Title:
Vibroacoustic Bathing Systtem
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A vibroacoustic system includes a shell having a plurality of transducers mounted in an energy transmitting relation thereto. The transducers receive input signals having distinct wave characteristics and drive the shell to simultaneously produce both a vibratory experience effected by a tactile stimulus and an auditory experience effected by an aural stimulus.



Inventors:
Glasford, Barry D. (Cedarburg, WI, US)
Reid, Mary J. (Sheboygan, WI, US)
Application Number:
12/407410
Publication Date:
10/01/2009
Filing Date:
03/19/2009
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K3/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20050000013Armchair adjusting deviceJanuary, 2005Moreno
20070214557Callus Remover with StrainerSeptember, 2007Qiu
20050188458Bathing facility liner ensembleSeptember, 2005Dickstein
20090159092Scrubbing deviceJune, 2009Munoz et al.
20080307576Pools ArrangementDecember, 2008Klement
20070136942Portable bathing apparatusJune, 2007Metaxas
20080052816Shower shelf and storageMarch, 2008Gillis
20080134420Led toilet seat coverJune, 2008HO
20070124854Foam toilet seat coverJune, 2007Spratt et al.
20090307833TOILET TANK VALVE STRUCTUREDecember, 2009Ciski et al.
20040148691Extended transfer platformAugust, 2004Peterson et al.



Foreign References:
WO1998027923A11998-07-02
Primary Examiner:
RODRIQUEZ, KARI KRISTIN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FOLEY & LARDNER LLP (WASHINGTON, DC, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A vibroacoustic plumbing fixture, comprising: a shell for containing water; and a plurality of transducers mounted in energy transmitting relation to the shell, wherein the transducers receive distinct input signals so as to simultaneously drive the shell to produce a vibratory experience and an auditory experience having at least one wave characteristic different from the vibratory experience, the vibratory experience being a tactile stimulus effected through the water in the shell and the auditory experience being an aural stimulus effected outside of the water to effect an aural stimulus.

2. The vibroacoustic plumbing fixture of claim 1, wherein the shell is tuned to enhance at least one wave characteristic of the vibratory experience.

3. The vibroacoustic plumbing fixture of claim 1, wherein the vibratory experience has a non-melodic, essentially non-repetitive wave characteristic.

4. The vibroacoustic plumbing fixture of claim 1, wherein at least one of the transducers is positioned essentially vertically above a waterline of the water in the shell and wherein at least one of the transducers is positioned essentially vertically below the waterline, and wherein the at least one transducer above the waterline provides the auditory experience and the at least one transducer below the waterline provides the vibratory experience.

5. The vibroacoustic plumbing fixture of claim 1, wherein there are at least four transducers, a first pair of the transducers being arranged about a first axis of the shell and a second pair of the transducers being arranged about a second axis of the shell essentially perpendicular to the first axis.

6. The vibroacoustic plumbing fixture of claim 5, wherein there are at least six transducers, at least two of which are dedicated to the auditory experience and at least four of which are dedicated to the vibratory experience.

7. The vibroacoustic plumbing fixture of claim 6, wherein the at least two transducers dedicated to the auditory experience are arranged on opposite sides of the first axis.

8. The vibroacoustic plumbing fixture of claim 7, wherein the at least four transducers dedicated to the vibratory experience are arranged one in each quadrant defined by the first and second axes.

9. The vibroacoustic plumbing fixture of claim 8, wherein the shell defines a bathtub basin.

10. The vibroacoustic plumbing fixture of claim 9, wherein the basin includes a head pocket for locating a head of a bather essentially below a rim of the bathtub basin.

11. The vibroacoustic plumbing fixture of claim 10, wherein the basin defines a foot wall, a head wall, and two side walls, the foot wall being opposite the second axis from the head wall and two side walls extending between the head and foot walls on opposite sides of the first axis.

12. A vibroacoustic plumbing fixture, comprising: a shell for containing water; and a plurality of transducers mounted in energy transmitting relation to the shell, wherein the transducers receive input signals having separate and distinct audile wave and vibratile wave characteristics, wherein the transducers simultaneously drive the shell to produce an auditory experience corresponding to the audile wave characteristics effecting an aural stimulus and a vibratory experience corresponding to the vibratile wave characteristics effecting a tactile stimulus.

13. A vibroacoustic plumbing fixture, comprising: a shell for containing water; a first set of transducers mounted in energy transmitting relation to the shell and receiving an input signal having an audile wave characteristic; and a second set of transducers mounted in energy transmitting relation to the shell and receiving an input signal having a vibratile wave characteristic different from the audile wave characteristic; wherein the first and second sets of transducers drive the shell to simultaneously produce a vibratory experience corresponding to the vibratile wave characteristic and an auditory experience corresponding to the audile wave characteristics so as to effect separate and distinct tactile and aural stimuli.

14. A vibroacoustic plumbing fixture, comprising: a shell for containing water, wherein when the shell contains water the water defines a waterline relative to the shell below which is filled with water; a first set of transducers mounted in energy transmitting relation to the shell essentially above the waterline and receiving an input signal having an audile wave characteristic; and a second set of transducers mounted in energy transmitting relation to the shell essentially below the waterline and receiving an input signal having a vibratile wave characteristic different from the audile wave characteristic; wherein the first and second sets of transducers drive the shell to simultaneously produce a vibratory experience corresponding to the vibratile wave characteristic and an auditory experience corresponding to the audile wave characteristics so as to effect separate and distinct tactile and aural stimuli.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims priority based on U.S. provisional application 61/041,189 filed on Mar. 31, 2008.

STATEMENT OF FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not applicable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to plumbing fixtures. More particularly, it relates to a vibroacoustic plumbing fixture having a shell that is driven to produce distinct, controlled auditory and vibratory experiences.

The use of a tub shell (e.g., a bathtub) as an acoustic speaker to reproduce music is generally known. U.S. Pat. No. 6,523,191 discloses an acoustically active hot tub that has a plurality of transducers affixed to blocks embedded in the shell of the hot tub. The audio transducers transform electrical signals from a music source into vibrations that are transmitted to the shell of the hot tub, causing the shell to vibrate. The hot tub shell vibrates within a range of frequencies suitable for transmitting audible frequencies generally associated with music. Thus, users can listen to music while aerated water is circulating within the hot tub by pumps and jets.

However, the techniques discussed above do not use the hot tub shell to create two discrete effects. The transducers merely produce an audible sound for users of the hot tub. Furthermore, the jets used in the hot tub of U.S. Pat. No. 6,523,191 detract from, if not completely eliminate, any incidental vibrations that might be felt by the bathers as a result of the transducers reproducing the music.

German patent DE199902875 presents another example of a tub used as an acoustic speaker. The focus of this reference is to improve the efficient transmission of the mechanical oscillations of a transducer to the shell of a tub, improving the ability of the shell to act as an acoustic speaker. However, as with U.S. Pat. No. 6,523,191, German patent DE199902875 simply uses the shell as a pseudo speaker, without consideration of input signals or the effect of the output signals beyond the reproduction of audible sounds.

The use of a single transducer mounted adjacent a tub to vibrate the water, and thus the bather, is also generally known. U.S. Pat. No. 3,585,991 discloses a transducer mounted in an energy coupling relationship with one wall of a tub. The transducer coupled to the wall produces a series of energy waves through the water via the single wall of the tub, whereas a separate speaker not coupled to the tub shell (e.g., headphones or an ambient sound system) is included to produce music. Thus, U.S. Pat. No. 3,585,991 does not use the tub as an acoustic speaker, but only uses a single wall for vibratory purposes and has a separate speaker to produce audible music. In addition, the disclosure instructs to create a visible movement of the water with a whirlpool type unit, which would clearly detract from the impact of the energy waves traveling through the water.

European patent application publication EP0651987 also incorporates transducers mounted through openings in a tub wall to allow ultrasonic waves to transmit directly into the tub. Thus, the tub is not used as a speaker, but merely as an isolated mount for the transducers having a gasket between the tub and the transducer. Furthermore, the tub incorporates a hydro-massage (e.g., water jets) in addition to the transducers, again detracting from the ultrasonic waves.

A divide has been established in the related art between using a bathing enclosure to produce either vibrations or audio because of the challenges inherent in creating controlled vibratory and auditory experiences. Thus, it was unexpected that the challenges would be overcome to create a vibroacoustic plumbing fixture having a shell driven by two distinct signals capable of creating an auditory experience and a vibratory experience having differing wave characteristics.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In one aspect, a vibroacoustic plumbing fixture includes a shell for containing water and a plurality of transducers mounted in energy transmitting relation to the shell. The transducers receive distinct input signals so as to simultaneously drive the shell to produce a vibratory experience and an auditory experience having at least one wave characteristic different from the vibratory experience. The vibratory experience is a tactile stimulus effected through the water in the shell and the auditory experience is an aural stimulus effected outside of the water.

In another aspect, a vibroacoustic plumbing fixture includes a shell for containing water and a plurality of transducers mounted in energy transmitting relation to the shell. The transducers receive input signals having separate and distinct audile and vibratile wave characteristics. The transducers simultaneously drive the shell to produce an auditory experience corresponding to the audile wave characteristics effecting an aural stimulus and a vibratory experience corresponding to the vibratile wave characteristics effecting a tactile stimulus.

In yet a further aspect, a vibroacoustic plumbing fixture includes a shell for containing water. A first set of transducers are mounted in energy transmitting relation to the shell and receive an input signal having an audile wave characteristic. A second set of transducers are mounted in energy transmitting relation to the shell and receive an input signal having a vibratile wave characteristic different from the audile wave characteristic. The first and second sets of transducers drive the shell to simultaneously produce a vibratory experience and an auditory experience corresponding to the respective vibratile and audile wave characteristics so as to effect separate and distinct tactile and aural stimuli.

In another aspect, a vibroacoustic plumbing fixture includes a shell for containing water, wherein when the shell contains water the water defines a waterline relative to the shell below which is filled with water. A first set of transducers is mounted in energy transmitting relation to the shell essentially above the waterline and receive an input signal having an audile wave characteristic. A second set of transducers is mounted in energy transmitting relation to the shell essentially below the waterline and receive an input signal having a vibratile wave characteristic different from the audile wave characteristic. The first and second sets of transducers drive the shell to simultaneously produce a vibratory experience and an auditory experience corresponding to the respective vibratile and audile wave characteristics so as to effect separate and distinct tactile and aural stimuli.

These and still other aspects and advantages of the present invention will be apparent from the detailed description and drawings. What follows are merely preferred example embodiments of the present invention. To assess the full scope of the invention the claims should be looked to.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is an isometric view showing a vibroacoustic plumbing fixture in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a bottom elevation view thereof;

FIG. 3 is a left side elevation view thereof;

FIG. 4 is a foot end elevation view thereof;

FIG. 5 is a head end elevation view thereof;

FIG. 6A is a schematic showing an examplary wiring layout of the system of FIG. 1;

FIG. 6B is a schematic showing another examplary wiring layout;

FIG. 7A is a schematic showing an examplary signal distribution of the vibroacoustic plumbing fixture of FIG. 1;

FIG. 7B is a schematic showing another examplary signal distribution;

FIG. 8A is an example auxiliary waveform useable with the vibroacoustic plumbing fixture of FIG. 1 to establish a vibratory experience and an auditory experience from an auxiliary input; and

FIG. 8B is an example basic waveform useable with the vibroacoustic plumbing fixture of FIG. 1 to establish a distinct vibratory experience.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EXAMPLE EMBODIMENT

The present invention provides a vibroacoustic plumbing fixture or system 12 capable of simultaneously producing and effecting to a bather 11 both controlled auditory and vibratory experiences.

The auditory experience primarily imparts to the bather 11 an aural stimulus that is produced by a shell 14 driven in response to an audile signal that incorporates wave characteristics under a traditional musical framework. The musical framework includes typical musical elements such as tones centered on a particular key and harmonies related to the key. The auditory experience preferably includes an audible melody of aural focus that is heard by the bather 11. The auditory experience is preferably propagated through a gaseous medium, such as air, to the bather 11 and essentially effects an aural stimulus.

The vibratory experience primarily imparts a generally tactile stimulus to the bather 11 that is also produced by a shell 14 driven in response to a vibratile signal that incorporates wave characteristics that are distinct from at least one of the wave characteristics of the audile signal. The tactile vibrations of the vibratory experience generally include non-melodic wave characteristics specifically created to achieve a controlled vibratory experience that is effected via a tactile stimulus. The wave characteristics of the vibratory experience preferably communicate a non-discernable, ancillary experience that do not establish a temporal framework, meaning that most adult bathers can be subjected to the same vibratile signal on multiple occasions and not be readily able to consciously distinguish the beginning, middle, end, or other temporal relationships within a particular vibratory experience.

The vibratory experience is preferably propagated through a liquid medium, such as water, to the bather 11 and generally effects a tactile stimulus, such as a deep massaging experience. Furthermore, the vibratory experience preferably includes controlled application of vibrations produced by the shell 14 to manipulate the location and intensity of the vibratory experience.

The vibroacoustic plumbing fixture 12, more specifically the shell 14, has been “tuned” to maximize the auditory and vibratory experiences produced by the shell 14 and propagated through the air and water to effect the respective aural and tactile stimuli. The shell 14 is preferably tuned to a desired key so as to respond favorably to the predominant frequencies of the particular key. A favorable shell 14 response generally means that the shell 14 exhibits minimal vibratory damping in the preferred range of frequencies at which the shell 14 is configured to operate to enhance the desired wave characteristics. The relationships between the shell 14 and desired auditory and vibratory experiences are established by relating the frequency response of the shell 14 (e.g., the natural frequency and harmonics of the shell 14) to the wave characteristics of the desired auditory and vibratory experiences.

An example vibroacoustic plumbing fixture 12 is shown in FIG. 1. The plumbing fixture or system 12 includes a shell 14, such as a bathtub, shower stall, sink, or other similar basin, that is preferably made of fiberglass reinforced plastic, but may be made of a variety of other materials and combinations of materials, such as acrylic, metal, porcelain, and the like.

The frequency response of the shell 14 is partially dependent on the materials and geometry of the shell 14. For example, depending on the geometry, cast iron can be too dense and include too much mass to establish a preferred vibroacoustic plumbing fixture. However, with the appropriate geometry and structure, a cast iron shell may be used in accordance with the present invention. The geometry and materials of the shell 14 are preferably optimized to respond favorably in the desired frequency range given the specifics of each application and the wave characteristics of the auditory and vibratory experiences.

The shell 14 generally includes a left side wall 16 offset from a right side wall 18, a head wall 20 offset from a foot wall 22, and a base 24 connecting the walls 16, 18, 20, 22. The shell 14 is typically partially filled with water via a spout controlled by a valve (not shown). A drain 26 is formed in the base 24 to allow the water to be emptied from the shell 14 when not in use. Additionally, an overflow drain 28 is seated in an overflow ledge 30 to ensure that water does not rise above the waterline 32 and breach a plane 34 defined by a rim 36 of the shell 14.

The foot end 38 of the shell 14 may include a foot rest portion 40 having a contoured surface configured to engage and support the feet of a user when in the shell 14. Additionally, the head end 42 may include a head pocket 44 formed above a backrest portion 48 of the head wall 20. The backrest portion 48 is sloped and contoured to provide the bather 11 with a reclined position once in the shell 14.

The head pocket 44 may take on a variety of configurations, however, each is dimensioned and sized such that when the head of a bather 11 rests in the head pocket 44, the ears of bather 11 are supported essentially below the plane 34, and preferably, above the waterline 32. Keeping the ears of bather's below the rim 36 of the shell 14 and above the waterline 32 alters the aural stimulus produced by the shell 14 that is propagated through the air (described in greater detail below). The head pocket 44 may alternatively be configured such that the ears of bather 11 are located below the waterline 32. However, the aural stimulus effected by the auditory and vibratory experiences is altered.

The vibroacoustic plumbing fixture, or alternatively, vibroacoustic plumbing system 12 in the form of a bathtub can include a series of chromotherapy devices 50 mounted to the shell 14 that are generally synchronized with vibrations of the shell 14. The chromotherapy devices 50 may be comprised of multi-colored light emitting diodes, filament bulbs, fiber optic strands, and the like, and are housed behind translucent or transparent lenses 52. The chromotherapy devices 50 can be mounted by any technique known to those skilled in the art. Furthermore, the location and quantity of the chromotherapy devices 50 can be altered as desired.

The vibroacoustic plumbing system 12 includes a plurality of transducers mounted in energy coupling relation to the shell 14. The transducers drive and vibrate the shell 14 thereby effecting the auditory and vibratory experiences. While the example embodiment will be described with reference to electromagnetic transducers, the transducers may be of any type capable of transforming an input signal into a corresponding mechanical vibration. In the example embodiment, the transducers are preferably electromagnetic Rolen-Star Audio Transducers. Additionally, the transducers may include magnetic shields as described in related U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/051,190, which is hereby incorporated by reference as if fully set forth herein.

With specific reference to FIGS. 2, 6A, and 6B, the transducers are divided between two groups: (1) auditory transducers that vibrate the shell 14 to effect the auditory experience and (2) vibratory transducers that vibrate the shell 14 to effect the vibratory experience. The auditory transducers include a right audile transducer 54R and a left audile transducer 54L (collectively the “audile transducers 54R, 54L”). The vibratory transducers include a right head end vibratile transducer 56R, a left head end vibratile transducer 56L, a right foot end vibratile transducer 58R, a left foot end vibratile transducer 58L, a right side head end vibratile transducer 60R, a left side head end vibratile transducer 60L, a right side foot end vibratile transducer 62R, and a left side foot end vibratile transducer 62L (collectively the “vibratile transducers 56R, 56L, 58R, 58L, 60R, 60L, 62R, 62L”).

The example embodiment described uses a total of two auditory transducers 54R, 54L and eight vibratory transducers 56R, 56L, 58R, 58L, 60R, 60L, 62R, 62L. However, any number of auditory and vibratory transducers may be incorporated in accordance with the present invention. In addition, while the preferred transducer placement and quantity is shown, the placement of the transducers may be altered, and in fact, are preferably set to accommodate a user's preferred type of interaction with each particular fixture 12 (e.g., bathtub) to maximize the auditory and vibratory experiences. Given the shell 14 shown in the example embodiment, the transducers are preferably placed in the relative arrangement as shown to maximize the transmission of the wave characteristics effected by the auditory and vibratory experiences. For example, the audile transducers 54R, 54L are oriented as shown to direct the auditory experience toward the bather 11 to effect the desired aural stimulus.

Each transducer is mounted in a location to produce either, or both, a localized experience or an overall experience. The vibratile transducers 56R, 56L, 58R, 58L, 60R, 60L, 62R, 62L are preferably mounted to the shell 14 below the waterline 32 such that the corresponding vibrations produce a tactile, vibratory experience that propagates through the water.

As an example of a localized vibratory experience, the right head end vibratile transducer 60R and the left head end vibratile transducer 60L are secured to the shell 14 proximate the backrest portion 48 such that energy produced by the right head end vibratile transducer 60R and the left head end vibratile transducer 60L vibrate the shell 14 proximate the backrest portion 48 and produce a corresponding energy wave in the liquid medium that propagates from the shell 14 to the bather 11. The vibratory experience is perceived tactilely by the bather 11 as a controlled, directed vibration of the back, chest, and all internal biological structures proximate the right head end vibratile transducer 60R and the left head end vibratile transducer 60L. Similar controlled, localized effects are produced by the remaining vibratile transducers 56R, 56L, 58R, 58L, 60R, 60L, 62R, 62L located at desired positions around the shell 14.

The audile transducers 54R, 54L are preferably mounted proximate the rim 36, essentially above the waterline 32, and biased toward the head end 42 of the shell 14. This places the audile transducers 54R, 54L closer to the head of the bather 11 and essentially above the water in the shell 14. As a result, the placement enhances the auditory experience created by the audile transducers 54R, 54L as the shell 14 vibrates the surrounding air to effect the aural stimulus. Again, the design of the shell 14, specifically the portion proximate the rim 36, has been tuned to enhance the wave characteristics of the auditory experience to maximize the aural stimulus.

In the example embodiment, the right head end vibratile transducer 56R, left head end vibratile transducer 56L, right foot end vibratile transducer 58R, and left foot end vibratile transducer 58L are generally spaced apart along a longitudinal axis 64. Similarly, the right side head end vibratile transducer 60R, left side head end vibratile transducer 60L, right side foot end vibratile transducer 62R, and left side foot end vibratile transducer 62L are generally spaced apart along a transverse axis 66. The right audile transducer 54R and the left audile transducer 54L are also oriented generally along the transverse axis 66.

This general arrangement of the transducers 54R, 54L, 56R, 56L, 58R, 58L, 60R, 60L, 62R, 62L allows the shell 14 to produce simultaneous auditory and vibratory experiences that are dependent in part on the relative spacing between and arrangement of the transducers. The aural and tactile stimuli of the auditory and vibratory experiences may be controlled, for example, in amplitude, frequency, and duration.

The transducers 54R, 54L, 56R, 56L, 58R, 58L, 60R, 60L, 62R, 62L are mounted to the shell 14 by any known means, including but not limited to adhesives and epoxies, which securely couple the transducers 54R, 54L, 56R, 56L, 58R, 58L, 60R, 60L, 62R, 62L to the shell 14 and create an energy coupling relationship between the shell 14 and the transducer. The preferred coupling ensures an efficient transfer of energy from the transducer 54R, 54L, 56R, 56L, 58R, 58L, 60R, 60L, 62R, 62L to the shell 14 such that the auditory experience and the vibratory experience are sufficiently produced by the shell to effect the desired aural and tactile stimuli. One method of attachment is described in related U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/051,190, which is hereby incorporated by reference as if fully set forth herein.

With specific reference to FIG. 6A, a simplified examplary general signal stream and wiring schematic of the vibroacoustic plumbing system 12 is shown. For clarity, the audile components will be described separately from the vibratile components. Signal generation and processing will be described in greater detail with reference to FIG. 7A.

The auditory experience is a result of the audile signal 68 and its audile wave characteristics. The audile signal 68 contains the instructions (i.e., characteristics) for the audile transducers 54R, 54L to vibrate the shell 14 to produce the auditory experience that is effected as an aural stimulus. The audile signal 68 is routed through an audile amplifier 70 before driving the right audile transducer 54R and the left audile transducer 54L. The audile signal 68 comprises an audile channel 68A that drives the right audile transducer 54R and the left audile transducer 54L. The auditory experience can be controlled by manipulating the audile wave characteristics, such as the frequency and/or amplitude of the audile channel 68A.

The audile signal 68 may be encoded or compressed such that the audile wave characteristics may be decoded from the audile signal 68, amplified by one, or multiple, audile amplifiers 70, and connected to the audile transducers 56R, 56L to produce the desired auditory experience.

The vibratory experience is a result of the vibratile signal 72 and its vibratile wave characteristics. The vibratile signal 72 contains the instructions (i.e., characteristics) for the vibratile transducers 56R, 56L, 58R, 58L, 60R, 60L, 62R, 62L to produce the vibratory experience that is effected by a tactile stimulus. In the example embodiment, the vibratile signal 72 is routed through a pair of vibratile amplifiers 74 before driving the vibratile transducers 56R, 56L, 58R, 58L, 60R, 60L, 62R, 62L. The vibratile signal 72 preferably comprises a vibratile channel 72A.

In one example embodiment shown in FIGS. 6A and 7A, the vibratile channel 72A drives the right head end vibratile transducer 56R, the left head end vibratile transducer 56L, the right side head end vibratile transducer 60R, and the left side head end vibratile transducer 60L (collectively the “head end vibratile transducers 56R, 56L, 60R, 60L”) via a head end amplifier 74A. The vibratile channel 72A drives the right foot end vibratile transducer 58R, the left foot end vibratile transducer 58L, the right side foot end vibratile transducer 62R, and the left side foot end vibratile transducer 62L (collectively the “foot end vibratile transducers 58R, 58L, 62R, 62L”) via a foot end amplifier 74B.

Another example embodiment is shown in FIGS. 6B and 7B in which the vibratile channel 72A drives the right head end vibratile transducer 56R, the left head end vibratile transducer 56L, the right foot end vibratile transducer 58R, and the left foot end vibratile transducer 58L (collectively the “end vibratile transducers 56R, 56L, 58R, 58L”) via an end amplifier 74C. The vibratile channel 72A drives the right side foot end vibratile transducer 62R, the left side foot end vibratile transducer 62L, the right side head end vibratile transducer 60R, and the left side head end vibratile transducer 60L (collectively the “core vibratile transducers 60R, 60L. 62R, 62L”) via core amplifier 74D.

As best shown in FIG. 6B, the end vibratile transducers 56R, 56L, 58R, 58L are driven by the vibratile channel 72A. Similarly, the core vibratile transducers 60R, 60L, 62R, 62L are driven by the vibratile channel 72A. The tactile stimulus of the vibratory experience can be manipulated in intensity, duration, and frequency.

As with the audile channel 68A, the characteristics of the vibratile channel 72A can be varied to create vibratory experiences. As with the audile transducers 54R, 54L, the vibratile transducers 56R, 56L, 58R, 58L, 60R, 60L, 62R, 62L each may be driven by a vibratile signal 72 that may be encoded or compressed in the vibratile signal 72. Further, each vibratile transducer 56R, 56L, 58R, 58L, 60R, 60L, 62R, 62L can be driven by a single or multiple vibratile amplifiers 74 depending upon the application requirements.

In the example embodiment, and with specific reference to FIG. 7A, the auditory experience and the vibratory experience are encoded into the audile signal 68 and the vibratile signal 72, respectively. Preferably, the audile signal 68 and vibratile signal 72 are encoded in Movie Picture Experts Group Layer-3 format (“MP3 format”), but may be encoded with any other codec or presented in raw format (e.g., Waveform (“WAV”), Advanced Audio Coding (“AAC”), Dolby Digital, and the like).

The audile signal 68 and vibratile signal 72 are preferably extracted from separate media devices (not shown) such as a Secure Digital (“SD”) card, miniSD, CompactFlash, flash drive, and the like. Alternatively, the audile signal 68 and vibratile signal 72 may be stored in a built-in storage media (e.g., a hard drive) or on optical media (e.g., compact disc (“CD”), digital versatile disk (“DVD”), Blue-ray Disk (“BD”), and the like). Thus, the audile signal 68 and the vibratile signal 72 may be extracted from a single media device and from a single stream.

In the example embodiment, the audile signal 68 is directed to an audile decoder 76 where it is decoded from MP3 format into a streaming audile signal 68 comprising the audile channel 68A. Similarly, the vibratile signal 72 is routed to a vibratile decoder 78 where it is decoded from the preferred MP3 format to a streaming vibratile signal 72 comprising the vibratile channel 72A. The audile decoder 76 and the vibratile decoder 78 may be similar to the SCF5250 Integrated ColdFire Microprocessor produced by Freescale Semiconductor. Alternatively, a single decoder may decode the audile signal 68 and the vibratile signal 72.

The output from the audile decoder 76 (i.e., the first audile channel 68A) and the vibratile decoder 78 (i.e., the first vibratile channel 72A) are directed into a controller 80. In the example embodiment, the controller 80 can be any number of complex programmable logic devices commonly available. The controller 80 routes the audile channel 68A and vibratile channel 72A to the appropriate input on a signal processor 82 (described below). It should be appreciated that the controller 80 may integrate one, several, or all of the functions and features of the decoders 76, 78, signal processor 82, amplifiers 70, 74, chromotherapy controller 86, and any other component used in the vibroacoustic plumbing system 12. The functions and features of the various components of the example embodiment have been separated for ease of explanation.

The controller 80 provides at least one chromo signal 84 to a chromotherapy controller 86. The chromotherapy controller 86 manipulates a series of chromotherapy devices 50 (e.g., LEDs) in response to the chromo signal 84 received from the controller 80. A variety of color combinations, intensities, patterns, and the like are directed into the shell 14 via the chromotherapy controller 86 and integrated chromotherapy devices 50.

The signal processor 82 of the example embodiment manipulates and conditions the audile signal 68 and the vibratile signal 72. The signal processor 82 may be used to adjust the vibratile wave characteristics or the audile wave characteristics, such as the frequency and amplitude of the audile channel 68A, vibratile channel 72A, and any other input signal. The signal processor 82 may be similar to the TAS5508A made by Texas Instruments. Additionally, the signal processor may include a series of amplifiers; however, the example embodiment shown in FIGS. 6A and 7A incorporates an audile amplifier 70 to drive the audile transducers 54R, 54L and a pair of vibratile amplifiers 74, one to drive the head end vibratile transducers 56R, 56L, 60R, 60L and one to drive the foot end vibratile transducers 58R, 58L, 62R, 62L. One skilled in the art will appreciate the variety of amplifier configurations and combinations available to power the vibroacoustic plumbing system 12. For example, a circuit board may include a series of chips that include a pair of amplifiers each receiving an input signal. The amplifiers may be electrically coupled in a variety of ways to better distribute thermal energy during operation, such as by electrically coupling one or more chips.

The controller 80 of the example embodiment also includes an auxiliary input 88. The controller 80 receives the auxiliary input 88 and routes the input to the audile transducers 54R, 54L and vibratile transducers 56R, 56L, 58R, 58L, 60R, 60L, 62R, 62L. The signal may be sent to one or all of the transducers as determined by the bather 11 via a user interface (not shown) or by the controller 80 in accordance with preprogrammed logic. For example, the controller 80 may be programmed to filter the auxiliary input 88 to direct lower frequencies (e.g., below approximately 250 hertz) to the vibratile transducers 56R, 56L, 58R, 58L, 60R, 60L, 62R, 62L and higher frequencies (e.g., above approximately 250 hertz) to the audile transducers 54R, 54L. Alternatively, the controller 80 may be programmed to extract the pulsating signals (i.e., the “beat”) from the auxiliary input 88 and direct those signals to the vibratile transducers 56R, 56L, 58R, 58L, 60R, 60L, 62R, 62L. The balance of the auxiliary input 88 would then be directed to the audile transducers 54R, 54L. The auxiliary input 88 may be obtained from a variety of auxiliary devices (not shown) including a computer, a television, a digital media player, and the like.

Turning to FIGS. 8A and 8B, simplified waveforms (whereat the Y-axis is generally representative of relative amplitude and the X-axis is generally representative of a temporal continuum) illustrating example audile signals 68 and vibratile signals 72 that are used to produce desired auditory and vibratory experiences are shown. The audile signals 68 and vibratile signals 72 illustrated are merely example waveforms that can be used to produce a desired aural stimulus and tactile stimulus by vibrating the shell 14. The vibratory experience and the auditory experience have at least one distinct wave characteristic as compared to the other experience. The characteristic may be related to frequency, amplitude, tone, duration, and any other wave characteristic and are preferably tuned to the shell 14. Additionally, it is of note that the vibratory experience and the auditory experience are preferably produced simultaneously by the shell 14 to effect the tactile and aural stimuli essentially simultaneously. Therefore, the transducers simultaneously drive the shell 14 to produce the desired experiences.

The “auxiliary” waveforms 98 are illustrated in FIG. 8A. The auxiliary waveforms 98 are indicative of the audile signal 68 and vibratile signal 72 that may be produced and routed to the respective audile transducers 54R, 54L and vibratile transducers 56R, 56L, 58R, 58L, 60R, 60L, 62R, 62L via the auxiliary input 88. In the auxiliary waveforms 98 shown, no auxiliary input 88 manipulation is performed, however, as discussed above, the signal may be manipulated (e.g., conditioned, filtered, deconstructed, and the like) to achieve a relative pre-determined auditory and vibratory experience. For example, the vibratile signal 72 may be analyzed to extract a pulse P that is in turn filtered from the audile signal 68 and emphasized in the vibratile signal 72. Additionally, the audile wave characteristics and vibratile wave characteristics may be manipulated to better interact with the shell 14 (i.e., be dynamically tuned to the shell 14). Numerous additional signal manipulation and processing techniques are within the scope of the present invention and known to those in the art.

With reference to FIG. 8B, a “basic” waveform 100 may be used to impart an auditory experience and a vibratory experience more akin to a repetitive massage or drum beat. Many variations of the “basic” waveform are contemplated and within the scope of the present invention.

As described above, the vibroacoustic plumbing system 12 can be configured to create a variety of controlled auditory and vibratory experiences that are effected as a result of the shell 14 vibrating to produce both aural and tactile stimuli.

Preferred example embodiments of the present invention have been described in considerable detail. Many modifications and variations of the preferred example embodiments described will be apparent to a person of ordinary skill in the art. Therefore, the invention should not be limited to the example embodiments described.

INDUSTRIAL APPLICABILITY

The invention provides a vibroacoustic plumbing fixture for use in consumer bathing applications, specifically, a bathing system capable of producing controlled auditory and vibratory experiences.