US 20060050056 A1
An image controller structured for allowing inputs to be converted or translated into electrical outputs, one preferred controller structured with at least a sufficient number of sensors to aid in controlling three-dimensional objects and navigating a three-dimensional viewpoint shown by a display. An active tactile feedback vibrator is mounted as a component of the controller for providing vibration to be felt by a user. Some preferred embodiments also incorporate proportional sensors allowing user variable inputs to cause imagery to be variably controlled.
1. A controller used in controlling imagery of an electronic game, the controller comprising:
a housing; associated with the housing are a plurality of
input members receiving inputs from a user; the input members positioned to activate
sensors sensing the inputs by the user and providing outputs related to the sensed inputs, the outputs at least in part controlling the electronic game;
a first of the input members is a stick which is depressible toward the housing, the stick is additionally moveable on two mutually perpendicular axes,
a second of the input members is a finger depressible button, the button is associated with a proportional pressure-sensitive variable output sensor of the sensors, the proportional pressure-sensitive variable output sensor receiving varying input force and providing a variable output representing the varying input force;
a third of the input members is a rotatable member;
structure forming a part of the controller providing feedback detectable by the user when making inputs.
2. A controller used in controlling imagery of an electronic game, the controller comprising:
a housing; associated with the housing are a plurality of
input members receiving inputs from a user; the input members positioned to activate
sensors, said sensors sensing the inputs by the user and providing electrical outputs related to the sensed inputs, the outputs at least in part controlling the electronic game;
a first of the input members is a member moveable on two mutually perpendicular axes;
a second of the input members is a finger depressible first button, the first button is associated with a proportional pressure-sensitive variable output sensor of the sensors, the proportional pressure-sensitive variable output sensor receiving varying input force and providing a variable output representing the varying input force;
a third of the input members is a rotatable member;
a fourth of the input members is a finger depressible second button, the second button is associated with an On/Off output sensor of the sensors.
3. A controller according to
4. A controller according to
5. A controller used in controlling imagery shown on a display, the display connected to an image generation device, the controller comprising:
a housing; associated with the housing are a plurality of
members receiving physical inputs from a human user; the members receiving physical inputs are positioned to activate
sensors, said sensors sensing the inputs by the user and providing outputs related to the sensed inputs, the outputs at least in part controlling the imagery;
a first of the members receiving physical inputs is a stick moveable on two axes,
a second of the members receiving physical inputs is a finger depressible first button, the first button is associated with a first proportional pressure-sensitive variable output sensor of the sensors, the first proportional pressure-sensitive variable output sensor receiving varying input force and providing a variable output representing the varying input force;
a third of the members receiving physical inputs is a finger depressible second button, the second button is associated with a second proportional pressure-sensitive variable output sensor of the sensors, the second proportional pressure-sensitive variable output sensor receiving varying input force and providing a variable output representing the varying input force;
a fourth of the members receiving physical inputs is a finger depressible third button, the third button is associated with an On/Off output sensor of the sensors.
6. A controller according to
7. A hand-held controller controlling an electronic game, the controller comprising:
a housing sized to be hand-held; associated with the housing are a plurality of
structural elements receiving inputs from a human user; the structural elements receiving inputs are positioned to activate
sensors, the sensors sensing the inputs by the user and providing outputs related to the sensed inputs, the outputs at least in part controlling the electronic game;
a first of the structural elements receiving the inputs is a stick element moveable on two axes and structured to activate at least a first proportional sensor and a second proportional sensor of the sensors,
a second of the structural elements receiving the inputs is a finger depressible first button, the first button is associated with a third proportional sensor of the sensors, the third proportional sensor receiving varying input and providing a variable output representing the varying input;
a third of the structural elements receiving the inputs is a finger depressible second button, the second button is associated with a fourth proportional sensor of the sensors, the fourth proportional sensor receiving varying input and providing a variable output representing the varying input;
a fourth of the structural elements is a function key positioned to activate an On/Off sensor of the sensors.
8. A hand-held controller in communication with a image generation machine controlling an electronic game, the controller comprising:
a housing sized to be hand-held; associated with the housing are a plurality of
structural elements receiving inputs from a human user; the structural elements receiving inputs are positioned to activate
sensors, the sensors sensing the inputs by the user and providing outputs related to the sensed inputs, the outputs controlling the electronic game;
a first of the structural elements receiving inputs is a finger depressible first button, the first button is associated with a first proportional sensor of the sensors, the first proportional sensor receiving varying input and providing a variable output representing the varying input;
a second of the structural elements receiving inputs is a finger depressible second button, the second button is associated with a second proportional sensor of the sensors, the second proportional sensor receiving varying input and providing a variable output representing the varying input;
a third of the structural elements is a function key positioned to activate an On/Off sensor of the sensors;
a fourth of the structural elements receiving inputs is a stick element controllable on two axes.
[This Application is a Divisional of application Ser. No. 09/893,292 and has claims directed at Invention GROUP VIII]
This Application is a Divisional Application of pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/893,292 filed on Jun. 26, 2001.
Application Ser. No. 09/893,292 is a Continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 09/721,090 filed on Nov. 21, 2000 now U.S. Pat. No. 6,310,606.
Application Ser. No. 09/721,090 is a Continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 08/677,378 filed on Jul. 5, 1996 now U.S. Pat. No. 6,222,525.
Application Ser. No. 08/677,378 is a Continuation-in-part of U.S. application Ser. No. 08/393,459 filed on Feb. 23, 1995 now U.S. Pat. No. 5,565,891.
This Application claims under 35 USC 120 the benefits to the above earlier Applications.
1) Field of the Invention
This invention relates to structuring for sheet supported sensors and associated circuitry in hand-operated graphic image controllers, and particularly six degree of freedom computer image controllers which serve as interface input devices between the human hand(s) and graphic image displays such as a computer or television display, a head mount display or any display capable of being viewed or perceived as being viewed by a human.
2) Description of the Prior Art
Although there are many related physical-to-electrical hand-controlled interfacing devices for use as image controllers taught in the prior art, none are structured similarly to the present invention, and none offer all of the advantages provided by the present invention.
In the highly competitive, cost-sensitive consumer electronics marketplace, the retail sales price of an item is normally closely coupled to its manufacturing cost. It is generally agreed that the retail purchase price, or cost to the consumer, of any item influences a consumer's purchasing decision. Thus, cost of manufacture ultimately influences the desirability and value of an item to the public at large. Generally, physical-to-electrical converters embodied in hand operated electronic image controllers such as trackballs, mouse type and joystick type, increase in manufacturing cost as the number of degrees of freedom which can be interpreted between a hand operable input member and a reference member increase.
Typically in the prior art, a three degree of freedom joystick type input device costs more to manufacture than a two degree of freedom joystick, and a six degree of freedom (henceforth 6 DOF) joystick input device costs significantly more to manufacture compared to a three degree of freedom joystick. Likewise, a three or more degree of freedom mouse-type controller costs more to manufacture than a standard two degree of freedom mouse.
Manufacturing costs in such devices generally increase because, for at least one reason, an increasing number of sensors is necessary for the additional axes control, and the sensors in the prior art, particularly with 6 DOF controllers having a single input member, typically have been positioned in widely-spread three dimensional constellations within the controller, thus requiring multiple sensor mounts and mount locations and labor intensive, thus costly, hand wiring with individually insulated wires from the sensors to a normally centralized circuitry location remote from the sensors.
In the prior art there exist 6 DOF controllers of a type having a hand operable, single input member moveable in six degrees of freedom for axes control relative to a reference member of the controller. This type of controller having the 6 DOF operable input member outputs a signal(s) for each degree of freedom input, and it is this type of 6 DOF controller which is believed to be by far the most easily used for 3-D graphics control, and it is with this type of 6 DOF controller that the present invention is primarily concerned.
In the prior art, 6 DOF controllers of the type having a hand operable single input member utilize individual sensors and sensor units (bi-directional sensors) mounted and positioned in a widely-spread three dimensional constellation, due to the failure to provide structuring for cooperative interaction with the sensors, so that some, most or all of the sensors may to be brought into or to exist in a generally single area and preferably in a generally single plane or planes. The prior art fails to provide structuring, such as a carriage member, for allowing cooperative interaction with sensors. The prior art fails to demonstrate a carriage member which typically carries a sheet member connecting and supporting sensors.
Another failure in prior art 6 DOF controllers of the type having a hand operable single input member is the failure to use or anticipate use of inexpensive, flexible membrane sensor sheets, which are initially flat when manufactured, and which include sensors and conductive traces applied to the flat sheet structure. Such flat sheet membrane sensors could be advantageously used as a generally flat sensor support panel, or alternatively in bent or three dimensionally formed shapes in 6 DOF controller structures which utilize three dimensional constellation sensor mounting and appropriate structures for cooperative interaction with the sensors. The prior art in 6 DOF controllers of the type having a hand operable single input member, has failed to use and anticipate the use of, providing structures for cooperative interaction with sensors all in a single area which would allow use of a flat membrane sensor sheet or a flat printed circuit board supporting the sensors and sensor conductors. The prior art in 6 DOF controllers of the type having a hand operable single input member, has failed to use or anticipate use of flat sheet substratum as the foundation upon which to define or apply sensors such as by printing with conductive ink, or to mount the sensors such as by plug-in or soldered connection of the sensors, and preferably all of the required sensors for 6 DOF, and even further, the electrical conductors leading to and from the sensors in a printed or otherwise applied fixed position.
One prior art device which exemplifies many individual sensor units mounted in a widely-spread three dimensional constellation due to the sensor activators being located in many radically different elevations and planes, is shown in U.S. Pat. No. 4,555,960 issued Dec. 3, 1985 to M. King.
The King device is a 6 DOF controller which has sensors, which are load cells and rotary sensors such as potentiometers which are placed in various locations scattered essentially all over the controller. Such “scattered”, individual sensor and sensor unit mounting locations are required in the King controller due to the failure to provide the structures for cooperative interaction with the sensors to all be located or brought into a single area of the controller, and thus the sensors in the King controller are not arranged in a manner allowing conventional automated installation such as on a generally flat circuit board, or for printed circuit traces engaging or connecting the sensors to be utilized, such as on a circuit board.
King also fails to anticipate the use of flexible membrane sensor sheets which include sensors and printed conductive traces which can be manufactured inexpensively in a flat sheet form, and used in flat sheet form, or alternatively, bent into three dimensionally formed shapes to position the sensors in three dimensional constellations. Thus the sensors and associated electrical conductors (wires) in the King device are believed to be required to be hand installed, and the wires individually applied to the sensors and then brought into a generally central area during the manufacturing of the King controller. Such structuring as in the King device is costly to manufacture, which accounts for, at least in part, why 6 DOF controllers are very costly when compared to two degree of freedom controllers.
Another problem in prior art controllers such as the King device is reliability. In the King device, reliability is less than optimum due to the typical single input member 6 DOF prior art configuration of circuitry and sensors, because the hand wiring of sensors to remote circuitry is subject to malfunctions such as wires breaking, cold solder joints, and cross wiring due to error of the human assembler, etc.
Another problem in the circuitry and sensors as configured in typical prior art controllers, particularly 6 DOF controllers such as that of King, is serviceability, testing, and quality control during manufacturing, such as at the manufacturing plant wherein testing is applied before shipping, or after sales to the consumer such as with returns of defective controllers. The typical widely-spread prior art sensor mounting and hand applied wiring associated with the sensors renders trouble shooting and repair more costly.
Another prior art disclosure believed somewhat relevant is taught in U.S. Pat. No. 5,298,919 issued Mar. 29, 1994 to M. Chang. The Chang device is basically a six degree of freedom computer controller for computer graphics, and includes a generally flat plane printed circuit board on which all of the sensors are mounted. However, as will become appreciated, in Chang's controller, the lack of a hand operable single input member operable in six degrees of freedom has many significant disadvantages. Further, the Chang controller does not have a any input member capable of being manipulated in 6 DOF relative to any reference member of the controller, which yields additional significant disadvantages.
The Chang controller is structured as a mouse type input device having a roller ball on the underside requiring travel of the input device and housing thereof along a surface for rolling the underside ball for input of information pertaining to two axes of linear movement, which is typical of “mouse” type controllers. The Chang device includes a rotary thumb wheel mounted on the side of the housing to mimic linear movement of the housing along a third axis. The Chang device also includes a second roller ball (trackball) exposed for manual rotation on the upper surface of the housing, and upper trackball is provided to allow the user to input information pertaining to rotation about the three mutually perpendicular or orthogonal axes conventionally referred to as yaw, pitch and roll.
Major disadvantages which I believe exist in the Chang device, which do not exist in the present invention, include the requirement that the trackball housing be moved along a surface in order to input linear moment information. This requirement of surface contacting travel prohibits the use of the Chang device as a completely hand held controller, and prohibits the Chang controller from being incorporated into a multiple-purpose controller such as a hand held television remote controller or a conventional computer keyboard. Additionally, substantial physical space is required on a desk or table on which to propel a mouse type controller.
Another disadvantage of the Chang controller is that it is believed to be difficult to use, or in other words, the mouse roller ball on the underside of the housing which inputs linear moment information in some directions, is not capable of inputs in all linear directions, and thus the Chang device includes the thumb wheel off to the housing side which is utilized to emulate, approximate or represent linear movement along the third axis. The hand movements required to move linearly utilizing pushing of the mouse housing for some directions, and the actuation of the thumb wheel for other directions is not intuitive and is thus confusing and difficult for the user.
Further, a mouse type controller such as Chang's cannot provide the desirable aspect of automatic return-to-center along the linear axes, or in other words, with a mouse, the user must actively move the mouse back to center (and center is often not easily determined by the user) since there are no feasible arrangements for the use of return-to-center springs or resilient structuring.
Additionally, the Chang device appears relatively expensive to manufacture, for at least one reason due to the use of six rotary encoders, three of which are utilized for linear inputs. Rotary encoders are relatively expensive compared to many other sensor types. Encoders can provide advantages in some instances for rotary inputs. Compared to some other types of sensors, rotary encoders are not only more expensive, but have significant disadvantages as linear input sensors.
The Chang controller does not have a single input member such as one ball or one handle which can be operated (causing representative electrical output) in six degrees of freedom. Nor can any one Chang input member be manipulated (moved) relative to a reference member on the controller in six degrees of freedom. Thus, the Chang device is functionally and structurally deficient.
Therefore, there exists a need for further improvements in the field of six degree of freedom controllers for graphics control such as on or through a computer and monitor or television screen or any display.
The following summary and detailed description is of best modes and preferred structures for carrying out the invention, and although there are clearly changes which could be made to that which is specifically herein described and shown in the included drawings, for the sake of brevity of this disclosure, all of these changes which fall within the true scope of the present invention have not herein been detailed.
In order that 6 DOF controllers be more affordable, and for a user to be easily able to control objects and/or navigate a viewpoint within a three-dimensional graphics display, I have developed improved, low-cost hand operated 6 DOF controllers for use with a computer or computerized television or the like host device. The controllers provide structuring for converting full six degrees of freedom physical input provided by a human hand on a hand operable single input member into representative outputs or signals useful either directly or indirectly for controlling or assisting in controlling graphic image displays. The present controllers sense hand inputs on the input member via movement or force influenced sensors, and send information describing rotation or rotational force of the hand operable input member in either direction about three mutually perpendicular bidirectional axes herein referred to as yaw, pitch and roll, (or first, second and third); and information describing linear moment of the hand operable input member along the axes to a host computer or like graphics generation device for control of graphics of a display, thus six degrees of freedom of movement or force against the input member are converted to input-representative signals for control of graphics images.
The present controllers include the hand operable input member defined in relationship to a reference member of the controller. The input member can be a trackball operable relative to a housing (reference member) as described in my above mentioned co-pending application, or alternatively, the input member can be any handle fit to be manipulated by a human hand, such as a joystick type handle, but in either case, the input member accepts 6 DOF of hand input relative to the reference member, and the converter acts or operates from the hand inputs to cause influencing of the sensors which inform or shape electricity to be used as, or to produce such as by way of processing, an output signal suitable for a host device to at least in part control the image on the display of the host device.
The present 6 DOF controller provides structuring for sensors to be located, in some embodiments, in a generally single plane, such as on a substantially flat flexible membrane sensor sheet, or a circuit board sheet. The use of flat sheet mounted or positioned sensors preferably electrically connected with fixed-place trace circuitry provides the advantages of very low cost sensor and associated sensor circuit manufacturing; ease in replacing a malfunctioning sensor or conductor by entire sheet replacement, and increased reliability due to the elimination of individually insulated wires to the sensors.
The use of sheet supported sensors and associated circuits enable the use of highly automated circuit and sensor defining and locating, resulting in lower manufacturing costs and higher product reliability. The utilization of flat sheet substratum supporting the sensors, and preferably sensor circuitry in conductive fixed-place trace form, provides many advantages, with one being the allowance of a short or low profile 6 DOF controller, and another, as previously mentioned, lower cost in manufacturing. In at least one preferred embodiment, all sensors for 6 DOF are positioned on one substantially flat sheet member, such as a circuit board sheet or membrane sensor sheet, and electrically conductive traces are applied to the sheet members and engaging the sensors. The conductive traces can be used to bring electricity to the sensors, depending on the sensor type selected to be utilized, and to conduct electricity controlled, shaped or informed by the sensor to an electronic processor or cable-out lead or the like.
As will be detailed in reference to a present embodiment of 6 DOF controller, the sensors and conductive traces can be manufactured on a generally flat flexible membrane sensor sheet material such as a non-conductive plastic sheet, which then may or may not be bent into a three dimensional configuration, even a widely-spread 3-D sensor constellation, thus sheet supported sensor structuring provides the advantages of very low cost sensor and associated sensor circuit manufacturing; ease in replacing a malfunctioning sensor or conductor by entire sheet replacement, and increased reliability due to the elimination of individually insulated wires to the sensors.
The present invention solves the aforementioned prior art problems associated with 6 DOF controllers having one 6 DOF input member, with multiple, individually hand mounted and positioned sensors or sensor units in widely-spread three dimensional constellations, and the problems of hand applied wiring of individually insulated wire to the individual sensors or sensor units. The present 6 DOF controller solves these problems primarily with sheet supported sensor structuring and most associated circuitry on the sheet which is at least initially flat when the sensors and conductive circuit traces are applied; the sheet circuitry and sensors being an arrangement particularly well suited for automated manufacturing, and well suited for fast and simple test-point trouble shooting and single board or “sheet” unit replacement if malfunction occurs. Hand applying of the sensors and associated electrical conductors onto the flat sheet is not outside the scope of the invention, but is not as great of an advancement, for reasons of cost and reliability, compared to utilizing automated manufacturing processes that are currently in wide use.
Automated manufacturing of circuit boards with fixed-place trace conductors, sensors, discrete electronic components and integrated chips is in wide use today for television, computer, video and stereo manufacturing for example, and can employ the plugging-in of sensor and electrical components with computer controlled machinery, and the application of conductive trace conductors onto the otherwise non-conductive circuit board sheets is usually performed using automatic machinery, wherein the solder or conductive material adheres to printed fluxed or non-etched areas where electrical connections and conductive traces are desired, although other processes are used. Automated manufacturing of flat, flexible membrane sensor sheets is in wide use today for computer keyboards, programmable computer keypads, and consumer electronics control pads, to name just a few for example. Flexible membrane sensor sheets are currently being manufactured by way of utilizing non-conductive flexible plastics sheets, and printing thereon with electrically conductive ink when the sheets are laying flat, to define circuit conductors and contact switches (sensors). Usually, and this is believed well known, printed contact switches on flexible membranes utilizes three layers of plastic sheets for normal contact pair separation, with a first contact on one outer sheet, and a second contact of the pair on the opposite outer sheet, and a third inner sheet separating the aligned contact pair, but with a small hole in the inner sheet allowing one contact to be pressed inward through the hole to contact the other aligned contact of the pair, thus closing the circuit. A conductor trace of printed conductive ink is printed on each of the outer sheets and connects to the contact of that sheet. The contacts are also normally defined with conductive ink. Although this flexible membrane sensor structure in formed of multiple sheets stacked upon one another, it will herein generally be referred to as a membrane sensor sheet since it functions as a single unit. The printed conductive inks remain, or can be formulated to remain flexible after curing, and this allows the flexible membrane sensor sheet to be bent without the printed circuits breaking. Flexible membrane sensor sheets can be cut into many shapes before or after the application of the sensors and associated circuits.
For the purposes of this teaching, specification and claims, the term “sensor” or “sensors” is considered to include not only simple on/off, off/on contact switches, but also proportional sensors such as, proximity sensors, variable resistive and/or capacitive sensors, piezo sensors, variable voltage/amperage limiting or amplifying sensors, potentiometers, resistive and optical sensors or encoders and the like, and also other electricity-controlling, shaping or informing devices influenced by movement or force. Pressure sensitive variable resistance materials incorporated into sensors applied directly on flexible membranes, circuit boards and sensor packages mounted on sheet structures are anticipated as being highly useful as proportional sensors and desirable in 6 DOF controllers of the types herein disclosed.
For the purposes of this teaching, specification and claims, it is important to define the terms: “manipulate, operate and converter”.
The term “manipulate”, and all derivatives (manipulated, manipulating, manipulatable, manipulation, etc.), is used in the context of the input member being manipulatable in 6 DOF relative to the reference member. This means that the input member or handle can be linearly moved along and/or rotated about the three mutually perpendicular axes in 6 DOF but it does not necessarily mean that sensors are being stimulated or that the device is outputting a representative signal. It only means that it can be moved and/or rotated in such a manner. It may or may not be stimulating sensors or outputting information representative of the handle manipulation. A handle capable of being “manipulated” in 6 DOF means only that it can be linearly moved and/or rotated relative to the reference member.
The term “operate”, and all derivatives (operated, operating, operable, operation, etc.) is used in the context of the input member being operable in 6 DOF relative to the reference member. This means that the handle can be linearly moved along and/or rotated about the three mutually perpendicular axes in 6 DOF and it does necessarily mean that sensors are being stimulated and that the device is outputting a signal representative of the input operation.
The term “converter”, and all affiliated words and derivatives (convert, converts, converted, conversion, etc.) is used in the context of a physical to electrical converter. Meaning this is a device that changes (converts) real world physical or mechanical movements and/or rotations of the input member (input) into electrical signals (output) carrying information describing, at least in part, the nature of the input member movement and/or rotation.
Also, for the purposes of this teaching, specification and claims, it is important to define the terms: “joystick-type” controller and “trackball-type” controller. The term “joystick-type” controller and the term “trackball-type” controller represent two different kinds of hand operated input controllers which both have a hand operable input member (handle or trackball) which is operated relative to a reference member (base, shaft or housing). The difference in these two types of controllers is: The input member of the joystick-type controller may be manipulatable or operable in up to 6 DOF but the freedom of the input member is only to move or rotate within a limited range of travel relative to the reference member; On the other hand, the input member of a trackball type device, typically being spherical in shape, has an unlimited amount of travel about the rotational axes. A 6 DOF trackball-type embodiment is illustrated in
A primary object of the invention is to provide a 6 DOF image controller (physical-to-electrical converter), which includes a single input member being hand operable relative to a reference member of the controller, and the controller providing structure with the advantage of mounting the sensors in a generally single area or on at least one planar area, such as on a generally flat flexible membrane sensor sheet or circuit board sheet, so that the controller can be highly reliable and relatively inexpensive to manufacture.
Another object of the invention is to provide an easy to use 6 DOF controller physical-to-electrical converter) which includes a single input member being hand operable relative to a reference member of the controller, and which provides the advantage of structure for cooperative interaction with the sensors positioned in a three dimensional constellation, with the sensors and associated circuit conductors initially applied to flexible substantially flat sheet material, which is then bent or otherwise formed into a suitable three dimensional constellation appropriate for circuit trace routing and sensor location mounting.
Another object of the invention is to provide an easy to use 6 DOF controller, which includes a single input member hand operable relative to a reference member of the controller, and which has the advantage that it can be manufactured relatively inexpensively using sensors and associated circuits of types and positional layout capable of being assembled and/or defined with automated manufacturing processes on flat sheet material.
Another object of the invention is to provide an easy to use 6 DOF controller, which includes a single input member hand operable relative to a reference member of the controller, and which has the advantage that it can be manufactured using highly reliable automated manufacturing processes on flat sheet material, thus essentially eliminating errors of assembly such as erroneously routed wiring connections, cold or poor solder connections, etc.
Another object of the invention is to provide an easy to use 6 DOF controller, which includes a single input member hand operable relative to a reference member of the controller, and which has the advantage that it can be manufactured using sensors and associated circuits on flat sheet material so that serviceability and repair are easily and inexpensively achieved by a simple sheet replacement.
Another object of the invention is to provide a 6 DOF controller which is structured in such a manner as to allow the controller to be made with a relatively low profile input member, which offers many advantages in packaging for sale, operation in various embodiments and environments (such as a low profile 6 DOF handle integrated into a keyboard so that other surrounding keys can still be easily accessed) and function of the device (such as still allowing room for active tactile feedback means within a still small low handle shape). An example of an active tactile feedback means is an electric motor with shaft and offset weight within a handle for providing active tactile feedback, as shown in drawing
Another object of the invention is to provide and meet the aforementioned objects in a 6 DOF controller which allows for the application and advantage of sensor choice. The invention can be constructed with sensors as simple as electrical contacts or more sophisticated proportional and pressure-sensitive variable output sensors, or the like. The printed circuit board provides great ease in using a wide variety of sensor types which can be plugged into or formed onto the board with automated component installing machinery, and the flexible membrane sensor sheet can also utilize a variety of sensors such as contact pairs and pressure-sensitive variable output sensors (pressure-sensitive variable resistors) printed or otherwise placed onto flexible membrane sensor sheets.
Another object of the invention is to provide and meet the aforementioned objects in a six degree of freedom controller providing the advantage of versatility of complex movements wherein all three perpendicular Cartesian coordinates (three mutually perpendicular axes herein referred to as yaw, pitch and roll) are interpreted bi-directionally, both in a linear fashion as in movement along or force down any axis, and a rotational fashion as in rotation or force about any axis. These linear and rotational interpretations can be combined in every possible way to describe every possible interpretation of three dimensions.
These, as well as further objects and advantages of the present invention will become better understood upon consideration of the remaining specification and drawings.
Referring now to the drawings in general, and particularly to drawing
With reference to
As may be appreciated already from the above writing and drawings, carriage 14 is supported at least in part within housing 10 and with structuring for allowing carriage 14 to be moveable or moved in all linear directions relative to housing 10, for example, left, right, forward, rearward, up and down, and in the possible combinations thereof. Furthermore, housing 10 may be specific for the present six degree of freedom controller as exemplified in
Although it must be noted that within the scope of the invention carriage 14 functions may conceivably be provided with numerous structures, carriage 14 is shown in the drawings as including a lower member 20 and an upper member 22 positioned above lower member 20. In this example, lower member 20 is shown as a rigid sheet member such as a circuit board, but could be structured as a rigid sheet supporting a flexible membrane sensor sheet having at least circuitry in the form of electrically conductive circuit traces which are stationary on the sheet member. Lower and upper members 20, 22 in this example are each plate-like and rectangular, are in spaced parallel relationship to one another, are horizontally disposed, and are rigidly connected to one another via vertically oriented rigid connecting posts 24. Upper member 22 and lower member 20 are preferably of rigid materials such as rigid plastics, as are connecting posts 24 which may be integrally molded as one part with upper member 22 and connected to lower member 20 utilizing a mushroom-head shaped snap connector end on each posts 24 snapped through holes in member 20, or with screws passed upward through holes in member 20 and threadably engaged in holes in the bottom terminal ends of posts 24. Glue or adhesives could be used to connect posts 24 to lower member 20. Typically four connecting posts 24 would be used as indicated in dotted outline in
Lower member 20 of carriage 14 preferably physically supports wheels, rollers, bearing or slide members or smooth surfaces which otherwise aid in supporting trackball 12 in a freely spherically rotatable manner, and in the example illustrated, three mutually perpendicular encoders (sensors) 124, 126, 128 mounted on the upper surface of lower member 20 for sensing rotation, direction and amount of rotation of trackball 12 about the yaw, pitch and roll axes include rotatable wheels upon and against which trackball 12 rests, and is thereby rotatably supported. In most applications, the weight of trackball 12 and its most common positioning within the supporting rotatable wheels of the encoders causes sufficient frictional engagement between the encoder wheels and trackball 12 so that rotation of the trackball causes rotation of one or more of the encoders, depending upon the axis about which trackball 12 is rotated. The structure of carriage 14 and collet 16 if the extending collet is used, is sufficiently close in fit to trackball 12 to render a substantial link in linear movement between carriage 14, collet 16 and trackball 12. In other words, linear movements in trackball 12 are substantially equal to linear movement of carriage 14 and collet 16. It should be noted that I consider collet 16 as shown in
Although the structuring to physically support carriage 14 so it can be moved in any linear direction can conceivably be accomplished through numerous structural arrangements, two are illustrated for example, with a first shown in
With reference to
Another example of using foam rubber 30 is shown in
With reference to
I prefer most all of the circuits, switches and sensors be mounted on carriage 14, and more particularly the lower member 20, which is a sheet member, and this being an advantage for maintaining low cost in manufacturing. Dependent upon the type and sophistication of the sensors utilized in the present controller, and the electronics and/or software and electronics of the host graphics image generation device which the present invention is intended to interface, and at least in part control, there may be little more than flexible electrical conductors connected to on/off switches mounted on the lower member 20, with the flexible conductors leaving the lower member to exit housing 10 via a cord 156 connectable to the host image generation device, or leaving circuitry on lower member 20 to connect to an emitter of electromagnetic radiation (not shown) mounted on housing 10 for communicating the linear moment and rotational information with the host device via wireless communication such as via infra red light or radio signals. Lower member 20 may be a printed circuit board having sensors, integrated and or discrete electronic components thereon, and in
As previously mentioned, housing 10 may be in numerous forms, for example,
With reference now to
At this point in the description, it is believed those skilled in the art can build and use at least one embodiment of the invention, and further can build and use a trackball type and a joystick type embodiment in accordance with the present invention without having to resort to undue experimentation, however further joystick type embodiments in accordance with the present invention will be described to further exemplify the broad scope of the invention.
Shown at the bottom of the drawing is shaft 204 which may or may not be mounted to many different base-type or other structures. Shaft 204 is shown as generally cylindrical and substantially aligned, for purposes of description, along the yaw axis. Shaft 204 is substantially hollow to allow passage of the membrane tail, wiring or electrically connecting material, and is made of a generally rigid and strong material such as injection molded acetal plastics or steel etc. Shaft 204 has fixed to one end a short extending pedestal 210 and fixed to pedestal 210 is pivot ball 208. Shaft 204 also has a yaw slide-rail 212. Slide-rail 212 is a component that serves to keep translator 214 from rotating relative to shaft 204 about the yaw axis while still allowing translator 214 to move vertically along the yaw axis. One skilled in the art will readily recognize variants in the specifically drawn and described structure after reading this disclosure. For example, slide rail 212 would not be necessary if shaft 204 were square shaped rather than cylindrically shaped.
Substantially surrounding but not directly connected to shaft 204 is a lower handle part 202.1 which is made of a substantially rigid material and is shown having a round short vertical outer wall and essentially flat bottom with a central large round cut out area to allow for movement of handle 202 relative to shaft 204. Lower handle part 202.1 is fixed, preferably by screws, to upper handle part 202.2 thus the two parts in unity form handle 202 which encompasses all the remaining parts of this embodiment. The flat bottom of lower handle part 202.1 is slidable horizontally along the pitch and roll axes relative to the essentially flat underside area of a first carriage member 216. First carriage member 216 has centrally disposed an aperture which is shown with edges forming a planar cut of a female spherical section which is rotatably slidably mated to a mate spherical section of translator 214. Translator 214 has a vertical female cylindrical aperture and yaw slide rail slot 213 to mate with shaft 204 as previously described. Translator 214 additionally has at its upper edge two oppositely disposed anti-yaw tabs 218 which lay essentially in a horizontal plane described by the pitch and roll axes. Anti-yaw tabs 218 fit within substantially vertical slots formed by rising posts 220 which are fixed to and preferably mold integrally with carriage member 216. The functional result of anti-yaw tabs 218 working within the slots and the mating of the male spherical section of translator 214 with the female spherical section of carriage member 216 creates the mechanical result that while translator 218 is held substantially non rotatable relative to shaft 204, carriage member 216 is rotatable about the pitch and roll axes but not the yaw axis relative to both translator 214 and the general reference member shaft 204. Rising posts 220 fixedly connect first carriage member by screws, snap fit connectors, or other connecting means to a second carriage member 222 which may in some variations of this embodiment be a circuit board sheet supporting all necessary sensors, but as shown in the embodiment of
In association with the sensors, in a preferred embodiment, are resilient “tactile” return-to-center parts 226 (herein after “tactile RTCs 226”) which are shown in
I believe that my structuring enabling the use of this common break-over technology in a 6 DOF controller is a highly novel and useful improvement in the field of 3D graphic image controllers. Further, it can clearly be seen here, after study of this disclosure, that tactile break-over devices can also be used to great advantage in novel combination with proportional or variable sensors within my mechanically resolved 6 DOF controller structurings, and that this is a novel and very useful structure.
The resilient components RTCs 226, when compressed, are energized within their internal molecular structure, to return to the uncompressed state, thus when the user takes his hand off of the input member, or relaxes the force input to the input member then the resilient RTCs 226 push the mechanical parts of the controller back off of the sensor and toward a central null position of the input member. RTCs 226 serve to great advantage on all six axes in most joystick type controllers and on the three linear axes in the trackball type controller.
Positioned to activate sensors 207.03 through 207.06, as shown in
Above member 222 is a yaw translator plate 230 with an oblong central cut out (as shown) and distending plate-like members are two oppositely disposed yaw activators 231 which extend, when assembled, down through the illustrated slots of member 222 to activate sensors 207.07 and 207.08 when handle 202 is rotated back and forth about the yaw axis.
On the upper surface of plate 230 are fixed or integrally molded pitch slide rails 232 which are oriented substantially parallel to the linear component of the pitch axis, and fit into and slide within female complementary pitch slide slots 234 which are molded into the underside of anti-rotating plate 236 which is located above plate 230 and sandwiched between plate 230 and upper handle part 202.2. Anti-rotating plate 236 is a plate like structure with an oblong-shaped central cutout and on the upper surface are molded roll slide slots 238 which are substantially aligned with the linear component of the roll axis and through which slide roll slide rails 240 which are integrally molded on the inside surface of upper handle part 202.2.
Within the assembled embodiment 200 located at the approximate center of handle 202 is pivot ball 208 which is fixed to shaft 204. Pivot ball 208 is immediately surrounded on top and sides by the recess within a linear yaw axis translator 242 which is a substantially rigid structure having an oblong-shaped horizontally protruding upper activating arm 244 (as shown) and on its lower portion are snap-fit feet 246 or other attaching means or structures for fixing a lower activating arm 248 to the bottom of translator 242, thus pivot ball 208 becomes trapped within the recess within translator 242 by the attachment of lower activating arm 248 forming a classic ball in socket joint, wherein translator 242 is free to rotate about ball 208 on all rotational axes but not free to move along any linear axis relative to ball 208 and shaft 204.
Whether on membrane sheet 206 or circuit board 250 specific sensors 207 are activated by the following movements and rotations with the respective structures described here:
linear input along the yaw axis in the positive direction (move up) causes sensor 207.01 to be activated by upper activating arm 244,
linear input along the yaw axis in the negative direction (move down) causes sensor 207.02 to be activated by lower activating arm 248,
linear input along the roll axis in the positive direction (move forward) causes sensor 207.03 to be activated by the inner surface of the outer wall of handle 202, (with rubber dome cap 226 and slide 228 on membrane variation),
linear input along the roll axis in the negative direction (move back) causes sensor 207.04 to be activated by the inner surface of the outer wall of handle 202, (with rubber dome cap 226 and slide 228 on membrane variation),
linear input along the pitch axis in the positive direction (move right) causes sensor 207.05, to be activated by the inner surface of the outer wall of handle 202, (with rubber dome cap 226 and slide 228 on membrane variation),
linear input along the pitch axis in the negative direction (move left) causes sensor 207.06, to be activated by the inner surface of the outer wall of handle 202, (with rubber dome cap 226 and slide 228 on membrane variation),
rotational input about the yaw axis in the positive direction (turn right) causes sensor 207.07 to be activated by yaw activator 231,
rotational input about the yaw axis in the negative direction (turn left) causes sensor 207.08, to be activated by yaw activator 231,
rotational input about the roll axis in the positive direction (roll right) causes sensor 207.09 to be activated by the top edge of translator 214,
rotational input about the roll axis in the negative direction (roll left) causes sensor 207.10 to be activated by the top edge of translator 214,
rotational input about the pitch axis in the positive direction (look down) causes sensor 207.11 to be activated by the top edge of translator 214,
rotational input about the pitch axis in the negative direction (look down) causes sensor 208.12 to be activated by the top edge of translator 214.
First platform 352 is slidably retained along a first axis by a sliding plate called an anti-rotating plate 350 which is slidably retained along a second axis by at least one housing guide 308 which is fixed to housing 317. First platform 352 and plate 350 are further constrained by retaining shelf 316 and housing 317 from linear movement along the yaw or third axis. Thus plate 350, guide 308, housing 317, and shelf 316 cooperate to form a carriage support structure 316 in which platform 352 (and thus also carriage 314) is prohibited from significantly rotating on any axis, and also is allowed to linearly move significantly along the first and second axes (pitch and roll axes) but is prohibited from significant movement along the third axis, relative to housing 317.
Within carriage 314, and platforms 352, 322, holes 306 and 310 cooperate to offer sufficient fit in the passage of shaft 302 to provide advantageous structural cooperation in two substantial ways. The first is the provision of an anti-tilting structure 324 which prevents shaft 302 from significant tilting (rotating about the first or second axes) relative to carriage 314. The second is provision of two-axes structure where any and all linear movement along parallel to the first and second axes (linear along length of pitch and roll axes) by shaft 302 is coupled to equivalent movement along parallel to the first and second axes of carriage 314.
A second endward region of shaft 302 as shown in
On carriage 314 are rocker-arm structures 364 shown mounted on second platform 322. Rocker-arm structures 364 convert movement of carriage 314 relative to housing 317 to a resilient thermoplastic rubber (TPR) sheet 366 formed with a plurality of “tactile” resilient dome cap structures 368. Resilient sheet 366 and second platform 322 sandwich sensors supported on a membrane sensor sheet 330.
Rocker-arm structures 364 have at least the following structure: a mounting structure 332, which is structure essentially fixed to carriage 314 and is illustrated as a snap-fit design having two legs which snap into slots within plate 322; a fulcrum 334, illustrated in all figures as a living hinge located at the top of mounting structure 332 except in FIG. 24 where fulcrum 334 is illustrated as a more traditional cylindrical bore-and-core type hinge; at least one sensor actuating arm 336, and in all drawings rocker-arm structures 364 are illustrated as commonly having two arms for actuating two sensors one on each side of mount 332, except in drawings 26 and 27 where are illustrated one-armed variants; and finally rocker-arm structures 364 have a super-structure 338 by which the rocker-arm is activated or caused to move against and actuate the associated sensor(s). Super-structure 338 is the distinctive part of the different two armed rocker-arm types shown in
A first end of shaft pin 321 passes through a beveled slot within super structure 338 of rocker-arm H-slot type 342 in which the slot is approximately perpendicular to the third axis and the length of shaft 302, so that when shaft 302 and shaft pin 321 move along the third axis rocker-arm 342 in moved in kind with one arm descending to compress its respective resilient dome cap 328 and upon collapse of dome cap 328 the respective underlying sensor is actuated, as shown in
Specifically shown in
In the interest of brevity, it is appreciated that after study of the earlier embodiments one skilled in the art will be able to easily construct the full structuring of the embodiment of
The membrane sensor shown is novel with the inclusion of a pressure-sensitive electrically regulating element 638 disposed in the sensing region, filling the traditionally empty aperture of mid layer 622. Pressure element 638 remains in electrical contact with broad conductive areas of conductive traces 626 and 628 at all times. Pressure element 638 may be of a type having ohmic or rectifying granular materials (such as 600 grit molybdenum disulfide granules 80-98%) in a buffering base matter (such as silicon rubber 2-20%) as described in U.S. Pat. No. 3,806,471 issued to inventor Robert J. Mitchell on Apr. 23, 1974, or other pressure sensitive electrically regulating technology as may exist and is capable of being integrated with membrane sheet technology.
Also I believe it is novel to use a metallic “snap-through” resilient dome cap 632 with for its excellent tactile turn-on feel properties in combination with membrane sensors and especially with membrane pressure sensors as shown, where metallic dome cap 632 resides on top of upper membrane layer 620 and is shown held in place by silicon adhesive 636 adhering dome cap 632 to any generic actuator 634. Generic actuator 634 may be the actuating surface area of any part which brings pressure to bear for activation of a sensor, for example, actuator 634 might be a nipple shaped protrusion on the underside of rocker arm actuator arms 336 on the embodiment of
Some commonly known simple switched sensors use only a single sheet rather than three sheets, with the single sheet having both conductive traces sharing one surface area and the resilient dome cap having a conductive element which when depressed connects the conductive traces. One skilled in the art will also appreciate that the novel compound sensor 702 may be made with less than five sheets using such technology and judicious routing of conductive traces.
Both the simple switched portion and the proportional portion of sensor 702 are activated approximately simultaneously when an activator impinges upon sensor 702 with the simple switched sensor indicating an on state and the proportional sensor indicating how much force is being brought to bear on sensor 702.
A novel sensor of this type, having both a simple switched and a proportional component in combination with my novel keyboard integrated devices, such as those shown in
The pair of sensors 702.1 and 702.2 offer advantage, for example, in a computer keyboard embodiment where the simple switched portions may emulate key inputs and the proportional portions may serve to create sophisticated 6 DOF outputs. Further, for some applications an incremental output (simple switched) is more desirable than a proportional output. Sensor 702 provides both types of output in hardware. Finally, the compound sensor pair offers structure to lessen the necessary electronics requirement for reading the unidirectional proportional sensors. As shown if
The entire embodiment is assembled by positioning membrane sensor sheet 658 or at least the portion of membrane sensor sheet 658 bearing a sensor and apertures 654 along side of support structure 630 and aligning membrane apertures 654 with support structure apertures 656, then, with housing package 650 containing both plunger 602 and dome cap 604, pressing legs 652 through the aligned apertures thus fixing the membrane sensor and actuating plunger 602 in accurate and secure position for activation.
This novel membrane sensor anchoring and activating structure may be useful for fixing into position a flexible membrane and associated sensor(s) in a wide variety of applications, not just for fixing a membrane having multiple relatively long arms to fit a widely-spread set of sensors within a 6 DOF device such as for my co-pending application (Ser. No. 07/847,619, filed Mar. 5, 1992) and for finger activated buttons which may be located elsewhere within the device, such as on either the handle housing or the base housing, etc. This structuring also offers tremendous advantage in many non 6 DOF applications where hand wiring is now common. For example, typical assembly of two axis joysticks involves hand wiring of numerous different finger and thumb operated switches at various different positions located within a handle and often includes additional switches located with the base of the joystick also. The hand wiring to these widely spread switch locations is error prone and expensive in labor, thus this process could be greatly advantaged by employment of flexible membrane based sensors, which is made possible by this novel structuring.
The anchoring and retaining embodiments shown in
Although I have very specifically described best modes and preferred structures and use of the invention, it should be understood that many changes in the specific structures and modes described and shown in my drawings may clearly be made without departing from the true scope of the invention.