Title:
Test Tube Alien Toy
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An interactive alien toy assembly (10) includes a chrysalis (20) that is placed in a test tube (22) along with water that dissolves the chrysalis (20) to expose an alien toy (12) whose super absorbent body portion (18) swells to simulate growth. Control circuitry (16) activates when an upper liquid sensor (32) and a lower liquid sensor (34) are exposed to the water. A light assembly (39) displays a simulated heartbeat in orange if both sensors (32, 34) are immersed to simulate overfeeding, in green if both sensors (32, 34) are exposed to simulate underfeeding, and in red if only the upper liquid sensor (32) to simulate correct feeding. A photo sensor (26) detects time spent in light and dark that is tracked to change the heartbeat, unless overfed. A computer display interrogation pattern (162) causes output of tracked age/neglect information or to go into an excited or coma mode.



Inventors:
Simpson, Mike (Tokyo, JP)
Bickerton, Matthew (Bletchingley, GB)
Application Number:
11/419630
Publication Date:
01/10/2008
Filing Date:
05/22/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63H30/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
RADA, ALEX P
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FROST BROWN TODD LLC (Cincinnati, OH, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A toy, comprising: a body portion; a sensor attached to the body portion responsive to an ambient condition; a human detectable output device attached to the body portion; and control circuitry contained in the body portion operatively configured in response to the sensor to track a metric associated with the ambient condition, to associate a current value of the metric with one of a plurality of stored output states, and to activate the human detectable output device in a defined output sequence defined for the associated output state.

2. The toy of claim 1, wherein the sensor comprises a light sensor.

3. The toy of claim 2, further comprising an interrogation system including a display operatively configured to produce a coded light sequence, the control circuitry responsive to the coded light sequence to perform an alternative output sequence on the human detectable output device.

4. The toy of claim 3, wherein the alternative output sequence comprises a lower power consuming coma mode.

5. The toy of claim 3, wherein the alternative output sequence comprises an accelerated excited mode.

6. The toy of claim 3, wherein the alternative output sequence comprises an encoded numeric representation of the tracked metric.

7. The toy of claim 6, wherein the interrogation system is further operatively configured to receive and convert the encoded numeric representation into a displayed base ten number.

8. The toy of claim 2, further comprising a second sensor attached to the body, the second sensor responsive to a liquid level in contact with the body, the control circuitry further operatively configured to respond to the liquid level.

9. The toy of claim 8, wherein the control circuitry is operatively configured to respond to the liquid level by altering the defined output sequence.

10. The toy of claim 8, wherein the control circuitry is operatively configured to respond to the liquid level by tracking a second metric.

11. The toy of claim 10, further comprising an interrogation system including a display operatively configured to produce a coded light sequence, the control circuitry responsive to the coded light sequence to perform an alternative output sequence on the human detectable output device containing a numeric representation of the second metric, the interrogation system further operatively configured to receive and decode the numeric representation into a displayed base ten numeral.

12. The toy of claim 1, wherein the sensor comprises a liquid sensor.

13. The toy of claim 12, further comprising a liquid container sized to receive the body portion, the body portion configured to upwardly present the liquid sensor, the liquid sensor operatively configured to generate a signal responsive to a depth of liquid in the liquid container.

14. The toy of claim 1, wherein the human detectable output device comprises a light emitting device.

15. The toy of claim 1, wherein the human detectable output device comprises an audio output device.

16. The toy of claim 1, wherein the body portion further comprises an absorbent portion configured to swell in the presence of liquid.

17. The toy of claim 1, further comprising an encompassing portion comprised of a material dissolved in liquid.

18. A toy, comprising: a body portion formed of super absorbent material; a sensor responsive to an ambient condition; circuitry attached to the body portion operably configured to produce a varying human detectable output in response to a sensed change in the sensed ambient conditions.

19. The toy of claim 18, wherein the sensor comprises a liquid sensor, the circuitry further operably configured to vary the human detectable output in response to a selected one of a group consisting of presence and absence of liquid.

20. The toy of claim 18, wherein the sensor comprises a photo sensor, the circuitry further operably configured to vary the human detectable output in response to a change in intensity of ambient light conditions.

21. The toy of claim 20, wherein the control circuitry is further operably configured to count an operating condition and to respond to coded light sequence to output the tracked operating condition on the human detectable output.

22. The toy of claim 21, wherein the human detectable output comprises a light assembly.

23. The toy of claim of 18, wherein the human detectable output comprises a color light assembly.

24. The toy of claim 23, wherein the color light assembly is responsive to the circuitry to produce a selected one of a group consisting of a first color, a second color, and a third color.

25. A toy, comprising: a body portion; a liquid sensor attached to the body portion; a light sensor attached to the body portion; a light assembly attached to the body portion; control circuitry contained in the body portion and in communication with the liquid and light sensors and operatively configured to actuate the light assembly in response to the liquid sensor and the light sensor.

26. The toy of claim 25, further comprising a dissolvable layer encompassing the body portion, the control circuitry responsive to the encased state of a selected one of a group consisting of the liquid and light sensors to operate in a low power consumption mode.

27. The toy of claim 25, further comprising a power supply contained in the body, the control circuitry responsive to sensed presence of light and liquid to selectively actuate the light assembly in a high power consumption mode and a low power consumption mode.

28. The toy of claim 25, further comprising a water absorbing, resilient portion.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates, in general, to toys that interact with user and ambient conditions, and in particular to toy pets responsive to light and liquid.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Given the wide range of toys available, especially those that are electronically programmed to mimic living things, a continuing need exists for unusual toy “pets” that interactively engage a child to enhance entertainment and learning potential.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention overcomes the above-noted and other deficiencies of the prior art by providing a toy that requires proper care by maintaining a water level and an ambient light level that affect a status displayed on a light assembly mounted on the toy.

In one aspect of the invention, a display interrogation sequence may be produced on a monitor that is sensed by the toy to cause the toy to enter into a mode that changes light sequences produced by the light assembly.

In another aspect of the invention, control circuitry of a toy monitor ambient conditions, particularly a level of liquid in which the toy is immersed, and responds with an indication to the user. Thereby, the toy emulates a creature who needs to be maintained within a proper level of liquid for feeding.

In yet another aspect of the invention, a body portion is formed of super absorbent material that swells in the presence of liquid to further mimic growth of the toy.

These and other objects and advantages of the present invention shall be made apparent from the accompanying drawings and the description thereof.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated in and constitute a part of this specification, illustrate embodiments of the invention, and, together with the general description of the invention given above, and the detailed description of the embodiments given below, serve to explain the principles of the present invention.

FIG. 1 is a diagram of an alien toy in a transparent test tube immersed in water at one of three levels to dissolve an encasing chrysalis, and to activate a head portion and to swell a body portion formed of super absorbent polymer material.

FIG. 2 is a circuit schematic of active electronic circuitry of the interactive alien toy assembly of FIG. 1.

FIG. 2A is a perspective view of a first alien toy for the interactive alien toy assembly of FIG. 1.

FIG. 2B is a perspective view of a second alien toy for the interactive alien toy assembly of FIG. 1.

FIG. 2C is a perspective view of a third alien toy for the interactive alien toy assembly of FIG. 1.

FIG. 2D is a perspective view of a fourth alien toy for the interactive alien toy assembly of FIG. 1.

FIG. 2E is a perspective view of a fifth alien toy for the interactive alien toy assembly of FIG. 1.

FIG. 2F is a perspective view of a sixth alien toy for the interactive alien toy assembly of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a state diagram of an active electronic circuitry of the alien toy of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a flow diagram of an initial unborn/test mode of the active electronic circuitry of the alien toy of FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is a timing diagram of a “heartbeat” exhibited by a lighting assembly of the alien toy after being “born”.

FIG. 6 is a diagram of ten surprise and neglect transition light sequences displaced by the lighting assembly in some instances.

FIG. 7 is a timing diagram of a light sequence interrogation that causes the alien toy of FIG. 1 to enter an age check mode.

FIG. 8 is a diagram of a light sequence denoting age 5 days displayed on the lighting assembly in response to the age check mode interrogation of FIG. 7.

FIG. 9 is a diagram of a light sequence denoting age 58 days displayed on the lighting assembly in response to the age check mode interrogation of FIG. 7.

FIG. 10 is a timing diagram of a light sequence interrogation that causes the alien toy of FIG. 1 to enter a neglect check mode.

FIG. 11 is a 5-bit dark neglect counter register maintained by the alien toy of FIG. 1 depiction denoting binary 00110.

FIG. 12 is a 5-bit light neglect counter register maintained by the alien toy of FIG. 1 depiction denoting binary 00101.

FIG. 13 is a diagram of a light sequence denoting the contents of the two neglect counter registers of FIG. 11-12 displayed on the lighting assembly.

FIG. 14 is a timing diagram of a light sequence interrogation that causes the alien toy of FIG. 1 to enter an excited mode.

FIG. 15 is a timing diagram of a light sequence interrogation that causes the alien toy of FIG. 1 to enter a coma mode.

FIG. 16 is a perspective view of the chrysalis being inserted into the test tube.

FIG. 17 is a perspective view of the chrysalis in the test tube being immersed in water.

FIG. 18 is a perspective view of the immersed chrysalis dissolving into the water.

FIG. 19 is a perspective view of the “born” alien toy after the chrysalis fully dissolves.

FIG. 20 is a perspective view of the alien toy being overfed by being fully immersed, causing a green LED to illuminate as a heartbeat.

FIG. 21 is a perspective view of the alien toy being underfed by having a left antenna exposed, causing an orange LED to illuminate as a heartbeat.

FIG. 22 is a perspective view of the alien toy being correctly fed by having an upper portion of the antenna exposed, causing a red LED to illuminate as a heartbeat.

FIG. 23 is a perspective view of a correctly fed, immature alien toy after being initially exposed from the chrysalis.

FIG. 24 is a perspective view of a correctly fed, adolescent alien toy after being exposed to water for about a week, allowing a super absorbent body portion to swell to a mid-size.

FIG. 25 is a perspective view of a correctly fed, mature alien toy after being exposed to water for about two weeks, allowing the super absorbent body portion to swell to a full size.

FIG. 26 is a perspective view of a sequence of interactions of the alien toy assembly with a web browser graphic user interface displayed on a computer screen that interrogates the alien toy to selectively enter an age check, a neglect check, an excited mode, or a coma mode that cause a change in the light assembly.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Turning to the Figures, wherein like numerals denote like components throughout the several views, in FIG. 1, an interactive alien toy assembly 10 has an alien toy 12 initially comprised of a head portion 14 containing active electronic circuitry 16 and attached to a non-expanded body portion 18 comprised of super absorbent polymer material. After a week of exposure to water, an adolescent alien toy 12′ is formed with a mid-sized adolescent body portion 18′. After about two weeks of exposure to water, the mature alien toy 12″ has a full-sized mature body portion 18″. A chrysalis structure 20 formed of an opaque, water soluble material encompasses the head and body portions 14, 18 of the alien toy 12 to deactivate the electronic circuitry 16, to prevent expansion of the body portion 18 to its mature state indicated at 18″, and to enhance play by resembling an insect-like chrysalis.

A liquid container, depicted as a transparent plastic test tube 22, of the toy assembly 10 is sized to receive the chrysalis 20 and subsequently the mature alien toy 12″ having the mature body portion 18″. The head portion 14 is maintained in an upright position by the test tube 22. Sensors monitor ambient conditions that are maintained by a child who interacts with the alien toy 12. In an illustrative version, light and water depth serve as environmental inputs for the active electronic circuitry 16. In particular, a right antenna 24 contains a light sensor 26 responsive to an ambient light threshold to respond with either a “LIGHT” or “DARK” signal to a controller 28 of the active electronic circuitry 16. Placement of the light sensor 26 in the right antenna 24 advantageously allows detection of ambient light levels in situations in which the toy 12 is immersed in a less than transparent liquid; however, it should be appreciated that the light sensor 26 may be attached to a lower portion of the toy 12. A left antenna 30 has an upper liquid sensor (“ULS”) 32 and a lower liquid sensor (“LLS”) 34 that sense the presence or absence of liquid, depicted as water 35, defining three water levels 36, 36′, 36″ that are respectively a low level exposing both liquid sensors 32, 34 (“underfed”), a medium level covering only the lower liquid sensor 34 (“correctly fed”), and a high level covering both liquid sensors 32, 34 (“over fed”).

It should be appreciated that the liquid depicted as water 35 as a convenient and safe option. However, applications consistent with the present invention may employ various liquids, mixtures, or solutions. To enhance the entertainment potential, various bubbling, foaming, color changing, or other effects may be selected for the interaction between the liquid and the chrysalis structure 20.

It should be further appreciated that the liquid container may be opaque rather than transparent, with the toy 12 viewed from the opening. Alternatively, a view window (not depicted) may be incorporated. In addition, although the test tube 22 advantageously orients an elongate shaped toy keeping certain sensors at or near the top level of the water 35, liquid containers consistent with aspects of the present invention may be of other shapes, such as much larger than the toy 12, such as those provided by the end user and not supplied with the interactive alien toy assembly 10. Weighting a lower portion of the toy 12 and allowing a top portion to be buoyant would thus accomplish the orienting of the toy 12 for liquid level detection.

Alternatively, flexible portions of an alien toy may further adapt to various water levels, especially when placed in a liquid container that may greatly vary in water depth. For example, weighted legs may stretch toward the bottom of the container and have sensors that detect when the toy is fully floating, when the legs are touching the bottom and when the body of the toy is touching the bottom. Similarly, elongate antennas or snorkels may float with the rest of the body being non-buoyant.

The active electronic circuitry 16 is powered by a power supply 38, which in the illustrative version is a battery. Alternatively, the power supply 38 may comprise dissimilar metal electrodes activated by filling the test tube 22 with electrolyte solution, an ultracapacitor or similar storage device charged inductively or by photovoltaic effect, etc. To extend useful life, visual and/or audio outputs are intermittently provided by low power consuming devices and the controller 28 is configured to go into a low power consumption mode under certain conditions described below. In illustrative versions, the controller 28 performs a status mode by activating a light assembly 39 composed of a translucent light panel 40 illuminated by a selected light emitting diode (LED), in particular a green LED 42, an orange LED 44, or a red LED 46. In the illustrative version, a bi-color LED may be activated in (1) green or (2) red mode or in (3) both modes that appear orange.

Alternatively or in addition to a visual cue, the active control circuitry 16 may include an audio device 48 to enhance the mimicry or mimic sounds of a living organism and/or to provide similar status information described herein as timed and sequenced color data displayed by the translucent light panel 40.

In FIG. 2, an exemplary active electronic circuitry 16′ for the alien toy 12 is built around a 4-bit microcontroller (U2) that operates on very low current, such as the Model W541C200. The circuitry 16′ is powered at a Voltage Common Cathode (VCC) node once a short pad (S1) is fused during fabrication to a positive terminal of a double 1.5V cell battery (BAT1) referenced to circuit ground (GND). Protection to the circuitry 16′ is given by a 0.1 μF fixed nonpolarized capacitor (C5) and a 4.7 μF fixed polarized capacitor (C4) both connected across VCC node and GND node. The microcontroller (U2) has both pin 5 and pin 10 (VSS) negative power supply (−) connected to GND node. The microcontroller (U2) has both pin 20 and pin 25 (VDD) positive power supply (+) connected to VCC node.

To generate a system clock, pin 26 (XOUT) of the microcontroller (U2) is connected to GND node via an 18 pF fixed nonpolarized capacitor (C9) and pin 27 (XOUU) is connected to GND node via an 18 pF fixed nonpolarized capacitor (C1). An oscillator (Y1) having a resonant frequency of 32.768 kHz is connected across pin 26 (XOUT) and pin 27 (XOUU).

A test apparatus (SOCKET1) allows interacting with a Writer to confirm operation of the circuitry 16′ during fabrication. To that end, A first pin of SOCKET1 is connected to pin 4 ( RES), a system reset pin with pull-high resistor of the microcontroller (U2). A second pin of SOCKET1 is connected to pin 2 (RA3) of the microcontroller (U2). A third pin of the SOCKET1 is connected to pin 5 (VSS) of the microcontroller (U2). A fixed nonpolarized capacitor (C3) is connected across the first and second pins of the SOCKET1. A fourth pin of the SOCKET1 is connected to pin 3 ( INT), external interrupt pin with pull-high resistor of the microcontroller (U2). A fifth pin of SOCKET1 is connected to VCC node and also connected to pin 3 ( INT) of the microcontroller (U2) via a 330 kΩ resistor (R8). A 10 kΩ resistor (R7) is connected across the first and fifth pins of SOCKET1. A silicon epitaxial planar switching diode (D1) model IN4148 has a negative terminal connective to the fourth pin of SOCKET1 and a positive terminal connected to pin 18 (RC2) of the microcontroller (U2). A silicon epitaxial planar switching diode (D2) model IN4148 has a negative terminal connective to the fourth pin of SOCKET1 and a positive terminal connected to pin 17 (RC1) of the microcontroller (U2). Pins 17, 18 of the microcontroller (U2) are each biased by being connected to VCC node via 330 kΩ resistors (R3, R4), respectively. The diodes D1, D2 allow simulating activation of upper and lower liquid sensors.

The upper and lower liquid sensors 32, 34 are provided in the exemplary version by a probe common conductor (PROBE COM) connected to pin 11 (RB0) of the microcontroller (U2) and physically proximate to a High Electrode (H) and physically proximate to a Low Electrode (L) for being electrically shorted in the presence of a conductive liquid. Alternatively, these High and Low Electrodes (H, L) may represent pressure switches triggered by the fluid pressure of the liquid. The High Electrode (H) is also connected to a base of an NPN silicon transistor (Q4) model 9014D whose collector is connected to pin 18 (RC2) of the microcontroller (U2) and whose emitter is connected to GND node. Biasing of the transistor (Q4) is provided with a 10 MΩ resistor (R11) connected between the base and emitter. Filtering is provided for this high liquid level signal with a fixed nonpolarized capacitor (C8) connected between pin 18 (RC2) of the microcontroller (U2) and the emitter of the transistor (Q4). The Low Electrode (L) is connected to a base of an NPN silicon transistor (Q3) model 9014D whose collector is connected to pin 17 (RC1) of the microcontroller (U2) and whose emitter is connected to GND node. Biasing of the transistor (Q3) is provided with a 10 MΩ resistor (R10) connected between the base and emitter. Filtering is provided for this low liquid level signal with a fixed nonpolarized capacitor (C7) connected between pin 17 (RC1) of the microcontroller (U2) and the emitter of the transistor (Q3).

The light sensor 26 in the exemplary version is provided an NPN silicon photo transistor (Q5) model WPTS-332D whose emitter is connected via a short point (S2) to the GND node and whose collector is connected via a 56 kΩ resistor (R1) to a base of an NPN silicon transistor (Q6) whose collector is connected to pin 16 (RC0) of the microcontroller (U2). Filter of the transistor (Q6) are provided by a fixed nonpolarized 47 nF capacitor (C6) between the base and GND node and by a fixed nonpolarized 47 nF capacitor (C2) between the collector and the GND node. The emitter of the transistor (Q6) is connected via a short point (S3) to both GND node and to pin 12 (RB1) of the microcontroller (U2). Biasing of the photo transistor (Q5) is provided by a series combination of resistors (R2, R14) between VCC node and the collector, the resistance selected for a desired darkness threshold. The switched transistor (Q6) is biased by VCC node being connected to the collector via a 330 k resistor (R13). The collector is also connected to a test node (T1).

The light assembly 39 in the illustrative version is provided by a Red LED (LED1) and a Green LED (LED2) each having a negative terminal connected to GND node, with both being turned on to create Orange. Power is selectively provided to Red LED (LED1) by a base of a PNP silicon transistor (Q1) model 9015D being connected via a 10 kΩ resistor (R5) to pin 6 (RE0) of the microcontroller (U2). A collector of the transistor (Q1) is connected to VCC node and an emitter is connected to a positive terminal of the Red LED (LED1) via an 820Ω resistor (R6). Power is selectively provided to Green LED (LED2) by a base of a PNP silicon transistor (Q2) model 9015D being connected via a 10 kΩ resistor (R12) to pin 7 (RE1) of the microcontroller (U2). A collector of the transistor (Q2) is connected to VCC node and an emitter is connected to a positive terminal of the Green LED (LED2) via a 390Ω resistor (R9).

For a given inner diameter of a test tube 22, various shapes of an alien toy 12 may be formed that increase the likelihood of additional purchases to complete a set. Each version, depicted in a fully grown state, may share the same electronic circuitry 16 or be programmed for different light responses tailored to a specific model. In FIG. 2A, a “good alien” TATSUNI™ alien toy 12a is depicted. In FIG. 2B, a “good alien” KURION™ alien toy 12b is depicted. In FIG. 2C, a “good alien” YAGONI™ alien toy 12c is depicted. In FIG. 2D, a “bad alien” SHAKO™ alien toy 12d is depicted. In FIG. 2E, a “bad alien” DODEC™ alien toy 12e is depicted. In FIG. 2F, a “bad alien” TAKON™ alien toy 12f is depicted.

While an alien is depicted in the illustrative version, other aesthetic shapes may be employed consistent with aspects of the invention, such as fantastic sea creates such as mermaids, extinct ancient sea creatures such as trilobites, or realistic or caricatured animals such as a frog.

In FIG. 3, an exemplary state change procedure 50 performed by the controller 28 of the electronic circuitry 16 of FIG. 1 depicts the various modes of the light assembly 39. Upon fabrication, an initial state is “unborn” and/or test mode 52. In FIG. 4, this stage before reaching an end user (“child”) begins with fabrication of the alien toy (block 54), which includes supplying power to the controller 28. The controller 28 then enters a low power sleep mode (block 56), wherein outputs such as the light assembly 39 are disabled and processing is kept to a minimum. Once an antenna sensor 32, 34 is triggered in block 58, the controller 28 is enabled to process and comes out of low power sleep mode. A determination is then made if a test mode has been externally commanded (block 60). Specifically, the controller 28 watches for the lower liquid sensor to be triggered three times within 2 seconds and then the upper liquid sensor to be triggered three times within a subsequent two seconds. This type of activation requires a test apparatus setup to initiate as may or may not happen prior to encasing the alien toy 12 and packaging for shipment to the end user. Although not depicted, the controller 28 also looks for simultaneous activation of both antenna sensors 32, 34 to go into normal mode, but procedural safeguards during fabrication in the test equipment, etc, may prevent inadvertent activation of the electronic circuitry 16 into normal mode.

Alternatively, a physical disconnect of a power supply may further extend shelf life, such as a switch, pull tab or other device.

If the test mode is sensed in block 60, a test mode indication is output (e.g., 1 second illuminations of each LED 42, 44, 46 in turn) (block 62). Then the controller watches for any of the three sensors 26, 32, 34 to be triggered within a 10 second test mode period to test a specific LED 42, 44, 46. In particular, if a determination is made in block 64 that the lower liquid sensor 34 is triggered, the red LED 46 is toggled on (block 66). Then if the upper liquid sensor 32 is triggered (block 68), the green LED 42 is toggled on (block 70). Then if the photo sensor 26 is triggered (block 72), the orange LED 44 is toggled on. These processing/lights tests occur in whatever order until a determination is made in block 76 that a 10 second time-out has occurred, after which the controller 28 goes back to block 56 and returns to sleep mode.

At some point during fabrication, in block 78 the alien toy 12 is encased in a chrysalis that disables the sensors 26, 32, 34 and the assembly is packaged and shipped to an end user (block 80). The end user then begins play by placing the chrysalis into the test tube and adding water to dissolve the chrysalis (block 82). Next the antenna sensors 32, 34 are exposed to liquid and are activated (block 84). The controller makes a determination whether normal mode has been indicated (block 86) (e.g., simultaneous activation of both liquid sensors 32, 34 for two seconds). If not, the controller returns to sleep mode in block 88. If normal mode is detected in block 86 with both antenna liquid sensors 32, 34 activated by exposure to water for two seconds, the controller 28 blocks out test mode as an option and initiates processing as a “born” alien and begins tracking time since being born and other light exposure factors (block 90).

In FIG. 5, upon activation (i.e., when the alien toy 12 is “born”), the light assembly 39 exhibits a “heartbeat” (FIG. 4) of a repeated series of a pair of 0.02 s color pulses spaced by 0.25 s followed by a 1.5 s low power sleep mode period. Proper care of the alien toy 12 requires proper amounts of time in both light and dark conditions. The life (of the battery 38) is maximized by placing the alien toy 12 in light for about 12-14 hours followed by about 12-14 hours of dark per day. (See Tables 1-2.) Either too much darkness or too much light increases power consumption by changing the “heart beat” of the alien toy 12 to a higher power consuming mode. The controller 28 monitors the light level every 15 s under normal conditions. Upon transitioning from light to darkness, monitoring increases to once per second for two minutes to detect a web interaction code, as described below.

Returning to FIG. 3, the selected color (i.e., illuminated green, orange or red LED 42, 44, 46) of the light assembly 39 depends upon the water level sensed by the controller 28. With a low level, the color is orange, which consumes more battery power by requiring illumination of two LEDs to create the color. With a correct level, the color is red. With a high (“over fed”) level, the color is green (block 104), which has a particular heartbeat pattern that does not depend on the light/dark state. See Table 3. This over fed state 104 trumps all other modes. If not overfed in block 104, a state of “in light” of block 106, Table 1, or “in dark” in block 108, Table 3, is entered. The color pattern depends upon the duration of remaining in that state.

TABLE 1
Alien in the light
Time inLEDLEDLEDLED onLED offSequence
State nameLightcoloron Timeoff TimeTimeTimeDuration
A 0-12 hrsFood0.02 s0.25 s0.02 s1.5 s1.79 s
dependant
B12-14 hrsFood0.02 s0.25 s0.02 s0.7 s0.99 s
dependant
C 14+ hrsFood0.02 s0.25 s0.02 s0.5 s0.79 s
dependant

If the alien is in states A, B or C and placed in the dark, it moves directly to state D.

TABLE 2
Alien in the Dark
StateTime inLEDLED onLEDLED onLED offSequence
nameDarkcolorTimeoff TimeTimeTimeDuration
D 0-5 minsFood0.02 s 0.25 s0.02 s1.5 s1.79 s
dependant
E 5-30 minsFood0.02 s 0.25 s0.02 s2.5 s2.79 s
dependant
F30 min-12 hrsFood0.02 s 0.25 s0.02 s5.0 s5.29 s
dependant
G12-13 hrsFood0.5 s0.25 s0.5 5.0 s6.25 s
dependant
H13-16 hrsFood1.0 s 0.5 s 1.0 s5.0 s 7.5 s
dependant
I 16+ hrsFood1.5 s  1 s 1.5 s10.0 s   14 s
dependant

If the alien is in states D, E, F, G, H or I and placed in the light, it moves directly to state A.

TABLE 3
Overfeeding/Drowning
Time
StateinLEDLED onLED offLED onLED offSequence
namestatecolorTimeTimeTimeTimeDuration
J0-2Green  1 s0.5 s  1 s0.5 s  3 s
mins
K2-4Green 0.2 s0.25 s  0.2 s0.25 s 0.9 s
mins
L4+Green0.05 s0.2 s0.05 s0.2 s0.5 s
mins

When the alien device 12 has been in the dark state 108 for 30 minutes to 10 hours or has been in the light state 106 for 30 minutes to 10 hours and transitions to the other state 106, 108, the alien device enters one of six “surprised” transition states. If 0.5 to 3 hours in dark, then a first surprised state occurs (block 110) before moving to the normal light state (block 106). As graphically depicted in FIG. 6, the sequence is a six second sequence of half second color flashes: red—orange—green—off—red—orange—green—off—red—orange—green—off.

If 3 to 7 hours in dark, then a second surprised state occurs (block 112) before moving to the normal light state (block 110). As graphically depicted in FIG. 6, the sequence is a six second sequence of half second color flashes: orange—green—red—off—orange—green—red—off—orange—green—red—off.

If 7 to 10 hours in light, then a third surprised state occurs (block 114) before moving to the normal light state. As graphically depicted in FIG. 6, the sequence is a six second sequence of half second color flashes: green—red—orange—off—green—red—orange—off—green—red—orange—off.

Similarly, if in light in block 106 for 30 minutes to 3 hours, a fourth surprised state occurs (block 116) before moving to the normal dark state (block 108). As graphically depicted in FIG. 6, the sequence is a six second sequence of half second color flashes: red—green—orange—off—red—green—orange—off—red—green—orange—off.

If in light in block 106 for 3 to 7 hours, a fifth surprised state occurs (block 118) before moving to the normal dark state (block 108). As graphically depicted in FIG. 6, the sequence is a six second sequence of half second color flashes: orange—red—green—off—orange—red—green—off—orange—red—green—off.

If in light in block 106 for 7 to 10 hours, a sixth surprised state occurs (block 120) before moving to the normal dark state (block 108). As graphically depicted in FIG. 6, the sequence is a six second sequence of half second color flashes: green—orange—red—off—green—orange—red—off—green—orange—red—off.

If the duration is not 30 minutes to 10 hours that results in a surprised state, 110-120, the transition between light 106 to dark 108 or dark 108 to light 106 may be direct without a transition state if less than 30 minutes or 10 to 12 hours as depicted. If more than twelve hours, then a neglected transition state occurs.

If in light in block 106 for 12 to 14 hours, a first neglected state occurs (block 122) before moving to the normal dark state (block 108). As graphically depicted in FIG. 6, the sequence is a six second sequence of half second color flashes: red—green—red—off—red—green—red—off—red—green—red—off.

If in light in block 106 for over 14 hours, a second neglected state occurs (block 124) before moving to the normal dark state (block 108). As graphically depicted in FIG. 6, the sequence is a six second sequence of half second color flashes: green—red—green—off—green—red—green—off—green—red—green—off.

Similarly, if in dark in block 108 for 12 to 16 hours, a third neglected state occurs (block 126) before moving to the normal light state (block 106). As graphically depicted in FIG. 6, the sequence is a six second sequence of half second color flashes: orange—green—orange—off—orange—green—orange—off—orange—green—orange—off.

If in dark in block 108 for over 16 hours, a fourth neglected state occurs (block 128) before moving to the normal light state (block 106). As graphically depicted in FIG. 6, the sequence is a six second sequence of half second color flashes: green—orange—green—off—green—orange—green—off—green—orange—green—off.

Returning to FIG. 3, in addition to responding to environmental conditions such as water depth and the presence or absence of light, the alien toy 12 advantageously interacts with coded light-dark flashed sequences by initially making a determination if a web mode selected state (block 130) has been commanded, and then to move to an age check state (block 132), a neglect check state (block 134), a ten minute excited state (block 136), or a lower power coma state (block 138).

For instances in which the user chooses to exit the excited state (block 136) and/or the coma state (block 138) or to otherwise correct a malfunction or inadvertent state of the control circuitry 16, a reset button or other similar device may be incorporated into the alien toy 12 to return the control circuitry 16 to another state. For example, an internal gravity switch may interrupt power to the control circuitry 16 when the alien toy 12 is upside down, preventing operation if inserted upside down in the test tube 22 or serving as a reset if momentarily inverted.

In FIG. 7, the web mode selected state 130 is invoked by placing the alien toy 12 in dark for at least 15 seconds, since the normal light/dark detection rate is once every 15 seconds. Then the alien device 12 is placed in light for at least 15 seconds. Again, this ensures that the state change has been detected. With a detected dark/light transition, the alien toy 12 begins to monitor light conditions once per second for two minutes before reverting back to the 15 second interval. Thus, when a subsequent one second dark indication is sensed, the web mode selected state 130 is triggered. The alien toy 12 looks for the next three light/dark samples taken once per second to indicate three-bit command, followed by a three second light command that the alien toy 12 takes as a stop condition and coincides with a wait period before the new state 132-138 is entered. In FIG. 7, the unique 3-bit code for age check is LIGHT-DARK-LIGHT.

In response to the age interrogation code, the alien toy 12 enters the age check state 132. Once the three second delay elapses to give the end user child time to be prompted to look at the light assembly 39 of the alien toy 12, a visual age code is displayed that may be input into an interactive computer graphical user interface to translate an 8-bit binary number into a base ten number. For example, in FIG. 8, first a four second orange indication is given, then green half second flashes for zeroes and red half-second flashes for ones are given, with half second off states between color flashes. After a stop 4 second orange indication, the 8-bit code replays and ends with another four second orange indication (not shown). In FIG. 8, the 8-bit binary code given is 0000 0101, which is 5 days old. In FIG. 9, the 8-bit binary code given is 0011 1010, which is 58 days old.

In FIG. 10, the web mode selected state 130 has occurred but the subsequent 3-bit unique code received is a dark-light-dark that indicates neglect check state 134. Supposing that previously the alien toy 12 had been in the third and fourth dark neglected states 126, 128 five and one times respectively, then FIG. 11 depicts a 5-bit binary register representation of a dark neglected counter register 140 containing 00110, which is 6. Further supposing that previously the alien toy 12 had indicated the first and second light neglected states 122, 124 zero and five times respectively, then FIG. 12 depicts a 5-bit register representation of a light neglected counter register 142 containing 00101, which is 5. In FIG. 13, in neglect check state 134 with reference to these registers 140, 142, the alien toy 12 displays a 4 second orange flash, followed by 10 half second color flashes of green for zero and red for one with interspersed half second off between color flashes, followed by 4 second orange flash, a repeat of the 10-bit display, and then a 4 second orange stop flash. The first 5 bits of information correspond to the dark neglected counter register 140 and the second 5 bits of information correspond to the light neglected counter register 142. Thus, in FIG. 13, the 10-bit code for 0011000101 is green—green—red—red—green—green—green—red—green—red. The counters 140, 142 reach their maximum count at binary 11111, which is 31. This value is maintained if subsequent neglected states are encountered.

In FIG. 14, if after web mode selected state 130 is entered and the next 3-bit unique code received is dark-dark-light, then the excited state 136 is entered, which imparts a temporary change in the heartbeat of the alien toy 12 to a rapid beat. Thus, the timing of the heartbeat depicted in FIG. 5 would be modified as described in Table 4. The alien toy 12 returns to ‘normal’ condition (state A of Table 1, light state 106 or state D of Table 2, dark state 108, as appropriate) after 10 minutes. Detecting an overfed state 104 overrides the excited state 136.

TABLE 4
TimeLED
StateinLEDLED onoffLED onLED offSequence
namestatecolorTimeTimeTimeTimeDuration
M10Food0.05 s0.2 s0.05 s0.2 s0.5 s
minsdependent

In FIG. 15, if after web mode selected state 130 is entered and the next 3-bit unique code received is light-light-dark, then the coma state 138 is entered, which imparts a change in the heartbeat of the alien toy 12 to a slow beat and suspends incrementing a counter used for the age check state 132. Thus, the timing of the heartbeat depicted in FIG. 5 would be modified as described in Table 5. The alien toy 12 remains in the coma state 138 until an overfed state 104 is detected, or otherwise until a light state 106 is detected (State A of Table 1).

TABLE 5
LEDLED
StateTime inLEDLED onoffLED onoffSequence
namestatecolorTimeTimeTimeTimeDuration
NUntilFood0.02 s0.5 s0.02 s10 s10.54 s
light isdependent
detected

In use, in FIG. 16, the chrysalis structure 20 is inserted into the test tube 22. In FIG. 17, the test tube 22 is filled with water 35. In FIG. 18, the water soluble chrysalis 20 dissolves into solution. In FIG. 19, the chrysalis 20 is completely dissolved, exposing the immature alien toy 12 that is thus “born” and begins its light heartbeat on the light assembly 39. In FIG. 20, if the level of water 35 is too high at level 36″ fully covering the left antenna 30, then the light assembly 39 of the alien toy 12 is green, activating the green LED 39. In FIG. 21, if the level of water 35 is too low at level 36 fully exposing the left antenna 30, then the light assembly 39 of the alien toy 12 is red, activating the red LED 44. In FIG. 22, if the level of water 35 is correct at a midpoint of the left antenna 30 at level 36, then the light assembly 39 of the alien toy 12 is orange, activating the orange LED 46. The immature alien toy 12 of FIG. 23 with a non-expanded immature body portion 18 is exposed to the water 35. In FIG. 24, after a week of exposure to water 35, the adolescent alien toy 12′ has the mid-sized adolescent body portion 18′. After about two weeks of exposure to water 35, the mature alien toy 12″ has a full-sized mature body portion 18″.

The interactive alien toy assembly 10 may be placed next to web browser graphical user interface (GUI) 150 of a computer display 152 to provide further interactive possibilities other than varying the light and water depth. Once launched, the web browser GUI 150 instructs the end user child to turn off the lights in the room in which the computer display 152 resides to initiate web mode selection state 130. The approximately 15 seconds necessary in darkness (state 108) then elapses. Active spots on the web browser GUI 150 are provided to select one of four web modes. In particular, an age check icon 154 may be selected to enter age check mode 132. A neglect check icon 156 may be selected to enter neglect check mode 134. An excite mode icon 158 may be selected to enter the excite mode state 136. A coma mode icon 160 may be selected to enter the coma state 138. Once one of the icons 154-160 is selected, which in the illustrative version is the neglect check icon 156, a display portion 162 on the web browser GUI 150 proximate to the alien toy 12—“hypnotizes” the alien toy 12 prior to interrogation for 15 seconds that ends with the one second dark screen that signals the alien toy 12 that the unique 3-bit code is to follow. The display portion at 162a has gone black as the first bit. The display portion at 162b has gone white as the second bit. The display portion at 162c has gone black as the third bit. After the web browser GUI 150 instructs the child to memorize the light pattern exhibited by the alien toy 12, the web browser GUI 150 provides a color sequence entry screen 164, if in the age check mode 132 or neglect check mode 134, that accepts entry of the displayed pattern. The web browser GUI 150 then converts the input binary code into a base ten number in an output display 166.

It should be appreciated that any patent, publication, or other disclosure material, in whole or in part, that is said to be incorporated by reference herein is incorporated herein only to the extent that the incorporated material does not conflict with existing definitions, statements, or other disclosure material set forth in this disclosure. As such, and to the extent necessary, the disclosure as explicitly set forth herein supersedes any conflicting material incorporated herein by reference. Any material, or portion thereof, that is said to be incorporated by reference herein, but which conflicts with existing definitions, statements, or other disclosure material set forth herein will only be incorporated to the extent that no conflict arises between that incorporated material and the existing disclosure material.

While the present invention has been illustrated by description of several embodiments and while the illustrative embodiments have been described in considerable detail, it is not the intention of the applicant to restrict or in any way limit the scope of the appended claims to such detail. Additional advantages and modifications may readily appear to those skilled in the art.

For example, the web browser GUI may be an Internet supplied JAVA applet, or locally installed computer program, a game console-based program, or a dedicated interface device that becomes part of the interactive alien toy assembly 10.

For example, alternatively or in addition to a flashed interrogation pattern on a computer monitor, a microphone or other audio transducer may monitor a sound pattern emanated by the computer monitor to control the toy. In addition, while an interactive web browser GUI has various advantages, applications consistent with the present invention may include a broadcast program that includes the interrogation patterns with instructions for the viewers to place their toy in proximity to the screen.

As another example, while the “growth” of the alien toy 12 enhances the mimicry of a living creature, it should be appreciated that applications consistent with the present invention may not have an expansive portion. For example, a “meteorite transported aquatic robotic soldier” may require a period of time in an ocean environment after reentry for activation.

As an additional example, instead of swelling in the presence of water, a toy consistent with aspects of the invention may change over time by having resilient portions that are freed after release from the chrysalis structure or that are otherwise mechanized for actuation.

As yet a further example, while incorporation of a chrysalis structure enhances the entertainment potential, applications consistent with the present invention may omit such a structure.

As yet an additional example, applications consistent with the present invention may include a body formed entirely from a rigid material, formed entirely from a resilient but nonabsorbent material, formed entirely from a super absorbent, swelling material, or from some combination of these materials.

While a particular sequence of interrogation light signals and colored, timed light responses are illustrated herein, applications consistent with the present invention may employ various combinations of light and/or audio responses to various combinations of light and/or audio interrogation or ambient conditions. For example, the web page interface may include color codes that are detectable by a light sensor to make additional unique interrogation codes and/or to avoid inadvertent activation of a web mode. Certain sound triggers could also “wake” or “excite” or “surprise” the alien toy. Further, for clarity, a single color signal at a time is depicted, whereas multiple colors may be displayed at the same time. Moreover, instead of LED type lights, light panels (e.g., LCD, OLED, etc.) may be incorporated into the alien toy.