Title:
Display Device for Gaming Machines
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A gaming machine reel is provided with a display device comprising a flexible strip of electronically programmable display material secured around the periphery of the reel. Symbols may be selectively displayed on the material by appropriate programming thereof, for example by providing a plurality of addressable pixels on the material each of which may be driven to have a suitable translucence and to display a required color. A rechargeable power source is provided on the reel. The programming of the strip may be effected by a wireless link using either RF or infra-red. As a result, it is easy to allow the playing of a different game on the machine by re-programming the strip for the display of different symbols.



Inventors:
Crossman, Colin (Cardiff, GB)
Suverein, Patrick (Kalmthout, BE)
Application Number:
12/048697
Publication Date:
09/18/2008
Filing Date:
03/14/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
BLAISE, MALINA D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Thomas M. Wozny (Milwaukee, WI, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A display device for a reel mechanism of a gaming machine, said reel mechanism comprising a reel defining a periphery, a frame rotatably mounting the reel and a motor arranged to rotate the reel, said display device comprising: a flexible strip of electronically programmable display material adapted for the selective display of symbols; a mounting arrangement for supporting said strip around the periphery of the reel of a reel mechanism; and communication means adapted to provide drive signals to said strip when supported around the periphery of a reel, whereby selected symbols are displayed at chosen positions on the reel supporting said flexible strip around the periphery thereof.

2. A display device as claimed in claim 1, wherein the flexible strip comprises a strip of flexible liquid crystal display (LCD) material adapted for the display of symbols.

3. A display device as claimed in claim 2, wherein the flexible strip of LCD material defines a large number of individual pixels each of which is separately addressable whereby a chosen symbol is displayed at a selected location by driving the appropriate pixels to display a chosen color with a chosen translucence.

4. A display device as claimed in claim 3, wherein the flexible strip of LCD material is divided into a plurality of discrete areas each of said areas having a plurality of separately addressable individual pixels whereby a chosen symbol is displayed in each of those areas by choosing the color and translucence of each pixel in said area.

5. A display device as claimed in claim 4, wherein the strip has parts external to said discrete areas, and said parts are pre-colored.

6. A display device as claimed in claim 4, wherein the strip has parts external to said discrete areas, and said parts have relatively few pixels each of a relatively large size whereby the color and translucence of said parts of the strip can be uniformly colored so reducing the addressing requirements of the strip of LCD material.

7. A display device as claimed in claim 1 and wherein the reel periphery defines a cylindrical surface, wherein the ends of the strip are arranged for clamping to the reel, such that the strip is curved around the cylindrical surface of the reel.

8. A display device as claimed in claim 1, wherein said communication means includes a rotary connector adapted to allow the transfer of power and drive signals to the reel, said rotary connector having one connector part mounted on said frame and a second connector part disposed generally centrally on the reel.

9. A display device as claimed in claim 8, wherein the connector has at least two separate conductors for carrying an electrical signal comprising a multiplexed drive signal superimposed on a DC power signal.

10. A display device as claimed in claim 1, wherein the communication means comprises a transmitter provided within the gaming machine, a receiver mounted on the reel with which the display device is associated, and one of a radio link and an infra-red link between the transmitter and the receiver.

11. A display device as claimed in claim 1 in combination with a reel mechanism including a reel having a hub which supports a peripheral structure, the display device being secured to the peripheral structure for rotation with the reel.

12. A display device as claimed in claim 11 and including a rechargeable power source incorporated within the hub of a reel, in a balanced manner.

13. A display device as claimed in claim 12, wherein an induction charger is provided for supplying current to the rechargeable power source, the induction charger including an electrical coil provided on the reel and a static magnetic field cut by the coil on rotation of the reel.

14. A display device as claimed in claim 11, wherein the reel includes a control circuit arranged to control the supply of power and drive signals to the flexible strip of display material.

15. A display device as claimed in claim 14, wherein the control circuit includes a memory device into which at least one strip configuration is programmed whereby in use the strip displays chosen symbols at the required relative dispositions.

16. A method of displaying pre-selected symbols at chosen locations on a reel of a gaming machine, which method comprises: comprising furnishing a flexible strip of electronically programmable display material around the periphery of the reel, providing a control circuit on the reel for supplying drive signals to the flexible strip, providing a power source on the reel for powering the control circuit and flexible strip, and programming into the control circuit a control program which drives the flexible strip to display the selected symbols at the chosen locations.

17. A method as claimed in claim 16, wherein the programming is performed by a wireless link arranged to load into the control circuit said control program.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application is related to and claims priority from UK Patent Application No. 0704895.2, filed Mar. 14, 2007, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates to a display device suitable for use in conjunction with a reel of a gaming machine, which is sometimes referred to as a fruit machine or an amusement machine. The invention further relates to the combination of such a display device and a gaming machine reel, and to a method of displaying symbols on such a reel.

2. Description of the Related Art

Many gaming machines include a plurality of juxtaposed reel mechanisms each comprising a rotatably mounted reel having a cylindrical peripheral surface with symbols marked thereon, such as pieces of fruit or other indicia. The mechanism includes a motor arranged to rotate the reel rapidly, as well as a light source to direct light radially outwardly through the peripheral surface of the reel in the region of a window provided on the front panel of the gaming machine, and a further arrangement to detect the position of the reel. In operation, the reels are caused to spin about a common axis by pulling a handle or pressing a button. When the reels come to rest, the positions of the symbols on the reels in relation to one or more pre-determined lines determine whether or not a player has won a prize.

The reel generally is in the form of a frame around the periphery of which a flexible reel strip is mounted, the reel strip carrying the required symbols. Typically, the reel strip is formed of a translucent plastics material on which the required symbols are printed or otherwise provided thereon, so that the symbols may be illuminated by the light source and viewed through one or more windows in the front panel of the gaming machine.

The basic construction of the reel mechanisms incorporated within a gaming machine is well known in the art and will not be described in further detail here.

A problem associated with a conventional reel mechanism is that the reel strip is pre-printed and installed in the garnling machine at the time of manufacture; the reel strip is thus intended for a particular game loaded into the machine. If the machine is subsequently to be used for a different game, the reel mechanisms must be removed from the gaming machine so that the reel strips may be removed from all of the reel mechanisms and then replaced by fresh strips carrying different symbols, suitable for use with a different game. This requires attendance by a maintenance engineer and consequently once a gaming machine has been installed at a particular site, it is in general quite expensive subsequently to upgrade the machine for playing a different game.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

This invention aims at overcoming the above-described problem associated with conventional reel mechanisms. Accordingly, one aspect of this invention provides a display device suitable for use in conjunction with a reel mechanism of a gaming machine, which device comprises a flexible strip of electronically programmable display material, means to mount said strip around the periphery of a reel, and communication means adapted to provide drive signals to a strip supported on a reel, whereby selected symbols may be displayed at chosen positions on a reel supporting said flexible strip.

It will be appreciated that with the display device of this invention, the symbols displayed around the periphery of the reel of a reel mechanism will depend upon the programming associated with the strip. For example, a computer may run a program which specifies the configuration of each symbol and the location of each symbol along the length of the strip, the computer then generating the required drive signals for the strip and which are transferred thereto by the communication means, so that the required symbols are displayed around the periphery of the reel. If different symbols are required, or the symbols are to appear in different relative positions, either to modify a game being played or for the playing of a different game, it is merely a matter of changing the programming associated with the strip. It thus becomes practical for the loading of a new game into a gaming machine, merely by changing the program of a processing unit incorporated within the gaming machine. According to another but closely related aspect of this invention, there is provided a method of displaying pre-selected symbols at chosen locations on the reel of a gaming machine comprising furnishing a flexible strip of electronically programmable display material around the periphery of the reel, providing a control circuit on the reel for supplying drive signals to the flexible strip, providing a power source on the reel for powering the control circuit and flexible strip and programming into the control circuit a control program which drives the flexible strip to display the selected symbols at the chosen locations.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the drawings:

FIG. 1 is a side view on the reel mechanism and illustrating the important components thereof; and

FIG. 2 is an edge view on the reel mechanism of FIG. 1.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Most preferably, the flexible strip comprises a strip of flexible LCD (liquid crystal display) material, advantageously defining a large number of individual pixels each of which may separately be addressed in order to allow the display of a chosen color. In this way, appropriate drive signals applied to the flexible strip will allow the display of a plurality of separate symbols spaced along the length of the strip. Further, the background surrounding each of the symbols may also be caused to display one or more colors, so that the syrribols may stand out from that background.

In order to reduce the total number of pixels on the strip of flexible LCD material, it would be possible to divide the strip into a number of discrete areas each of which may have a plurality of separately addressable pixels whereby a chosen symbol may be displayed in each of those areas, with the parts of the strip external to those discrete areas being pre-colored or perhaps having relatively few pixels each of a relatively large size, so as thereby to reduce the addressing requirements of the strip of LCD material.

Other materials besides true LCD materials may be employed, so long as those other materials have the same or equivalent functionality.

There are several different ways in which this invention may be implemented. The flexible strip requires an electrical power source in order to allow adjustment of the states of the pixels of the strip, and also drive signals which address each pixel of the strip. This could be achieved by way of a rotary connector allowing the transfer of power and drive signals, with one part of the connector mounted on a static part of the gaming machine and the other part of the connector centrally on the reel. The connector would require at least two separate conductors, by superimposing a multiplexed drive signal on a DC power signal. However, a reliable rotary connector could be difficult to implement and so it is preferred for the communication means to take alternative forms.

In one embodiment, a rechargeable power source is incorporated within the hub of a reel, in a balanced manner—for example, by providing two, three or more cells in a symmetrical arrangement about the axis of rotation of the reel. These rechargeable power sources may be charged by an induction charger which could either operate continuously, or when the reel is not rotating. In the latter case, a signal indicative of reel rotation may be used to switch off and on an induction charger, whereby charging will take place whenever the reel is stationary. Another possibility would be to incorporate a coil in the reel and to provide a magnetic field externally of the reel which field is cut by the coil on rotation of the reel, whereby current is produced by the coil which may be used to drive the display device. Again, a rechargeable power source should be included in the reel, in order to allow for power to be supplied when the reel is not rotating.

The communication means may include a radio frequency wireless link or an infra red link, between a transmitter provided within the gaming machine and a receiver mounted on the reel. In this way, signals may be transferred to the reel either solely when the reel is stationary or continuously, as required.

The reel itself may include a memory device whereby signals transferred to the reel by the communication means may be stored in that memory device. In this way, a particular reel strip configuration may be pre-loaded into the memory device by the communication means when a game is loaded into the gaming machine, the reel strip thereafter displaying the symbols and relative dispositions pre-loaded into the memory device. In this case, a rotary connector may be provided for the supply of power to a battery on the reel, or an induction charging arrangement may be provided as described above.

Referring now to the drawings, these illustrate a specific preferred embodiment of reel mechanism of this invention.

In the drawings, there is shown a reel mechanism 10 comprising a base 11 having a foot 12 from which upstands a support 13. An electric motor 14 is mounted in a recess 15 provided at the upper end of the support 13, a reel 16 being clamped to the motor shaft such that the reel is rotated on drive current being supplied to the motor 14. The reel comprises a hub 17 from which three arms 18 extend radially, disposed at 120° to each other. The arms carry a lattice-like peripheral structure 19 around which a reel strip 20 is secured. The ends of the reel strip are adapted for clamping to a cross-member of the peripheral structure 19 in such a way that the strip may be tensioned around the periphery of that structure. The ends of the strip may be reinforced to allow for this.

A lamp housing 22 is mounted on the support 13 and in this embodiment has three lamps provided adjacent the structure 19, to direct light radially outwardly through the reel strip 20. A slot switch 23 is carried on the lamp housing 22 and co-operates with a blade 24 provided on one arm 18, in order to provide a reference position for the reel.

The construction of reel mechanism as described above is essentially conventional and will not be described in further detail here.

In this embodiment of the invention, the reel strip 20 is formed of a flexible plastics LCD material defining a large number of pixels each of which may individually be addressed in order to be of a chosen color and translucence. In this way, individual symbols such as are shown at 25 may be programmed to appear in a required location and with appropriate coloring, along the length of the reel strip and thus around the periphery of the reel. As with a conventional reel strip, the ends of the strip of flexible plastics LCD material may be reinforced in order to allow clamping of the ends of the strip to a cross-member of the peripheral structure 19 of the reel.

Incorporated within the hub 17 of the reel 16 is a rechargeable battery comprising three cells 26 disposed in a symmetrical manner about the axis of the reel so as not to affect the balance of the reel. Part way along the length of each arm 18 is an elongate wire coil 27 which interacts with a static magnetic field provided by an electromagnet 21 supported on the base 11. A charging circuit is disposed within the hub 17 and is connected to the coils, such that charging current for the cells 26 is provided whenever the reel rotates.

Also provided within the hub is a control circuit 28 including a memory device and an infra red receiver, co-operable with an infra red transmitter 29 supported on the base 11. The transmitter 29 is connected to a processing unit (not shown) provided as a part of the gaming machine within which the reel mechanism is incorporated, whereby the transmitter is supplied with signals for transmission to the control circuit of the reel. Those signals include information concerning the particular symbols to be displayed on the reel, the relative positions of those symbols and the configuration in terms of the color and translucence of those symbols.

In use, the reel mechanism is mounted within a gaming machine such that the lamp housing 22 is opposed to a window in a front panel of the gaming machine, so that the symbols for the time being lying between the lamp housing and the window may be viewed by a player. The symbols are pre-programmed into the reel memory and will remain constant for the duration of the game. However, it would be possible to allow dynamic re-configuration of the reel strip whereby the symbols displayed are changed in the course of the game.

It would also be possible to pre-program into the reel memory a plurality of different combinations of symbols or different symbols such that a chosen set of symbols may be displayed. In this way, following programming of the memory, a chosen set may be displayed by a relatively simple signal sent to the reel memory. If a new game not pre-programmed into the memory is to be played, then a more complex signal may be sent to the control circuit, defining the symbols and relative dispositions of those for this game.

While the invention has been specifically described in connection with certain specific embodiments thereof, it is to be understood that this is by way of illustration and not of limitation, and the scope of the appended claims should be construed as broadly as the prior art will permit. For example, while the figures describe a device with an infra-red link, it is understood that other communication arrangements may be employed such as an RF link or a rotary connector.