Title:
SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR PLAYING A GAME
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A system and a method for playing a game using the system is provided. The system allows a consumer of retail products to acquire information relevant to playing the game and transmit that information into a computer network, which processes that information and informs the consumer of their status with regard to the game. The game information is captured and transmitted to the computer network with an imaging device, which is provided to the consumer by the retailer sponsoring the game.



Inventors:
Andersen, Jacob Ranis Stokholm (Hong Kong, CN)
Application Number:
12/183211
Publication Date:
02/05/2009
Filing Date:
07/31/2008
Assignee:
HOME FOCUS DEVELOPMENT LTD (Tortola, VG)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
WILLIAMS, ROSS A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Volpe Koenig (PHILADELPHIA, PA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A system for playing a game, comprising a product for retail sale; an imaging device for capturing and transmitting game information included with the retail product to a computer network, the computer network configured to receive the transmitted game information and providing a result to the consumer regarding the game status of the consumer.

2. The system of claim 1, wherein the computer network distributes information related to a product to the consumer.

3. The system of claim 1, wherein the computer network comprises at least one client computer and at least one server computer.

4. The system of claim 1, wherein the computer network is the Internet.

5. The system of claim 1, wherein the system facilitates the collection, storage and use of industry-related data.

6. The system of claim 1, wherein the system allows the purchase of products by consumers over the computer network.

7. A computer program product comprising computer readable code for capturing and transmitting game information to a computer network.

8. A computer program product comprising computer readable code for receiving and decoding game information and providing a result to the consumer regarding the consumer's status in the game,

9. The computer program product of claim 7, further comprising computer readable code for collection, storage and use of industry-related data,

10. The computer program product of claim 7, further comprising computer readable code for the purchase of products by consumers over the computer network.

11. A method of playing a game, comprising: providing a game piece including game information to a user; providing an imaging device to the user; and capturing and transmitting the game information to a computer network with the imaging device, the computer network receiving the game information and providing a result to the consumer regarding the status of the user in the game.

12. The method of claim 11, further comprising the step of distributing information related to a product to the user.

13. The method of claim 11, further comprising the step of allowing the user to purchase products over the computer network.

14. The method of claim 11, wherein the computer network distributes information related to a product to the user.

15. The method of claim 11, wherein the computer network comprises at least one client computer and at least one server computer.

16. The method of claim 11, wherein the computer network is the Internet

17. The method of claim 11, further comprising the step of gathering industry-related data from the user.

18. The method of claim 18, further comprising the step of distributing industry-related data.

19. A system for playing a game, comprising at least one game piece including game information; an imaging device for capturing and transmitting the game information to a computer network, the computer network being configured to receive the transmitted game information from at least one user and provide a result regarding a game status to the at least one user.

20. The system of claim 19, wherein the format of the game information of the game piece is alphanumeric, numeric, binary, graphic or a combination thereof.

21. The system of claim 19, wherein the imaging device is a webcam.

22. The system of claim 19, wherein the computer network comprises at least one server configured to analyze the game information to determine the game status result.

23. The system of claim 22, wherein the server comprises image recognition software.

24. The system of claim 19, wherein the game piece is a card.

25. The system of claim 19, wherein the at least one user is two or more users playing against each other.

26. The system of claim 25, wherein the two or more users are remotely located.

27. The system of claim 26, wherein the computer network is the Internet.

28. A method for playing a game comprising providing at least one game piece including game information to at least one user; capturing the game information with an imaging device; transmitting the game information via a computer network; providing a result to the at least one user based on the transmitted game information.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a continuation of International Patent Application Serial No. PCT/IB2007/000245, filed Jan. 31, 2007, which claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/763,630 filed Jan. 31, 2006, which are incorporated by reference as if fully set forth.

FIELD OF INVENTION

The present invention relates to a system and method for playing a game by capturing and transmitting information, and more particularly to a computerized system implementing a game for use by consumers.

BACKGROUND

Traditionally, retailers of novelty items have relied on advertising and word-of-mouth to induce consumers to purchase their goods. Games are also used to attract consumers and introduce them to certain products, and to offer added value to the purchase of an item. The possibility of winning a prize, which was often of significantly greater value than the purchased item, also resulted in multiple purchases of the item by a single consumer, thus increasing sales revenue. Moreover, a game which was considered appealing or fun by a consumer fostered consumer loyalty for a particular retailer or product.

Games offered to consumers have taken increasingly sophisticated forms. With the development of the internet, games and contests can be accessed by a wider range of consumers, and the manner and speed in which information can be transmitted to and from consumers has changed. Typical internet-based games required the consumer to acquire certain information by purchasing an item, which information can then be entered into a computer via a keyboard and transmitted to the retailer over the internet. The consumer was informed relatively instantaneously whether they had advanced in or won the game. Also, the consumer was exposed to additional products or product advertising from the retailer, which could increase product sales.

However, such games were limited in their consumer appeal and in the types of information that could be transmitted to the retailer. For example, after purchasing an item, the consumer had to find a computer with a keyboard which was connected to the internet, and then enter the game information in a particular manner. The information had to be entered in alphanumeric or numeric form in order to be properly transmitted and interpreted.

Computers with internet access may not always be readily accessible to consumers, and alphanumeric game information is generally not pleasing or meaningful to the typical consumer. The consumer may therefore not take the time and effort to find a suitable computer and enter and transmit the alphanumeric information over the internet to see if they have won the game. Traditional internet-based games thus lose much of their consumer appeal, and the ability of such games to induce consumers into repeated purchases of a given item or expose the consumers to additional advertising is much reduced.

What is needed, therefore, is a system and method for playing a game, which has sufficient consumer appeal and ease of use to entice consumers to purchase a product and complete the steps necessary to play the game. It is desirable that the consumer be induced to make multiple purchases of a product by the game, either to win prizes or to continue playing the game, and to be exposed to additional product advertising while playing the game.

SUMMARY

The invention relates to a system for playing a game including a product for retail sale. The system also includes an imaging device for capturing and transmitting game information included with the retail product to a computer network. Also included is a computer network configured to receive the transmitted game information and to provide a result to a consumer playing the game regarding the consumer's game status.

The invention further provides a computer program product including computer readable code for capturing and transmitting game information to a computer network.

The invention is also related to method of playing a game, including providing a game piece including game information to a user and providing an imaging device to the user. The method also includes capturing and transmitting the game information to a computer network with the imaging device. The computer network receives the game information and provides a result to the consumer regarding the user's status in the game.

The invention further relates to a system for playing a game, including at least one game piece having game information. The system also includes an imaging device for capturing and transmitting the game information to a computer network. The computer network is configured to receive the transmitted game information from at least one user and provide a result regarding game status to the at least one user.

The invention yet further relates to a method for playing a game including providing at least one game piece having game information to at least one user. The method also includes capturing the game information with an imaging device, transmitting the game information via a computer network and providing a result to the at least one user based on the transmitted game information.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a depiction of an element of the system in use.

FIG. 2 is a depiction of another element of the system in use.

FIG. 3 is a simplified exemplary system of the invention.

FIG. 4 is a flow diagram of the method of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Introduction to the Embodiments

The present invention provides s system for playing a game, comprising a product comprising an imaging device for capturing and transmitting game information to a computer network, and a computer network capable of receiving the transmitted game information and providing a result to the consumer regarding the consumer's status in the game. The system can optionally distribute information related to a product to the consumer. The computer network can comprise the Internet.

The system of the invention also facilitates the collection, storage and use of demographic- and product-related sales information or other industry-related data by a retailer. Such industry-related data can be used by the retailer to inform and facilitate marketing or other business-related decisions.

The system can also act as a repository for data which may be of interest to members of the industry.

The system of the invention can be used for remote purchase of products by consumers. The invention farther provides a computer program product comprising computer readable code for capturing and transmitting game information to a computer network.

The invention still further provides a computer program product comprising computer readable code for receiving game information, and providing a result to the consumer regarding the consumer's status in the game.

Further computer program products which comprise computer readable code for performing other system functions are also provided.

The invention also provides a method of playing a game with me system of the invention, comprising providing to a consumer an imaging device for capturing and transmitting game information to a computer network, and allowing the consumer to access a computer network which receives the game information and provides a result to the consumer regarding the consumer's status in the game. The method optionally comprises the step of distributing information related to a product to a consumer over the present system, or allowing the consumer to remotely purchase products using the present system. The computer network can comprise the Internet.

The invention yet further provides a method of gathering, storing and optionally distributing industry related data using the present system.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

A system for playing a game is provided. The system allows a consumer of retail products to acquire information relevant to playing the game and transmit that information into a computer network. The computer network processes that information and informs the consumer of their status with regard to the game.

The consumer participates in the game by purchasing a product from a retailer which comprises or contains an imaging device for capturing game information and transmitting it to the computer network. The game information can be contained in the product, or it can be separately provided to the consumer.

As used herein, a “game” includes any competition which involves the acquisition and transmission of information over a computer network in exchange for the chance to win a prize, in which, a consumer participates without direct contact with or interference from other consumers or in direct competition to at least one other consumer or against a computer system. For example, a game can be a lottery or drawing in which one or a few consumers who transmit particular game information will win a prize regardless of the actions of other consumers participating in the game, A game can also be a direct competition, between multiple users, in which the first (or first, second and third, etc.) consumer who acquires and transmits the relevant information wins a prize. A game can also be a computerized fantasy role-playing game war game or other computerized video game in which one or more users or players can participate to earn points for completing tasks or advancing through game levels. Two or more players can play against each other via the computer network even though they are remotely located.

As used herein, a “prize” can be anything provided to a consumer in exchange for the acquisition and transmission of game information. A prize can. be of lesser, equal or greater value than the product purchased by the consumer to acquire the game or contest information or imaging device. The prize can also comprise further game or contest information, such, as information needed to complete a task or complete a game level, or can comprise “points” or some other form of measure which can be tallied or accumulated with repeated play. In one embodiment, a prize can be a monetary or other concrete reward can be given to consumers who accumulate a certain number of points after repeated game play. In another embodiment, a prize can be one or more special “powers” or other abilities, weapons, extra “lives” or some other measure of increased ability to survive, or anything else that is relevant or of value in the game milieu which confers an advantage to the player. For example, the prize for transmitting given game information according to the invention can confer a shield, a magic sword, the ability to fly, limited or unlimited invincibility, or the like to a consumer who is playing a computerized video game according to the invention.

It is understood that game information can comprise a code or cipher that, when captured and transmitted according to the invention, allows the consumer to acquire a prize as discussed above.

The imaging device provided with a product can comprise any device which is capable of capturing and transmitting information, to a computer network in a form that the network can receive, optionally decode, and process. It is contemplated that both digital and analog images can be transmitted by the imaging device. Suitable imaging devices include digital cameras adapted for connection to personal computers (e.g., through a USB or similar data transmission port or by wireless communication), such as are commonly called “webcams.” Typically, the computer and/or webcam comprises software which periodically or continually acquires video images (e.g., still frames) from the webcam and converts the images into a JPG, TIFF or other similar type image file.

Suitable software for acquiring and transmitting images from a webcam (or other imaging device, e.g. scanner) to a computer are known in the art, and can generally be found on the Internet. For example, software called “Webcam32” is available online from Surveyor Corporation at www.webcam32.com. Facial recognition software are also suitable for acquiring and analyzing images from a webcam.

Generally, webcams, scanners and other suitable imaging devices can be connected to a computer by a cable, such as through a USB or other data transmission port, or by a wireless connection such as a radio frequency link, infra-red, “Bluetooth,” and the like.

Suitable webcams include Intel PC Camera Pro Pack (USB) available from Intel Corp., the CAM-330L Cute Mini Web Camera with 32 MB RAM available from Comix International Co. Ltd. (Taipei, Taiwan), and the KS-60 & Compact Web Camera with Image Sensors available from Techmakers Electronics Ltd. (Kowloon, Hong Kong).

Webcams for use with the present method can have any suitable memory, resolution, optics, video format, focus range, power supply, connectivity and the like to allow the webcam to capture and transmit images to a computer. For example, a suitable webcam can have a 300-350k pixel CMOS sensor, a USB interface connection with PC/notebook host, video mode up to 30 fps at Common Intermediate Format (CIF), and an adjustable lens to control the clarity of the image. The webcam can also be any size, but is generally dimensioned to easily fit within a typical retail food, candy or toy package. For example, the webcam can be about 50 mm wide, about 70 mm in height and about 60 mm in depth, and may include a stand. Webcams of greater and lesser dimensions can also be used.

The imaging device for use in the invention can also comprise stand-alone digital still or video cameras, or digital still or video cameras contained in cellular telephones or other electronic devices. For example, game information can be captured by a digital camera in a cellular telephone, and transmitted to a computer via wireless communication from the telephone (such as by e-mail, SMS, MMS, Bluetooth, etc.).

The imaging device can also comprise an apparatus, component or other device for reading game information from a game piece which is not necessarily visible to the unaided human eye. For example, the imaging device can be equipped a reader for infra-red or ultraviolet light, or the like, which is emitted or reflected from a substrate holding the game information. The substrate holding the game information can contain an apparatus, component or other means for emitting signals such as infra-red or ultraviolet light, or the like.

Alternatively, the imaging device can comprise an apparatus, component or other device for emitting signals such as infra-red or ultraviolet light, or the like, so that such signals are reflected from the game piece in a manner which can be detected by the imaging device. For example, the imaging device can emit ultra-violet or “black” light, which is reflected from certain material including the game information. The reflected ultraviolet light can then be recorded and transmitted by the imaging device according to the invention.

The game information can be provided on any suitable substrate, such as paper, foil, cardstock, cardboard, metal, wood, plastic and the like. As shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the game information is provided as a game piece or a game card 160 on a piece of cardstock approximately the size of a playing card. As discussed above, the substrate on which the game information is provided can alternatively include an infrared or ultraviolet light signal generator/transmitter, for example through some or all of the material comprising the game information.

FIG. 2 shows an embodiment where the webcam or imaging device 140 is provided with an apparatus 170 for holding the game piece 160 at the optimal distance and in the correct orientation for capturing the image for transmission to a computer. For example, the imaging device 140 can be provided with a frame 170 which is adapted to fit the imaging device 140 and is configured hold the game pieces 160 in front of the imaging device lens at a fixed, predetermined distance that is optimal for that imaging device to capture the game information. This apparatus can be fabricated from any suitable material, such as plastic, cardboard, metal, wood and the like, using techniques within the skill in the art.

The game piece 160 provided to the consumer for capture by the imaging device can include alphanumeric or numeric (including binary) information, graphic information, or a combination thereof. For example, the game information can include fanciful pictures or drawings with labels or text. The graphic depictions are captured by the imaging device and analyzed by appropriate image recognition software, e.g. FaceIt® by Identix, Inc., Minnetonka, Minn. The game information can also comprise colors, or can comprise reflective material which can only be seen under certain conditions (such as when irradiated by infra-red or ultraviolet light). The game information can also comprise material which is transmissive to signals such as infra-red or ultraviolet light. In one embodiment, the game information comprises alphanumeric information, graphic information, or any combination of these which form a code or cipher which can be interpreted after transmission. Those consumers acquiring and transmitting certain codes or ciphers can win certain prizes.

The product with which the imaging device is provided can be any consumer product, for example toys, candy, game cards or combinations thereof. Alternatively, the imaging device can be provided without another consumer product. It is understood that game information may or may not be included with the imaging device, but can also be provided separately to the consumer. If the game information is provided separately, it may be provided with or without additional consumer products,

The system of the invention also includes a computer network which can comprise one or more client computers connected through the network to at least one server, and the associated software (file transfer protocols, etc.) and hardware (cables, modems, monitors, speakers, etc.) which are known in the art. For example, the system can comprise a personal computer comprising an Internet browser or other appropriate software and a telephone or cable modem connected through the Internet to an Internet server, which allows the personal computer to establish and maintain a connection to the Internet server, and locate and display a given “webpage.”

The client computer is used by the consumer to accept game information from the imaging device, and transmit that information to a server maintained by the retailer who provided the imaging device to the consumer. The consumer is typically able to view their connection to the Internet server as a webpage from the retailer. This webpage can comprise interactive prompts which allow the consumer to request certain services or enter information relevant to the retailer's business or products, the game which the consumer is playing, and the like.

For ease of illustration, a computer network of the invention will be described with a simplified example. It is understood, however, that the present networks are not limited to the number of remote members or structure discussed in the simplified example.

As illustrated in FIG. 3, exemplary system 100 comprises server 120 and at least one client computer 130 which are connected to the Internet. Imaging device 140 is connected to client computer 130 to transmit game information to the client computer 130. Server 120 and client computer 130 can be general purpose computers which included or comprise computer program products comprising computer readable code for accomplishing the desired functions. For example, server 120 can be a standard server or workstation running the Windows NT™ operating system and including HTTP server software such as Apache™ or other suitable HTTP server software. Server 120 can also have a unique Internet Protocol (“IP”) address to which, the game information from the client computer 130 can be routed. Client computer 130 can be a personal computer running the Microsoft Windows®, Apple OS X® or Linux® operating systems and an HTTP compliant browser, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer®, Mozilla Firefox® or Apple Safari®. Client computer 130 includes or comprises a computer program product comprising computer-readable code for receiving images of the game piece 160 transmitted from the imaging device 140 and sending them to server 120 over the internet. The game information transmitted from client computer 130 is routed through the Internet via routers 150, using standard routing protocols, to the IP address of server 120.

Server 120 is adapted to process the game information (for example, decode any game information which comprises a code or cipher) received from client 130 and compare these images to a database containing prize or competitor information. If server 120 determines that a prize or victory should or should not be awarded to the consumer who acquired the game piece 160 and transmitted the game information, then server 120 so informs the consumer by transmitting a statement or other indication to client computer 130 via the Internet identifying the consumer's status in the game and the prize or prizes they have won. For example, the consumer could be informed that his game status is “Winner” and that his prize is $100. Likewise, server 120 could transmit the statement “Sorry, you are not a winner. No prize will be awarded—please try again!” to the consumer. Alternatively, the consumer could be informed of whether he has acquired a new “power” or weapon or the like, and be given the ability to use the new power or weapon during game play on the computer.

Server 120 can also be adapted to provide additional product information to the consumer during the time they are connected to server 120 via the Internet, for example while the consumer is transmitting the game information to server 120, waiting for a reply from server 120 regarding their game status, or viewing the reply from server 120. Such additional product information can include, for example, advertising designed to entice the consumer to purchase additional products or introduce them to products yet to be marketed. The server 120 can also transmit additional product information to the consumer from other sources, such as from third party retailers or service provides who have paid the retailer to display advertising material. It is understood that “product.” as used herein, includes both consumer goods and services. The server 120 can also offer products for sale to the consumer over the Internet.

The invention also provides a method of playing a game with the present system. In the practice of the method, a consumer is informed of the game (e.g., through advertising) in which they can win prizes by obtaining and transmitting information to a server maintained by the retailer. To play the game, the consumer purchases or is given an imaging device 140 and must then acquire game information which is input into the imaging device for transmission to a client computer 130. The consumer then transmits the game information from the client computer 130 to the retailer's server via a computer network such as the Internet, where the game information is processed by the server and the consumer is informed of his game states based on the game information which was transmitted. The imaging device 140 can be provided to the consumer along with another product, such as a consumer good or service. In one embodiment, the imaging device is provided to the consumer along with a novelty item such as a toy or candy. The game information can be provided with the imaging device, or can be provided separately to the consumer. The game piece 160 or information may be provided along with another product. The method can also optionally include the steps of displaying additional product information to the consumer or offering products to the consumer for purchase over the Internet.

The invention also provides a method of gathering and storing distributing industry-related data using the present system with the system of the invention. In the method, a consumer is induced to play a game as described above. The consumer is then invited to input and transmit relevant data such as date and time of purchase, type and number of products purchased, demographic data such as age, gender, race and the like, and any other data which might be considered valuable for business or marketing purposes, to the retailer's server. The consumer can be invited to enter such data at any point during the process of transmitting game information or receiving and viewing their game status from the retailer's server. Industry-related data can also be gathered and stored without being expressly input by the consumer; for example, data regarding the number of consumers acquiring and transmitting game information can be obtained. The method optionally included the step of distributing the industry-related data to other entities.

The invention also provides a computer program product for performing some or all of the computer network functions according to the invention. A “computer program product” can comprise any available computer readable media that can be accessed by an electronic device such as an imaging device or client and server computers. For example, computer readable media can comprise computer storage media or communication media which contains computer-readable code for directing a computer to perform a given function. Computer storage media includes volatile and nonvolatile, removable and non-removable media implemented in any method or technology for storage of information such as computer readable instructions, data structures, program modules or other data. Computer storage media includes RAM, ROM, EEPROM, flash memory or other memory technology, CD-ROM, digital versatile disks (DVD) or other optical storage, magnetic cassettes, magnetic tape, magnetic disk storage or other magnetic storage devices, or any other medium which can be used to store the desired information and which can be accessed by an electronic device. A computer program product according to the invention can also comprise the electronic device which accesses the computer-readable code. Thus, and imaging device or client or server computers can be considered a computer program product.

While the present invention has been described in connection with the various embodiments and figures, it is understood that other similar embodiments may be used or modifications and additions made to the described embodiments for performing the same function of the present invention without deviating therefrom. Therefore, the present invention should not be limited to any single embodiment, but rather should be construed in breadth and scope in accordance with the recitation of the appended claims.