US 20060196384 A1
A model car racing simulator game which employs a unique, configurable guide blade and rails system which consist of a plurality of brush connections and rails to create a unique path for power and control data to individual toy vehicles so that they may change lanes and race in the same lane to more realistically emulate actual automotive racing. Modular power base units are described herein allowing a larger field of vehicles to race simultaneously. Such a field of vehicles ranges in size from 1 to 25 or more vehicles within this description and may include more depending upon rail and guide configuration implemented. The invention includes track segments as well as processing and display means which allow for lane changes, lap counting and timing, pit stops. The invention includes a control device which allows control of a subset of features including though not limited to vehicle steering, vehicle speed, braking, lights, brake lights.
1. A system including at least one electrically powered toy vehicle and a continuous loop track for racing the electrically powered toy vehicle under control of an operator, a continuous or modular track having at least one lane and an a plurality of electrical paths extending along each lane for providing separate electrical power to at least one vehicle about the track, comprised of any or all of the following: at least one hand-held control unit operably connected with the electrical path, interlocking, modular track segments which allow for a straight path travel, curved path travel, interactive lane change and pit stop control, power connect segment, straight segment with left or right lane change, curved segments with left or right lane change, lane change segments which allow crossing over to a separate track segment off of either left of right edge, lap counting and timing segments, segments which detect and avoid collision, segments which respond to both human input for some vehicles while making automatic judgements for vehicles not controlled by human input during the same usage session, interactive segments which may be switchably biased by the user, at least one electrically operated base unit which allows for connection of at least one power supply thus serving as means for managing power distribution to control units and polarity management for direction of vehicle travel, as well as communication between control units and interactive track segments which includes adjustments in power distribution to individual toy vehicles based upon responses and events initiated by interactive devices of the system, a display and or aural feedback unit operably connected to or integral with at least one base unit and configured to display lap timing, lap counting, vehicle position, simulated pit stop function in response to input from at least one control unit as well as communicating or aggregating such data for an external computing or display device.
2. A system according to
3. A system according to clam 1 wherein control units by default support analog toy vehicles by supplying pulse width modulated electrical current for speed control, variable back electromagnetic field within the control unit for brakes and allows a selection of predetermined acceleration curves.
4. A system according to
5. A system wherein specific modular track segments having a plurality of electrical contacts on either side of the slot are able to respond to electrical contact by the guide of a toy vehicle traveling in either direction and/or manipulation of steering means as necessary for that track segment whereby a steering track segment would allow vehicle to travel to the left or right from the same lane even when the destination is another track segment, using a least one electrically actuated diverting means, a pit stop segment would allow control of generally known pit stop functions and a lap counter/timing segment would signal a lap counting/timing means, each after identifying at least one vehicle via a unique pair of conductive rails activated on that track segment as determined by a microprocessor or analog means.
6. A system according to
7. A system wherein a signal decoder having a microprocessor means is installed in a toy vehicle which responds to a control unit for the purpose of controlling a toy vehicle by identifying whether the control unit is indigenous to its system or is an indigenous control unit using either of its selectable modes: analog or digital control, whereby the vehicle motor responds to speed inputs from an analog control unit by bypassing its zener diode while automatically operating optionally attached lighting functions so that attached lights will be “on” while electrical power is present and brake lights would brighten when powered by back electromagnetic field during dynamic braking; otherwise when digital mode on the control unit is selected the decoder means will pass electrical pulses which are over its zener voltage to the vehicle motor while sending all electrical signals, even those under its zener voltage to its microprocessor means which will operate user-configurable vehicle functions including but not limited to: head/tail lights, brake lights and an integrated, proportional braking function which uses the a back electromagnetic field generated and contained within the toy vehicle.
8. A system according to
9. A method whereby both digital communication and a modulated pulses are transmitted simultaneously at more than one distinct voltage between a control means and an electrically powered item or toy vehicle per the embodiment of this invention, superimposing the waveform of the lower voltage pulses and 0 volt intervals upon the waveform of the higher voltage pulses, for the purposes of communicating digital signals to a microprocessor means within a device or toy vehicle using a lower voltage pulse and directly powering an associated component as an electrically powered toy vehicle motor, while not limited to such, via the higher voltage pulse which is above the voltage of zener diode between the motor and the electrical source.
10. A method whereby multiple electrically powered devices, including though not limited to electrically powered toy vehicles, may share a common electrical ground while each is distinctly controlled by individual control means through manipulation of input current through a plurality of electrically conductive connecting points; and such a method also supports a plurality of power supplies and thus a plurality of connecting ground lines allowing these aforementioned devices to share a common connection point for input current while being attached to any one of the plurality of grounding means of the plurality of power supplies; hence the number of current input points or positive leads multiplied by the number of grounding points would dictate the total number of uniquely controlled devices which could be powered by a system implementing this method as in the case of the system according to
The present invention is related to amusement devices generally depicting simulation of vehicle travel or racing. In particular this invention relates to vehicles which are electrically powered and guided by a slot or groove in a simulated raceway or path.
The invention pertains to the activity or hobby of slot car or model car racing. For nearly 40 years this activity has utilized rubber or plastic roadway or track which is fitted with two electrical rails for each given lane. The electrical power, typically direct current (DC), passes through a means of varying voltage to the track and thus the electric motor inside the toy vehicle which would vary its speed on the track.
The challenge aspect of the hobby was increased by an introduction of modular track pieces to vary track layouts. In addition timing and lap counting were added and are generally accepted as common within the art. To improve the aspects of challenge and realism various types of slotless track systems, vehicle steering systems and racing elements have been invented or attempted.
In pursuit of a more accurate portrayal of automotive racing U.S. Pat. No. 6,109,186 issued to David Smith and David Brobst is a slot racing system which introduces a working vehicle race pit stop which includes tracking of fuel usage and refueling, tracking tire wear and replacement as well as random events which affect the performance of the electric toy vehicle on the slot track. However, that invention severely limits the number of active users and precludes the user of the system to interactively control pit stop functions. Nor does that system allow realistic vehicle control functions such controlling vehicle lights, brakes, and actually steering into or out of a desired lane or pit stop location. In addition the system only allows for a single vehicle per lane which forces entry to the pits from an outside lane by at least one toy vehicle which is unrealistic from the standpoint of a realistic race simulation.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,688,985 issued to Steven N. Weiss and Gerhart P. Huy, et al. proposes an interactive, electronically controlled racing game which provides aural and visual feedback via graphical LCD panel attached to a base unit. That system monitors fuel usage and tire wear and allows input from the user via a button to manipulate the events related to the pit stop. While that invention improves on the interactivity between the user and the toy, it too only allows a single vehicle per lane, thus forcing vehicles to “pit” in two lanes which, too is unrealistic from a racing simulation point of view. While the pit function indicates some sort of attention is needed, it does not allow the operator to either bypass or partially address a particular problem and accept the consequences of his actions in the interest of saving time. Lap counting and timing by design are limited to 1 00 laps and 1/100th of a second which is not suitable for realistic racing simulation.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,218,909 embodies a slot track wherein the toy vehicles change lanes. The vehicles specified in that case are radio-controlled and thus not of the commonly conceived method within the slot racing hobby of having the track supply power to the toy vehicles.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,382,599 issued to Neil Tilbor introduced a method of racing slot cars which allowed the changing of lanes in a manner similar to realistic driving. With the touch of a button the user could make his or her vehicle change lanes. However, centrifugal force would change your lane on a curve while using this invention, taking control from the user. In addition, no realistic means for lap counting or timing is there identified.
Finally, within the art it is common that one vehicle is allowed per lane. This forces an individual to add numerous parallel lanes in order support a larger field of vehicles. This often has a negative impact on available space and the available designs of the resulting race course.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,883,720 issued to V. J. D'Angelo, Jr. et al. proposes locating guide slots in close parallel in order to simulate a chicane. That invention forces vehicles in closer proximity for a time in order to enhance the excitement of the racing experience. While innovative, this art continues to restrict the racing simulation to only two toy vehicles and includes no other unique, interactive functionality. It certainly does not provide for lane changing as does this invention.
In addition to creating a more realistic racing environment, the objective of this invention is to introduce a means for controlling multiple brands of toy slot vehicles which reduces heat and wear to their motors while protecting the investment of the individual in control devices. Unlike other control devices, the control means of this invention accommodates customization without opening the device or requiring technical skill. While it is best to match controller performance to vehicle performance, controllers available today are difficult or time-consuming to customize. Thus some purchase multiple, pre-configured controllers or endure an unsatisfying experience attempting to control a slot car for which their controller is not suitably matched. The control means introduced in this invention provides the operator with greater control over their environment, an experience which enhances enjoyment and offers a control device that proves to be a more sound and lasting investment.
The invention comprises a system that allows for a more realistic racing simulation that previously provided on an electrically powered, continuous loop, slotted racing surface. Components of the invention include durable plastic, slotted track surfaces where each slot is flanked by pairs of rails which allow multiple vehicles to race in a single lane. The vehicles are also allowed to change lanes upon command at selected points on the track.
The size of the field of vehicles is determined by multiplying the number of rails on the left side of the slot by the number of rails on the right side. Operating multiple vehicles in a single slot is accomplished by selective sharing of the grounding wire for a group of positive leads on the opposite side of the slot. Vehicles have electrical pickup shoes which can be arranged in such a way that each uses a unique combination of rail pairs. That unique shoe-placement and rail positioning configuration also allows uncomplex vehicle recognition by mechanisms which provide or monitor lane changing, lap counting, timing, pit stops and vehicle functions such as lights and brakes.
A unique hand-held control mechanism is specified with which the toy vehicle can be steered into lanes chosen by the user. Toy vehicle lights can be activated by each individual user, pit stop functions can be controlled. Vehicle lighting system will recognize input from the user via a digital signal on the track system which is the subject of this invention or will operate in automatic mode on other analog track systems. Brake lights on the toy vehicle may be operated by issuing the braking command on the hand-held controller. Dynamic braking is achieved via back electro-magnetic field which can be activated between speed power pulses, allowing braking and acceleration functions to operate simultaneously when the throttle is not at 100%. The hand-held device controls speed via pulse width modulation. The hand controller supports a mode allowing for control of analog vehicles as well as vehicles controlled via the microprocessor described herein. Hand held device will interpolate pulsed power signals with pulsed data signals to the microprocessor means within the vehicle on the positive side of the direct current wave. The power pulse goes over a zener voltage while the data signal is under the zener voltage. The hand held device can operate a vehicle using a variety of power and performance curves which are stored on the microprocessor.
The foregoing summary, as well as the following detailed description of preferred embodiments of this invention, will be better understood when read in conjunction with the appended drawings. For the purpose of illustrating the invention, there is shown in the drawings embodiments which are presently preferred. It should be understood, however, that the invention is not limited to the precise arrangements and instrumentalities shown.
In the drawings:
It is hereby noted that the scope of this invention shall not be limited by the drawings as these merely attempt to represent the typical embodiments and implementations of the invention. A more detailed description of the invention is to follow and shall include numerals to represent common, significant components appearing in the above referenced figures.
A base unit 2 as appearing in
A combination of base units 2 may be configured to support their maximum number of vehicles simultaneously on the same track to which they are interconnected. Lap count and timing may be displayed on an optionally attached display 14. That display allows operator to select modes of racing such as though not limited to rally, Max Laps, Timed Endurance, qualifying, etc. via button control devices 6. Lap Timing, counting, racing mode selection as well as pit functions are to be controlled via microcontroller device.
As seen in
The schematic representation of
The device shown in
The lane change track segment 7 shown in
The schematic of
The electronics supporting the functions within the hand held control unit are shown in the schematic of
VR1 and VR2 are analog inputs to the pulse width modulation output which controls vehicle speed. VR3 regulates resistance during dynamic braking. Q1 MOSFET controls the power pulses controlling vehicle speed. The Q2 MOSFET is responsible for sending actual data signals to decoders and affecting the flow of power pulses to the motor. Q2 MOSFET takes precedent over Q1 MOSFET. Thus power pulses from Q1 will not reach vehicle/decoder during periods when Q2 is inactive. This is how the data signal is superimposed over power pulses. If no power pulse is active via the trigger then 6 volt data pulses will be sent over the conductive rails upon activation of Q2. 6 volts is under the 7 volt zener in the decoder. Pulses at that voltage are read as data packets by the decoder, but are not high enough to pass zener voltage and thus power the motor of the vehicle when enhanced control is activated via the hand control unit.
Q3 activates a short circuit between a specific pair of rails so that dynamic braking is activated for a spinning engine connected to those rails.
Programming logic will keep Q3 and Q2 from be active simultaneously as this would short out the system. When the braking function is activated, the brake Q3 will only be active during the period of time during the duty cycle when such cycle is less than 100 percent. This allows user to use accelerator and brake simultaneously if desired to fine tune acceleration and deceleration when their vehicle is turning or otherwise. Voltage regulars and protection diodes are used to protect the circuitry.
To enhance the realism of the race experience, this invention introduces a pit stop function. This function would monitor the status of critical resources during a race. The display of the various statuses of these resources is depicted in
This invention proposes a means whereby the operator can communicate to his or her toy electric vehicle with the intent of activating or deactivating accessory functions such as lights. A decoder chip is proposed for this function as a receiver of requests from the operator. The schematic of