RELATED PATENT APPLICATION
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present specification is based on and claims the priority of Provisional U.S. Patent Application Ser. No. 60/175,069, filed Jan. 7, 2000.
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
This invention relates to personal electronic games.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
In the field of electronic games, personal battery-operated games are generally fairly simple and diagrammatic in their operation, with significantly reduced visual and audio capabilities. Arcade games have more sophistication and reality but are very expensive so that they are normally not purchased by individual game users.
Accordingly, a principal object of the present invention is to provide more realistic and sophisticated personal electronic game equipment.
In accordance with a specific illustrative embodiment of the invention, an electronic game is provided which includes a separate headset unit or headpiece and a hand-held or foot-operated unit, with wireless (such as infrared) intercoupling between the two units; the headset or headpiece has both earphones to which stereophonic sound is directed and a viewing unit with separate optics for left and right eyes, providing a panoramic view of the “playing field” in color and different images for the two eyes to provide depth or three-dimensional viewing; the viewing images are in color; game play is controlled by the hand- or foot-operated controls, and batteries are mounted both in the headpiece or headset, and in the control unit. The panoramic field of view provided by the headset optics gives the user a “virtual reality” effect by providing peripheral vision input and detailed images as the user directs central vision left, right, or up and down.
Features of the present invention involve selected combinations of the features of the specific illustrative embodiment outlined hereinabove.
In accordance with one aspect of the invention, a personal self-contained electronic game includes a headset or headpiece and a handheld or foot-operated unit, with the game assembly including wireless coupling between the headset and the other unit; and wherein the headset provides a coordinated image including one or more of the features outlined hereinabove.
Illustrative games which are implemented include (1) an auto racing game entitled “Tunnel Racer,” (2) a shooting game entitled “Android Attack,” (3) a piloting game, entitled “Orbiter 9,” and (4) a snowboarding or skateboarding game.
The first three numbered games as listed hereinabove include handheld units with tilt switches or other directional switches, and additional controls, in wireless coupling control relationship with the headset. For example, the auto racing game handheld unit also includes braking, acceleration and gear shifting switch controls, as well as steering controls. The shooting and piloting handheld units include both tilt switches or joystick arrangements for directivity, and firing controls for initiating lasers, rockets, torpedoes, or other weapons. The snowboarding/skateboarding game includes a simulated snowboard/skateboard, with tilting and pressure responsive switches in the base of the snowboard/skateboard to control direction and jump capability of the snowboard/skateboard, and may include additional hand-actuated control switches on the board.
A feature of the invention involves the use of wireless, preferably infrared, coupling between the handheld or foot operated units and the headset or headpiece. Preferably the transmitter/receiver units are at the extreme front of the headset and at the very front of the handheld or foot operated units, for direct line-of-sight coupling.
- BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Other objects, features and advantages of the invention will become apparent from a consideration of the following detailed description and from the accompanying drawings.
FIG. 1 is a perspective view showing both a headset and also a handheld unit which is wireless coupled to the headset in use;
FIG. 2 is a side view of the user shown in FIG. 1, also showing both the headset and the handheld unit;
FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a headset which is one component of the system of the invention, and including both independent eye pieces or optical channels, and earphones mounted as a single unit;
FIG. 4 illustrates one handheld unit, including controls for the auto racing game, involving acceleration or throttle, braking and gear shifting, for examples;
FIG. 5 shows the handheld unit for the shooting game, also referenced as “Android Attack”;
FIG. 6 is a showing of the joystick employed in the piloting game, and it includes tilt controls, throttle controls, and additional switches for operating missile and laser weapons;
FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the foot operated board unit for the skateboard/snowboard game;
FIG. 8 is a diagrammatic showing indicating how the user controls the directivity of the skateboard motion, as viewed in the optics associated with the headset;
FIG. 9 is a side view diagrammatic showing of the skateboard/snowboard;
FIG. 10 is an end view showing the skateboard in an inverted configuration; and
FIGS. 11 through 14 illustrate images from the associated optics, with FIG. 11 relating to the “Tunnel Racer” game, FIG. 12 relating to the “Android Attack” game, FIG. 13 being an image from the piloting or “Orbiter 9” game, and FIG. 14 relating to the snowboard/skateboard game;
FIGS. 15A and 15B are schematic block diagrams showing an infrared coupled embodiment of the invention;
FIGS. 16A and 16B are schematic block diagrams of an embodiment of the invention using radio frequency coupling;
FIG. 17 is a detailed schematic circuit diagram of the infrared transmitter of FIG. 15A; and
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
FIG. 18 is a detailed schematic circuit diagram of the infrared receiver of FIG. 15B.
Referring more particularly to the drawings, FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of a game player 22 equipped with a headset 24 having both earphones 26 and a three-dimensional panoramic view or virtual reality optic unit 28. Also shown in FIG. 1 is the handheld steering wheel unit 30, which is wireless, coupled to the headset 24. The wireless coupling is preferably accomplished by signals provided from the front of the unit 30 which is most distant from the user 22, and with the mating receiver located at the front of the optic unit 28.
FIG. 2 is a side view of the user 22 showing both the headset 24 and the handheld unit 30. As mentioned hereinabove, the present games are personal games and are fully self-contained. Accordingly, as shown in FIG. 2, the rear of the headset 24 includes the battery compartment 32. The headset 24 also includes a microprocessor and a stored program for providing coordinated stereo sound and color images for game play per controls transmitted from the handset. The handset 30 also includes a battery compartment for providing local power.
Referring now to FIG. 3, this is an enlarged perspective view of the headset 24 shown in FIGS. 1 and 2. Clearly visible in FIG. 3 are the earphones 26, the battery pack 32, and the optical unit 28. It may be noted that the optical unit 28 extends forward for a significant distance in order to accommodate the lenses and optics required for both a three-dimensional and also a panoramic view providing a virtual reality view by the user. It is further noted that the images are in color, and this is accomplished through the use of LCD displays in combination with a color filter element.
Turning to FIG. 4, this is a showing of the handheld unit 30, including the switch mechanism 34 representing shifting, and other controls 36, 38 for braking and throttle purposes. The directivity of the “Tunnel Racer” may be controlled in any desired manner, for example by tilt switches included in the body of the unit 30, or, alternatively, by having one portion 40 of the handheld unit 30 being movable relative to another portion and with relative movement in one direction shifting the orientation of the auto racer in one direction and relative movement of the member 40 relative to the member 42 in the opposite direction, causing the auto racer to shift in the opposite direction. With the handheld steering wheel configuration unit 30 being held slanted up and away from the user, rotation of the entire unit is employed to actuate tilt switches indicating desired turning of the vehicle.
FIG. 5 shows the handheld unit which may be employed in the shooting, or “Android Attack” game. The handheld unit 52 includes a hand grip 54, and a trigger 56. The member 58 extensible to the right to provide a shoulder engaging surface when it is fully extended. In operation, the enlarged joystick type control 60 is employed to direct the weapon in the desired direction and the additional switches 62 provide on/off switch capability and control other functions such as the launching of additional weapons or the like.
Referring now to FIG. 6, this handheld unit 72 is a joystick in which the pilot directivity is controlled by tilt switches contained within the joystick 72. Skateboards and snowboards will be referenced as “action foot-boards” in some cases hereinbelow. The switch 74 controls the throttle. Other controls include the trigger 76, the laser firing switch 78, and the missile launch control switch 80.
Referring now to FIG. 7, it shows a skateboard or a snowboard 92 with foot rests 94 and 96 with the VELCROŽ or buckle straps 98 for holding the user's feet in location. Hand-operated switches 100 are employed in the execution of certain skateboard or snowboard stunts.
FIG. 8 is a schematic showing of the mode of operation of the skateboard to actuate the internal switches which are arranged to sense the pressure and movement, when the user tilts up and turns either to the left or right. Further, as indicated in FIG. 9, when the user merely lifts the front of the skateboard without turning in one direction or the other, this indicates a jump and will be followed by the optical images.
FIG. 10 is an end view of the snowboard 92 showing one of the straps 98. The view of FIG. 10 is inverted.
Turning now to FIGS. 11 through 14, these figures show typical images which would appear for one of the optical channels in the optical unit 28. Thus, more specifically, FIG. 11 shows a typical image which would be seen in the auto or “Tunnel Racer” game; FIG. 12 shows one of the shooting or “Android Attack” images, indicating symbolically the ammunition available, the “health” of the user indicating how many hits the user may have sustained, and the remaining enemies. FIG. 13 is an illustrative image from the piloting or “Orbiter 9” game, and FIG. 14 shows typical images from the snowboard/skateboard game.
It is useful to also include an indication of the game play, which is implemented by stored memory associated with a micro-processor included in the headset. The game play for each of the four illustrative games may be as follows, using the words of the advertising promoters for the various games.
Racing—“Tunnel Racer”—Takes place in the future where racing has gone to speeds never before dreamed. Contestants now race through corkscrewing tunnels at unbelievable speeds. Players can blaze past opponents on the ceiling or walls in this amazing new racing game. The player controls the race car using the wireless or LED-transmitting wheel-shaped handheld control unit. As the player speeds down the tunnels, he/she must avoid oncoming traffic. If the player should happen to run into an object, it damages the vehicle. If the vehicle takes too much damage, it explodes.
Piloting—“Orbiter 9”—The player blazes through space with density lasers blasting and photon torpedoes screaming. Earth is under attack from the Gretokian empire and only the player can send their bug race back to the depths of outer space from whence they came. The player must gun down the enemy spacecraft, watching his axial radar to find out where they'll come from next. If the player attempts to turn too quickly and at too great a speed, there is a chance that the gravity levels or G forces will get so high that the player may momentarily black out. The stars and spacecraft move around the screen according to the direction the player is moving.
Shooting—“Android Attack”—The player must make his/her way through the wasted surface of the moon where evil human-hating androids make their home. The player moves across the moon in an attempt to make it back to the lunar base and get back to earth. The player blasts his/her way through the androids and seeks out ammunition and health to keep moving through the hordes.
Skateboarding/Snowboarding—“Snowboarding 2000”—The player pulls off the most radical of tricks, catching some serious air time on the snowboard. Players race against the clock pulling Phat Tricks, cruising the Halfpipe. The more tricks you pull, the higher your score. Be careful of the obstacles which seem to pop out from nowhere and cause brain damaging accidents. Thank goodness for helmets. The player cruises right and left, pressing forward and backward to increase and decrease speed. When the player rides up the wall, he/she can press the jump button along with a combination of directional buttons to pull off different tricks.
Referring now to FIGS. 15A and 15B of the drawings, the drawing shows the central microcomputer unit (MCU) 102 in the transmitter unit of FIG. 15A, the switch matrix schematically indicated by the switches 104, the battery 106, and the infrared radiation emitting diode 108. The microcomputer unit 102 may be any of several well-known brands of chips including both Read Only Memory (ROM) and Random Access Memory (RAM), as well as other basic microcomputer functions. Depending on user input from the switch matrix 104 (which may include a large plurality of input switches), stereo audio and stereo visual signals are supplied to the IR diode 108 and transmitted to the headset receiver of FIG. 15B.
The microcomputer unit (MCU) 112 receives input from the infrared pick up unit 114, and processes the incoming signals for application of stereo sound to the two earphones indicated by block 116, and stereoptic visuals to the viewing unit of the headset as indicated by the block 118. The receiver headset unit also includes the battery 120. Incidentally, the MCU chip, in addition to ROM and RAM, includes both stereo audio and stereoptic drivers.
Referring back to FIGS. 1 and 2, the optic unit 28 includes two LCD screens, one for each eye, and a lens system so that the stereo images which are slightly different for each eye, providing the desired 3D effect. The lens system also expands the image to provide a virtual reality visual impression.
Similarly, accompanying stereo-sound is supplied to each of the two earphones 26 from the MCU 112 as indicated by the arrows leading to the audio block 116.
FIGS. 16A and 16B are similar to FIGS. 15A and 15B and, accordingly, have a number of primed reference numerals referring to corresponding circuits. However, in FIGS. 16A and 16B, the radio frequency coupling is provided by the low power RF transmitter unit 132 and the RF receiver unit 134. Radio frequency coupling is preferred for the action foot-board applications, for example, where line of sight coupling is not always present. FIG. 17 is a detailed schematic circuit diagram of the transmitter shown in block diagram form in FIG. 15. Identified by reference numerals in FIG. 17 are the switch matrix 104, the MCU chip 102, the battery 106 and the IR diodes 108. To ensure line of sight transmission, two physically spaced infrared light emitting diodes 108 are employed. The MCU chip 102 is available from SUN PLUS COMPANY of Taiwan. The balance of the circuit of FIG. 17 is generally conventional and variations in its implementation may be accomplished in the implementation of the different games.
With reference to FIG. 18, the MCU is implemented by the two chips 112-A and 112-B. Similarly, the two LCD arrays, one for each eye, are designated by the reference numerals 118-A and 118-B, providing 3D or stereoptic visual effects. The stereo audio for the earphones is indicated by the audio output symbols 116-A and 116-B associated with the respective earphones.
Incidentally, for infrared coupling, it is desirable to have line of sight coupling. Accordingly the spaced IR emitting diode or diodes are located toward or at the outermost portion of the handheld units, and the IR receiving component (and the receiver electronics P.C. board) is located at the front of the outwardly extending optical unit 28, as shown in FIG. 2.
In conclusion, it is noted that the foregoing detailed description relates to selected games which may be implemented by the present invention. It is to be understood that other games could, of course, be played with this same apparatus, provided with different imaging and programming. In addition, the particular switches, including tilt switches and joystick arrangements, could be modified to suit the particular game and mode of play. It is also noted that the wireless feature of the present invention involving infrared signals being sent from the front portion of the handheld or foot operated unit to the front of the headset could, alternatively, be implemented by low-energy, radio frequency signals, rather than infrared signals. Further, the batteries may be included in the front optical electronics unit; and sound may be supplied to plug type earphones coupled to the electronics unit by jacks, instead of the physically larger earphones shown in the drawings. Accordingly, the present invention is not limited to the precise embodiments shown in the drawings and described hereinabove.