicator element;

wherein said means is configured to generate a electrical signal, radio-frequency signal, visual annunciation, audio annunciation, tactile annunciation, or a combination thereof in response to separation of said indicator element.

4. An apparatus as recited in claim 1, wherein said biasing means is selected from the group of biasing means comprising a coiled spring, planar spring, torsional spring, compressed element, compressed gas or liquid fluid, and combinations thereof.

5. An apparatus as recited in claim 1, wherein said biasing means comprises an actuation device electrically coupled to the conductive interface of said indicator and configured for generating a biasing force in response to electrical activation.

6. An apparatus as recited in claim 5, wherein said electrical activation may be generated before, at, or after the time at which the electrically responsive adhesive is deactivated.

7. An apparatus as recited in claim 5, wherein said actuation device comprises an electro-mechanical device.

8. An apparatus as recited in claim 7, wherein said electro-mechanical device is selected from the group of electromechanical actuators consisting essentially of: solenoids, motors, piezo-motors, linear motors, muscle wire, piezoelectric transducers, electromagnets, and combination thereof.

9. An apparatus as recited in claim 5, wherein said actuation device comprises a chemically-reactive device which generates a biasing force in response to electrical activation of a chemical reaction.

3 TRUCK PAYLOAD EXTENSION AND CONTAINMENT SYSTEM FOR HAZARDOUS MATERIALS

3.1 Background

Presently military and civilian trucks can be a prime target for terrorists, in particular when the payload is toxic, explosive, flammable and so forth. The driver of these rigs rarely survives in these situations, . . . making the job all that less desirable.

Accordingly a need exists to increase the survivability of the driver. The present invention fulfills that needs as well as others.

3.2 Summary.

A truck payload extension and containment system is described which increase the survivability for the driver(s) of the vehicle. The system requires the addition of a containment extension as originally incorporated in the design, retrofitted to existing trailer, or as an add-on or option. The extension provides increased distance between the cab and dangerous payload and provides room for the containment aspects of the system. The containment payload may be passive and/or active. Passive containment is configured to absorb explosions, whereas active containment detects explosions in progress, or high threat, and changes state to suit the threat, such as deploying containment barriers, deploying foam or gas fire retardants, disconnecting the payload section, and so forth.

3.3 Detailed Description.

FIG. 10 illustrates by way of example embodiment a tractor-trailer 10 having cab with a cab-based containment pod 14, which may extend or have containment side panels 16. Hitch connection 18 couples to trailer 24 through hitch support structure 20. An extended trailer containment pod 22 is shown attached to the extended structure 20 extending from payload (i.e., tanker 24).

FIG. 11 depicts a tractor trailer 50 having a conventional extended cab 52 front cab section 54, and sleeper section 56. A containment trailer 58 is shown with own wheels 59, that is interposed between the cab and the payload 70, shown as a conventional trailer. Containment trailer 58 is preferable connected through structure 60 with hitch 62, and includes physical containment 64 to block blast forces and prevent cab fire. Blast deflectors can be included which are manually deployed in hostile situations, or more preferably deployed in response to detection of a threat or blast plume, the force of the initial blasts preferably providing the wind force to speed deployment of the blast shields. The use of a separate containment trailer allows increasing separation distance, increasing reaction time, and providing for additional storage of containment material and devices.

The containment attaches behind the cab and/or on between the trailer and load, such as on an extension to the trailer height structure, or as a separate trailer section configured to aid containment. The devices provides a block between the hazardous material and the driver, and in some cases the distance therebetween.

The containment pods can include any or all of a number of elements to further increase safety, such as the following.

    • barrier;
    • tank of foam that ruptures easily to block flame toward cab;
    • suicide doors on the cab
    • flame protective shield deployment;
      • shield can deploy to protect egress;
    • Fire suppression (CO2, N2, foam, etc.) in cab to blow halon;
    • means for releasing trailer in response to attack/explosion;
    • means for pushing trailer away—if cab is stopped;
    • lasers crossing at fixed rearward distance to mark safe following distance;
    • ejection seat, or cab portion.

In FIG. 10 the rear of the trailer is preferably configured to warn approaching drivers to retain a sufficient following distance. Three optional alert systems are shown.

A first alert system utilizes an ultrasonic distance sensing circuit 82 generating ultrasonic sound patterns 80 to detect the distance to the following vehicle. The alerts can be annunciated by flashing an alert sign. Preferably, the rear of the vehicle includes a simple display that lights up when the driver approaches too closely, and text and/or graphics indicating the driver is less than the recommended X feet from the rear of the trailer. Optionally, the distance can be read out on a display, and the desired following distance also indicated (i.e., such as in response to setting by the driver depending on the load and situation).

A second alert system can use similar ultrasonic circuits 82 above, however, the alert is provided with an audible indication to the following driver. It will be appreciated that ultrasonic signals are significantly directional in nature and that an audio message in the human hearing range can be communicated as a beat frequency between multiple ultrasonic audio signals which individually are not within the range of human hearing. The system need not detect the actual following distance but need only have the overlap of the ultrasonic output overlap at distances less than a desired following distance, wherein the driver will perceive upon coming too close that they are being issued a warning.

In a third alert system a laser detection circuit 86 outputs beam(s) 84 for detecting the distance of the follower. In addition the crossing pattern of the beams themselves can be used to signal the minimum distance that the next car is to follow.

It should be appreciated that the above may be utilized separately or in combinations without departing from the teachings of the present invention.

4 TRADEMARKED DATA COMMUNICATION

4.1 References.

Incorporates these related copending application(s) by reference:

Utility patent application within docket “RPA_RAST071403” Ser. No. 10/891,718 filed Jul. 14, 2004; associated Provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/487,295 filed Jul. 14, 2003; and

Utility patent application within docket “RPA_RAST120103” Ser. No. 11/002,567 filed Dec. 1, 2004; associated Provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/526,376 filed Dec. 1, 2003.

4.2 Background

Presently it is difficult to restrict companies from reverse engineering proprietary interfaces, protocols and the like to prevent companies from producing knock offs without the expenditures made by the originators during the design of the product. It seems that no matter how sophisticated the protocol scheme the copycats can create a device sufficiently compatible to be sold. The present invention overcomes that problem.

4.3 Summary.

An apparatus and method for providing communication between devices which is afforded legal protection. It has not been appreciated in the industry that protocols are generally up for grabs, wherein anyone can copycat the protocol with impunity. However, the present invention is directed at providing an interface in which one of the elements communicated is a Trademarked identification of the manufacturer, or a copyrighted work owned by the manufacturer.

4.4 Detailed Description.

The present invention describes apparatus and methods for providing communication qualifiers based on copyrighted material, trademarks, or the like.

4.4.1 Processor Controlled Embodiment.

Devices are often configured for establishing communication based on qualification data received. For example a peripheral may be coupled to a master device, wherein the master device can only utilize peripherals that respond according to standards set by that manufacturer. Often these communication standards are adopted by other parties, allowing them to make equipment compatible with that of another company. In the above example the peripheral is configured to send codes to the master which match that of another manufacturer.

In order to reduce the problems associated with unwarranted copying of the standard, such as to sell competing devices, the present invention adds another level of legal protection. The identifier being communicated in this case is configured as a registered trademark, or copyrighted work, wherein companies which are illicitly utilizing the identifier can be prosecuted under trademark standards as well as perhaps under any other applicable statutes.

Typically, conventional codes are cryptic with limited fixed content. Competition can typically copy the command structures with impunity to duplicate the design.

By way of example, a first device made by ACME Corporation is configured for only operating with peripherals made by either ACME Corporation or those of its licensed agent AJAX Company, or those of companies ABC Industries which have licensed the technology. In this case the peripherals communicate manufacture information in the form of a registered trademark, such as “ACME Corporation in Sawmill Oregon®”. The first device will not operate, or will have reduced functionality, when a peripheral device is coupled to it that does not generate a trademark registration which matches the list of those contained on the master device.

FIG. 12 illustrates by way of example a communication link embodiment 10 between two electronic devices 12, 14. By way of example a microprocessor 16 with memory 18 having trademark and copyright strings 20, communicates with a second microprocessor 22 with memory 24, having a set of ™ and copyright data to compare against the incoming strings. It should be appreciated that with the high data rates and the amount of inexpensive memory, it is not difficult to include the trademark and copyright strings within the communication interface. It is preferred that the data be sent periodically for validating the equipment at each end. Competitors are unable to legally include these trademarks or copyrighted miniature “poems”, even if copy the functionality of the device. In this way a competitor is unable to make a copy of device 12 or 14 and have it work properly with a factory unit 12 or 14.

FIG. 13 illustrates a command string 30 passing between devices which contains a trademark identifier for the ABC Company. Sufficient information is included in the string to allow it to be protected.

FIG. 14 illustrates a similar example 34 in which a small poem, musical composition, or other copyrighted work is included in the communication as an identifier.

It should be appreciated that the ™ or copyrighted data may be retained within memory, logic circuits, gate arrays, programmable logic arrays, custom circuits, VLSI, analog circuits or the like. In addition the system preferably provides a mechanism for annunciating (e.g., displaying or playing) at least these portions of the string as a standard feature or an option of the device. These portions of the string can be converted into a musical scale of notes, audible rendering, textual display, binary output, and so forth. In this way the ™ and/or Copyrighted material is preferably also made directly available to humans, as well to the communicating devices, for verifying the validity of the devices prior to communication.

The present invention requires that a copy-cat firm mis-represent trademark (and/or copyright) information in order to achieve compatibility, incurring additional penalties and allowing the affected company to seek expeditious remedy.

5 TASK TRACKING UPDATE METHODS

5.1 Background

Presently many software applications exist for tracking ones tasks and associated work. The data can be shared and sent between groups and the like.

5.2 Summary.

A method of providing addition task details in response to how the user is updating their task related information. In the prior art task information is shared, such as state of task completion, yet it if often the case that the persons in charge of these tasks are not diligently maintaining proper information about the state of the task, what has transpired with the task and so forth. The present invention comprehends this problem and provides a method for maintaining information about the currency of task information and providing notification to the parties of the need to update the tasks. Action trees are adapted to determine how tasks are handled should the originally responsible party not properly perform the updates in response to a notification.

5.3 Detailed Description.

In a task tracking system, such as included in Microsoft Outlook. The software is modified for determining IF the user is keeping their task list updated, and generating notifications thereof.

(1) If no changes to slips in prior N hours (i.e., 24 hours), then generate an email message to user. Continue with escalated warnings to user. If no changes in a set period of time>N (i.e., 4 days) then generate a warning email to the supervisor of user to assure task list is being updated.

The changes may require that every task is updated. User in one mode is required to view the status, similar to the required viewing of a contract such as for a software package, and then the user must at least mark that the status is the same. This at least provides that the status is updated.

The above can be provided for all contact information as well. Whenever used, then the status date updated, wherein one can determine how recent the contact info is, or how recently the info was still valid.

Implementation may be performed as additional code instructions in any desired programming language (e.g., C++, Java, Assembly language, Visual C, Visual Basic, and so forth), preferably within existing task tracking applications.

6 PRINTED TAG SENSITIVE RFID TAG

6.1 References.

Incorporates these related copending application(s) by reference:

Utility patent application including a description of passive transponder enhancements that allow collection of sense data within docket “Steer02” Ser. No. 10/279,480 filed Oct. 23, 2002; and provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/346,753 filed Oct. 23, 2001.

6.2 Background

Presently RFID tags must be programmed prior to attachment to a device. This makes it almost necessary that the RFIDs be implemented by the manufacturer, as a retailer would have too many different RFIDs to program and place on the packages.

6.3 Summary.

The present invention provides a new form of RFID tag that can be directly applied over a portion of a universal product code number (UPC), or similar, such as provided in a bar code form, which determines the response generated by the RFID.

The RFID according to the invention is configured for generating its challenge response based on the content of the UPC code. In one embodiment the RFID tag is configured with a linear array of electrodes which are placed for sensing the UPC pattern of conductors or optical pattern.

6.4 Detailed Description.

6.4.1 Self-Programming Intelligent RFID Tag.

The present invention describes a type of RFID tag that does not need to be programmed for a specific product. This aspect of the invention provides an RFID tag which is sensitive to a printed tag coding proximal to it. For example, this new tag senses a printed tag beneath it and adapts its product identification in response thereto.

In one embodiment an RFID is placed over a printed container wherein the output of the RFID is altered in response to the underlying printing. By way of example a conductive pattern can be printed on the container, such as in a grid of blocks, wherein the RFID makes contact with the conductive patterns to establish the ID, product code, characteristic, or other aspect, of the communication. The area on the container is preferably marked for aligning of the RFID. Other forms of patterns may be detected, such as detecting optical characteristics of the printing (reflectivity, color, etc.) or other characteristics (i.e. magnetism, inductance, capacitance, resistivity, and so forth) In a preferred embodiment a plate within the RFID interacts capacitively with somewhat conductive (metallic) paints wherein the pattern beneath the RFID can be sensed through the adhesive without the need of establishing a conductive path.

FIG. 15 illustrates by way of example an embodiment 10 of a self-programming RFID tag 12 according to the invention. Tag 12 is preferably configured with an adhesive backing, (or other means of attachment e.g., magnetic, electrostatic, and so forth) for attachment over a printed indicia 14, with optional additional text and graphics 16. In this embodiment indicia 14 is depicted as a bar code which simplifies the electronics within the RFID tag. In one mode of the invention the bar code (2D bar code, text, or other machine readable format) is printed with conducting, or semiconducting ink over a nonconductive backing 18. In addition it will be appreciated that the coding can be in response to any desired property of the underlying tags, such as optical, electrical conduction, magnetism, capacitance, inductance, and so forth.

FIG. 16 illustrates a schematic for self-programming RFID tag 12 shown exemplified with a control circuit 26 which responds to challenges received, such as through antenna 28 and interface 30. Power for the circuit is preferably stored from the challenge and regulated by power circuit 32, with optional storage capacitor. A memory 34 can be included for providing additional data, operating instructions if the controller is microprogrammed or similar. In addition memory 34 preferably contains a random seed value (or other value(s) increasing the selectivity of response) that can be used for determining communication backoffs in certain reader configurations, wherein overlapping responses are prevented. The receipt and responding to challenges can be implemented by any convenient method, such as using generally conventional circuits.

Tag 12 is configured with printed tag sensing inputs 22, depicted as leads coupled into a parallel-to-serial converter and sense circuit 24. By way of example and not limitation circuit 24 could comprise a multiplexer wherein inputs are alternated with fixed voltage areas 25 (i.e., ground), allowing the pattern of conductive and non-conductive regions to be readily sensed and preferably converted to a serial string for use by control 26 when generating a response.

In this way the present aspect of the invention provides an RFID tag, which need not be programmed for the given product, and can thus be attached over an existing UPC code for establishing the fixed product value to be generated by the RFID in response to a challenge. The tag can be reused as desired since it is not encoded with any given response code.

6.4.2 Tag Positioning Indication.

Tag 12 is shown optionally including positioning detection and communication means. In this embodiment a positioning sensor is incorporated such as in the form of optical sensor 36, tilt sensor 38, heat sensor 40, and/or buddy sensor 42. These sensors provide additional data about how the RIFD tag is positioned on the tagged unit.

For example optical sensor 36 (e.g., photoconductive printing (i.e. amorphous Si) provides a material whose conductance which changes in response to the ambient light, therein allowing the reader to determine that the tag is in a location that is not lit. A tilt sensor 38 can be created using MEMs beam switches, polymeric circuit techniques, or the like for indicating in what orientation the device is directed, and/or any shocks applied to the device which can also be registered. These sensor implementations are preferably of a very inexpensive nature, on the order of or less than one cent, wherein their inclusion does not significantly impact application. In addition a temperature sensor 40 can be included for registering problems with the stock temperature and so forth.

A buddy sensor 42 is depicted whose implementation and utility is not as readily discernable from the figure. The “buddy” sensor is configured with a means for detecting the proximity and preferably number of other RFID tags. According to one embodiment, analog sensing is used for detecting low level signal response patterns generated by nearby devices in responding to a challenge. The controller then collects this data and can relay it within its own response. In this way the reader can discern additional information about unit positioning.

In one optional mode the control circuit is configured for registering the output from other units, and optionally correlating it with the associated challenge, wherein the reader can collect from each device the specific units to which it is positioned adjacent. It will be recognized that signal strength drops with the square of distance wherein the unit is not swamped with registering too many responder signals. This mode of the invention provides a distributed sensing of positioning which can allow the reader to actually render the position of the units in a three dimensional space.

6.4.3 Tag Releasing Option.

Tag 12 is shown including an optional automated RFID releasing means 46 which generates releasing signals 44. In this mode of the invention the device is configured for releasing itself, tag 12, or releasing some other desired adhered element, in response to receiving a proper challenge.

FIG. 17 illustrates a partial cross section of an automated tag releasing RFID tag 70 configured for attachment to a surface 72. In this embodiment tag 70 comprises an adhesive layer 74 for attaching to a surface, such as conventional adhesives and so forth. A first conductive layer 76 overlies the adhesive and a second conductive layer 80 is over the first layer. Portions of the area between the first and second layer contains an electroresponsive adhesive 78, such as ElectRelease™. The remaining layers 82 of the RFID tag including the electronics, such as shown in FIG. 2, are attached to the second conductive layer 80 and have outputs, such as 44, coupled to the first and second conductive layers 76, 80. In response to a selected challenge, by itself or in combination with additional signals, conditions and the like, the circuit generates a sufficient signal power on outputs 44 to deactivate the bonding of epoxy layer 80, wherein the tag releases, or can be released from, the packaging. This provides an easily controlled means of allowing the consumer to remove tags from products without compromising the security of the tag before the item has been purchased. In this instance a challenge can be issued with special control signals, high signal power, or in combination with other signals, wherein the RFID detects that it should release and in addition has stored sufficient power to deactivate the electroresponsive adhesive layer in the tag.

As an alternative to the above, an embodiment can be fabricated in which the signal for releasing the tag is not processed by controller 26, but is instead registered by a separate device which generates the release signal. In one embodiment of this an photocell is on the surface of the portion of the device generates power for releasing the tag in response to sufficient light intensity, which is preferably of a correct optical frequency (e.g., UV, IR and so forth) and which may be modulated according to a desired pattern, so that the tag can not be readily removed by patrons.

6.4.4 Tag Composition as Polymeric Circuits.

In one preferred embodiment of the RFID tags the circuits comprise polymeric material layers having embedded conductors and semiconductors for fabricating the internal electronics at a very low cost, such as by using inkjet printing technology. Circuits have thus been proposed using these materials, eliminating the need for lithographic steps, the use of single crystalline Si and other costly aspects of conventional integrated circuit fabrication.

6.4.5 Tag Programming Embodiment.

FIG. 18 illustrates another embodiment of the invention of a tag programmer 90 is embodied having a housing 91 which incorporates a bar code, or textual, reader means 92, such as a scanned laser and optical sensor, coupled to a controller 94 having outputs to a device being programmed 96. The system allows a company employee to scan a bar code from the handle of the device and then press a trigger 98 to program an RFID device and then to eject that device 100 for attachment to a unit (i.e. package). In this way unprogrammed RFIDs can be loaded into the device and attached to units based on their printed bar codes. The device can also be configured to collect additional information as desired, such as the quantity of devices per RFID tag, in certain applications, or other information which can be set by the user, or read from a bar code or textual input. It can be seen that a series of RFID tags are held in the device, preferably in a reel configuration 102, wherein these RFIDs are sequentially brought into electrical contact with programming connection 96 prior to ejection. A carrier strip 104 is shown to which the RFID tags are temporarily adhered which is taken up on a takeup spool 106 driven by motor 108 controlled by uC 94.

It should be appreciated that although the above is described as per a retail trade application it may be utilized in a number of alternative ways without departing from the teachings of the present invention.

6.5 Abstract of Description

An RFID tag having extended capability to generate a response without being first programmed for a specific product, for providing additional information, for automatically releasing from a unit and so forth.

7 ENHANCED PIANO KEY SENSING

7.1 References.

Incorporates these related copending application(s) by reference:

Utility patent application entitled “USLED—Universal Sequential LED” within docket “DisplayRAST070103” Ser. No. 10/612,221 filed Jul. 1, 2003, and;

Provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/394,160 filed Jul. 1, 2002.

7.2 Background

Presently a large number of sensor assemblies are required within an electronic recording player piano for registering user interaction. The present invention reduces the cost and simplifies this circuitry.

7.3 Summary.

A sequential sensor strip is described which collects data from the keys of the keyboard during user interaction. In contrast to traditional sensors which must be individually addressed, these sensors are configured to respond as a group thus simplifying addressing being more readily installed on player pianos.

7.4 Detailed Description.

FIG. 19 depicts a sensor strip 10 having a single set of power and signal connections 11 (i.e., Pwr+, Pwr−, Data, Clock, and Reset) having a sequence of interconnected sensor elements 12 each having a key velocity/force sensor 14 and control circuits. In one implementation a series of 88 such sensor elements are located on the strip, although it may be separated in strips of fewer sensors as desired.

The strip may be fabricated from flexible printed circuit materials upon which discrete devices are attached, or it may be more preferably fabricated from polymeric conductor, semiconductor, and insulator materials which are patterned to form the desired simple circuits of the inventions.

FIG. 20 depicts an element 12 of this key activity sensing strip having a sensor 14, such as a piezoelectric sensor which generates an output in response to key velocity, such as at impact or during travel. A peak detector 32 is shown for capturing the maximum sensor output voltage. A monostable multivibrator 34 is shown which is configured according to the invention with additional logic. Upon receiving a first clock after reset the monoshot generates a pulse whose duty cycle is determined by the voltage on peak detector 32. At the completion of the cycle the peak detector is reset with the capacitor voltage pulled to ground. The active portion of the monoshot cycle drives a data line during its portion of the sequence, such as by pulling a switch 40 coupled to line 38 to ground, which is regularly pulled up. The monoshot thus forms an analog to pulse width converter. The processor receiving the stream can use a single digital input line for registering the timing and thus the key velocity/force at each sequential location.

One advantage of the pulse width output is that it can assume a range of values, without the quantization errors of traditional binary A/D converters, and is very easily implemented with few components. At the end of the monoshot interval an output clock is generated, such as through a buffer 36 which is connected to the following stage. The monoshot then remains in an inactive state until a reset signal is received, whereafter it will respond to the first signal received.

In use the control processor coupled to the strip drops the reset line, generates a first clock edge to the strip. The first mono responds by generating a single pulse of a duty cycle determined by the voltage on the peak detector which has registered any hits within the preceding interval. The data line then changes from high to a low going pulse of a duration determined by the velocity of its associated key. The output from the end of the one shot interval is input to the next stage which similarly converts the peak voltage to a pulse. All the sequential units likewise modulate the data line providing data to the controller. When all data has been collected, such as from 88 keys, then the controller generates a reset and another clock pulse to read the next cycle of inputs.

It should be recognized that the controller preferably stores offset values for each of these sensor elements based on the pulse width received when the keys are not being struck.

It should be appreciated that the invention can be utilized in a number of applications wherein a force, velocity, acceleration is being sensed.

8 ZONED KEYS ON A PIANO KEYBOARD

8.1 Detailed Description.

The present invention describes instrument keyboard implementations which provide enhanced sound control to the musician by allowing the musician to control other aspect of keyboard operation based upon the portion of the key being struck.

This aspect of the invention can be implemented by modifying the circuit shown above to include registering a position, such as one of four portions of the key, and modulating the data line, or other data lines, when the monoshot is activated. For example a location can be readily encoded as two binary digits formed a fixed distance time spacing from the monoshot output. It will be appreciated that a number of implementations are possible as will be understood by one of ordinary skill in the art.

Sensors on the top of the key allow registering the location at which the key is being played, for example in a first or second zone or within one of three zones. The use of the different zones allows the artist to control effects without the need of additional keyboards. For example, the musician can have a keyboard synthesizer in which finger contact with the distal end of the key results in playback according to a first synthesized instrument output, while contact with a proximal portion results in a second synthesized instrument output.

Additionally, another embodiment describes linear position sensing in which the contact position is registered according to one of many positions or a range of positions is detected. This can allow the user to establish multiple personalities for the instrument and further allow morphing between the multiple personalities.

In one embodiment the key sensor is configured to allow the musician to press the key to produce a first note and then to slide their finger on the key to warp the note or otherwise change its output characteristics in response to the finger position changes.

A sensitive material overlay, such as piezoelectric, or other alternative forms of contact pressure and/or position sensing can be utilized with the present invention to register where and how the key is being contacted. In a preferred embodiment the contact sensing on the surface of the key does not take the place of the key travel and key motion detection, which can be provided conventionally, or by any desired means.

In a keyboard synthesizer, the software is preferably configured to allow the user to select the voices for the keyboard, and preferably the sections of the keyboard as well as determining transitional modes of the keyboard which are controlled by finger motions on the key. These can be preferably selected to control trans-voice control (a movement between voices), extra-voice control (additional voice blending), and voice modulation effects (i.e. warbling, warping, reclocking statically, reclocking ramp-down, and other sound effects and combinations applied to the note).

9 AUDIO CONTENT SOURCE DYNAMIC RANGE SELECTION

9.1 Background

One of the difficulties with listening to any audio content source is that the wide range of audio volumes during the piece, show, program, or whatever, can require the user to be consistently fiddling with the source volume to maintain comfort. No suitable solutions to this dilemma have been found.

9.2 Summary.

An apparatus is described for controlling the audio output of sources to maintain a comfortable listening level despite the changes in audio drive outputs and the like.

9.3 Detailed Description.

The incorporation of a simple dynamic range control within an audio device still requires that the user modulate the dynamic range for a given volume setting, wherein they cannot just leave the settings and enjoy each piece without adjustment.

It has not been fully appreciated in the industry that many users want to minimize the need to fiddle with the adjustments while being provided a consistent output. The industry often seems to believe that every user has perfect hearing, in a perfect audio environment, with perfect equipment, and is not doing anything else but listening or watching and listening. In actual practice users listening environments are very fluid and dynamic and the audio source themselves can be very dynamic wherein it is difficult for users to establish a comfortable listening situation which allows them to still hear every portion, without being “blasted” by portions of the content, disturbing other individuals and so forth. Many persons, for example, have preferred listening to their old LP records instead of newer CDs, and some believe the primary reason for this is that the LPs were configured with a lower dynamic range, wherein the user was better able to hear both the low volume and high volume passages although the music is not reproduced as accurately.

FIG. 21 illustrates a simple compander for preventing the distortion from large inputs that would result in clipping of the amplifier.

The compander circuit consists of two amplifier stages. The gain of the first amp is variable and the gain of the second stage is fixed. Some part of the output is rectified by the two diodes and the DC voltage so developed is used to drive the 2N2222 transistor. This transistor will in turn vary the gain of the first stage. This trick is the basis of the compression and expansion process. Take a look at diode D1, the bias of this diode is controlled by the 2N2222. When the output of the second stage is low, the 2N2222 is not driven very hard and diode D1 becomes back-biased. Current flows through the resistor that goes into the non-inverting input of the first stage amplifier and its gain increases. As the output of the fixed gain amp increases, the 2N2222 is driven harder and D1 becomes more forward-biased. Current through the same resistor is diverted to ground instead of to the OP-amp input. Its gain is therefore reduced.

The first stage uses a Quad amp but only one was used. The rest of the remaining amp in the IC can be used according to user desires. The 74C04 is a hex inverter digital IC. Three of the inverting amps are wired in series and biased to work in their linear range. The other three are unused. The input can be fed with a medium to high impedance source, such as a microphones, although conditioning circuits can be included to allow receiving any source. This compander operates only when driven moderately hard, it will not take care of setting a minimum volume level.

FIG. 22 illustrates one simple embodiment of a dual compander-expander 30 which a dynamic range control which directed to range between a maximum volume setting and a minimum volume setting. The system and method can be utilized upon a variety of audio systems. The method of companding the sound can be implemented in a number of different ways and controlled between the two settings (Min & Max) depending on the type of content, selections from the user, and so forth. For example, the maximum volume setting may operate as a threshold under which less than 5% of content exceeds. Other settings can be established so that the user gets a desired experience without the need to adjust each element.

Circuit 30 illustrates an analog example having stereo amplification from amps 32 34. The minimum and maximum levels are set for both channels from a single channel. An first integrator 36 operates on a first channel for analyzing the sound determining how it relates to the minimum threshold level, as set by input control 38 (or other means of selection). The output of integrator 36 modulates the transfer function of a gain control block 40, such as in the feedback path of amplifier 32, as well as control block 46, such as in the feedback path of amplifier 34. In this way gain is increased for both channels when the minimum input signals are below the threshold.

Similarly a high side stage is shown with integrator 42 whose level is set by input control 44. In response to inputs exceeding the threshold the gain the decreased by gain stage 40, 46 is changed for amplifier 32, 34, wherein sound is contained in the desired range. Compansion of the sound is preferably performed as a smooth transition about the minimum or maximum threshold.

The preferred inclusion of an integrator means allows for short portions of the audio content to temporarily exceed the threshold, such as can arise with explosion sounds. Users are more annoyed with sound levels that are maintained at too high a level, or conversely maintained at too low of a level for their particular sound system and ability to hear.

In a preferred embodiment the maximum and minimum volumes levels control companding of the audio between the selected minimum and maximum setting selected by the user. It will be appreciated that users can opt to set the maximum or minimum to their full extent at which no companding is performed.

In preferred embodiments the integrators or gain control stages are further modulated in response to signals from a processor based on a listening profile and/or characteristics of the sound source which have been detected. Modulation circuits 50, 52 are shown coupled to the integrators. These are controlled by analog or digital signals. In the embodiment shown a number of bits (serially, or more preferably in parallel) are received by the modulators from a microcontroller, microprocessor, DSP, neural net chip, or other programmable element. Alternately, the entire companding function (or any portion thereof can be performed digitally.

By providing the additional companding control, the compansion can be performed both according to desired user profiles and in response to any characteristics detected in the audio signals, such as by a separate DSP, information from a program guide, longer term historical information, history of compansion setting over recent time periods and so forth. In any regard the compansion is modulated in response to the characteristics of the audio source. For example the audio listening aspects of an action-packed movie on a television set would generally be different than what that same individual would want when listening to an opera.

The use of DSP allows speech recognition algorithms to detect the presence of speech to assure that it is properly amplified so the user does not miss the audio track. The system can also recognize sounds such as explosions, commercials, and the like wherein the compansion is modulated in response. By adding a delay stage before the amplifier, but not the detector, the circuit can have additional time for determining the characteristics of the incoming audio source. For example, spoken words recognized by the system are subject to being amplified by the compander in a different manner than other sounds. For example establishing a higher threshold for dialogue than for noises and sounds. In this way the dialogue is amplified sufficiently to assure the user hears it, while noises and such having little actual content are amplified less, or not at all.

In a very beneficial aspect of the invention the beginning of the media is encoded with information about the volume of media being reproduced. By way of example, a information about the maximum, minimum, median, average volume, and so forth, can be encoded to aid systems in establishing playback levels suitable to the user. In another embodiment the media (DVD, CD, etc.) can be encoded with pointers to the selected loud and soft passages, wherein the user can manually adjust playback volume before starting, based on these sections, or more preferably rely on software in the player which adjusts the settings based on these sections of the media being played. This data can be used in conjunction with user settings to control companding of the audio being processed.

10 METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR COOLING EQUIPMENT

10.1 Detailed Description.

(1) Fans whose speed and/or structure is modulated for the generation of desired sound effect, such as simulating natural conditions such as blowing breezes. Although the invention can be practiced in response to only changing fan speed, other changes can be utilized to provide additional distinctiveness.

FIG. 23 illustrates embodiment 10 having fan 12 whose speed is controlled by switch 14 (i.e., MOSFET, bipolar transistor, etc.) operating in a pulse-width modulated (PWM) mode, analog mode, or as a stepper motor, or an AC motor, or other selected speed control mechanism. A control circuit 16 is shown, exemplified as a microcontroller which modulates a signal to switch 14 in response to an audio source, such as from a memory 20, an outside source 22, or in response to ambient sounds, such as received from microphone 24, either directly or mixed with the other sources, such as by mixer 26. One or more temp sensors 28 can be utilized for determining the long term level of cooling that is necessary, wherein the average cooling power provided is set to be sufficient to prevent thermal overload, overheating, thermal runaway and so forth. It will be appreciated that a form of companding can be performed on the audio signal wherein the amplitude of the signal for driving fan intensity is always at a level beyond what is thermally needed to cool the device.

In another embodiment, the blade geometry can be changed, such as using piezo materials which are flexed in response to a voltage application. Furthermore the structure/geometry of the fan housing may be changed, such as actuating structures which are displaced in relation to the moving fan blade in order to modulate sound output from the fan. The same circuit as shown may be utilized however the actuators in the fan are controlled as an alternative, or in addition, to controlling the speed of the fan. In this way more variations in sound and characteristics can be produced, while maintaining proper cooling.

In another embodiment cooling fluid pumps are utilized whose speed is modulated to provide desired sound effects. In addition a heat exchanger (i.e., radiator) can be configured to allow further modulation of sound effects. In addition, fluid can be pumped through visible chambers as well to provide an aesthetic appeal, in particular if bubbles, or other elements are also generated or mixed with the moving fluid.

11 CONCLUSION—INTERPRETATION OF SPECIFICATION

The aspects, modes, embodiments, variations, and features described are considered beneficial to the embodiments described or select applications or uses; but are illustrative of the invention wherein they may be left off or substituted for without departing from the scope of the invention. Preferred elements of the invention may be referred to whose inclusion is generally optional, limited to specific applications or embodiment, or with respect to desired uses, results, cost factors and so forth which would be known to one practicing said invention or variations thereof.

It should be appreciated that each aspect of the invention may generally be practiced independently, or in combinations with elements described herein or elsewhere depending on the application and desired use. Modes may be utilized with the aspects described or similar aspects of this or other devices and/or methods. Embodiments exemplify the modes and aspects of the invention and may include any number of variations and features which may be practiced with the embodiment, separately or in various combinations with other embodiments.

Although the description above contains many specificities, these should not be construed as limiting the scope of the invention but as merely providing illustrations of some of the presently preferred embodiments of this invention. Thus the scope of this invention should be determined by the appended claims and their legal equivalents. Therefore, it will be appreciated that the scope of the present invention fully encompasses other embodiments which may become obvious to those skilled in the art, and that the scope of the present invention is accordingly to be limited by nothing other than the appended claims, in which reference to an element in the singular is not intended to mean “one and only one” unless explicitly so stated, but rather “one or more.” All structural, chemical, and functional equivalents to the elements of the above-described preferred embodiment that are known to those of ordinary skill in the art are expressly incorporated herein by reference and are intended to be encompassed by the present claims. Moreover, it is not necessary for a device or method to address each and every problem sought to be solved by the present invention, for it to be encompassed by the present claims. Furthermore, no element, component, or method step in the present disclosure is intended to be dedicated to the public regardless of whether the element, component, or method step is explicitly recited in the claims. No claim element herein is to be construed under the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 112, sixth paragraph, unless the element is expressly recited using the phrase “means for.”