Title:
FOOTWEAR CONTACT INDICATION SYSTEM
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A system for alerting a skater when the skater's feet touch during a maneuver. The system comprises a wrap that bears a pocket positionable on an item of footwear, such as an ice skate. The wrap includes lateral portions extending around the ankle of the skate and may further include an instep strap coupled to the lateral portions and extending beneath the skate. The system further includes a contact device in communication with an indication device. The contact device is configured to detect an amount of contact from a nearby object, such as a skater's other foot. Upon detecting the amount of contact, the indication device provides a human perceptible indication to the skater that indicates that a sufficient amount of contact was made to trigger the contact device.



Inventors:
Pickford, Kehau (Seattle, WA, US)
Application Number:
11/781049
Publication Date:
01/24/2008
Filing Date:
07/20/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
116/203, 280/809
International Classes:
A63C3/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
RESTIFO, JEFFREY J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LOWE GRAHAM JONES, PLLC (SEATTLE, WA, US)
Claims:
The embodiments of the invention in which an exclusive property or privilege is claimed are defined as follows:

1. A contact indication system for a footwear item comprising: a flexible holder having a pocket, the holder configured to be removeably secured to the footwear item; and an indication mechanism positioned in the pocket and configured with a contact surface operable to generate a human perceptible indication when the contact surface achieves a predetermined amount of contact with a nearby object.

2. The contact indication system of claim 1, wherein the footwear item includes an ice skate.

3. The contact indication system of claim 1, wherein the flexible holder includes lateral portions for extending around the footwear item.

4. The contact indication system of claim 1, wherein the pocket includes mesh material affixed to an external surface of the flexible holder.

5. The contact indication system of claim 1, wherein the flexible holder includes a strap for extending around an instep portion of the footwear to secure the flexible holder to the footwear item

6. The contact indication system of claim 1, the holder configured to be removeably secured to the footwear item includes the holder having hook and loop fastening portions.

7. The contact indication system of claim 1, wherein the indication mechanism includes a contact sensor in communication with an alarm-producing device to produce an audible sound when the contact sensor is contacted with a first amount of force.

8. The contact indication system of claim 1, wherein the indication mechanism includes a contact sensor and an earpiece unit in wireless communication with one another, the contact sensor operable to transmit a wireless signal to the earpiece unit, which provides the human perceptible indication that the contact sensor detected a predetermined amount of contact.

9. The contact indication system of claim 8, wherein the contact sensor transmits a radio frequency signal to the earpiece.

10. The contact indication system of claim 1, wherein the indication mechanism includes a contact sensor in communication with a vibration-producing device to produce a vibratory indication relative to the footwear that the contact sensor detected a predetermined amount of contact.

11. The contact indication system of claim 1, wherein the indication mechanism includes a contact sensor in communication with a light-producing device to produce a light indicating that the contact sensor detected a predetermined amount of contact.

12. The contact indication system of claim 1, wherein the contact surface includes a piezio-electric contact sensor.

13. The contact indication system of claim 1, wherein the nearby object includes an object not directly attached to or extending from the footwear item.

14. A method of training an ice skater to perform a skating maneuver, the method comprising: providing an ice surface for ice skating; permitting the ice skater on the ice surface when the ice skater is wearing an ice skate having a flexible holder with a pocket, the holder configured to be removeably secured to the ice skate, the pocket having a contact mechanism located therein and arranged in a predetermined position with respect to the ice skate; and permitting the ice skater to perform the skating maneuver on the ice surface wherein the contact mechanism is actuatable when contacted by a nearby object while the ice skater performs the skating maneuver, the contact mechanism operable to generate a human perceptible indication to the ice skater when a predetermined amount of contact with the nearby object is detected.

15. The method of claim 14, wherein permitting the ice skater on the ice surface includes accepting payment for the ice skater to utilize the ice surface.

16. The method of claim 14, wherein permitting the ice skater to perform the skating maneuver includes providing training lessons to the ice skater at an ice rink.

17. A contact indication system for a footwear item comprising: an ankle wrap having a pocket and first fastening means; an instep strap extending from the ankle wrap and having second fastening means; and a contact indication mechanism housed within the pocket, the ankle wrap secured to the footwear item with the contact indication mechanism orientated to detect an amount of contact by an object, the contact indication mechanism configured to generate a human perceptible indication when the amount of contact is detected.

18. The contact indication system of claim 17, wherein the first and second fastening means include a hoop and loop attachment system.

19. The contact indication system of claim 17, wherein the contact indication mechanism is a mechanically actuated mechanism.

20. The contact indication system of claim 17, wherein the contact indication mechanism is an electronically actuated mechanism.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to and incorporates by reference in its entirety U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/807,910 filed Jul. 20, 2006.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to a footwear contact indication system, such as a wrap-around device for an ice skate having an indication mechanism that may be actuated during ice skating maneuvers.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Many ice skating moves require that the skater's feet touch in order to be executed properly. Having one's feet close together allows for faster rotation and therefore a cleaner jump. However, ice skating jumps are typically executed very quickly, making it very difficult to observe whether the proper contact has occurred.

SUMMARY OF THE PARTICULAR EMBODIMENTS

A footwear contact indication system capable of being adjustably fitted to a wearer to alert the wearer when a nearby non-person obstacle is present or whether an adjacent wearer object is present, for example, an adjacent foot or shoe of the wearer. The footwear contact indication system includes a contact-and-contact indication apparatus that senses surface engagement and triggers an alarm-producing device. The contact-and-contact indication apparatus may be separately constructed and remotely located by the wearer of the footwear contact indication system so that the contact trigger may be located within the footwear region and the alarm-producing device being in sensory contact with the user in a non-footwear located region but in signal contact with the contact trigger. The footwear indication system may be advantageously used by ice skaters.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Preferred and alternative embodiments are described in detail below with reference to the following drawings:

FIG. 1 is a plan view of contact indication system having an ankle wrap in a folded out configuration with a pocket retaining a contact device and an indication device, in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a side elevational view of an ice skate bearing the contact indication system of FIG. 1 and having the contact device positioned over a lace portion of the ice skate;

FIG. 3 is a rear perspective view of an ice skate bearing the contact indication system of FIG. 1 and having the contact device positioned over a back portion of the ice skate;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a contact device and indication device according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of an indication device configured to produce an audible alarm or sound according to an embodiment of the invention; and

FIG. 6 is a side view of a alarm-producing device mounted within an ankle wrap, in accordance with a particular embodiment.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

The present invention is generally related to a footwear contact indication system having a contact device and an indication device. The indication device generates sound, vibration, light, or some other human perceptible indication or alarm whenever the contact device detects contact with or senses a nearby object, such as an adjacently worn footwear item or a portion of a wearer's body.

In one aspect of the invention, a contact indication system for a footwear item includes a flexible holder having a pocket, the holder configured to be removeably secured to the footwear item; and an indication mechanism positioned in the pocket and configured with a contact surface operable to generate a human perceptible indication when the contact surface achieves a predetermined amount of contact with a nearby object.

In another aspect of the invention, a method of training an ice skater to perform a skating maneuver includes providing an ice surface for ice skating; permitting the ice skater on the ice surface when the ice skater is wearing an ice skate having a flexible holder with a pocket, the holder configured to be removeably secured to the ice skate, the pocket having a contact mechanism located therein and arranged in a predetermined position with respect to the ice skate; and permitting the ice skater to perform the skating maneuver on the ice surface wherein the contact mechanism is actuatable when contacted by a nearby object while the ice skater performs the skating maneuver, the contact mechanism operable to generate a human perceptible indication to the ice skater when a predetermined amount of contact with the nearby object is detected.

In still yet another aspect of the invention, a contact indication system for a footwear item includes an ankle wrap having a pocket and first fastening means; an instep strap extending from the ankle wrap and having second fastening means; and a contact indication mechanism housed within the pocket, the ankle wrap secured to the footwear item with the contact indication mechanism orientated to detect an amount of contact by an object, the contact indication mechanism configured to generate a human perceptible indication when the amount of contact is detected.

Alternate embodiments may include the ankle wrap modified to position the contact device in a variety of orientations to allow the sensing or detection of a non-footwear surface or an adjacent footwear related surface. For example, an athlete participating in a hurdle jumping race may position the ankle wrap in an orientation to sense the position of an upper surface of the hurdle during training. In another embodiment, a skating athlete, for example an ice skater or a roller bladder, orientates the wrap and/or alarm holding pocket inwardly to sense the position of the user's other footwear during ice skating or roller skating, thereby allowing the user to alter feet placement during skating upon hearing the alarm whenever adjacent footwear come in close proximity or contacts the contact device with a sufficient amount of force.

In one embodiment of the invention, the contact indication system detects an amount of contact and then provides a human perceptible indication to an ice skater when the skater's feet touch during a jump or other maneuver. The system includes a wrap having a pocket holding a contact device that is preferably located on an upper lace portion of an ice skate. However, the pocket and the contact device may be located on other portions of the ice skate depending on the type of maneuver being performed or depending on the type of footwear being worn. The wrap includes lateral portions extending around the ankle of the skate with fastening means to secure the wrap to the skate. An instep strap may be coupled to the lateral portions and extend beneath an instep or an arch region of the skate to further secure the wrap to the ice skate. The contact device may take the form of a mechanically or electronically actuated device, for example a mechanical contact switch, a spring actuated device, a solenoid, a touch-sensitive pad or some other equivalent device capable of detecting an amount of contact with another object. The contact device may be integrally formed with or otherwise in communication with an indication device that produces a human perceptible indication, such as an audible sound, a vibratory motion, or an amount of light. The indication device receives a signal to produce the human perceptible indication when the amount of contact detected by the contact device is of a sufficient amount force and/or of a sufficient duration. Preferably, the pocket is sized to be larger than the contact indication system such that the system may be selectively positioned within the pocket and selectively secured to the ice skate.

FIG. 1 is a top view of an ankle wrap, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. A wrap 10 for footwear, for example an ice skate includes lateral portions 12A, 12B. The lateral portions 12A, 12B have a substantially arcuate shape such that the combined lateral portions 12A, 12B form a crescent shape. In the preferred embodiment, the lateral portions 12A, 12B are formed of neoprene, though other flexile materials may be used. A first part 14A of a two part fastening system secures to lateral portions 12A, 12B and a second part 14B of the two part fastening system secures to the other lateral portion 12A, 12B. In the illustrated embodiment, the first part 14A is part of a hook and loop fastening system secures to the upper surface of lateral portion 12B and the second part 14B of the hook and loop fastening system secures to the lower surface of the lateral portion 12A. The two part fastening system may include buckles, clips, snaps, and/or buttons (not shown).

An instep strap 16 secures to the one of the lateral portions 12A, 12B near the boundary between the first and second lateral portions 12A, 12B. The free end of the instep strap 16 bears a first part 18A of a second two part fastening system. A second part 18B of the second two part fastening system secures to the other lateral portion 12A, 12B, also near the boundary between the first and second lateral portions 12A, 12B. In the illustrated embodiment, the first part 18A is part of a hook and loop fastening system secured to a lower surface of the instep strap 16. The instep strap 16 secures to the lateral portion 12A and the second part 18B is the other part of a hook and loop fastening system secured to the upper surface of the lateral portion 12B. The instep strap 16 is typically elastic.

A pocket 20 secures to the upper surface of one of the lateral portions 12A, 12B. In the illustrated embodiment, the pocket 20 secures to whichever of the lateral portions 12A, 12B bears the instep strap 16. In the illustrated embodiment, one edge of the pocket 20 is secured to the wrap 10 at a seam 22 securing the lateral portions 12A, 12B to one another. The opposite edge of the pocket 20 secures to the lateral portion 12A near the fastening part 14B. In some embodiments, a portion of at least one edge of the pocket 20 is not secured to the wrap 10 in order to allow insertion and removal of an contact-and-contact indication device 24. In the illustrated embodiment, the upper edge of the pocket 20 is not secured to the lateral portion 12A and bears an elastic 23 extending across the upper edge. In other embodiments, the pocket 20 is secured to the wrap 10 along all of its edges.

The pocket 20 receives a contact-and-contact indication device 24 having a touch-sensitive pad 28 or plunger like structure that causes the contact-and-contact indication device 24 24 to produce sound emanating from a speaker 30 when the touch-sensitive pad 28 is contacted or pressed. The touch-sensitive pad 28 may also comprise a lever that completes an electrical circuit to produce sound through the speaker 30. Alternate embodiments of the speaker 30 may comprise a wireless circuit to wireless convey a signal to an earpiece having circuitry to receive the wireless signals and convey them to activate an ear-mounted speaker so that the wearer of the wrap 10 having the contact-and-contact indication device 24 is discreetly made aware of feet placement relative to each other upon engagement of the touch sensitive pad 28. Alternatively, the touch-sensitive pad 28 may comprise a piezo crystal, a reed switch or similarly electromechanical switch so that upon application of a predetermined amount of contact, a signal of sufficient strength is generated to activate the speaker 30, wireless circuitry, a vibration motor, a light source, and/or a thermopile. In the preferred embodiment, the pocket 20 is formed of a mesh fabric, such that the contact-and-contact indication device 24 is visible there through. The pocket 20 is substantially larger than the contact-and-contact indication device 24 in the preferred embodiment, such that the position of the contact-and-contact indication device 24 within the pocket 20 is readily adjustable. Inasmuch as skates are of different sizes, it is advantageous to adjust the position of the contact-and-contact indication device 24 within the pocket to position the contact-and-contact indication device 24 properly with respect to the skater's feet. Alternatively, the speaker 30 may be replaced by another human-perceptible sensation-producing device that is activated by a physical interaction with the touch-sensitive pad 28. For example, a vibration motor may be activated to vibrate and/or a light source may be activated to flash an intermittent or continuous light pulse visible by the wearer of the wrap 10 having the contact-and-contact indication device 24.

In alternate embodiments, the contact-and-contact indication device 24 may be separately housed in different configurations. For example, the contact-and-contact indication device 24 may be subdivided into a contact portion and a contact-indicator portion that is in remote signal communication with the contact portion. The contact portion may be placed in the pocket 20 to remotely convey a signal to contact-indicator portion that is remotely located away from the pocket 20 but within signal range of the wrap 10 so that the wearer is made aware of surface engagement of the contact portion in the vicinity of the pocket 20. Contact indication signals may be wireless delivered, or in alternate embodiments, be conveyed by wired circuitry to the contact-indicator portion that is remotely located from the pocket 20 but otherwise in sensory contact with the wearer. Thus, upon being engaged with by adjacent surfaces with sufficient force for a sufficient duration, either the surface of nearby obstacles or the surface of a wearer's adjacent shoe, foot, or leg, contact indication signals are conveyed to the contact-indicator portion that in turn renders an audible, visible, temperature, and/or motion sensation perceptible by the wearer.

In the illustrated embodiment, the pocket 20 covers an area of approximately 12 in2 or about the area of a 3×4 in square. In some embodiments, the pocket 20 is the same size or only slightly larger than the contact-and-contact indication device 24 such that the contact-and-contact indication device 24 is not free to move substantially within the pocket 20.

FIG. 2 is a front perspective view of a skate bearing the ankle wrap of FIG. 1 and FIG. 3 is a rear perspective view of a skate bearing the ankle wrap of FIG. 1. The wrap 10 secures to the footwear or shoe 25 portion of a skate having a skate blade 26 mounted to the bottom of the shoe 25 via stanchions 27A-C such that the instep strap 16 extends beneath the instep of the shoe 26 and between stanchions 27A and 27B. The free end of the instep strap 16 secures to the lateral portion 12B by means of the two part fastening system 18A, 18B. The ends of the lateral portions 12A, 12B extend around the skate 26 and secure to one another near the heel of the skate 26 by means of the two part fastening system 14A, 14B. The central portion of the wrap 10 at the junction of the lateral portions 12A, 12B is positioned over the arch of the skate having the pocket 20 offset to one side of the skate 26. Securement of the warp 10 to the skate 26 tends to pull the pocket 20 tight across the skate 26 and maintaining the position of the contact-and-contact indication device 24 within the pocket 20.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the contact-and-contact indication device 24 in accordance with a particular embodiment. The contact-and-contact indication device 24 includes the touch-sensitive pad 28 controlling the speaker 30. When the touch-sensitive pad 28 is depressed the speaker emits a sound, such as a buzzing noise, or other noise calculated to be noticeable. The contact-and-contact indication device 24 contains a battery and circuits known in the art for producing electrical signals driving the speaker 30, or alternatively, a wireless transmitter to activate an ear-mounted speaker via generation of a radiofrequency signal, a vibration motor, a light source, or a thermopile to generate changes in temperature. In an alternative embodiment, a mechanical coupling between the touch-sensitive pad and a bell, or other alarm-producing mechanism, may be used to create sound.

FIG. 5 is a lower perspective view of the contact-and-contact indication device 24 of FIG. 4. A first fastener 32, such as part of a hook and loop fastening system secures to a rear surface of the contact-and-contact indication device 24. A second fastener 34, or series of second fasteners 34, secures to the lateral portion 12A and provides multiple points of securing for the first fastener 32. In the illustrated embodiment, the second fastener 34 is part of a hook and loop fastening system extending across substantially the entire area covered by the pocket 20. In an alternative embodiment, the second fastener 34 is embodied as a strip of hook and loop fastening material extending across the pocket 20 to provide adjustment in at least one direction. The second fastener 34 may also be embodied as a series of snaps receiving a corresponding structure secured to the contact-and-contact indication device 24.

Various alternative embodiments are possible. For example, the lateral portions 12A, 12B may be positioned over the skate such that the free ends of the lateral portions 12A, 12B secured to one another by means of the two-part fastening system 14A, 14B at the front of the skate, rather than at the heel. In still other embodiments, the lateral portions 12A, 12B may form a permanent loop that is positioned over the shoe 25 before the user inserts the foot into the shoe 25.

FIG. 6 is a side view of the contact-and-contact indication device 24 mounted within the pocket 20 of the wrap 10, in accordance with a particular embodiment. The second fastener 34 within the pocket 20 along the lateral portion 12A is shown engaged in contact with the first fastener 32 of the contact-and-contact indication device 24 to provide securing at a desired position within the pocket 20.

While the preferred embodiment of the invention has been illustrated and described, as noted above, many changes can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. For example, the contact-and-contact indication device 24 may be configured to be directly removeably affixable to footwear in a variety of positions to sense the contact of hurdles, barriers, walking surfaces, or adjacently moving footwear. The shoe or footwear may have a fastening surface affixed to multiple positions of the footwear to which a complimentary fastening material affixed to the contact-and-contact indication device 24 may be removeably affixable to the affixed fastening surface. Accordingly, the scope of the invention is not limited by the disclosure of the preferred embodiment.