Title:
TOY STRENGTH MEASURING DEVICE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A toy strength measuring device with a segmented body and an internal cable. A potentiometer is connected between the segmented body and the cable to determine movement of the cable relative to the segmented body. An electronic output is generated to correspond to an amount of relative movement sensed by the potentiometer.



Inventors:
Barthold, Mark (Torrance, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/744185
Publication Date:
01/10/2008
Filing Date:
05/03/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
73/379.03, 446/487
International Classes:
A63H33/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20070224909Child Receiving Device with Child Entertainment SystemSeptember, 2007Schoenfelder et al.
20050202746Glow in the dark wind swirlsSeptember, 2005Evans
20030181126Balloon chin as counterbalanceSeptember, 2003Blackman et al.
20080153384Interactive toy doll systemJune, 2008Friedland et al.
20050048869Toy yo-yo with selective enhanced rotationMarch, 2005Osawa et al.
20070087653Balloon anchoring structure with light emitting functionalityApril, 2007Cayton
20080274667Method and Top For Playing GameNovember, 2008Okoro
20070054593Therapeutic toy and method of using the sameMarch, 2007Santos
20020160686Device for propelling confettiOctober, 2002Watkins
20090017713Smoke-filling-bubble generatorJanuary, 2009Chung
20050142980Container for a toy comprising different partsJune, 2005Rivero



Primary Examiner:
HYLINSKI, ALYSSA MARIE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
KOLISCH HARTWELL, P.C. (PORTLAND, OR, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A toy comprising: a segmented body with an internal cable; a potentiometer connected between the segmented body and the cable to determine movement of the cable relative to at least a part of the segmented body; an electronic output that corresponds to an amount of relative movement sensed by the potentiometer.

2. The toy of claim 1, wherein the segmented body includes at least one domed, hollow segment.

3. The toy of claim 2, wherein the at least one domed, hollow segment includes a domed end with an aperture through which the internal cable passes.

4. The toy of claim 1, wherein the segmented body includes at least one segment with a shoulder that restricts relative movement of an adjacent segment so that a gap forms between portions of the one segment and the adjacent segment when the segmented body is bent along a primary axis.

5. The toy of claim 1, further comprising a foam outer cover encasing the segmented body.

6. The toy of claim 5, wherein the foam outer cover is substantially I-beam shaped.

7. The toy of claim 1, wherein the segmented body is configured to bend primarily within a single plane relative to the potentiometer.

8. The toy of claim 1, wherein the segmented body is configured to bend within more than a single plane relative to the potentiometer.

9. A toy comprising: a resilient, elongate body including several hollow segments movably joined together; a cable attached to a first end of the hollow segments, a biasing element attached to a second end of the hollow segments, opposite the first end, and attached to the cable; a sensor connected to the cable adjacent to the biasing element relative to the first end of the hollow segments so that the sensor is configured to sense movement of the cable relative to the second end of the hollow segments; electronics electrically connected to the sensor; at least one of a visual output and an audio output electrically connected to the electronics so that the electronics may modulate at least the visual output or the audio output in response to movement of the cable as sensed by the sensor.

10. The toy of claim 9, wherein at least one of the hollow segments includes a domed end.

11. The toy of claim 10, wherein the domed end includes an aperture through which the sensor is operatively connected to another of the hollow segments.

12. The toy of claim 9, wherein at least one of the hollow segments includes a shoulder that restricts relative movement of an adjacent hollow segment so that a gap forms between portions of the adjacent hollow segments when the resilient elongate body is bent along a primary axis.

13. The toy of claim 9, further comprising a foam outer cover encasing the resilient elongate body.

14. The toy of claim 13, wherein the foam outer cover is substantially I-beam shaped.

15. The toy of claim 9, wherein the hollow segments are configured to allow bending of the resilient elongate body primarily within a single plane relative to the sensor.

16. The toy of claim 9, wherein the hollow segments are configured to allow bending of the resilient elongate body within more than a single plane relative to the sensor.

17. A toy comprising: at least two domed, hollow segments shaped so that the segments collectively define a first dimension measured through the hollow of the segments when the segments are approximately coaxially oriented, and define a second dimension measured through the hollow of the segments when the segments are oriented at an angle relative to each other; a length sensor operatively connected to the hollow segments to sense a change in orientation of the segments relative to each other by sensing a change in length from the first dimension to the second dimension or from the second dimension to the first dimension; electronics electrically connected to the length sensor; at least one of a visual output and an audio output electrically connected to the electronics so that the electronics may modulate at least the visual output or the audio output in response to movement of the cable as sensed by the length sensor.

18. The toy of claim 17, wherein at least one of the segments includes an aperture through which the length sensor is operatively connected to another of the segments.

19. The toy of claim 17, further comprising a foam outer cover encasing the at least two segments.

20. The toy of claim 19, wherein the foam outer cover is substantially I-beam shaped.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. § 119(e) to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/797,466, filed on May 3, 2006, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference for all purposes.

SUMMARY AND BACKGROUND

The present disclosure relates to strength measuring devices, and more particularly to a bendable toy that is shaped to simulate a steel I-beam, and that generates different sounds and/or lights as a result of different degrees of bending or different rates of speed of bending. In one embodiment, the toy steel I-beam allows a child to imagine what it is like to be a super hero.

Examples of strength measuring devices and bendable toys are found in U.S. Pat. No. 3,807,729; U.S. Pat. No. 5,011,449; U.S. Pat. No. 6,086,518; U.S. Pat. No. 6,193,637; U.Ss Pat. No. 6,948,365; and U.S. Pat. No. 7,006,001; the disclosures of each of which are hereby incorporated by reference, for all purposes.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is an isometric front view of an exemplary toy strength measuring device according to the present disclosure. The toy is shown being bent in the hands of a child, in solid lines, and straight, in dashed lines. In the bent position, portions of the toy are cut away to show internal components.

FIG. 2 is a detail of the toy while being bent, taken from near the right hand of the child in FIG. 1, showing a segmented body encased in foam, an internal cable, and a sensor.

FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of the toy of FIG. 1, shown straight, taken generally along line 3-3 as indicated in FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of the toy of FIG. 3, shown bent, taken generally along line 4-4 as indicated in FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is an isometric front view of a detail of an alternative embodiment of a toy strength measuring device, showing a view similar to that of FIG. 2, with portions of the toy cut away to show internal components.

FIG. 6 is an isometric front view of a detail of another alternative embodiment of a toy strength measuring device, showing a view similar to that of FIG. 2, with portions of the toy cut away to show internal components.

FIG. 7 is an isometric front view of a detail of yet another alternative embodiment of a toy strength measuring device, showing a view similar to that of FIG. 2, with portions of the toy cut away to show internal components.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring to FIG. 1, an example embodiment of a toy strength testing bar 10 shown to include a foam outer cover 12 that encases a segmented body 14. Strength testing bar 10 is shown being held by a child, in a bent condition held in two hands, in solid lines. The dashed lines in FIG. 1 show bar 10 in a straight condition, without depicting any hands holding bar 10. For reference, a primary axis of bar 10 is shown in the straight condition, as indicated by line 3-3, and movement of bar 10 from the straight condition to the bent condition is indicated by arrows A.

Segmented body 14 includes a plurality of segments 16, each of which is hollow. Several segments 16 collectively enclose a spring-tensioned cable 18, such that segments 16 are movably joined together, surrounding cable 18. A sensor 20 is operatively connected between segmented bodies 14 and cable 18 to sense deformation or other manipulations of strength testing bar 10, by, for example, determining movement of cable 18 relative to segmented body 14.

Electronics 22 connect electrically to sensor mechanism 20, and include at least a visual output such as a light-emitting LED 24, or at least an audio output such as a sound-emitting speaker 26. Electronics 22 may include a microprocessor, not shown, that is programmed so that various deformations and manipulations of strength testing bar 10 may be interpreted by electronics 22 to produce various electronic outputs such as light outputs or sound outputs. In other words, each of sensor 20, LED 24, and speaker 26 is electrically connected to electronics 22, so that electronics 22 may modulate at least a visual output or an audio output in response to movement of cable 18, as sensed by sensor 20.

For example, bar 10 may be bent from a straight position, as shown in dashed lines in FIG. 1, to a curved position, as shown in solid lines. As sensor mechanism 20 senses a bending of bar 10, associated outputs, such as light outputs through LED 24, may flash faster and faster as beam 10 is bent into a tighter and tighter arc. If multiple LEDs 24 are included, when a user initially bends the device, the LEDs may simply light up, and when a user bends the device a little farther, the LEDs may begin to blink, and when a user bends the device even farther, the LEDs may blink more rapidly or in a more chaotic manner.

Alternatively or in addition, audio outputs through speaker 26 may simulate the sound of bending metal, or associated sound effects such as a pre-recorded or computer-simulated voice may announce various levels of strength as a user bends the device farther and farther. For example, bending bar 10 to a first point may trigger an announcement of “500 lbs;” bending bar 10 to a second point may trigger an announcement of “1,000 lbs;” and bending bar 10 to a third point may trigger an announcement of “you have super strength.”

Another non-exclusive scheme of output may be in response to bar 10 being slapped against an object, triggering an output that mimics an actual piece of steel hitting an object. This sound may be described as a ringing sound or a sound such as “ka-rang.” Any suitable scheme of light or LED or audio output may be incorporated into the device.

Cable 18 is shown in FIG. 1 to extend through segments 16, and is also shown attached to a first end 28 of segmented body 14, and pulled taut by a biasing element such as a spring 30, attached to cable 18 and attached to a second end 32 of segmented body 14, opposite first end 28. As bar 10 is bent, cable 18 moves relative to second end 32 stretching spring 30. This movement of cable 18 is shown in more detail in FIG. 2, as indicated by arrow B.

Sensor 20 is shown in FIG. 2 to include a potentiometer 34 attached to one of segments 16, adjacent second end 32. A pivot arm 36 is operatively connected to cable 18 so that pivot arm 36 moves an operative element of potentiometer 34, such as a wiper element, not shown, producing a measurable change in electrical resistance through potentiometer 34 as bar 10 is bent. This movement of pivot arm 36 is shown in more detail in FIG. 2, as indicated by arrow C. When bar 10 is straightened, spring 30 pulls on cable 18 so that pivot arm 36 moves in an opposite direction, as shown in dashed lines in FIG. 2, producing a measurable change in electrical resistance through potentiometer 34 as bar 10 is straightened.

Potentiometer 34 is electrically connected to electronics 22, so that electronics 22 may sense the changes in electrical resistance through potentiometer 34 over time, and produce corresponding outputs based on the amount of relative movement sensed. Quick changes in resistance, such as might be caused by a shock wave traveling through cable 18 when bar 10 is slapped against another object, may produce one set of outputs, while slow changes in resistance, such as might be caused by a user attempting to bend bar 10, may produce a different set of outputs.

While discussing sensor 20, it should be noted that sensor 20 is considered to be adjacent second end 32 relative to first end 28, even if sensor 20 is not actually located in second end segment 32. For example, if the segment shown in FIG. 1 closest to electronics 22 is defined as a center segment 38 of segmented body 14, sensor 20 may be located in center segment 38 and still be defined as adjacent second end 32 relative to first end 28. Placing sensor 20 close to electronics 22 may reduce the amount of movement of cable 18 that is available to be sensed by sensor 20, but it may also make commercial production of the toy more efficient because shorter wiring would be needed between sensor 20 and electronics 22. Alternatively, both sensor 20 and electronics 22 may be located in or very close to second end 32, again possibly reducing cost of manufacture because less wiring would be needed between sensor 20 and electronics 22.

Turning now to FIGS. 3 and 4, bar 10 is shown in a cross sectional view, taken along line 3-3 in FIG. 1. The cross-section views in FIGS. 3 and 4 show segments 16 that form segmented body 14. For reference, the joints between adjacent segments 16 are indicated at 40. At least one of segments 16 at each joint 40 is shown to be domed, in that it includes a domed end 42 with an aperture 44 through which cable 18 passes or extends, and more generally, through which sensor 20 is operatively connected from one segment 16 to another of segments 16.

Domed ends 42 may be shaped so that segments 16 not only pivot about joints 40 interspersed there between, but also so that ends 42 are pulled apart from one another when bar 10 is bent, as measured along cable 18. Each of the various segments 16 partially nest within an adjacent segment 16, but the segments are not fixedly attached to each other. The nesting shapes of segments 16 and corresponding domed ends 42 help keep segments 16 generally aligned along a straight axis when a user is not applying a bending force to the bar, as do cable 18 and foam cover 12.

Cable 18 may attach directly to first end segment 28, or a cable pin 46 may be used to attach cable 18 to first end segment 28. Similarly, spring 30 may attach directly to second end segment 32, or a spring pin 48 may be used to attach spring 30 to second end segment 32. Direct attachment may require fewer materials, and the inclusion of a cable pin 46 and/or a spring pin 48 may provide a stronger support for cable 18 and spring 30, and easier assembly. The use of pins 46 and 48 also make for simpler molding of segments 16, because a one-piece mold core may be used inside the hollow portion of each segment 16.

Comparing FIG. 3 to FIG. 4, the movement of cable 18 relative to segments 16 is illustrated. Domed, hollow segments 16 are shaped so that segments 16 collectively define a first dimension measured through the hollow of segments 16 when the segments are approximately coaxially oriented, as shown by the combined length of cable 18 and spring 30 in FIG. 3. Domed, hollow segments 16 are shaped so that segments 16 collectively define a second dimension measured through the hollow of segments 16 when segments 16 are oriented at an angle relative to each other, as shown by the combined length of cable 18 and spring 30 in FIG. 4, measured along cable 18 and spring 30. Sensor 20 is therefore, in a relative sense, a length sensor, and the shape of segments 16 is such that sensor 20 senses a change in orientation of segments 16 relative to each other.

In some embodiments, one or more of segments 16 may include a shoulder 50 that restricts relative movement of an adjacent one of the hollow segments so that a gap 52 forms between portions of the at least one of the hollow segments and the adjacent one of the hollow segments, when the resilient elongate body is bent along a primary axis. Shoulder 50, and resulting gap 52 that forms when this embodiment of bar 10 is bent, may provide more movement of cable 18 for any given degree of bending, when compared to segments 16 that do not have such a shoulder.

In the embodiment depicted in FIGS. 1-4, segments 16 are cylindrically shaped and have a generally circular cross-section, so that segments 16 may bend in all directions, within more than a single plane relative to sensor 20. Other embodiments, as shown in FIG. 5, use a segmented body 114 with a plurality of segments 116 that are more box-like in shape, with arched tops 142 and planar nesting sides 143 that tend to restrict bending of segmented body 114 to be primarily within a single plane relative to sensor 20, or more specifically, relative to potentiometer 34. To help in understanding the single plane referred to herein, this single plane would be the plane collectively represented by line 3-3 and curved line 4-4 in FIG. 1. The actual orientation of potentiometer 34 relative to this single plane may vary, as desired.

If desired, segments 116 may each include a shoulder 150 that restricts relative movement of an adjacent one of the hollow segments so that a gap 152 forms between portions of the at least one of the hollow segments and the adjacent one of the hollow segments, when the resilient elongate body is bent along a primary axis.

Other elements of bar 10 include batteries or other power source for electronics 22. Button cells, AAA, AA, C or D cells, or rechargeable batteries may all be used, as desired for the optimal combination of weight, longevity, cost, and environmental sensitivity. Electronics 22 may include dedicated circuitry, or electronics 22 may include a general purpose microprocessor, gate array, ASIC, or other known electronic assembly capable of producing light and/or sound output in a toy.

Cable 18 may be made from various materials, including but not limited to stranded metal cable, string, plastic monofilament, or chain. In some embodiments, sensor 20 may be spring-loaded, and may connect directly to an end of cable 18, eliminating the need for a separate spring. In other embodiments, sensor 20 may be a linear potentiometer, or more generally a position sensor, connected indirectly or directly to cable 18. For example, as shown in FIG. 6, a different embodiment of toy is shown at 210, including a sensor 220, and more specifically a position sensor 234 connected directly to cable 18. Similarly, as shown in FIG. 7, a still different embodiment of toy is shown at 310, including a sensor 320, and more specifically a position sensor 334 connected indirectly to cable 18 by a block 336. Block 336 is fixed relative to cable 18, and engages position sensor 334 so that block 336 slides or moves relative to position sensor 334. Position sensor 334 may be a linear potentiometer, for example producing a variable resistance as block 336 slides relative to position sensor 334. Any device that measures movement of cable 18 would be suitable as a position sensor.

A strain sensor, stretch sensor, or pressure transducer may also be used, in which case cable 18 need not be particularly inelastic, and instead may be elastic so that there is no need for a separate spring. Still further, a pressure or other force transducer may be placed adjacent one of apertures 44, and may sense an increase or decrease in force between cable 18 and segment 16 at or near the one of apertures 44.

In addition to or as an alternative to the measurement of the effective length of bar 10, other measurements may also be incorporated. For example, bar 10 may also include an accelerometer or other mechanism that is capable of measuring or at least detecting changes in acceleration. Such a mechanism may be incorporated into bar 10 in order to respond to user manipulation such as banging bar 10 against an object with varying amounts of force. The accelerometer or other mechanism may likewise be functionally connected to electronics 22 to output the various sound and light effects. When a user bangs bar 10 softly against an object, or with a smaller deceleration (i.e., the deceleration bar 10 undergoes when it hits an object), electronics 22 may emit a first level of output (e.g., LEDs 24 may light up and speaker 26 may emit a low level sound mimicking steel being hit against an object), and when a user bangs bar 10 with more force against an object, or such that the bar undergoes a greater deceleration, electronics 22 may emit a second higher level of output (e.g., LEDs 24 may blink at a faster or more chaotic rate when bar 10 is hit harder, and the sounds emitted by speaker 26 may become louder or harsher or otherwise stronger when bar 10 is hit harder).

Various decorative elements may be included as well. For example, foam cover 12 may be substantially I-Beam shaped, as shown in FIG. 1. More specifically, the outer shape is styled like an I-beam with a very thick web 54 and small flanges 56 extending perpendicularly to web 54. Additional details may be included, such as simulated plates 58, and simulated rivets or bolts 60. Other outer shapes may be used as well, to simulate real-world and imaginary items, as desired.

Although the present invention has been shown and described with reference to the foregoing operational principles and preferred embodiments, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various changes in form and detail may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. For example, variations in the details of the appearance, accessories, and operation may be envisioned. The present invention is intended to embrace all such alternatives, modifications and variances that fall within the scope of the appended claims.