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Publication numberUS20040229696 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/436,981
Publication dateNov 18, 2004
Filing dateMay 14, 2003
Priority dateMay 14, 2003
Publication number10436981, 436981, US 2004/0229696 A1, US 2004/229696 A1, US 20040229696 A1, US 20040229696A1, US 2004229696 A1, US 2004229696A1, US-A1-20040229696, US-A1-2004229696, US2004/0229696A1, US2004/229696A1, US20040229696 A1, US20040229696A1, US2004229696 A1, US2004229696A1
InventorsStephen Beck
Original AssigneeBeck Stephen C.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Object recognition toys and games
US 20040229696 A1
Abstract
A toy or game play apparatus or method involving a powered host such as a doll or a tablet which operates interactively in a mode of play with one or more non-powered play objects. The host has a preprogrammed microcontroller and a RFID reader/interrogator circuit. Each play object has a RFID tag IC. Each tag IC has a memory holding digital data that includes at least ID information different from that of the other play objects. When the host and a play object are positioned so as to afford RF communication between them, the host can send power to energize the tag IC of the play object. This causes the tag IC to transmit data including at least its ID information back to the host. The host recognizes that transmitted data and makes a presentation in accordance with the mode of play to the user caused by that transmitted data. In one mode the play objects may have a variable aspect, and the host determines and makes a user presentation based on the then current state of the variable aspect.
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Claims(70)
What is claimed is:
1. A toy or game play apparatus comprising:
a plurality of play objects each having a non-self-powered RFID tag IC, each of said tag ICs having a memory that stores digital data that includes at least specific identification information that is different from that of the other said objects, and
at least one powered master unit that includes a micro-controller and a RFID reader/interrogator circuit, said master unit and said play object having an appearance consistent with a mode of play between them, said master unit being operable, when at least a selected one of said play objects is in position in a localized detection region relative to said master unit so as to afford remote wireless RF communication between said master unit circuit and the tag IC of that selected play object, but without requiring physical contact between said master unit and that play object, to send power to energize that tag IC to enable that tag IC to transmit digital data at that time back to said master unit, said data transmitted by said tag IC including at least some of said specific identification information, all of said tag ICs transmitting at the same frequency, said master unit being operable to recognize said data transmitted from said tag IC and to make a presentation to a user at least partially caused by that transmitted data, said presentation being supportive of play by the user with the toy or game play apparatus in accordance with said mode of play.
2. The toy or game play apparatus of claim 1 wherein, when a plurality of said play objects are generally concurrently positioned in a detection region relative to said master unit, said master unit is capable of sequentially energizing said tag ICs of said play objects so as to cause each of said play objects, as it is energized, to transmit as least some of its specific information data back to said master unit.
3. The toy and game play apparatus of claim 1 wherein said presentation comprises at least in part at least some of said transmitted data from the tag ICs.
4. The toy and game play apparatus of claim 1 wherein said master unit has stored data and said presentation comprises at least in part data stored on said master unit.
5. The toy and game play apparatus of claim 1 wherein said master unit also includes a visual display for making said presentations in visual form to the user caused by the data from the tab ICs.
6. The toy and game play apparatus of claim 1 wherein said master unit also includes an audio sound presenting unit for making presentations in audible form to the user caused at least in part by the data from the tag ICs.
7. The toy and game play apparatus of claim 6 wherein said audio sound presenting unit includes an amplifier and a speaker.
8. The toy and game play apparatus of claim 7 wherein said audio sound presenting unit also includes a voice synthesizer.
9. The toy apparatus of claim 1 wherein each of said tag ICs includes writeable memory, and said master RFID unit is operable to write new data to said tag memory.
10. The toy apparatus of claim 1 wherein each of said tag ICs includes rewriteable memory, and said master unit is capable of changing the data in said tag memory.
11. The toy or game play apparatus of claim 1 wherein said master unit is operable to present directions to the user regarding the positioning of one or more of said play objects relative to said master unit, to make a determination, based on data transmitted back by said positioned play object, whether or not that positioned play object has been positioned correctly, and to include in said presentation the results of said determination.
12. The toy apparatus of claim 1 wherein said master unit includes a plurality of master antennae that are physically spaced apart, said master antennae being rapidly sequentially operable by said master unit so as to enable said master unit to recognize which if any of said play objects is in the detection region of each said master antenna, said master unit being operable to act upon that recognition.
13. The toy and game apparatus of claim 12 wherein said master unit is operable to present instructions to the user regarding the positioning of one or more of said play objects relative to one or more of said master antennae, to recognize, based on data transmitted by positioned play objects, the resultant play object positioning at to each of said master antenna, and to make said presentation to the user include the results of such positioning.
14. The toy or game play apparatus of claim 1 wherein each of said play objects includes visual indicia that is different from that of the other play objects, and each of said visual indicia correlate with the specific data on the associated play object.
15. A method of playing with a toy or game play apparatus comprising:
1) providing a plurality of play objects each having a non-self-powered RFID tag IC, each of the tag ICs having a memory which stores digital data that includes at least specific information that is different for each of the play objects,
2) providing a powered master unit that includes a microcontroller and a RFID reader/interrogator circuit, the play objects and master unit having an appearance consistent with a mod of play between them, the master unit being operable, when at least one of the play objects is in position in a localized detection region relative to said master unit such as will afford remote wireless RF communication between the master unit reader/interrogator circuit and the tag IC of that selected play object, but without requiring physical contact between the master unit and that play object, to send power to energize that tag IC to cause that tag IC to transmit at that time at least its specific information data back to the master unit, the master unit being operable to recognize that transmitted data and to make a presentation to a user at least partially caused by that transmitted data, said presentation being supportive of play by the user with the toy or game play apparatus in accordance with said mode of play,
3) positioning the master unit and at least one of the play objects relative to one another so that the positioned play object is in the detection region relative to the master unit,
4) causing the master unit to send power to energize that positioned play object for data transmission by that play object back to the master unit,
5) causing the master unit to make a supportive presentation to the user at least partially based on the transmitted data, and
6) repeating steps 3), 4) and 5).
16. The play method of claim 15 further including
having the master unit direct the user to take a specified action with one or more of the play objects, and
having the presentation advise the user of the adequacy or inadequacy of the action that was taken by the user.
17. The play method of claim 15 wherein each of the tag ICs includes writeable memory, said method further including the step of having the master unit write new data onto the memory of the play object tag IC.
18. The play method of claim 15 wherein each of the tag ICs includes rewriteable memory, said method further including the step of having the master unit rewrite the data in the memory of the play object tag IC.
19. Toy or game play apparatus comprising:
a main object designed and arranged for interactive use with a plurality of play objects, each of said play objects having a non-self-powered RFID tag IC, each of said tag ICs having a memory that holds digital data that includes at least specific information that is different from that of the other of said play objects,
said main object being operatively associated with a powered master unit that includes a microcontroller and a RFID reader/interrogator circuit and a plurality of master antennae, said master antennae being located at a plurality of spaced apart positions on said main object,
said master unit being operable, when a selected one of said play objects is in a localized detection region relative to one of said master antennae such as will afford RF communication between said master unit circuit and the tag IC of that selected play object, but without requiring physical contact between said master unit and that play object, to send power to energize that tag IC to cause that tag IC to transmit at least some of its specific information data back to said master unit, said master unit also being operable to recognize that transmitted data and to make a presentation to the user of the toy or game play apparatus caused at least in part by that transmitted data,
said master unit being operable to successively activate one of said master antennae at a time, and
said master unit being operable to recognize which if any of the play objects is in the detection region of each master antenna, and to control said presentation to the user accordingly.
20. The toy or game play apparatus of claim 19 wherein said master unit is operable to direct the user to position one or more play objects relative to the toy figure, to make a determination, based on data transmitted by positioned objects, whether or not each play object has been positioned as directed, and to include in the presentation to the user the results of said determination.
21. The toy or game play apparatus of claim 19 wherein said master unit represents a figure with a plurality of extremities, one of said master antennae being located at each of said figure extremities.
22. Toy or game play apparatus comprising:
a plurality of play objects each having a non-self-powered RFID tag IC, each of said tag ICs having a memory that stores digital data that includes at least specific information that is different from that of the other of said play objects,
a powered master unit that includes a microcontroller and a RFID reader/interrogator circuits,
said master unit being operable, when a plurality of said play objects are positioned so that those play objects are in the localized detection region relative to said master unit such as will afford RF communication between said master unit circuit and the tag ICs of those play objects, to sequentially send power to energize those tag ICs to cause each of those tag ICs to sequentially transmit at least some of its specific information data back to said master unit, said master unit also being operable to recognize all of that transmitted data and to make a presentation to a user of the toy or game play apparatus caused at least in part by that transmitted data, said presentation being supportive of play in accordance with a mode of play, said presentation appearing to a user to be a generally simultaneous as to all of said positioned play objects.
23. The toy or game play apparatus of claim 22 wherein each of said play object includes visual indicia that is different from that of the other play objects, and each of said visual indicia correlate with the specific data on the associated play object.
24. The toy or game play apparatus of claim 23 wherein said master unit has a plurality of spaced apart master antennae each defining a localized detection region, and said master unit is operable to direct the user to position one or more play objects relative to a specified localized detection region, to make a determination, based on data transmitted by positioned objects, whether or not each play object has been positioned as directed, the presentation to the user the reflecting said determination.
25. The toy or game play apparatus of claim 22 wherein said master unit includes a generally horizontal support surface for supporting said plurality of play objects, said master unit having at least one master antenna located below said support surface.
26. The toy or game play apparatus of claim 25 wherein said master antenna is arranged generally parallel to said support surface, and each of said play objects has a generally flat bottom face for resting upon said support surface, each of said play object antenna being disposed generally parallel with the associated bottom face of its play object.
27. The toy or game play apparatus of claim 25 wherein said play objects are three dimensional and each have a plurality of generally flat face, said antenna of each of said play objects being disposed within its play object at an angle to said support faces of its play object, whereby said play object antenna can effectively couple with a master antenna adjacent to which that play object is disposed regardless of which support face of that play object rests upon the support surface.
28. Toy or game play apparatus comprising:
at least one play object having at least one variable aspect, said play object having a non-self-powered RFID tag IC, said tag IC including a writeable memory that stores digital data representing the current state of said variable aspect, and
a powered host unit that includes a microcontroller and a RFID reader/interrogator circuit,
said host unit being operable, when one of said play objects is positioned in a localized detection region relative to said host unit such as will afford remote wireless RF communication between said host unit circuit and the tag IC of that play object, but without requiring physical contact between said host unit and that play object, to send power to energize said tag IC to enable said tag IC to transmit data at that time back to said to said host unit,
said tag IC being capable of receiving new digital data about a different current state of said variable aspect and storing such new data in its writable memory, said host unit also being operable to recognize data transmitted from that play object and to make a presentation to a user relating to the then current state of said variable aspect to implement play by the user with the toy or game play apparatus related to said variable aspect.
29. The toy or game apparatus of claim 28 further including a second host unit that includes a second microcontroller, a second RFID reader/interrogator circuit, said second host unit being operable, when an play object is in position in a localized detection region relative to said second host such as will afford RF communication between said second host unit circuit and the tag IC of that play object, but without requiring physical contact between said second host unit and that play object, to send power to energize said tag IC to cause said tag IC to transmit data as to said variable aspect back to said second host unit, said second host unit being operable to recognize that transmitted data, and to change said data relating to said variable aspect of that play object in that play object's writeable memory.
30. The toy or game apparatus of claim 29 wherein said variable aspect has a quantitative dimension, said first host unit being operable to progressively reduce the quantity of the aspect of that selected play object, and said second host unit is operable to replenish the quantity of the aspect of that selected play object.
31. The toy or game apparatus of claim 29 wherein said play object represents a container and said variable aspect is the quantity of a virtual play substance in said container.
32. A toy or game play apparatus comprising:
at least one play object having a RFID tag IC with a writable memory;
a master play unit including a microprocessor for writing data to and reading data from the memory, said play object and master play unit having an appearance compatible with a mode of play between them; and
programming in at least the master play unit for bidirectional RF transmission between the master play unit and the play object to implement said mode of play.
33. The toy or game play apparatus of claim 32 wherein there are a plurality of said play objects, each of which has a memory containing specific data that is different from that of said other play objects.
34. The toy or game play apparatus of claim 33 wherein said programming causes transmission of at least some of said specific data back to said master play unit, recognizes that transmitted data from each of said play objects, and reacts accordingly.
35. The toy or game play apparatus of claim 32 wherein said play object has specific data, said programming causes transmission of at least some of said specific data back to said master play unit, recognizes that transmitted data from said play object, and provides a presentation to a user of the apparatus caused by that transmitted data.
36. The toy or game play apparatus of claim 35 wherein programming causes at least some of that transmitted data to be included in said presentation.
37. The toy or game play apparatus of claim 33 wherein each of said play object includes visual indicia that is different from that of the other play objects, and each of said visual indicia correlate with the specific data on the associated play object.
38. Play apparatus comprising
first and second play objects having appearances consistent with a mode of play between such objects and respectively comprising:
first and second wireless RFID information transceivers, said second transceiver being non-self powered, the first and the second transceivers being positionable for remote mutual digital date-transmission contact;
first and second circuits operating first and second programs;
a writable memory in the second play object for holding digital data,
means in the first play object, controlled by the first program, for writing to and reading from the memory in the second play object with which the first play object is in data-transmission contact, through their transceivers; and
means in the first play object, controlled by the first program and by the written or read data, or both, for indicating to a user information for implementing play by the user with the objects in accordance with said mode of play.
39. The play apparatus of claim 38 wherein there are a plurality of said second play objects, each of which has a memory containing specific data that is different from that of the other second play objects.
40. A method of play comprising:
providing at least one play object having a RFID tag IC with a writable memory;
providing a master play unit including a microprocessor for writing data to and reading data from the memory, said play object and master play unit having an appearance compatible with a mode of play between them;
causing bidirectional RF transmission between the master play unit and the play object;
providing to a user a presentation based at least in part on data from the play object provided by said bidirectional RF transmission, said presentation serving to implement said mode of play.
41. The method of claim 40 further comprising providing additional play objects, each of which has a memory containing specific data that is different from that of the other play objects.
42. The method of claim 41 wherein:
Said play objects all include fixed frequency devices that all operate at the same frequency.
43. The method of claim 42 wherein:
said master unit communicates apparently simultaneously with all of the play objects of the plurality.
44. The method of claim 40, wherein:
the mode of play is in accordance with a specific play theme.
45. Play apparatus comprising:
first and second play objects, respectively comprising:
first and second wireless information transceivers in mutual data-transmission contact, and first and second circuits operating first and second programs; and
a writable memory in the second play object for holding data representing the current condition of a variable virtual play substance;
means in the first play object, controlled by the first program, for writing to or reading from the memory, or both, through the transceivers;
indicating means in the first play object, controlled by the first program and by the written or read data, or both, for indicating to a user a play characteristic derived from the then current condition of the variable virtual play substance, such indicated play characteristic being supportive of play by the user with the play apparatus in accordance with a mode of play.
46. The apparatus of claim 45, wherein:
the mode of play is in accordance with a specific play theme.
47. The apparatus of claim 46, wherein:
according to the play theme, the first object is configured as a worker in a particular job and the second object as an implement used by such a worker in doing that particular job.
48. The apparatus of claim 45, wherein:
according to the mode of play, the first object is configured as a doll and the second object as an accessory of the doll.
49. The apparatus of claim 48, wherein: the variable virtual play substance is selected from the group consisting of:
play food or drink for the doll;
play money for the doll;
documents evidencing property ownership by the doll;
play resources transferred by the doll to the second object for storage; and
play resources transferred by the doll to the second object for transfer to a third play object.
50. The apparatus of claim 45, wherein:
said indicated play characteristic comprises a remaining amount of the variable virtual play substance, before or after interaction between the first and second objects.
51. The apparatus of claim 45, wherein;
said play characteristic comprises a response to the current condition of variable virtual play substance.
52. The apparatus of claim 51, wherein the first object is configured as a character and the response is selected from the group consisting of:
indicated play hunger, thirst or satiation;
indicated play wealth or poverty; and
indicated play accumulation or depletion of resources in the second object.
53. The apparatus of claim 51 wherein the response is to the addition or removal of variable virtual play substance accomplished during interaction between the first and second objects.
54. The apparatus of claim 45, further comprising:
means in the second play object, controlled by the second program, for retrieving data from the memory and passing it to the first play object, through the transceivers.
55. The apparatus of claim 45, wherein:
the transceivers are radio-frequency devices; and there are a plurality of the second transceivers which each comprise an integrated circuit.
56. The apparatus of claim 55, wherein:
the second transceivers are fixed-frequency devices operating at the same frequency.
57. The apparatus of claim 56:
wherein the first transceiver communicates apparently simultaneously with all the second play objects of the plurality.
58. The apparatus of claim 57, wherein:
the second programs in the second play objects of the plurality control the second play objects to respond to communications from the first play object at staggered times.
59. The apparatus of claim 45, further including an additional first play object with a first transceiver and a first circuit for interacting with the second play object in the same manner as the first play object.
60. A method of play comprising:
1) providing first and second play objects, respectively comprising:
first and second wireless information transceivers in mutual data-transmission contact, and
first and second circuits operating first and second programs; and
a writable memory in the second play object for holding data representing the current condition of a variable virtual play substance;
means in the first play object, controlled by the first program, for writing data to or reading data from the memory, or both, through the transceivers;
indicating means in the first play object, controlled by the first program and by the written or read data, or both, for indicating to a user a play characteristic derived at least in part from the then current condition of the variable virtual play substance, such indicated play characteristic being supportive of play by the user with the play apparatus in accordance with a mode of play,
2) causing data-transmission between said first and second play objects, and
3) indicating to a user a play characteristic derived at least in part from the data transmitted from the second play object that represents the then current condition of the variable virtual play substance, such indication being supportive of said mode of play.
61. The apparatus of claim 60, wherein:
the mode of play is in accordance with a specific play theme.
62. The apparatus of claim 61, wherein:
according to the play theme, the first object is configured as a worker in a particular job and the second object as a implement used by such a worker in doing that particular job.
63. The method of claim 60, wherein:
according to the mode of play, the first object is configured as a doll and the second object as an accessory of the doll.
64. The method of claim 63, wherein: the variable virtual play substance is selected from the group consisting of:
play food or drink for the doll;
play money for the doll;
documents evidencing property ownership by the doll;
play resources transferred by the doll to the second object for storage; and
play resources transferred by the doll to the second object for transfer to a third play object.
65. The method of claim 60, wherein:
said indicated play characteristic comprises a remaining amount of the variable virtual play substance, before or after interaction between the first and second objects.
66. The method of claim 60, wherein;
said play characteristic comprises a response to the current condition of variable virtual play substance.
67. The method of claim 66, wherein the first object is configured as a character and the response is selected from the group consisting of:
indicated play hunger, thirst or satiation;
indicated play wealth or poverty; and
indicated play accumulation or depletion of resources in the second object.
68. The method of claim 66 wherein the response is to the addition or removal of variable virtual play substance accomplished during interaction between the first and second objects.
69. The method of claim 60 wherein:
there are a plurality of second transceivers which each comprise an integrated circuit, are fixed frequency devices all operating at the same frequency.
70. The method of claim 69 wherein:
the first transceiver communicates apparently simultaneously with all the second play objects of the plurality.
Description
FIELD OF INVENTION

[0001] Toys and games utilizing RFID (radio frequency identification).

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Toys are known which can respond to radio frequency signals, e.g., toy vehicles having radio frequency transmitting remote control units. Such toys typically respond to simple signals as for “forward”, “stop” and “reverse” functions. They require batteries in both the toy and transmitter.

[0003] RFID (radio frequency identification) transponder technologies are known in the prior art and used in retail store environments to sound an alert when products for which payment has not been made are removed from the premises, and in other detection systems such as automated toll collection systems for highways, bridges and tunnels, e.g. “EZ Pass”.

[0004] RFID electronic components, “reader/interrogator” and “tag”, circuits, are presently available in small, IC packages from several semiconductor vendors such as Philips, Motorola, Texas Instruments, Microchip, and Atmel, to name just a few suppliers.

SUMMARY OF THE DISCLOSURE

[0005] In accordance with the disclosure, contactless identification of objects by toy dolls and other toys can be achieved through the use of RF (radio frequency) transponders. A master/host/server toy or game unit can identify and recognize something that is placed within range of the host without any physical or mechanical contact through the application of RFID technology. Objects to be recognized and identified by the master/host/server toy or game unit need only contain a small RFID tag transponder integrated circuit chip (tag IC) and a suitable RF antenna. Such objects do not require a self-contained battery or other power source to be recognized. No optical code (e.g. bar code), invisible ink, ultraviolet or infrared ink is required, nor is mechanical or physical contact necessary between the recognizing toy and object to be recognized.

[0006] The master/host/server toy or game unit is also referred to herein as the main or first play object. The objects are also referred to herein as play objects or second lay objects. Objects in range are also referred to as in a localized detection region.

[0007] Tag ICs, while all operating at the same frequency, can respond differently from one another when interrogated by an appropriately programmed master/host/server toy or game unit. The tag ICs transmit and receive information in the form of data bit streams to and from the master/host/server toy or game unit. The tag ICs receive their operating power from the RF energy transmitted by the master/host/server at the same time as data exchange occurs.

[0008] In addition to a toy or game master/host/server reading an object's identity or specific identification information from its tag IC chip, tag IC chips can receive information in the form of many digital bits written back and stored indefinitely in non-volatile writeable memory onboard the tag IC chip. There is programming in at least the master unit for bidirectional RF transmission between the master unit and the object. This feature enables the creation of a form of kid's money, or a portable store of value, that can be held, transferred, traded, or otherwise exchanged with compatible devices such as trading cards or “play money” which contain read/writeable RFID tag ICs containing non-volatile, electrically reprogrammable memory bits, utilizing appropriately programmed master/host/server toy or game units containing an RFID reader/interrogator circuit and suitable antenna.

[0009] This feature also could be used with a doll to simulate the current state, status or condition of a variable aspect or feature of an object, and changes in that state. That variable aspect could be a variable virtual play substance or a resource, such as pretend milk in a toy milk bottle given to the doll. When a child presents a “full” milk bottle with an RFID tag IC inside it programmed as “full”, then the doll can simulate drinking the milk, and the master/host/server can gradually reprogram the RFID tag IC in the milk bottle to be less and less full, as indicated by the setting of some selected data bits in the milk bottle RFID tag IC memory, via the rewriteable feature. The doll could indicate to or make a presentation to the child-user of a play characteristic derived from the then current condition of the variable aspect or virtual play substance. The indicated play characteristic could be simply an indication of the current amount or state of the play substance, or it could be a response to such current state. Such response could indicate (1) play hunger, thirst or satiation, (2) play wealth or poverty, or (3) play accumulation or depletion of resources, and the like. For example, when the milk bottle is “empty” the doll could possibly cry and ask for more milk. Then the toy milk bottle could be taken over to a different master/host/server toy, perhaps in the form of a cow or a dairy, so as to be “refilled” by way of having the selected data memory bits of the milk bottle RFID tag IC be reprogrammed accordingly.

[0010] Other possible variable virtual play substances may include (1) other play food or drink, (2) play money, (3) documents evidencing property ownership of the host, (4) resources transferred to the host for storage, (5) resources transferred to the host for transfer to another play object.

[0011] Change or variation in the variable aspect or variable virtual play substance may be provided in several ways. The play object memory may be rewritable, so that data regarding the variable aspect or play substance is in fact changed or substituted in the memory. Alternatively, using a writeable memory, a series of data may be successively added to the memory incident to the intercommunication and play between the host and the play object. The host would then look to the most recently added data to determine the then current state of the variable aspect or play substance.

[0012] A trading card, or a flash card, or other small object, can be provided with an embedded RFID tag chip and suitable antenna loop or coil, factory programmed with specific bits of read-only data in the tag IC memory. This card can be recognized by a talking doll, for example, that can then recite information about the card. The information can exceed that printed on the card and, for example, can contain secret information about the card that can only be accessed by a master/host/server toy or game unit. A doll can then recognize and recite information about the trading card. In other words, at least some of the recited information may be stored on the card. Possibly most or even all of the recited information may be stored on the card. This can greatly minimize the requirement on the doll memory to store such recited information.

[0013] A tag IC with a suitable small antenna loop or coil can also be placed inside a small plastic figure, such as an action figure molded from plastic, that can be recognized by the doll or a reader device.

[0014] Such master/host/server toy or game units can play games such as spelling games, arithmetic games, shape recognition games, and other games. Master/host/server toy or game units can be employed to recognize trading cards and other two and three dimensioned collectibles. A master/host/server toy or game unit can act on a tag IC in a collectible to change its data thereby selectively making it compatible or incompatible with other master/host/server toy or game units, thereby providing the ability to “catch” or “collect” a specific object or flash or trading card by a specific owner, after which it cannot be caught or collected by another, unless the owner agrees to trade it electronically to another owner, using the master/host/server toy or game controller.

[0015] It is desirable that the master unit and the play object have appearances that are consistent or compatible with a mode of play. For example, FIG. 1 shows the master unit as a mommy doll and the play object as a baby doll. They are consistent or compatible with a mode of play characterized by interaction between mother and child. A baker or cook in a white coat and hat would not be compatible with a rifle or a lawn mower. Further, the indication or presentation to the child-user based on data derived from the object should be supportive of play in accordance with the mode of play. For example, the baker doll might say “we are low on sugar” in response to that variable aspect of a play can of sugar, but would not say “we are low on ammunition” or even “the sky is blue”.

[0016] Some toys or games could be more focused on a specific play theme and presentations that would further that theme. For example the master unit could appear as a mommy doll and the play object could appear as a baby doll with a tricycle; the theme would be learning to ride the tricycle.

[0017] The illustrated apparatus may also be characterized and described as follows:

[0018] Play apparatus comprising:

[0019] first and second play objects having appearance consistent with a mode of play between such objects and respectively comprising;

[0020] first and second wireless RFID information tranceivers, said second transceiver being non-self powered, the first and the second transcievers each positionable for remote mutual digital date-transmission contact;

[0021] first and second circuits operating first and second programs;

[0022] a writable memory in the second play object for holding digital data, means in the first play object, controlled by the first program, for writing to and reading from the memory in the second play object with which the first play object is in data-transmission contact, through their transceivers; and

[0023] means in the first play object, controlled by the first program and by the written or read data, for indicating to a user information for implementing play by the user with the objects in accordance with said mode of play.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0024]FIG. 1A is a perspective view of one type of toy which can serve as a master/host/server toy in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the invention; FIG. 1B is a perspective view of another type of toy which can serve as a master/host/server toy in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the invention;

[0025]FIG. 2 is a functional schematic block diagram of a master/host/server toy and the objects which it is intended to sense in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the invention;

[0026]FIG. 3A is an elevation view of another preferred embodiment of the invention.

[0027]FIG. 3B is a plan view of the preferred embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 3A.

[0028]FIG. 3C is an elevation view of the preferred embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 3A, with a modification.

[0029]FIG. 4A is a front elevation view of still another preferred embodiment of the invention.

[0030]FIG. 4B is a side elevation view of the preferred embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 4A.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0031] In a first embodiment of the invention, RFID technology is used to make a doll appear to “see” flash cards or other objects, recognize them by name, and engage in play activity with them.

[0032] For example, in a “shape” game, the doll asks a child to show or give the doll a specific shape, such as “the blue square” or “the red triangle”. The doll has a small loop antenna inside a hollow cavity in the chest area, so that as flash cards or objects are presented to the doll to “hold in its arms”, a master/host/server toy or game unit program can detect them and respond with a voice in the appropriate manner.

[0033] Furthermore, the sensing coil antenna of the master/host/server contained in the doll, can be located in different places, such as the head, or in a hand or foot, to localize the region where the target object will be detected.

[0034] In addition, the doll could include not just one, but multiple sensing antennae coils, located in various places on the doll, and which are switched on and off by control of the host microprocessor system. Such locations could include a coil in each hand of the doll, a coil in each foot, a coil in the doll's head, and a coil in the doll's abdominal cavity. Such a doll could play games with multiple objects, but might also play games with a single object by directing the user to sequentially position that object at different antenna, and recognizing and reporting back to the user as to the success or failure of each attempted positioning.

[0035] In conjunction with the selectively switching of the active antenna coil, the doll could ask the child to place a specific object in the doll's right hand, or in its left hand, for example.

[0036] Utilizing a voice synthesizer, the doll can ask for specific shapes to be given to it, and then for them to be taken away, one at a time, with responses given as to whether each correct shape was provided.

[0037] Objects presented to the doll can have numbers or spelling words which can be enunciated by an electronic voice synthesizer in the doll. The master/host/server toy or game unit can make animal sounds or other sound effects corresponding to a picture card or sculpture of a presented animal or other sound effect such as a fire engine or motor car. The master/host/server toy or game unit may be provided with recorded or synthesized music for playing different songs and tunes, perhaps in different voices or with different sounding musical instrument sounds such as a trumpet or a flute, a violin or a trombone, and also with many different percussion sounds such as drums, bells, whistles, and other sound effects.

[0038] In accordance with the disclosure, a doll or other master/host/server toy or game unit can recognize and identify an object, flash card, token, or other thing with no physical or mechanical contact. The toy or doll or game can recognize just one thing at a time, or a multiplicity of many things at the same time (that is within a few hundred milliseconds of one another) by utilizing the so-called “anti-collision” feature of certain RFID tag ICs which are commercially available.

[0039] Referring to FIGS. 1A and 1B of the drawings, there are shown a girl doll 1 and a baby doll 2, respectively, each of which can contain an “engine” in the form of a master/host/server toy or game unit 3. In addition to an integral antenna 5 located within the master/host/server toy or game unit 3 mounted in the doll's chest cavity, another antenna Sa can be connected to the master/host/server toy or game unit 3 and mounted within the head of the dolls 1 and 2. Doll 1 is shown with added antenna 5 bat a hand and 5 cat a foot. Each of the dolls 1 and 1 is shown interacting with an object 8 in the form of a card.

[0040] Referring now to FIG. 2, there are shown a plurality of play objects 8 that each include a non-self -powered RFID transponder tag IC 8 aand an RF antenna 8 b. The play object may be a flash card, a trading card, or small object molded from a non-conducting, non-RF shielded material.

[0041]FIG. 2 also shows a master/host/server toy or game unit 3 having an RF transmitting and receiving antenna sensing element or coil 5. This antenna may be of the primarily inductive coupling or primarily capacitive coupling type. The master antenna element or coil 5 is tuned to the resonant operating frequency of the RFID Tag ICs, and their associated antennae. The master antenna element or coils 5 are operatively connected to a reader/interrogator circuit 7. The circuit 7 transmits power to, and receives data transmitted from, the RFID tag ICs 8 a. The circuit 7 may also transmit data to the tag ICs. The play object 8 may typically be positioned about one to four inches from the master antenna 5, or possibly further.

[0042] When the reader circuit 7 transmits energy to a tag IC, that tag IC uses the power to transmit its unique data back to the circuit 7. The master unit 3 then uses that unique data to identify or “recognize” that object 8.

[0043] The reader/interrogator circuit 7 is operatively connected to a microcontroller/microcomputer 13. The microcomputer 13 has a microprocessor. The microprocessor is connected to one or more ROMs (read-only memories) 14 that contain program code for controlling the responses of the master/host/server toy or game unit 3 to the data received from the tag ICs 8 a. Thus, the data from the tag IC “triggers” or causes the response of the host unit 3. The microprocessor is also connected to RAM (random access memory) for temporary storage of operating data. Provision for connecting additional. ROMS 15 to expand operating functions and modes is provided in the form of external cartridge connectors 17 which allow additional ROMs 15 to be piggybacked onto or daisy chained to the basic ROMs 14. The microcomputer 13 may have a plurality of miscellaneous I/O lines to arm/hand switches and other doll sensors.

[0044] A voice/sound synthesizer circuit 19 is connected to the microcomputer 13 for converting digital data signals generated by the microcomputer in response to or caused by the data received from the interrogated tag ICs 8 ato analog voice, music or other sound signals. The sound circuit 19 may include CELP, ADPCM or the like. As noted above, at least some, and possibly most or all, of the data signals generated may be data returned from the memory of the object 8. The analog sound signals are then applied to the input terminals of an audio amplifier 21 for driving a speaker 23 which reproduces the sounds for listening at an audible level. The microcomputer 13 and its associated components, including the microprocessor, the voice/sound synthesizer circuit 19, and the amplifier 21 are powered by batteries contained in a power supply 25. For example, four AA or C alkaline batteries may be used. DC operating power can also be supplied from main AC line voltage by way of a suitable step-down transformer, rectifier and filter circuit as is commonly found in small, plug-in power supplies, so as to save on use of batteries when in a fixed location. DC operating power could also be supplied from 12 VDC found in motor vehicles such as cars, trucks, busses, campers and even airplanes, by way of a suitable electrical connector and cable connected to a DC voltage regulator in the doll engine 3. “Smart trading cards” are another toy or game application of RFID technology according to the invention. Trading cards, e.g., baseball cards, football cards, and other collectibles can each contain an embedded RFID tag IC for enabling novel uses for trading cards and collectibles in conjunction with dolls, and various other master/host/server toy or game units. The master/host/server toy or game unit can then detect each collectible as it is added to the collection and maintain information about the inventory of collectibles. Each collectible can have, stored in its tag IC, data which associates the collectible with its owner. No other master/host/server toy or game unit can recognize the collectible until its owner enables the stored data to be changed for associating it with a new owner's master/host/server toy or game unit. That is, once a specific figure or other collectible is “caught;” or “collected” once by someone, it cannot be caught or collected again by someone else, unless it is “traded” by the original owner to a new owner.

[0045] In still another embodiment of the invention, an RFID tag IC can be used to store the “collection” and “ownership” values in the memory of a tag IC embedded in an owner or collectors “master card”, and to allow for trading or exchange of value with another owner/collector for creating “kid's money.”

[0046] Referring now to FIGS. 3A and 3B, in still another embodiment of the invention, RFID tag ICs 108 aand suitable antenna 108 bcan be embedded inside of play objects 108 in the from of small play blocks molded from plastic, carved from wood, or other non-conducting, non-RF shielding materials. The master/host/server and control engine 103 is contained inside of a large tablet shaped form 101. The engine 103 includes the sensing antenna coil 105 in the surface 109, a reader/interrogator circuit 107, a microcontroller 113 with voice/sound generator IC 119, an audio amplifier and speaker 121/123, and batteries 125, similar to the arrangement shown in FIG. 2.

[0047] The “magic tablet” 101 can recognize the play blocks 108 placed on it. The play blocks 108 may have printed or molded legends 108 don one side of the cube, such as letters of the alphabet, numbers, arithmetic signs such as +,−, / and X, or pictures or icons of animals such as cows, horses, chickens, or pigs, or other objects such as musical instruments, musical notes, or other things.

[0048] The magic tablet 108 has a similar “engine” 3 as the doll previously described. The control program could operate in many different modes.

[0049] In speaking only, the tablet voice just says the name of a letter or number block placed on it.

[0050] The magic play blocks 108 and tablet 101 may have complementary Velcro, or possibly magnetic, surfaces 110 a, 110 b for establishing a preferred orientation of each block and its antenna 108 bto the tablet and its antenna 105 so as to maximize the RF energy transferred between the master/host/server and the RFID tag IC 108 aand antenna 108 bcontained inside the block or object 108 placed on the magic tablet.

[0051] Alternatively, referring to FIG. 3C, the play block or object 208 could contain the RFID tag IC 208 aand small loop antenna coil 208 bin a diagonal orientation inside the play block or object, so that regardless of the play block or object orientation to the tablet surface 209, the loop coil antenna 208 binside the play block or object will couple sufficient RF energy to the associated RFID tag IC 208 ain that play block for proper operation with minimal transmitted power.

[0052] The tablet 101 can also ask a child to spell a word such as D-O-G and then detect when the correct letter play blocks 108 have been placed on the tablet, and speak accordingly, correct or not, to help teach a child how to spell.

[0053] Detection of multiple play blocks or objects 108 is again accomplished by the control program of the microcontroller 113 and the reader/interrogator circuit 107.

[0054] The circuit of the reader/interrogator 107 operates at the selected RF frequency of the RFID tag IC 108 aand antenna 108 b. Commonly used frequency ranges are 100-150 kHz, or 13.5 MHz nominally, or other frequencies.

[0055] The specific methods of data modulation used in a specific RFID tag system are not of consequence to the inventions of toys and games. The basic operation of the invention can be adapted to various modulation methods and frequency ranges, depending on the cost of the circuits and the range of operation.

[0056] It is very important to note that the detailed control of the reader/interrogator circuit and the data transmission and reception is highly dependent on the control of the reader/interrogator circuit which is effected by portions of the operating system and drivers contained in the main “engine” 3.

[0057] The disclosed master/host/server toy or game unit 3 can deal with detecting multiple play objects 8, i.e., where more than one play object 8 are presented to or removed from the toy or game master 3.

[0058] For example, a doll 1 can ask to “see” three shapes in flash cards or play objects 8 containing suitable RFID tag ICs 8 a. Then the doll can ask for one of the shapes or objects 8 to be removed. If the incorrect one is removed, the doll will recognize that and speak a suitable warning response.

[0059] Because a considerable amount of power is consumed with the activation of the reader/interrogator circuit 7 to transmit RF energy to detect the possible presence of an RFID tag IC 8 awithin the range of the master/host/server toy or game unit, such operation must be managed carefully. The master control program can manage the activation of the reader/interrogator circuit 7 on a time multiplexed basis, so as to conserve power in operation and therefore prolong the battery life of the toy or game.

[0060] For example, the discussed apparatus provide for the time multiplexed activation of the reader/interrogator circuit 7 on a time interval basis to conserve battery power. Rather than leave the reader/interrogator circuit 7 activated on a continuous basis, them aster/host/server toy or game unit 3 the apparatus only activate this circuit 7 very briefly a few times per second, until a suitable RFID tag IC 8 ais found to respond. In this manner the method of control reduces the power consumption by a significant amount, and extends the battery life of the toy or game unit.

[0061] Referring now to FIGS. 4A and 4B, there is shown a smart trading card master device 303 in the form of a hand held reader for smart trading cards or flash cards 308. A trading card 308 can be slid into a mechanical slot 312 provided for the purpose of holding the card 308 in place or the card can be placed on the surface of a hand held reader.

[0062] The reader 303 has a reader/interrogator circuit 307 and antenna 305 for communicating with the RFID tag ICs 308 aembedded within the trading or flash cards 308. The trading card control master 303 can read and write back selected data information to and from the RFID tag IC 308 aembedded in the trading card 308. This is performed under the control of a single chip microcontroller 313 which includes a speech/sound synthesizer circuit 319 with digital to analog converter suitable to drive audible sounds from a miniature loud speaker 323 inside the unit.

[0063] Moreover, the microcontroller 313 can include the circuitry to drive segments and layers of a common, multiplexed LCD alphanumeric display screen 314 on the master unit, whereby information can be visually displayed. Power to the master device 103 may be provided by batteries 325.

[0064] In addition, the microcontroller can include circuitry to communicate with an external device such as a personal computer, a hand-held computer, or other device, via a wired serial communications interface for RS-232, USB. IEEE 1394 or other standard or custom communications network.

[0065] With such a network communications link, information about the trading cards, their values, ownership, or other information can be communicated to other programs and services, and could also be conveyed via the Internet to various websites offering prizes, recognition, or other services to the card collector or game or toy player.

[0066] In a text to speech application of the invention, words and phrases can be encoded in the tag IC memory in the form of ASCII or other generally known and used character encoding techniques by using RFID tag ICS with a sufficient number of data bits or read only or read/write memory.

[0067] For example, the word “HOUSE” can be encoded in 6 bit ASCII code, that is 6 data bits per alphanumeric character, using a total of only 30 data bits. The RFID tag IC containing this data bit pattern could be embedded inside a flash card, a trading card, or any other small two or three-dimensional object.

[0068] Upon detection and query of the flash card, trading card, or other object by the doll, a reader or other master/host/server toy or game unit, programmed to recognize the encoding of words, the five letters of the example word “HOUSE” would be received and then conveyed to a software program and/or combination of software program and voice sound or speech synthesizer, in any of many various languages, to be converted into the spoken word “HOUSE ” by the toy or game unit.

[0069] A very important feature of this embodiment of the invention is the ability to form hundreds or thousands, or more, flash cards, trading cards, or other objects containing RFID tag ICs, which then cause the master/host/server toy or game unit to speak, or to display and speak, the word or words programmed within them. This is significantly different from using a master/host/server toy or game unit that has a sound and speech voice synthesizer using only pre-recorded words or phrases of language, which would be activated by control and behavior programs in the toy or game unit.

[0070] In the foregoing embodiment of the invention, there can be a virtually unlimited range or spoken words and phrases, activated by one or more suitably programmed RFID tag ICs contained in flash cards, trading cards, or other objects. As noted above, if desired, the major portion, if not all, of the spoken or displayed data may come from the object's memory. The main advantage of this implementation is that the toy or game unit does not have to be completely pre-programmed with all the words it might ever have to speak or say or display. Rather, the toy or game unit need only have a text-to-speech converter program in its control program, with proficiency in one or more spoken languages. Such a toy or game unit could be of use in learning and teaching various languages.

[0071] The number of data bits in the RFID tag IC, perhaps as many as one thousand bits, could contain as many as 150 alphanumeric characters, (i.e. letters, numbers, punctuations, and other control codes) sufficient so that one flash card, trading card, or RFID tag IC equipped object, could cause the doll, master/host/server toy or game unit to speak a specific sentence or sentences of multiple words and phrases.

Referenced by
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US7147535Apr 29, 2003Dec 12, 2006Janick SimerayOptical remote controller pointing the place to reach
US7465212Dec 30, 2004Dec 16, 2008GanzSystem and method for toy adoption and marketing
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US7564359 *May 3, 2006Jul 21, 2009Kingston Technology CorporationMemory module and card with integrated RFID tag
US7568964Oct 14, 2008Aug 4, 2009GanzSystem and method for toy adoption and marketing
US7604525Jan 22, 2009Oct 20, 2009GanzSystem and method for toy adoption and marketing
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US8678924May 29, 2012Mar 25, 2014Nicholas WitcheyApparatus and methods of physical game components
US20100099493 *Oct 20, 2009Apr 22, 2010Ronen HorovitzSystem and method for interactive toys based on recognition and tracking of pre-programmed accessories
US20130280985 *Apr 24, 2012Oct 24, 2013Peter KleinBedtime toy
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Classifications
U.S. Classification463/40
International ClassificationA63F3/00, A63H3/28, A63F9/24, A63F9/00, A63F13/02
Cooperative ClassificationA63H2200/00, A63F13/02, A63F2009/2439, A63F2300/69, A63F9/001, A63F2009/2433, A63F3/00075, A63F2009/2489, A63F2009/2429, A63H3/28, A63F3/00643
European ClassificationA63F13/02, A63F9/24, A63H3/28
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
May 14, 2003ASAssignment
Owner name: 4 KIDS ENTERTAINMENT LICENSING, INC. (FORMERLY LEI
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:BECK, STEPHEN C.;REEL/FRAME:014072/0211
Effective date: 20030512