FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. Ser. No. 10/950,903 filed on Sep. 27, 2004, now pending, which is a continuation-in-part of U.S. Ser. No. 10/791,923 filed on Mar. 3, 2004, now pending; the contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference as if set forth in their entirety.
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to fragrance delivery systems, and more particularly to fragrance delivery systems that are synchronized with an electromechanical device such as a robotic vacuum cleaner.
The “experience” of audiovisual entertainment has progressed from silent films and monaural recordings to today's visually stunning digital images and advances in sound reproduction such as the “surround sound” found in both commercial theatres and homes. Moreover, current computer-based games and games played on gaming platform employ the same advanced graphics and sound qualities found in film or video. These technologies create an audiovisual “experience” that immerses the user in a film or game like never before, stimulating sight, sound and even tactile sensations through deep bass vibrations provided by subwoofers and tactile feedback provided by some game controllers. There remains, however, one form of sensory perception that is not stimulated—the sense of smell.
Numerous prior art systems have attempted to provide a scent to the environment that compliments or correlates to an audiovisual stimulus. Examples would be the smell of burning rubber coordinating with the screech of tires, or the scent of flowers when a corresponding image appears. Prior art systems have primarily been directed to introducing fragrances to large environments, such as an entire theater. These systems have by and large suffered from the problem that a fragrance will linger long after the coordinating audiovisual input has changed, and may in fact be difficult to replace with another scent as the scenes change, the typical result being a mixture of several fragrances that become an indistinct muddle.
None of these prior art devices, however, provides a useful and commercially viable system for fragrance delivery to enhance an audiovisual presentation. Therefore, there remains a long-felt yet unmet need for providing it would therefore be desirable to provide. It would further be desirable to provide such improvements in a manner that permitted their application across a variety of situations and that permitted their implementation in a cost-effective manner.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Additionally, self-propelled, self-navigating sweeper-vacuum cleaners known as “robot” vacuum systems are currently in market. U.S. Pat. No. 6,809,490 discloses a control system for a mobile robot vacuum cleaner to effectively cover a given area by operating in a plurality of modes, including an obstacle following mode and a random bounce mode, as well as spot coverage, such as spiraling or other modes to increase effectiveness and ensure full coverage. U.S. Pat. No. 6,594,844 discloses a robot obstacle detection system including a robot housing which navigates with respect to a surface and a sensor subsystem having a defined relationship with respect to the housing and aimed at the surface for detecting the surface. Both of these patents herein incorporated by reference in their entirety as if fully set forth herein, and both are assigned to iRobot Corporation that markets a robotic vacuum system under the tradename “Roomba™.” In a manner similar to enhancing the experience of an audiovisual presentation, it would be similarly desirable to enhance the automated cleaning process by adding a scent or other material emitted to the room being cleaned.
Accordingly, it has now been found that these and other shortcomings of the prior art can be overcome by providing an apparatus for fragrance sensory stimulation comprising at least one signal connected to a robotic vacuum cleaner and fragrance information synchronized with the signal, along with a fragrance generator for processing the fragrance information into a fragrance signal. At least one fragrance control systems that accepts the fragrance signal as an input, and generates a control signal and a controlled airflow and in turn a fragrance delivery system comprising one or more of fragrance chemicals in communication with the controlled airflow volatilizes the fragrance chemicals. Preferably, the fragrance delivery system comprises an indexing turret containing a plurality of ports, each port containing one of a plurality of fragrance chemicals, and most preferably the multiport valve contains an absorbent material impregnated with a fragrance in each port. In certain embodiments a transmitter connected to the fragrance generator and a receiver connected to the fragrance creation system control the fragrance generator. In certain embodiments the controlled airflow comprises a short burst of pressurized air having a duration of less than five seconds. The fragrance delivery system is disposed within the robotic vacuum cleaner in certain preferred embodiments, while in others it is mounted on an outside surface of the robotic vacuum cleaner. In accordance with the present invention, the fragrance chemical may comprise a fragrance and/or a deodorizing chemical.
In certain embodiments the present invention comprises a fragrance producing system synchronized to an electromechanical device comprising a fragrance delivery system for providing a short burst of air containing one or more fragrance chemicals coordinated by receiving and processing a signal contained within the an electromechanical device that has been transmitted to a fragrance creation system in which the signal activates a compressor that selectively volatilizes the fragrance chemical, wherein said one or more fragrance chemicals are disposed within an apparatus that selectively mixes at least one fragrance chemical with pressurized air generated by said compressor. The signal contained within the electromechanical device is preferably transmitted via an RF transmitter to an RF receiver connected to the fragrance creation system. In certain embodiments the apparatus that selectively mixes a fragrance chemical with pressurized air generated by said compressor comprises a turret with a plurality of ports, and each of said ports includes an absorbent material and a fragrance chemical.
The present invention also discloses methods of diffusing a fragrance by providing a device having one or more ports containing a sufficient variety and quantity of fragrance to correspond to a sequence of fragrances, loading the device with the fragrance, and providing a signal that is processed to activate a compressor and connect the device with an airflow so that the correct fragrance chemical is volatilized when a burst of air reaches the fragrance chemical.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Preferably, the step of providing a signal comprises programmatic methods that direct the system to generate a scent for a pre-determined period of time and the step of connecting the device with an airflow comprises indexing a turret. The step of connecting the device with an airflow preferably comprises actuating one of an array of valves.
FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating a preferred embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a partially schematic, partially perspective view of a preferred embodiment of a fragrance creation system used in the system shown in FIG. 1; FIG. 3 is a partially schematic, partially perspective view of a preferred embodiment of the delivery creation system used in the system shown in FIG. 1;
FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a robotic vacuum cleaner incorporating the present invention;
FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the underside of another embodiment of a robotic vacuum cleaner incorporating the present invention;
FIG. 6 is a cut away side elevation view of the robotic vacuum cleaner shown in FIG. 4; and
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
FIG. 7 is a schematic illustrating a preferred embodiment of a control circuit for use with the present invention.
The implementation of the present invention is in several preferred embodiments, discussed below, along with several illustrative examples. The embodiments of the invention described below are provided for the purpose of understanding the invention and are not meant to be limiting.
Referring now to FIG. 1, a first embodiment of a system employing the present invention is illustrated. There are two main sub-systems that make up this embodiment, namely, the fragrance generator 100 and the delivery system 200, each of which is discussed in further detail below. In the preferred embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1, the fragrance generator 100 and the delivery system 200 are preferably connected by a wireless system comprising a transmitter 150 and a receiver 250, which are most preferably RF devices, while in other embodiments, such devices and subassemblies can be connected by wires, or integrated into a single unit.
The fragrance generator 100 is comprised of a medium 110 and a media player 112. As known in the art, the medium 110 and media player 112 can be any one of a number of systems, either digital, analog or some combination of such systems, that contains information and converts the information into a signal that can be use for display. Thus, the medium 10 will comprise one or more “tracks” such as a video track, a sound track and, in accordance with the present invention, a fragrance track. The media player 112 will read or process the medium 100 and create signals that can be displayed by devices such as a visual display 114 and an audio display 116. However, in accordance with the present invention, the scent track described above is transmitted to and processed by a fragrance control system 212 that may or may not be integral with the media player 112. As discussed in further detail below and well known in the art, there are a number of systems that contain a scent “medium” 210 (not illustrated in FIG. 1) that can be “played” by the fragrance control system 212 to control the selective release one or more scents in coordination with the information being provided to the visual display 114 and audio display 116. The coordination of emitting various scents during playback of a video, or during the playing of a video game is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,654,664-Manne and in U.S. Patent Application Publications 2001/0008611 and 2002/0036358, none of which are admitted to be prior art to the present invention.
As illustrated in FIG. 1, in certain embodiments of the present invention, the fragrance creation system 212 is divided into two sections, although they may be physically integrated if desired. In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, the fragrance creation system 212 provides short bursts of synchronized fragrances coordinated with audio or visual information on a real-time basis. A first section of the frequency creation system 212 is the fragrance control system 214. Referring now to FIG. 2, a block diagram of one preferred embodiment of a fragrance control system 214 is illustrated. The fragrance control system 214 can be either connected directly to the fragrance generator 100, or as described above, may connected via an RF transmitter 150 and receiver 250 as described above with reference to FIG. 1. In such an embodiment, the RF receiver 250 will include a decoder for RF signal drivers. In any event, a fragrance signal 251 is provided to a microprocessor controller 216, which in turn controls, a set of FET drivers 218, 220, 222 that control, respectively, a compressor 224, a bleed valve 226 and other portions of the device. An additional high-pressure cutoff sensor 228 monitors a reserve air volume 230 and the bleed valve 226. In operation, the microprocessor controller 216 activates the compressor 224. When the upper limit of pressure is achieved, the high pressure cutoff sensor 228 signals the microprocessor to deactivate the compressor, thus creating and maintaining a pressurized system so that when appropriate a short burst of pressurized air is available to be conducted elsewhere in the system. This system may be either be battery powered or wired to a current source. In operation, the microprocessor converts the fragrance signal 251 into a signal that controls a regulated flow of air 252 created by the compressor and a control signal 253, both of which are carried to a fragrance delivery system 232, discussed in detail below with relation to FIG. 3.
As will be appreciated by those of skill in the art, the system described with relation to FIG. 2 is relatively easy to construct and will be a relatively small-scale unit, thereby permitting devices made in accordance with this aspect of the present invention to be integrated into a compact unit at a relatively low cost to enable economic mass production and widespread implementation. Moreover, such a construction will permit the frequency control system 214 to be constructed in embodiments that can be body-worn, e.g., on a waist belt, or conveniently and unobtrusively mounted to a theatre chair, airline or vehicle passenger seat, or a seat in the home.
Referring now to FIG. 3, a partially schematic, partially perspective view of a preferred embodiment of a fragrance delivery system 232 is illustrated. As discussed above with reference to FIG. 2, a controlled flow of air 252 and an electrical signal 253 are carried from the fragrance control system 214. The controlled flow of air 252 is connected via a conduit such that it flows into and through a turret 234 that houses a plurality of fragrance chemicals 236 that are volatilized when the controlled flow of air 252 enters the turret 234. In the preferred embodiment illustrated, the turret 234 includes a plurality of ports or wells 236 that contain an absorbent material that is impregnated or “charged” with a particular scent. The electrical signal 253 controls a solenoid 235 that indexes the turret to a position that corresponds to a particular port 236. Depending upon the use, e.g., commercial or home use, the ports 236 may be accessible so they can be recharged or reloaded with fragrance chemicals, or the entire turret may be a disposable structure that is replaced each time the system is used, or replaced after a specified number of viewings of a film or sessions of game play. In certain other preferred embodiments, the turret 236 can be replaced by an array of micro-valves, each disposed over a port 236 containing fragrance chemical, and the fragrance is volatilized upon opening of the valve by the signal 235 and the passage of the airflow 252 through the open orifice of the valve.
Still referring to FIG. 3, as the airflow passes through the turret 236, it is collected by a manifold hood 238 which in turn conducts the airflow, which now carries the selected scent, to a nosepiece 240 or similar structure that directs the fragrance to the nostrils of a single user. The use of a nosepiece and related apparatus to conduct a flow of scented air to a wearer is known in the art, for example, U.S. Patent Application Publication 2004/0003812, which is not admitted to be prior art to the present invention, discloses a portable fragrance control device that releases scent directly into a user's nose via diffusion. The device disclosed is structurally similar to the headsets commonly used for listening and/or speaking. The fragrance delivery system 232 is thus controlled by the signal provided by the fragrance control system 214 and “powered” by the compressor 224 that forms part of that same subsystem. Preferably, the fragrance delivery system 232 is constructed to be lightweight and can be either worn on the body or integrated into the headrest of a chair, but in either case it is preferred that the nosepiece 240 be disposed proximate the wearer's or user's nose so that the fragrance is conducted directly to the individual and does not permeate the environment generally. Moreover, as mentioned above, it is further desirable that the fragrance delivery system 232 emits short bursts of fragrance at the appropriate synchronized time to enhance the experience of a game, movie or similar audiovisual presentation.
Thus, in operation, those of skill in the art will appreciate that a fundamental requirement of the present invention is that the medium contain an additional “track” that is designed to provide a coded signal that correlates to the type of scent desired to be released at the particular temporal point in the audio or visual presentation. Alternatively, programmatic methods could be employed, e.g., a short algorithm that directs the system to generate a scent upon intervals, e.g., generating short bursts (for example, less than tree seconds) of pine scent every thirty seconds during prolonged scenes in an evergreen forest. Such signals, whether part of a “track” or programmed are easily integrated into various forms of media, such as digital discs (CDs, DVDs, etc.), game cartridges, the magnetic tracks found on commercial theatre film, videotape and audiotape, and various other forms of magnetic media. Typically, the numbers of scenes or similar divisions within the medium in which fragrance will make an impact or otherwise be appropriate are identified and a sequence of fragrances is created. A turret or array of valves having the requisite number of ports containing a sufficient variety and quantity of fragrance to correspond to the sequence of fragrances is designed and provided. In operation, the system is loaded with the correct turret or valve array and the user is positioned so the nosepiece described above will transmit fragrance to the wearer in a synchronized fashion. The “fragrance track” provides a signal that is processed to activate the compressor and indexes the turret so that the correct fragrance chemical is volatilized when the burst of air reaches the fragrance chemical.
Referring now to FIGS. 4-7, additional preferred embodiments of the present invention are illustrated. In these embodiments, as shown in FIG. 4, an air freshener assembly 300 (not shown) substantially as described above with relation to the fragrance generator 100 is integrated into a robotic vacuum cleaner 301. As readily understood by those skilled in the art, the robotic vacuum cleaner 301 is a self-contained assembly and possesses elements such as a power source, logic controls, motion sensors and fans and ducts used to create suction and lift debris from a floor or carpet surface, in the direction of the arrow marked “V” in FIG. 4. The operational parts of the robotic vacuum cleaner 301 are covered by a housing 302. In accordance with this embodiment of the present invention, an additional subsystem is added in which a delivery device or outlet duct 320 forces a stream of scented air, in the manner shown by the arrow marked “S” in FIG. 4.
In the preferred embodiment shown in FIG. 4, the delivery device 320 is an external tube provides a conduit from which the scented air is forced down toward the floor. Alternatively, as illustrated in FIG. 5, the delivery device or outlet duct 320 may be located internally. In either embodiment, although a single outlet duct 320 is shown, it will be understood that additional outlet ducts can be positioned in and around the structure of the robotic vacuum cleaner 301 in order to disseminate the scented air in an appropriate manner. Moreover, the outlet duct 320 may be disposed along the bottom of the unit to direct air downwardly, toward floor surfaces, such as carpeting, but in an additional embodiment is preferably oriented in other directions such as upwardly so that, for one example, a fragrance may be emitted into the room air and not necessarily on to the floor surface.
Referring now to FIG. 6, a cut away elevation view shows one preferred embodiment of the present invention, in which a feed duct 318 is connected to the fragrance generator 100 described in detail above with reference to FIGS. 1-3. As discussed above, the fragrance generator 100 along with the scented material are chosen and designed so that the rate of air flow will volatilize an effective amount of scented chemicals so that the desired effect is created without waste or excessively rapid depletion. A stream of scented air exits the outlet duct 320, and this function may be triggered in any number of ways. As discussed above with reference to FIGS. 1-3, a triggering circuit will cause scent to be emitted upon receiving a signal externally via the transmitter/receiver system (150, 250). Alternatively, as illustrated in FIGS. 6-7, in certain preferred embodiments, the triggering circuit will be generated internally, preferably via a microprocessor controller 312 and is operated by the robotic vacuum cleaner controller 305. The microprocessor controller 312 is connected to the motor of a blower or fan 316 (or controls a flow of air generated by the vacuum motor or other source) and feed duct 318. The microprocessor controller 312 operates the fragrance generator 100 and exhausts a flow of air containing volatilized chemicals via the outlet duct 320. As discussed below, the sensors and logic circuits within the robotic vacuum cleaner controller 305 permit the system described with reference to the present invention to be integrated into a system that enhances the operation of the robotic vacuum 301.
Thus, in the robotic vacuum cleaner embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 4-7, the signal will be provided by the microprocessor 305 that operates the other functions of the robotic vacuum cleaner unit 301. For example, the unit 301 may be programmed to first vacuum an area and then repeat its travel path while applying scented air to the cleaned surface. Alternatively, scented air could be created, either continuously or intermittently, simultaneous with the vacuuming process. In another variation the scented air applied as a separate function; e.g., the robot could vacuum floors in the morning, and then travel over the floors later in the day so that a fresh scent greets the dwelling occupant upon arrival.
Although the preferred embodiment has been described with reference to “scented air” and air freshening chemicals, those of skill in the art will appreciate that the system described herein will have applicability to a wide variety of chemical compounds that provide one or more of the following functions: cleaning, waxing, disinfecting, antibacterial, odor control, odor masking, or fragrance. In certain embodiments it will be preferable to replace the single fragrance with a cartridge or turret as described above that contains a number of different chemicals that can be dispensed for various purposes. The cartridge can contain different scents for different rooms, or different chemicals for different purposes. For example, a cleaning chemical can be applied and then this application followed later by the application of a fragrance. In particular, using the existing programming features of robot vacuum cleaners, in certain embodiments the system disclosed herein can be “trained” to selectively deposit cleaning and/or stain inhibiting chemicals on a high traffic area, such as a doorway, since robotic vacuum cleaners have the inherent capability to “learn” the layout of a room and sense transitions between types of flooring surfaces.
Upon review of the foregoing, numerous adaptations, modifications, and alterations will occur to the reviewer. These will all be, however, within the spirit of the present invention. Accordingly, reference should be made to the appended claims in order to ascertain the true scope of the present invention. All US patents and patent applications are hereby incorporated by reference as if incorporated by reference as if set forth in their entirety.