FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to amusement machines, in particular to an amusement machine of the coin pusher type.
Coin pusher amusement machines are well known. Such machines include a horizontal playfield on which a large number of coins are distributed. The pattern of coins on the playfield is periodically disturbed by a coin pusher, which may be in the form of a movable stage which periodically sweeps across part of the playfield surface. Coins are pushed to the edge of the playfield and some may be pushed over the edge into a “win chute”. From this they pass into a receptacle and may be recovered by the user of the machine, or may otherwise trigger the release of a prize or reward for the user. The user is able to introduce additional coins onto the playfield via coin slots or other conventional means. The object of the user of the machine is to introduce additional coins onto the playfield surface with the hope that a larger number of coins will be pushed over the edge into the win chute. In such conventional machines the playfield is stationary and the coin pusher is moveable over the playfield surface. This is a highly competitive field for which there is a continual need to develop games which will keep the user interested and result in more of these amusement machines being sold.
GB 2226766 discloses a coin pusher amusement machine having a vertically extending tube for depositing one of a stack of cylindrical boxes on a play area. However, this arrangement lacks flexibility, both in that the tube only delivers cylindrical boxes and in that the tube only deposits the boxes in one location.
STATEMENT OF THE INVENTION
According to one aspect of the present invention, there is provided an amusement machine comprising a playfield, a coin projection device for projecting coins onto the playfield, a coin pusher which is moveable relative to the playfield, a reservoir and a robotic arm for automatically dispensing objects from the reservoir onto the playfield.
The term “robotic arm” is used in the present specification to refer to a controlled arm of the type used, for example on industrial robots, and should not be understood to require any form of artificial intelligence on the part of the arm controller.
In the present invention, a user may cause coins to be projected from the coin projection device onto the playfield either directly or indirectly. The robotic arm automatically dispenses objects, such as coins or prizes, onto one of more of the playfield, coin pusher and win chute (see below) in response to some predetermined event such as a win or a random event which, for example, may occur when the number of coins on the playfield increases beyond a threshold amount. This predetermined or random event introduces a further element of chance and surprise into this form of amusement machine.
The coin pusher may co-operate with the playfield, in use, to alter the distribution of coins on the playfield surface, whereby some of the coins are pushed over an edge of the playfield surface.
A win chute may be provided to catch coins or prizes falling off the edge of the playfield. The win chute may be directly accessible by the user; alternatively, coins, tokens or other items falling into the win chute may cause corresponding coins, tokens and items to be provided to a user from a separate supply.
Thus, in some instances the coins are passed through a hopper before being paid to the user or may trigger the release of a prize. There may be openings provided on the playfield surface itself leading to chutes to enable coins to be retained within the machine either to fill up hoppers which may be recovered by the user or directed to a cashbox. The coin pusher surface may also be part of the playfield surface and support coins in play.
By using a robotic arm it is possible to pick up and deliver objects not merely to a single predetermined location but to any of a number of locations, for example including different locations on the playfield or into the win chute. The objects may have a variety of different shapes and sizes. The arm may be controlled by an arm controller that may be reprogrammed easily without requiring a new machine.
The amusement machine may include a number of play stations to allow a number of users to play at the same time. The play stations may be arranged around the playfield in a square, hexagon, circle, or any other convenient arrangement. This allows a number of players to play together on the amusement machine. The flexibility of the robotic arm allows objects to be moved from a reservoir to the playfield in a location in front of any of the play stations rather than requiring separate supplies for each play station. Objects may be provided randomly to the playfield or the location to which the robotic arm delivers the item may be determined as required. For example, the robotic arm may distribute objects to locations on the playfield corresponding to a play section where a large number of credits have been input.
The robotic arm may be moveable in multiple directions, with both rotational and pivotal movement. The robotic arm may be a multiple jointed arm. The arm may be mounted on a central substantially vertical pivot axis at its and have at least two joints. The joints may allow movement about substantially horizontal axis. Alternate arrangements are possible. For example, the arm may be mounted on a track to provide motion along the track, or include a telescopic component. The distal end of the arm may be provided with a grabber, preferably hinged to the arm. It should be noted that the grabber preferably reliably picks up objects and places them where required, in contrast to the grabbers of crane-type prize dispensing games which are often arranged to provide some element of chance.
The robotic arm may conveniently be mounted above the reservoir. In embodiments, the playfield underneath and/or around the reservoir and a number of play stations each with a coin input, win chute and any other required controls may be provided at the periphery of the playfield.
Preferably, the coin pusher and playfield are moveable relative to each other. The playfield may be moveable and the coin pusher may be stationary.
The reservoir may be a single central reservoir, or hopper, visible to player so that the players can see which prizes may be won. The use of a robotic arm delivery system permits an open hopper of attractive shape to be used, since there is no need for the hopper to itself incorporate a delivery system.
In the context of this specification, the term “coins” should be understood as including any similar discs, tokens, medals or the like.
In a preferred example, the amusement machine comprises a coin pusher eccentrically mounted for rotation relative to the playfield. Preferably, the coin pusher is an eccentrically mounted disc. Eccentric mounting of the coin pusher means that the shape of the peripheral coin-pushing edge of the coin pusher constantly changes, so that the distribution of coins on the playfield is disturbed, coins are gradually urged by the coin pusher towards a peripheral edge of the playfield and, occasionally, depending on the amount of coins on the surface, some coins will be pushed over a edge of the playfield.
In another preferred example, the amusement machine comprises a horizontal playfield and a coin pusher which reciprocates across part of the playfield to disturb coins distributed on it. Preferably, the coin pusher is a coin pusher box or a moveable stage mounted above and adjacent to the playfield.
In yet another preferred example, the amusement machine comprises a coin pusher having a rod and a stage moveable relative to each other, wherein the periodic movement of the rod and/or the stage across the playfield disturbs coins on the playfield.
The amusement machine of the present invention may be a multi-player game where the playfield is divided into different sections to allow a number of users to play the game.