Title:
Footbag And A System Relating Thereto
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
One embodiment of an exemplary footbag can include a cover enclosing a space, a filler disposed within the space retained by the cover, and an electronic circuit disposed within the space. Generally, the electronic circuit includes an energy source, a processor including a storage unit, which in turn, can include at least one audio file, a sound enunciator, and one or more input/output devices. Desirably, the sound enunciator plays the audio file when initiated by an input/output device.



Inventors:
Lanier, Justin C. (Ronda, NC, US)
Application Number:
11/461903
Publication Date:
02/14/2008
Filing Date:
08/02/2006
Assignee:
Uhler, Sandra L. (Falls Church, VA, US)
Lanier, Justin C. (Ronda, NC, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B43/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CHAN, ALLEN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Justin C. Lanier (Mooresville, NC, US)
Claims:
What is claimed:

1. A footbag, comprising: a cover enclosing a space; a filler disposed within the space retained by the cover; and an electronic circuit disposed within the space, wherein the electronic circuit comprises an energy source, a processor comprising a storage unit, which in turn comprises at least one audio file, a sound enunciator, and one or more input/output devices; wherein the sound enunciator plays the audio file when initiated by an input/output device.

2. A footbag according to claim 1, further comprising a support for housing the electronic circuit.

3. A footbag according to claim 2, wherein the support comprises: a first member coupled to a second member wherein the first member is orientated substantially perpendicular to the second member and the first and second members lie generally in a same plane; and a third member coupled to the first and second members and oriented substantially perpendicular with the plane of the first and second members.

4. A footbag according to claim 3, wherein each member forms a hollow passage along the length of the respective member, and at an intersection of the three members forms a chamber; wherein the processor is received within the chamber.

5. A footbag according to claim 4, wherein the one or more input/output devices comprises a pressure sensor at an end of the first member.

6. A footbag according to claim 4, wherein the sound enunciator is at an end of the first member.

7. A footbag according to claim 1, wherein the filler comprises beads or pellets.

8. A footbag according to claim 7, wherein each bead or pellet forms an annulus.

9. A footbag according to claim 1, wherein the filler comprises polyethylene.

10. A footbag according to claim 1, wherein the electronic circuit further comprises a communication port.

11. A footbag according to claim 10, wherein the communication port comprises a universal serial bus port positioned at the end of the first member that is coupled to the cover, and the cover forms an opening at the universal serial bus port, or a wireless data transfer interface.

12. A system, comprising: the footbag according to claim 1; and a computer comprising a central processing unit and a network connectivity device wherein the computer has access to the Internet and communicates with the footbag.

13. A system according to claim 12, further comprising a wireless connection between the footbag and the computer.

14. A system according to claim 12, further comprising a universal serial bus connection between the footbag and the computer.

15. A system according to claim 12, further comprising an Internet website with at least one audio file transferable to or from the footbag via a computer.

16. A system according to claim 12, wherein the storage unit stores one or more audio files.

17. A footbag according to claim 1, wherein the storage unit stores one or more audio files.

18. A footbag according to claim 1, further comprising a zipper to permit opening of the cover.

19. A footbag according to claim 1, wherein the audio file comprises a digital audio file.

20. A footbag according to claim 1, further comprising a generally spherical support for housing the electronic circuit.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention generally relates to a footbag, and particularly, but not by way of limitation, to a footbag or a system for communicating audio files to and/or from a footbag.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Kicking a bag, such as a bag sold under the trade designation HACKEY SACK™, is a game played by one or more players who keep the bag in the air by using their feet or other portions of their body, but generally not their hands and arms. The bag may consist of particles enclosed by a bag or sack. However, the bag generally lacks any mechanism to produce sounds, much less a variety of musical sounds.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

One embodiment of an exemplary footbag can include a cover enclosing a space, a filler disposed within the space retained by the cover, and an electronic circuit disposed within the space. Generally, the electronic circuit includes an energy source, a processor including a storage unit, which in turn, can include at least one audio file, a sound enunciator, and one or more input/output devices. Desirably, the sound enunciator plays the audio file when initiated by an input/output device.

Another embodiment can be a system including a footbag as described above, and a computer including a central processing unit and a network connectivity device wherein the computer has access to the Internet and communicates with the footbag.

As described below, a footbag can play one or more different prerecorded sounds after the footbag is struck with a foot or other body part. This feature allows the play of various games or the composition of different tunes. In addition, a series of sounds created by striking the footbag can be recorded. Moreover, a system is provided to allow the downloading of sounds, such as music, into the footbag, or the uploading of prerecorded sounds from the footbag into a computer.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of a footbag of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an exemplary support of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of a circuit board of the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of an exemplary footbag communicating via a wireless connection with a computer.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of an exemplary footbag connected to a computer by a universal serial bus connection.

FIG. 6 is a schematic block diagram of an exemplary electronic circuit of the present invention.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of another exemplary support of the present invention.

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of yet another exemplary support of the present invention.

FIG. 9 is a schematic view of an exemplary system according to the present invention.

As used herein, the term “coupling” means connecting or fastening at least two items directly or indirectly by use of a third component such as a mechanical fastener, e.g. a screw, a nail, a staple, or a rivet; an adhesive or a solder. The term “coupling” can also include associating or forming integrally together items either by chemical or mechanical means, by processes including stamping, molding, or welding. Furthermore, the term “coupled” can mean two items, directly or indirectly, joined, fastened, associated, connected, or formed integrally together.

Referring to FIGS. 1-3, an exemplary footbag 100 can include a cover 140, a filler 160, a support 200, and a circuit board 400. Generally, the cover 140 encloses the filler 160 and the support 200 in a space 144. The cover 140 can form an opening 148, and may be made from any pliable material, such as cotton or hemp. The cover 140 can be loosely stitched to create openings for the transmission of sound. The footbag 100 may have a diameter of about 2 inches (about 5 cm)-about 4 inches (about 10 cm). Desirably, the footbag 100 is about 3 inches (about 7.5 cm) in diameter.

The filler 160 can include beads or pellets 164. The beads or pellets 164 may take a variety of shapes such as spherical or cylindrical. In one desired embodiment, the beads or pellets 164 may take the form of an annulus 168 that may aid in the transmission of sound, as depicted in FIG. 1. Generally, it is desirable to have the beads or pellets 164 constructed from a material that reflects sound. The beads or pellets 164 can be made of a polymer, co-polymer, plastic or glass, and can include polystyrene, polyurethane, or polyethylene.

The support 200 can house a circuit board 400, and can be made of any suitable material such as a polymer, co-polymer, plastic or foam. Exemplary materials may include polystyrene or polyethylene. Although the support 200 can take a variety of shapes or sizes, such as a sphere or cube, or can include 2-12 elongated members bisecting each other, one desirable shape includes a first member 230, a second member 260, and a third member 290. Generally, each member 230, 260, and 290 is of substantially the same dimension and somewhat resembles a prism with rectangular sides and square ends. Generally, the first member 230 and the second member 260 are perpendicular to each other, desirably bisecting each other, and lie generally in a same plane 280. Desirably, the third member 290 intersects the first member 230 and the second member 260 and is perpendicular to the plane 280, and desirably, is in turn bisected by the first and second members 230 and 260. Generally, the first member 230, the second member 260, and the third member 290 may intersect each other and can be coupled together using any suitable means, such as adhesives or mechanical fasteners, or be formed integrally together.

In addition, the first member 230, the second member 260, and the third member 290, can each form respective passages 234, 264, and 294. The passages 234, 264, 294, extend along the length of respective members 230, 260, and 290. At an intersection 300 of these passages 234, 264, and 294, a circuit board 400 can be received within a chamber 320. Generally, the support 200 surrounds the circuit board 400 to provide protection against jolts and shocks during, e.g., play. In addition, the circuit board 400 can be secured within the chamber 320 utilizing any suitable fastening means, such as mechanical fasteners or adhesives. Both ends of each of the members 230, 260, and 290 can be secured to the cover 140 so the support 200 is fixed in the space 144. Alternatively, the support 200 can be unconnected to the cover 140 and tumble in the space 144 along with the beads and pellets 164 as the footbag 100 is struck.

Referring to FIGS. 1, 3, and 6, the circuit board 400 can include an electronic circuit 410. Generally, the electronic circuit 410 includes an energy source 420, one or more input/output devices 430, a processor 450, a switch 470 and a sound enunciator 480.

Desirably, the energy source 420 is a battery 424, such as a silver oxide button cell. In one embodiment, the battery 424 can have a long life-time, such as a lithium cell, so as not to require its replacement. Alternatively, the battery 424 can have a shorter life-span and access can be provided as hereinafter described for changing the battery 424.

One or more input/output devices 430 can include one or more pressure sensors 434 and a communication port 440. The pressure sensor 434 can be a high impedance electrode whose change in capacitance is measured in the time domain on the processor 450. The pressure sensors 434 can be positioned on the ends 268 and 270 of the member 260, and the end 296 of the member 290 of the support 200. Desirably, the footbag 100 has 3-6 pressure sensors 434 mounted on the support 200. In addition, each respective pressure sensor 434 can be connected to the processor 450 with a respective wire 530. Wires 530 can also connect the sound enunciator 480 and a button 490, as hereinafter described.

Alternatively, one or more pressure sensors 434 can be replaced with a proximity sensor. Exemplary proximity sensors are disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,396,443 and 7,002,550, which are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety. Alternatively, the pressure sensors 434 and/or proximity sensors can be distributed within the space 144 and optionally attached to the insides of the cover 140.

In still another embodiment, the pressure sensors 434 can be used with or replaced with an inertial switch that is incorporated on the circuit board 400. An exemplary inertial switch is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,779,574, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety. The inertial switch can send an activation and/or deactivation signal when the footbag 100 is accelerated in a different direction.

Generally, the communication port 440 provides a data transfer interface for bi-directional communication between the footbag 100 and an external host, such as a personal or laptop computer. As such, the external host can issue commands via the communication port 440 to the processor 450, such as deleting, writing, creating, reading, uploading, saving and updating files. The communication port 440 can include a data transfer interface, such as a universal serial bus (USB) port 590 or a device utilizing an IEEE 1394 standard that supports data transfer rates of up to, e.g., 800 megabytes per second. Alternatively, the communication port 440 can include a wireless data transfer interface implemented with devices having a BLUE TOOTH TECHNOLOGY standard, which is promoted by the Blue Tooth special interest group of Bellevue, Wash., or a device utilizing an IEEE 802.11 standard, such as products tested and approved as WI-FI CERTIFIED® promulgated by the Wi-Fi Alliance. Such a wireless data transfer can utilize any frequency in the electromagnetic radiation spectrum. Exemplary frequencies include radio waves, optical light waves, infrared radiation, and microwaves.

Referring to FIG. 4, a footbag 100 including a wireless interface can provide a wireless connection 1000 between the footbag 100 and a computer 900 for the transfer of information. As depicted in this exemplary embodiment, the footbag 100 can omit a USB port 590.

Alternatively, referring to FIGS. 1, 2 and 5, the USB port 590 can be provided that provides a link between the footbag 100 and a computer 900. The USB port 590 can be mounted at one of the ends 238, 240, 268, 270, 296, or 298 of one of the members 230, 260, and 290. As depicted in FIG. 1, the cover 140 can form the opening 148 at the USB port 590 for receiving a cable 600 to create a USB connection 1100 for transferring information between the computer 900 and footbag 100. In an alternative embodiment, the cover 140 can omit an opening 148 and instead a zipper 152 provides access to the USB port 590 and the space 144. In addition, a removable panel (not shown) can be provided in a side of the support 200 to provide access to the battery 424 on the board 400. In either embodiment, the connection 1100 to the computer 900 permits the downloading of information into the footbag 100, such as audio files.

The footbag 100 can also include a recording functionality that may be activated and deactivated by a button 490 positioned near the cover 140. Alternatively, a button communicating with the processor 450 can be provided on the support 200 that can be accessed by unzipping the cover 140. In another exemplary embodiment, the recording function can be activated and deactivated by an external host communicating with the processor 450. Particularly, as different sounds are initiated by striking the footbag 100, these digital files can be saved in the sequence and timing as emitted on the sound enunciator in a different sector of the storage unit 458 to create a composition that can be transferred to a computer, as hereinafter described.

The processor 450 can communicate with the one or more input/output devices 430, receive power from the energy source 420, and include one or more counters 454 and a storage unit 458. The one or more counters 454 can close the switch 470 after a predetermined amount of time. The storage unit 458 can be an electronic storage medium for storing information, such as audio files 460, which can be digital or analog files. Desirably, the file is a digital audio file 460, which in one exemplary embodiment is an MP-3 file. The storage unit 458 can be a hard disk, a non-volatile storage device, or other type of storage medium. The power may be provided by a battery 424 as described above. In one exemplary embodiment, the processor 450 receives input from the pressure sensor 434, and after a predetermined period of time, the processor 450 outputs a signal to the sound enunciator 480. The processor 450 can be any suitable processor known to those of ordinary skill in the art. An exemplary processor 450 is the PENTIUM microprocessor from Intel Corporation of Santa Clara, Calif. Optionally, the processor 450 can include a radio receiver to play songs received from a radio receiver such as XM satellite radio.

The switch 470 can permit signals to activate the sound enunciator 480. The switch 470 can be any suitable switch known to those of skill in the art, such as those disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,066,011, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety. Generally, the switch 470 is an open position unless closed to permit the playing of sounds from the sound enunciator 480.

The sound enunciator 480 can broadcast sounds, such as music, from the footbag 100. The sound enunciator 480 can be positioned within the space 144, such as on or in the support 200. In one exemplary embodiment, the sound enunciator 480 can be positioned at the end 298 of the member 290, as depicted in FIG. 2. Alternatively, the sound enunciator 480 can be positioned in a passage 234, 264, or 294 near a respective end 238, 240, 268, 270, 296, or 298 or on the circuit board 400. Although one sound enunciator 480 is depicted, the footbag 100 can include a plurality of sound enunciators 480. The sound enunciator 480 can be any suitable speaker known to those of skill in the art. An exemplary sound enunciator 480 is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,066,011, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

As depicted in FIG. 2, the support 200 can include three pressure sensors 434, the USB port 590, the button 490, and the sound enunciator 480 positioned at the ends 238, 240, 268, 270, 296, and 298 of the members 230, 260, and 290. However, it should be understood that, in another exemplary embodiment, six pressure sensors and/or proximity sensors can be positioned at each end of the members 230, 260, and 290 with a footbag 100, e.g., having the wireless data transfer interface instead of the USB port 590; the sound enunciator 480 within a passage 234, 264, or 294 near the end 238, 240, 268, 270, 296 or 298, or on the circuit board 400; and no button 490 to activate and deactivate the recording function.

Although the electronic circuit 410 has been disclosed, it should be understood that other circuits could be used. Exemplary circuit boards 400 and/or electronic circuits 410 are disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,066,011; 5,779,574; 5,954,603; 6,497,607; and 6,959,166; all of which are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety.

Referring to FIG. 7, another desirable support 700 housed within the cover of a footbag is depicted. The support 700 can have a first member 702, a second member 704, and a third member 706, where each member 702, 704 and 706 is shaped as a prism with rectangular sides and square ends, and bisect each other. Generally, the members 702, 704, and 706 can be coupled together using any suitable means, such as adhesives or mechanical fasteners, or may be formed integrally together. Desirably, one or more wedges 710 are positioned between two of the members 702 and 704, 702 and 706, and 704 and 706. These wedges 710, desirably made of foam, can provide additional support to the members 702, 704, and 706 when the footbag is struck. Desirably, one or more, preferably eight, sound enunciators 730 are positioned between wedges 710. The wedges 710 and sound enunciators 730 can be fastened to the members 702, 704 and 706 using any suitable means, such as adhesives or mechanical fasteners, or may be formed integrally together. A pressure sensor or proximity switch 720 can be positioned at the ends of the members 702, 704 and 706, and fastened thereto using any suitable means, such as adhesives or mechanical fasteners, or formed integrally together.

Referring to FIG. 8, yet another desirable support 750 housed within the cover of a footbag is depicted. The support 750 can be generally spherical in shape and include a disc 760, desirably made of foam. The disc 760 can form a recess to house the circuit board 400, as discussed above. One or more, desirably six, pressure sensors and/or proximity switches 764 can be coupled, desirably equally spaced, around the circumference of the disc 760. In addition, one or more, desirably one, pressure sensor and/or proximity switch 768 maybe positioned at each pole 780 (only one switch 768 is depicted in FIG. 8). Between the disc 760 and the poles 780, one or more, desirably two, sound enunciators 790 may be provided.

An exemplary system of the present invention is depicted in FIG. 9. The system 800 can include a computer 900, the Internet 960, a web site 980, and a website host computer 990. Generally, each computer 900 and 990 includes a central processing unit 920, a network connectivity device 940, a secondary storage, a read-only memory (ROM), a random access memory (RAM), and other input/output (I/O) devices. The central processing unit 920 may be implemented as one or more central processing chips. Typically, the computer 900 or 990 can be a personal computer or a laptop computer based on the PENTIUM microprocessor from INTEL CORPORATION of Santa Clara, Calif. Communication of the computers 900 and 990 can be effected by a parallel port, a USB port, or any known communications board. The computers 900 and 990 are typically powered by a power supply which may be fed by an AC power source. Optionally, the computer 900 can also include an antenna for communicating with the footbag 100. As hereinafter described, songs may be downloaded from the website 980, or created by striking a footbag 100 communicated to the website 980. This allows different versions and games to be implemented.

The footbag 100 can be activated to play different musical sounds or songs depending on the number and timing of hits by, e.g., one or more kicks by a player. Thus, musical songs can be played and created using the footbag 100. If songs are created from musical sounds, these songs can optionally be saved on the storage unit 458. In the exemplary embodiment as depicted in FIGS. 1-3, a button 490 can be provided and activated by depressing the cover 140. Pressing the button 490 can activate and deactivate the recording of sounds played by hitting the footbag 100. Moreover, communicating with the footbag 100 by a computer 900 can download audio files and permit changing of sounds produced by the footbag 100 when struck. In another alternative embodiment, the footbag 100 can have a single set of songs or musical sounds in its storage unit 458. Different song sets or musical sounds can be provided by buying a separate footbag 100.

If music is created on a footbag 100, the music can be saved on the storage unit 458 by pressing the button 490 and then uploading on the computer 900 and transmitting to the website 980. As such, the website 980 can serve as a portal for a contest. Particularly, footbag owners can create their own songs and load them to the website 980. The songs can be played by persons accessing the website 980, and they can vote for their favorite song and a winner can be selected. Similarly, music can be downloaded from the website 980, for free or for a fee, to the computer 900 and subsequently transmitted to the footbag 100 by the wireless connection 1000 or USB connection 1100. Exemplary sound sets can include dog barks, car horns, bell rings, and cat meows. Further implementations can include downloading music from the website 980 onto the computer 900, and then onto the footbag 100. Software can be provided on the computer 900 to program what sounds or music are played depending on the number and types of hits. In other words, the computer 900 can be used to program the footbag 100 via the wireless connection 1000 or USB connection 1100 to play certain sounds based on the timing and frequency of hits.

In one exemplary embodiment, the footbag 100 can have a library of different sounds stored in the storage unit 458. When the footbag 100 is struck, the pressure sensors 434 can detect impacts as contacts are made from kicking, kneeing, head-butting, slapping, hitting, or hacking the sack. Afterwards, the counter 454, which is connected to the sound enunciator 480, can be activated. When the footbag 100 is struck again, the counter stops and the switch 470 is closed to permit the playing of an audio file stored in the storage unit 458 by the sound enunciator 480. The number and timing of hits can determine the sound produced by the footbag 100.

As an example, the following depicts different sounds that can be produced depending on the timing and number of hits:

TABLE 1
Timing of Hits
Type of Hits(seconds)Sound Made
Single Hit>3–<5One Guitar D Flat Note
Double Hit<3Drum Beat
Quick Double Hit<1.5Symbol Clash
Triple Hit<3Three Guitar B Flat
Notes
Quick Triple Hit<1.5Drum Roll

During operation, an initial hit to the footbag 100 can activate one of the pressure sensors 434, which sends a signal to the processor 450 to activate the counter 450. The processor 450 can include a routine to track predetermined time intervals of, e.g., 1.5 and 3 seconds based on the counter 450 and the number of hits made during those time intervals. As an example, if no subsequent hit is registered after 5 seconds, the counter 454 can reset. On the other hand, if after three seconds only one subsequent hit is registered, the switch 470 can close and the sound enunciator 480 can emit, “One Guitar D Flat Note”. Afterwards, the switch 470 opens. Furthermore if, e.g., two subsequent hits are made after the initial hit and within three seconds, the switch can close and the sound enunciator 480 can broadcast a “Drum Beat”. After the “Drum Beat”, the switch can open and the counter 454 reset. In another embodiment, additional counters 454 can be provided to implement different routines of playing sounds as the footbag 100 is struck.

Different sounds can be used to create any number of beat combinations for different games. As an example, alone or with a group, a set of beats can be hit or hacked creating an original tune or broadcasting a pre-existing song saved in the storage unit 458.

Exemplary games are depicted in the table below:

TABLE 2
Name
of GameObjective
CopyOne goal is mimicking the player before you. If a group of
Catpeople are hitting the footbag 100, the next person can copy
the tune or melody. Alternatively, the next person can add
their own musical set of beats.
MakeA set of sounds can lend themselves to particular songs or
a Songtypes of music. As an example, different recorded sounds can
be stored in the storage unit 458. This can include beat box
mouth noises; harpsichord keys, such as Mozart classical; old
school rap; Grateful Dead instruments, such as hippie free
flowing jam; country, such as bluegrass pipe picking; and
brass horns, such as jazz. The listing is merely exemplary but
others could be utilized as well. These can be implemented
on the storage unit 458 by storing different musical melodies
and making a selection randomly or pre-programmed on the
computer. Alternatively, different footbags 100 could be sold
having each one of these sets of music.
KeepAnother game can be not letting the footbag 100 hit the
the Beatground. The players are in a group, and if the footbag 100 is
left alone for more than, e.g., 5 or 10 seconds, after a beat set
has begun, the set is broken and the person who missed the
footbag 100 is out.
HotA musical beat is played. After an unknown time the beat
Potatoends. Whoever is in control of the footbag 100 is the loser
and out of the game. The game can be preprogrammed into
the processor 450 in one exemplary version of the footbag
100.

In yet another embodiment of the footbag 100, an orchestra can be conducted. Each member of a group can have a footbag 100 that plays different instruments. Thus, the group can create their own music.

Without further elaboration, it is believed that one skilled in the art can, using the proceeding description, utilize the present invention to its fullest extent. Unless otherwise indicated, all parts and percentages are by weight. The entire disclosure of all cited applications, patents and publications is hereby incorporated by reference.

From the foregoing description, one skilled in the art can easily ascertain the essential characteristics of this invention and, without departing from the spirit and scope thereof, can make various changes and modifications to the invention to adapt it to various usages and conditions.