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Publication numberUS20060205544 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/276,616
Publication dateSep 14, 2006
Filing dateMar 8, 2006
Priority dateMar 8, 2005
Publication number11276616, 276616, US 2006/0205544 A1, US 2006/205544 A1, US 20060205544 A1, US 20060205544A1, US 2006205544 A1, US 2006205544A1, US-A1-20060205544, US-A1-2006205544, US2006/0205544A1, US2006/205544A1, US20060205544 A1, US20060205544A1, US2006205544 A1, US2006205544A1
InventorsDaniel Wyner, Richard Fox, Roger Laflamme
Original AssigneePolyworks, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Dynamic toy with inflatable bladder
US 20060205544 A1
Abstract
An object with a dynamically changeable configuration is provided. The outer surface configuration and/or the weight displacement configuration can be dynamically changed to alter the characteristics of the object, which can be a toy, such as a football, baseball or flying disc. To change the outer configuration of the object, a cover having an outer surface and at least one aperture therethrough is provided. A surface changing member, such as a bladder, is urgable into the at least one aperture to dynamically change the outer surface of the object. To change the weight displacement of the object, the main body includes a first chamber and a second chamber therein where fluid, such as gas or liquid, can flow therebetween. The positioning of the fluid within the first chamber and the second chamber is controlled by a pump and valve system. As a result, the weight displacement of the object is dynamically changeable.
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Claims(37)
1. An object with a dynamically changeable outer surface, comprising:
a cover having an outer surface;
a surface changing member in communication with the cover;
whereby the outer surface of the object is dynamically changeable upon changing of the surface changing member.
2. The object of claim 1, wherein the surface changing member is a bladder.
3. The object of claim 2, wherein the fluid is a gas.
4. The object of claim 3, wherein the gas is air
5. The object of claim 1, wherein the fluid is a liquid.
6. The object of claim 5, wherein the liquid is water.
7. The object of claim 1, wherein the outer surface of the surface changing member is tacky.
8. The object of claim 1, wherein the cover is in the shape of a football.
9. The object of claim 1, wherein the cover is in the shape of a baseball.
10. The object of claim 1, wherein the cover is in the shape of a flying toy.
11. The object of claim 1, wherein the cover further defines at least one aperture therethrough and a chamber therein; the surface changing member residing within the chamber and being urgable through the at least one aperture.
12. The object of claim 11, wherein the a least one aperture is an array of apertures for receipt of the surface changing member therein when the surface changing member is inflated.
13. The object of claim 11, wherein the surface changing member extends through the at least one aperture and past the outer surface of the cover.
14. The object of claim 1, further comprising:
a fluid pump in fluid communication with the bladder; the fluid pump being capable of controlling the amount and location of fluid within the bladder.
15. The object of claim 14, wherein the fluid pump includes a filling chamber, a filling valve and a release valve; the filling chamber being in fluid communication with the bladder.
16. The object of claim 1, wherein the cover is elastic and the surface changing member is positioned thereunder; inflation of the surface changing member changes the outer surface of the cover.
17. The object of claim 1, wherein the surface changing member is affixed to the outer surface of the cover.
18. An object with a dynamically changeable weight displacement, comprising:
a main body having an outer surface; the main body defining a first chamber and a second chamber therein;
fluid being movable between the first chamber and the second chamber;
means for controlling position of the fluid within the first chamber and the second chamber;
whereby the weight displacement of the object is dynamically changeable.
19. The object of claim 18, wherein the first chamber is a first bladder and the second chamber is a second bladder.
20. The object of claim 19, wherein the first bladder has a unitary chamber.
21. The object of claim 19, wherein the first bladder is a ring-shaped tube and positioned proximal to the outer surface of the main body.
22. The object of claim 19, wherein the second bladder has a unitary chamber.
23. The object of claim 18, wherein the fluid is a liquid.
24. The object of claim 23, wherein the liquid is water.
25. The object of claim 18, wherein the main body is in the shape of a football.
26. The object of claim 18, wherein the main body is in the shape of a baseball.
27. The object of claim 18, wherein the means for controlling position of the fluid within the first chamber and the second chamber is a fluid pump in fluid communication with the first chamber and the second chamber; the fluid pump being capable of controlling the amount and location of fluid within the first chamber and the second chamber.
28. The object of claim 27, wherein the fluid pump includes a filling valve and a release valve.
29. The object of claim 18, further comprising:
an air bladder disposed within the main body; the air bladder being inflatable to control position of the fluid within the first chamber and the second chamber
30. The object of claim 18, further comprising:
means for indicating position of fluid within the first chamber and the second chamber.
31. The object of claim 30, wherein the means for indicating is a first window in the first chamber and a second window in the second chamber.
32. The object of claim 30, wherein the means for indicating is an electronic sensor.
33. The object of claim 30, wherein the means for indicating is an air pressure sensor.
34. An object with a dynamically changeable configuration, comprising:
a main body defining a chamber therein;
a configuration changing member residing within the chamber of the main body;
whereby action upon the configuration changing member dynamically changes the configuration of the object.
35. The object of claim 34, wherein the configuration member is a bladder inflatable with a fluid.
36. The object of claim 34, wherein the fluid is a gas.
37. The object of claim 34, wherein the fluid is a liquid.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority from prior U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/659,468 filed on Mar. 8, 2005.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention generally relates to inflatable objects. More specifically, the present invention relates to a new and unique toys that can be modified using inflatable bladders.

In the prior art, various types of toys are very well known. Typically, a toy has a given shape and configuration that is static and cannot be modified. For example, a toy for throwing, such as a football or baseball, is of a fixed shape and configuration. Thus, each time that it is thrown, it exhibits the same general flight characteristics. In another example, a toy, such as an action figure, may have a given aesthetic appearance that can only be modified by adding or removing parts or reconstructing the parts at hand. In general, known toys are static in nature in that they cannot be altered to make the toy more unique in appearance and operation each time.

There have been many attempts in the prior art to provide toys that can transform from one type of toy to another to make the toy more interesting and fun. Typically, these toys have moveable parts that can be reconfigured to construct a toy of a different appearance. However, the basic function and operation of the toy is, essentially, the same as before but with a different aesthetic appearance.

In other example, toys can change in appearance by simply adding and subtracting parts. For example, there are many construction oriented toys that use building blocks or sticks to create a toy. Again, the overall function of the toy remains as aesthetic in nature.

The foregoing prior art toy products suffer from the problem that they cannot dynamically change their function where the characteristics of the operation and use of the toy are modified and made more unique and fun. More specifically, sports-related toys are not well-suited to being modified as are the toys of the prior art. In sports-related toys, additional parts cannot easily be added. While it is possible to add a fin to a football or magnetic tape to a flying disc to alter their flight characteristics, such modification is cumbersome and can lead to unpredictable results.

In view of the foregoing, there is a need for a toy that can dynamically change to alter its flight characteristics in a unique way. There is also a need for a toy that can be dynamically modified to achieve unique results that are not capable with prior art toys. There is a further need for a toy that can dynamically change to assist the user in operation of the toy. In addition, there is a need for a toy that can dynamically change both in its functional characteristics but optionally its aesthetic characteristics as well.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention preserves the advantages of prior art objects, such as toy articles and related devices. In addition, it provides new advantages not found in currently available objects, toys and related devices and overcomes many disadvantages of such currently available objects, toys and related devices.

The invention is generally directed to a novel and unique dynamic object, such as a throwable toy. The object of the present invention includes at least one unique internal bladder that can be modified by the user to easily change the characteristics of the object.

An object with a dynamically changeable configuration is provided. The outer surface configuration and/or the weight displacement configuration can be dynamically changed to alter the characteristics of the object, which can be a toy, such as a football, baseball or flying disc. To change the outer configuration of the object, a cover having an outer surface and at least one aperture therethrough is provided. A surface changing member, such as a bladder, is urgable into the at least one aperture to dynamically change the outer surface of the object. To change the weight displacement of the object, the main body includes a first chamber and a second chamber therein where fluid, such as gas or liquid, can flow therebetween. The positioning of the fluid within the first chamber and the second chamber is controlled by a pump and valve system. As a result, the weight displacement of the object is dynamically changeable.

It should be understood that the dynamically changeable object can be employed in many different environments and be used for different purposes. The present invention is particularly well-suited to serve as a toy, particularly toys that are thrown in the air, such as footballs, baseballs and flying discs. For ease of discussion herein, the object of the present invention will be shown an described in connection with throwable toys as a preferred use of the present invention. However, this shall in now way limit the scope of the present invention to throwable toys.

The use of at least one inflatable bladder can alter a number of different functional characteristics of a throwable toy. Many different types of throwable toys can employ the features of the present invention, such as footballs, baseballs and flying discs.

As a first example, the grip of the toy can be modified by the technology of the present invention. The outer surface of a football is typically a roughened surface leather or plastic material. For example, a bladder may be inflated with a material, preferably gas, so it protrudes through apertures in the cover or expand the outer cover of the toy to provide additional grip for the user. For example, additional grip ridges can be created as described in detail below.

It is also envisioned that the bladder can alter the flight characteristics of the toy. The movement of structure within a throwable toy typically affects flight. For example, an inflatable bladder can raise spiral ridges to encourage a football to spiral or shift weight displacement within a baseball to facilitate it to curve. Such weight displacement may be carried out by movement of a liquid, gas, gel or solid material within the body of the toy. For example, the bladder may re- orient water or push a solid mass within the toy body to carry out this weight displacement. Such movement can occur in real-time while the toy is being thrown to create unique results.

It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide a toy that can be dynamically changed.

It is another object of the present invention to provide a toy that can have its surface dynamically changed.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide a toy that can change its surface to change its grip.

It is another object of the present invention to provide a toy that can change its surface to change its flight characteristics.

It is yet another object of the present invention to provide a toy that can change its weight distribution.

Another object of the present invention is to provide a toy that can change its weight distribution to change its flight characteristics.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The novel features which are characteristic of the present invention are set forth in the appended claims. However, the invention's preferred embodiments, together with further objects and attendant advantages, will be best understood by reference to the following detailed description taken in connection with the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a front view of a football employing a first embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view through the line 2-2 of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a front view of the embodiment of FIG. 1 in an inflated condition;

FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view through the line 4-4 of FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view through the line 5-5 of FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 is a front view of a flying disc employing the first embodiment of the present invention of FIG. 1;

FIG. 7 is a front view of a ball employing the first embodiment of the present invention of FIG. 1;

FIG. 8 is a front view of a football employing a second embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 9 is a front view of a football employing a third embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 10 is a front view of a ball employing the third embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 11 is a cross-sectional view through the line 11-11 of FIG. 10 employing a third embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 12 is a cross-sectional view through the line 11-11 of FIG. 10 employing a fourth embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 13 is a cross-sectional view through the line 11-11 of FIG. 10 employing a fifth embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 14 is a perspective view of the present invention with an inflatable bladder below a flexible outer surface;

FIG. 15 is a perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 14 in an inflated condition;

FIG. 16 is a perspective view of the present invention with an inflatable bladder affixed to the outer surface of the toy; and

FIG. 17 is a perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 14 in an inflated condition.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

The present invention relates generally to a dynamically changeable object 10, such as a toy. In accordance with the present invention, the configuration of the toy 10 can be changed in a number of different ways to change its characteristics, such as its outer configuration, inner configuration, aesthetics or buoyancy. Change of the outer configuration can be employed to change gripping or flight characteristics of the toy. Change of the inner configuration can be employed to change the weight distribution of the toy 10 to, in turn, affect flight characteristics and other performance features of the toy 10.

Referring first to FIGS. 1-5, a first embodiment of the present invention is shown in detail to illustrate how the outer characteristics of a toy 10 can be dynamically changed in accordance with the present invention.

The example shown in FIGS. 1-5 shows a football toy 10, by way of example. It should be understood that many other different types of toys 10 can modified in a similar fashion. The present invention is intended to cover such other toys 10, such as baseballs, softballs and flying discs.

A front view of the a football 10, that employs the present invention, is shown in FIG. 1. The football 10 includes an outer cover 12 that has a number of apertures 14 therein. The cover 12 can be made of any type of material that is suitable for footballs and similar toys 10, such a leather, vinyl and plastic. The cover 12 can be molded out of polyurethane, polystyrene, EVA, TPEs, or any other suitable material and combinations thereof. For example, the cover 12 of the football of FIG. 1 is preferably made of a foamed polystyrene surrounding a polystyrene center 16, as can be seen in FIGS. 2 and 4.

An inner surface changing member, general referred to as 18, is provided within a chamber 20 defined within the cover 12. The surface changing member 18 is preferably a bladder, with an inner wall 18 a and outer wall 18 b that can be inflated by a gas, such as air. FIG. 2 illustrates a cross-sectional view of the football 10 through the line 2-2 of FIG. 1 to illustrate the positioning of the bladder 18 relative to the cover 12. The bladder 18 can be made of any material suitable for inflation, such as a tacky polyurethane or rubber.

A inflation system, generally referred to as 22, is provided that includes a pump device 24 and a release device 26. In this embodiment, by way of example, the pump device 24 is shown on the opposite side of the football 10 as the release device 26, however, they may be on the same side as each other. In fact, the pump device 24 and the release device 26 can be positioned at any suitable relative locations on the football 10 to enable access by the user. Details of a sample inflation system 22, for use with the present invention, is shown in FIG. 5, which will be discussed in detail below.

For game play with the football 10, employing the present invention, it may be desirable to change the outer configuration thereof, for example, to change the outer surface to change the interaction of the football 10 with the user and to also change the flight characteristics of the football 10. For example, the outer surface of the bladder 18 may tacky to the touch by either manufacturing the bladder 18 out of a material that is naturally tacky or to provide an additional substance thereon to make the outer surface tacky to the touch.

In the example of a football 10, if the user wants to change the grip characteristics of the football 10, the pump device 24 is actuated to fill the bladder 18 with a gas, such as air. In fact, the bladder can be filled with any type of fluid, but it is preferably filled with air for ease of use. Inflation of the bladder 18 causes it to press against the inner wall 20 of the cover 12. Since the apertures 14 preferably provided in the cover 12 of the football 10, further inflation of the bladder 18 causes the bladder 18 to bulge through the apertures 14, as seen in FIG. 3. In particular, the outer wall 18 b of the bladder 18, since it is closest to the cover 12, is the portion of the bladder 18 that bulges outwardly therefrom.

A cross-sectional view of the football 10 in this condition is shown in FIG. 4. As a result, the bladder 18 bulges through the apertures 14, in this example, the bulging outer wall 18 b of the bladder 18 forms an array of longitudinal ridges along the length of the football 10. It can understood that these raised tacky portions of the bladder 18 facilitates gripping of the football 10 so that it can be easily thrown.

The longitudinal ridges, referenced as 18 in FIGS. 3 and 4, are just one example of the many different types of surface configuration changes that can be made in accordance with the present invention. The bulges formed by the bladder 18 are preferably in the form of ridges but they could also be in the form of spirals or circles or other configurations to meet any desired surface configuration.

Most notably, the amount of surface change can be dynamically changed by the user. The bladder 18 is adjustably inflatable to control the amount of bulge of the bladder 18 through the aperture or apertures in the cover 12. Thus, the bladder 18 can be inflated more to provide larger bulges to provide more grip. Similarly, the bladder 18 can be inflated less to provide smaller bulges to provide less grip. In fact, the bladder 18 can be deflated to a degree where it does not bulge through the apertures 14 at all, if desired.

As can be understood, varying the outer configuration of a throwable toy 10 not only changes the grip, because that is the surface that the user interfaces with, but also the flight characteristics of the toy 10. The longitudinal ridges 18 in FIGS. 3 and 4 can provide additional or changed aerodynamics to affect the flight of the football 10. For example, it is possible to provide spiral apertures 14 through the cover 12 so bladder 18 bulges therethrough provide additional and adjustable spiral ridges to improve flight of the football 10 when thrown. Similar to the grip characteristics, the degree of change of flight characteristics can be controlled by the amount of inflation of bladder 18 within the toy 18. It is also possible to include more than one bladder 18 to alter the characteristics of the toy 10.

Turning now to FIG. 5, an inflation system 24 is shown, which is preferably used in connection with the inflation of the bladder 18 of the football of FIG. 1. Other systems may be employed within the scope of the present invention to carry out the functionality of controllably inflating the bladder 18. For example, the systems described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,074,765 and 5,372,487 may be employed for this purpose. External pumps (not shown), such as bicycle and hand or foot pumps and CO2 cartridges may be employed, if desired. A combination of internal and external pumps can be used.

In this preferred inflation system 22, a pump mechanism is provided, generally referred to as 24, and a release mechanism, generally referred to as 26. The pump mechanism 22 includes two one-way valves 28, 30 and a storage chamber 32 defined by a flexible dome 34. When the dome 34 is depressed, the volume of gas, such as air, within the dome 34 is urged through the first one-way valve 28 into the interior 36 of the bladder 18. During depression of the dome 34, the second valve 30, such as a flapper valve, remains closed to ensure that the volume of gas within the dome 34 is fully urged into the bladder 18 via the first one-way valve 28. Any type of suitable valve can be used for the valves 28 and 30.

When the dome 34 is released, the second one-way valve 30 opens and the first one-way valve 28 closes to permit the dome 34 to be re-filled with gas. The dome 34 is preferably spring-biased by the flexible material itself of the dome 34 moving back to its fully open state to draw gas therein. Thus, after depression of the dome 34 of the pump mechanism 24, the dome 34 is re-filled with gas in preparation to be depressed again. As can be understood, further depression of dome 34 repeats the cycle and urges more and more gas into the chamber 36 of bladder 18. As described above, the bladder 18 is filled until its reaches a desired condition, namely, until the bladder 18 bulges the desired amount through the apertures 14 in the cover 12.

It may also be desired to remove gas from the bladder 18 to reduce the size of the bladder 18 and, in turn, reduce the bulging of the bladder 18 through the apertures 14. In FIG. 5, a release mechanism 26 is provided for this purpose. A third one-way valve 38 is provided between a second flexible dome 40 and the interior 36 of the bladder 18. Upon depressing the dome 40, a pin 42 is downwardly actuated to lift a plug 44 out of sealing communication with an aperture 46 through the bladder 18. The depression of the second dome 40 is preferably against the spring-biasing forces of the dome 40 material itself or, alternatively, a spring 48 provided with the release mechanism 26.

When the second dome 40 is being depressed and the third one-way valve 38 is open, gas is free to exit from the bladder 18 into the environment via the pass through aperture 46. A further fourth valve (not shown) may be provided for additional control of the outflow of gas from the bladder 18.

The inflation mechanism 24 of FIG. 5 can be reconfiguration to suit the environment and the toy 10 into which it is installed. In general, the flow of gas in and out of the bladder 18 is fully controlled in accordance with the present invention.

FIGS. 6 and 7 illustrate applications of the present invention. In FIG. 6, a flying disc 50 is shown to include an outer housing 52 that has an annular aperture 54 therethrough and an inner bladder 56. When the bladder 56 is inflated, it bulges through the annular aperture 54 to form adjustable raised circular ring of the top surface 58 of the flying disc 50. The raised ring can be used, for example, to improve grip of the flying disc 50 and/or alter the flight characteristics thereof. It is envisioned that other patterns can be provided, such as emanating rays, to alter the characteristics of the flying disc 50.

Similarly, FIG. 7 shows a ball 60, such as a baseball or softball, that includes a number of apertures 62 through the outer housing or cover 64 of the ball 60. When the bladder 66 is inflated, as desired, it will bulge therethrough to create a number of ridges on the surface of the ball 60. It is also possible that the bladder 66 can make the ball 60 eccentric in shape to thereby alter the flight characteristics thereof. This allow for varying pitching effects.

The inflation mechanism, with pump device 24 and release device 26, are incorporated into the ball 60 in similar fashion to the football 10 above. The pump device 24 and release device 26, from the outside of the ball 60, are preferably made as low profile as possible so to not affect ball flight characteristics.

The surface changing members or bladder 66 can be used to the change the grip characteristics of the ball 60. In FIG. 7, the bulging bladder 66, in form of ridges, shown may be helpful to a novice pitcher to throw a curveball. The bulging portions of the bladder 18 through the cover or housing 64 can also be arranged to change ball flight. For example, one long ridge on one side of the ball 60 can be employed to encourage a ball 60 to curve when thrown. The bulging of the bladder 66 thrown the cover or housing 64 of the ball 60 can be provided in any different configuration to change the grip and/or flight characteristics of the ball 60.

The invention shown in FIGS. 1-7 generally shows a object that includes an inflatable bladder and an outer cover that includes apertures therein. When the bladder is inflated to a desired amount, it bulges through the apertures to change grip, flight or other characteristics. As shown in FIGS. 14 and 15, it is also possible that the outer cover 402 has an elastic surface 404 with a bladder 406 beneath that can distort the outer cover 404. As seen in FIG. 14, a flying disc toy 400 is shown that has a particular airfoil configuration. A bladder 406 is contained fully under an elastic cover 404 of the flying disc 400. When the bladder 406 is inflated by the pump 408, the bladder 406 becomes larger and expands the flexible cover 404 to create a another surface profile. In FIG. 15, the flying disc 400 is shown with the newly created shaped-shifted airfoil 410. As above, the airfoil 410 can change the flight characteristics. In embodiment 400, the bladder 406 is fully contained with an elastic cover 404 rather than bulging through apertures in the cover.

For example, it is be possible to create a flying disc 400 with an elastic film or fabric covering its top surface. If a properly shaped air bladder 406 is placed just below the surface 404, the bladder 406 can cause a change in shape of the airfoil 410 when inflated. The same configuration could apply to a baseball, in which the outer skin is somewhat stretchable, and a small bladder on one side of the ball just inside the surface could distort the cover of the ball slightly causing an eccentricity. As a result, shape shifting of the toy can be carried out in this embodiment without the apertures shown in FIG. 1.

Still further, as in seen in FIGS. 16 and 17, it is envisioned within the scope of the present invention that it is also possible that the bladder 502 or a portion of the bladder 502 itself could be mounted on the outside surface 504. This configuration may be easier to manufacture than the other embodiments discussed above. For example, the bladder 502 can be welded to the cover 504. The bladder 502 can be built into the outside shape of the flying disc 500 or other toy to obviate the need for an outer flexible skin over the bladder 502. As with the other embodiments, the bladder 502 can change the grip, flight and other characteristics.

Turning now to FIGS. 8-13, a second embodiment 100 of the dynamically changeable toy of the present invention is shown in detail. It is well known that weight distribution greatly affects the flight characteristics of an object. In this embodiment of the invention, liquid, gel and/or gas is moved to one or more different locations within the body of the toy to change the flight characteristics thereof. In accordance with the present invention, liquid alone, or with the assistance of gas, such as air, is moved or redistributed within the body of the toy. As a result, the weight distribution of the toy is changed thereby altering the flight characteristics of the toy when it is thrown or moved.

An example of use of the second embodiment 100 of the present invention is shown in FIG. 8. In this example, a football 100 is shown where a primary storage chamber 102 containing liquid is provided in the substantial center of the football 100. If a football 100 is thrown when all of liquid is located in the primary storage chamber 102, it's flight characteristics will be, essentially, unaffected because the primary storage chamber 102 is located near or at the center of gravity of the football 100 and along its longitudinal axis 104 of rotation.

However, it may be desirable to dynamically adjust the weight distribution of the football 100 so that it flies better when thrown. For example, as in FIG. 8, additional weight is brought to the outer periphery of the football 100 across its width that is perpendicular to the longitudinal axis 104 of rotation. Thus, when the football 100 is thrown, it will be easier for the user to throw a spiral because the moment of inertia has been increased.

To carry this out, liquid 106 is pumped from the primary storage chamber 102 in the center of the football 100 out to a tubular secondary storage chamber 108 located at the periphery of the football 100. The primary storage chamber 102 and the secondary storage chamber 108 are in fluid communication with each other via a conduit 110. Each of the chambers 102 and 108 may be expandable, if desired. The liquid 106 is pumped by a pumping mechanism 112 using a dome 116 button, as seen in FIG. 8. A release mechanism 114 is also employed to permit the liquid 106 to flow back into the primary storage chamber 102 from the tubular peripheral secondary storage chamber 108.

It is possible that the liquid 106 can be moved to a given location in preparation for the football 100 to be thrown. Then, upon the release of another button (not shown), the liquid 106 can be permitted to flow back to the primary storage chamber 102 during flight thereby increasing spiraling speed of the football 100.

It is envisioned that two counter-acting pumps can alternatively be employed to precisely control the flow of liquid 106 from the primary storage chamber 102 to the secondary storage chamber 108, as generally discussed below in connection with FIG. 13. Of course, the amount of liquid 106 within the secondary chamber 108 can be controlled to, in turn, control the amount of effect of the change of the weight distribution of the football 100 or other object. The construction of the pumping mechanism 112 and release mechanism 112 can be of any type that can move the liquid 106 when desired. For example, the pumping mechanism disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,074,765 and 5,372,487 may be employed for this purpose. The liquid 106 may be self-contained within the object 100 or it can be pulled into the object 100 from an outside liquid source, such as a swimming pool. Also, a transparent or translucent window 118 may be provided in the secondary storage chamber 108 and through the cover 120 of the football so location of the liquid 106 can be easily determined.

Referring now to FIG. 9, a further example 130 of the second embodiment of the present invention is shown. In this version, the weight distribution can be moved within the football 130 to change the flight characteristics of the football 130. In this case, the weight can be moved along the longitudinal axis 132 of rotation of the football 130. This affects the positioning of the nose 134 and tail 136 of the football 130 during flight. Thus, it may be desirable to lower or raise the nose 134 or tail 136 of the football 130 during flight. With the present invention, this is possible. Furthermore, such a flight characteristic can be dynamically changed by the user between throws of the football 130.

To carry this out, a main storage chamber 138 and a secondary storage chamber 140 are provided in fluid communication with each another via conduit 142. Flow of liquid between the primary storage chamber 138 and the secondary storage chamber 140 is controlled by the pumping mechanism 144 and release mechanism 146 in similar fashion to that shown in FIG. 8. The primary storage chamber 138 and secondary storage chamber 140 can be located anywhere within the football 130 to give flexibility and control over the flight of the football 130 when thrown.

FIG. 10 shows yet another implementation 150 of the second embodiment of the present invention. A ball 150, such as a baseball or softball, is shown with a primary liquid storage chamber 152 and a secondary storage chamber 154. The primary storage chamber 152 is preferably located substantially at the center of the ball 150. Liquid 156 is controllably moved from between the primary storage chamber 152 and the secondary storage chamber 154, which is preferably located proximal to the outer surface of the ball 150. As seen in FIG. 11, a cross-sectional view through the line 11-11 of FIG. 10, liquid 156 can be easily moved using the pump mechanism 158 and release mechanism 160. For example, liquid 156 can be moved to the secondary storage chamber 154 to move the weight distribution of the ball 150 outward to change its ball flight characteristics. More specifically, a ball 150 can be made eccentric thereby altering the flight characteristics particularly when a spin is imparted thereon.

In FIG. 11, a window 162 can be employed as an indicator so that the user can see the extent of filling of the secondary storage chamber 154 with liquid 156. For this, it is preferred the secondary storage chamber 154 is clear or translucent and the liquid 156 therein is of a contrasting color so that its level can be easily viewed from a user from the outside of the ball 150. This visual indicator 162 can be used with any version of the invention, such as football or otherwise.

Also, one or more sensors 164 can be respectively provided in the primary storage chamber 152 and/or the secondary storage chamber 154 to electronically sense liquid levels in each chamber 152, 154 and provide a digital readout at display 166. This electronic sensor 164 can be used with or without the visual indicator 162. In either example, the user can be fully informed of the location of the liquid 156 in the primary storage chamber 152 and the secondary storage chamber 154 to fully understand the nature of the weight distribution presently configured.

Turning now to FIG. 12, a further implementation 200 of the second embodiment of the present invention is shown where gas is employed to move liquid with the toy 200. In this example, a ball 200 is shown to include a primary storage chamber 202 and a secondary storage chamber 204. A gas-inflatable bladder 206 is provided within the primary storage chamber 202, the inflation of which is controlled by a pump mechanism 208 and a release mechanism 210. As the bladder inflates 206, liquid 212 is pushed out of the primary storage chamber 202 to the secondary storage chamber 204. Deflation of the bladder 206 permits liquid 212 to flow back into the primary storage chamber 202. A second bladder (not shown) may be provided in the secondary storage chamber 204 as well.

As with the version shown in FIGS. 10 and 11, movement of liquid 212 outwardly changes the weight distribution of the ball 200. In the version in FIG. 12, such liquid movement is carried out by inflating a bladder 206 to push the liquid 212 rather than a liquid pump and release mechanism. Any other structure used to move the liquid 212 within the ball 200 is considered within the scope of the present invention. For example, is possible that the primary storage chamber 202 can be pressurized by pumping gas therein to create pressurized flow even without the use of the inflatable bladder 206.

In FIG. 13, a further version 300 of the second embodiment of the present invention is shown to include a pump mechanism 302, 306 and release mechanism 304, 308 respectively for each of the primary storage chamber 310 and the secondary storage chamber 312. A primary pump mechanism 302 and a primary release mechanism 304 are employed to pump liquid 314 to or from the primary storage chamber 310 while a secondary pump mechanism 306 and a secondary release mechanism 308 are employed to pump liquid 314 to or from the secondary storage chamber 312. As a result, positioning of the liquid 314 within the body of the toy 300 can be precisely controlled to, in turn, precisely control its flight characteristics.

It is envisioned, within the scope of the present invention, that the liquid can move from chamber to chamber during flight. For example, the liquid can be pumped to one location, such as the outer periphery of toy, and then thrown. During flight, the liquid can be drawn back to the center to help enhance a spiral in similar fashion to how a figure skater movers their arm closer to the body during a spin to speed up the spin. Also, the liquid can be maintained at a given location, if desired.

In general, in any of the embodiments of the invention, as will be discussed below, the bladder may be inflated with any type of fluid material, including gas, liquid or gel. To serve as a source of the fluid material, such as gas, the toy preferably has an integrated pumping mechanism. Alternatively, an external inflation device, such as a pump or a pressurized CO2 cartridge, may be employed. The toy could also include a small internal or external motor driven pump mechanism.

Alternatively, the bladder may effectuate such weight displacement or re-orientation outside the body of the toy. Such construction can be modified to suit the toy and its associated flight characteristics. Still further, even non-throwing toys can employ the inflatable bladder construction of the present invention. For example, an action figure can be equipped with such a bladder where the size and configuration of the toy can be changed to suit the desires user. Thus, any toy or object that can benefit from the present invention can incorporate the inventive features of the present invention.

In view of the foregoing, a new and improved toy is provided that can dynamically change to alter many different physical functional aspects of the operation of the toy, such as the grip and flight characteristics. The present invention provides features not found in known toys and is, therefore, a great improvement over such prior art toys.

It would be appreciated by those skilled in the art that various changes and modifications can be made to the illustrated embodiments without departing from the spirit of the present invention. All such modifications and changes are intended to be covered by the appended claims.

Referenced by
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Classifications
U.S. Classification473/569, 473/594, 473/614, 473/588, 473/593
International ClassificationA63B67/14, A63B43/04, A63B43/00, A63B41/12
Cooperative ClassificationA63H27/10, A63B41/00, A63H33/18, A63B41/12, A63B43/04, A63H2027/1033, A63H2027/1075
European ClassificationA63B43/04, A63B41/00, A63H27/10, A63B41/12
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Apr 17, 2006ASAssignment
Owner name: POLYWORKS, INC., RHODE ISLAND
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:WYNER, MR. DANIEL M.;LAFLAMME, MR. ROGER J.;FOX, MR. RICHARD B.;REEL/FRAME:017481/0962;SIGNING DATES FROM 20060306 TO 20060407