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Publication numberUS20070253187 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/824,866
Publication dateNov 1, 2007
Filing dateJul 3, 2007
Priority dateAug 12, 2005
Also published asUS20070115650, WO2007021985A2, WO2007021985A3
Publication number11824866, 824866, US 2007/0253187 A1, US 2007/253187 A1, US 20070253187 A1, US 20070253187A1, US 2007253187 A1, US 2007253187A1, US-A1-20070253187, US-A1-2007253187, US2007/0253187A1, US2007/253187A1, US20070253187 A1, US20070253187A1, US2007253187 A1, US2007253187A1
InventorsHoward Cohan, Chrissa Paloni
Original AssigneeHoward Cohan, Chrissa Paloni
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Light sensitive illuminated exhibitor
US 20070253187 A1
Abstract
The present invention is directed to a light sensitive illuminated exhibitor that assists in providing illumination for reading and viewing objects in low-light situations, such as restaurants and any other places where low light conditions make it difficult to read printed matter without additional lighting. The light sensitive illuminated exhibitor includes at least one illuminatable panel as well as a light source and battery. A microprocessor and light sensor, such as a photocell, may be included to adjust the intensity of the light source based on the lighting conditions present. When the microprocessor and light sensor are included, the life of the battery is extended because the battery is not used when the exterior lighting is sufficient by which to read. The battery may also be rechargeable. One or more illuminatable panels may be provided. An audio circuit, static or programmable, may be provided to play an audio message under certain circumstances.
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Claims(23)
1. A light sensitive illuminated exhibitor that selectively illuminates to facilitate viewing of printed matter temporarily resting thereon, the exhibitor comprising:
a first cover having a front side and a back side, a portion of the front side of the first cover being adapted for placement of the printed matter thereon;
a second cover having a front side and a back side, the back side of the second cover being positionable over the front side of the first cover;
a first illuminatable panel associated with the portion of the front side of the first cover and arranged such that the printed matter may be placed thereover;
a light source positioned so as to selectively project light into the first illuminatable panel responsive to a control signal;
a light sensor operable to detect a level of ambient light; and
a processor coupled to the light source and the light sensor, the processor operable to generate the control signal based on an output of the light sensor.
2. The light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of claim 1, wherein the control signal causes the light source to project light at a first intensity into the first illuminatable panel in the event that the light sensor detects at least some ambient light.
3. The light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of claim 2, wherein the control signal causes the light source to project light at a second intensity into the first illuminatable panel in the event that the light sensor detects little or no ambient light, the second intensity being substantially more than the first intensity.
4. The light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of claim 1, wherein the light sensor comprises a photocell.
5. The light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of claim 1, further comprising:
at least a second illuminatable panel associated with the back side of the second cover; and
at least a second light source positioned so as to selectively project light into the at least a second illuminatable panel responsive to at least a second control signal from the processor.
6. The light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of claim 1, further comprising:
at least a second illuminatable panel associated with the front side of the second cover; and
at least a second light source positioned so as to selectively project light into the at least a second illuminatable panel responsive to at least a second control signal from the processor.
7. The light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of claim 1, further comprising:
a battery coupled to at least the processor.
8. The light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of claim 8, further comprising:
a battery charging circuit operable to facilitate charging of the battery.
9. The light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of claim 1, wherein the first illuminatable panel includes a front surface and a back surface, and wherein the light source is positioned so as to selectively project light into the first illuminatable panel responsive to the control signal of the processor such that the light emanates from the first illuminatable panel and illuminates an underside of the printed matter.
10. The light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of claim 1, further comprising:
an audio circuit, coupled to the processor, operable to produce at least one audible output responsive to one or more audio control signals from the processor.
11. The light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of claim 10, wherein the audio circuit is responsive to the processor to produce at least a first audible output in the event that the light sensor detects at least some ambient light and at least a second audible output in the event that the light sensor detects little or no ambient light.
12. The light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of claim 10, wherein the audible output is an audible message.
13. The light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of claim 10, wherein the audio circuit is responsive to the processor to produce at least a first audible output in the event that the light sensor detects at least some ambient light during a first time frame and at least a second audible output in the event that the light sensor detects at least some ambient light in a subsequent time frame.
14. The light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of claim 13, further comprising memory coupled to the processor and operable to store a plurality of audible messages, wherein the first audible output is a first of the plurality of audible messages and the second audible output is a second of the plurality of audible messages.
15. A light sensitive illuminated exhibitor that selectively illuminates to facilitate viewing of printed matter temporarily resting thereon, the exhibitor comprising:
a first cover having a front side and a back side, a portion of the front side of the first cover being adapted for placement of the printed matter thereon;
a second cover having a front side and a back side, the back side of the second cover being positionable over the front side of the first cover;
a first illuminatable panel associated with the portion of the front side of the first cover and arranged such that the printed matter may be placed thereover;
a light source positioned so as to selectively project light into the first illuminatable panel responsive to a control signal;
a light sensor operable to detect a level of ambient light;
a processor coupled to the light source and the light sensor, the processor operable to generate the control signal based on an output of the light sensor,
wherein the control signal causes the light source to project light at a first intensity into the first illuminatableanel in the event that the light sensor detects at least some ambient light;
wherein the control signal causes the light source to project light at a second intensity into the first illuminatable panel in the event that the light sensor detects little or no ambient light, the second intensity being substantially more than the first intensity;
at least a second illuminatable panel associated with the front side of the second cover;
at least a second light source positioned so as to selectively project light into the at least a second illuminatable panel responsive to at least a second control signal from the processor;
a battery coupled to at least the processor;
a battery charging circuit operable to facilitate charging of the battery;
an audio circuit, coupled to the processor, operable to produce at least one audible output responsive to one or more audio control signals from the processor;
wherein the audio circuit is responsive to the processor to produce at least a first audible output in the event that the light sensor detects at least some ambient light during a first time frame and at least a second audible output in the event that the light sensor detects at least some ambient light in a subsequent time frame; and
memory coupled to the processor and operable to store a plurality of audible messages, wherein the first audible output is a first of the plurality of audible messages and the second audible output is a second of the plurality of audible messages.
16. A light sensitive illuminated exhibitor that selectively illuminates to facilitate viewing of printed matter temporarily resting thereon, the exhibitor comprising:
a support panel having a predetermined portion thereof adaptable for placement of the printed matter thereon;
an illuminatable panel associated with the support panel and arranged such that the printed matter may be placed thereover;
a light source positioned so as to selectively project light into the illuminatable panel responsive to a control signal;
a light sensor operable to detect a level of ambient light;
a processor coupled to the light source and the light sensor, the processor operable to generate the control signal based on an output of the light sensor.
17. The light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of claim 16, wherein the control signal causes the light source to project light at a first intensity into the first illuminatable panel in the event that the light sensor detects at least some ambient light.
18. The light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of claim 17, wherein the control signal causes the light source to project light at a second intensity into the first illuminatable panel in the event that the light sensor detects little or no ambient light, the second intensity being substantially more than the first intensity.
19. The light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of claim 16, wherein the light sensor comprises a photocell.
20. The light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of claim 16, further comprising:
a battery coupled to at least the processor.
21. The light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of claim 16, wherein the first illuminatable panel includes a front surface and a back surface, and wherein the light source is positioned so as to selectively project light into the first illuminatable panel responsive to the control signal of the processor such that the light emanates from the first illuminatable panel and illuminates an underside of the printed matter.
22. The light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of claim 16, further comprising:
an audio circuit, coupled to the processor, operable to produce at least one audible output responsive to one or more audio control signals from the processor.
23. The light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of claim 22, wherein the audio circuit is responsive to the processor to produce at least a first audible output in the event that the light sensor detects at least some ambient light and at least a second audible output in the event that the light sensor detects little or no ambient light.
Description

This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. application Ser. No. 11/203,565 filed Aug. 12, 2005 and claims priority thereto under 35 U.S.C. § 365 to PCT application Serial No. PCT/US2006/031460 having an International filing date of 11 Aug. 2006, which application is hereby incorporated in its entirety by the foregoing reference thereto.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to presentation devices, and more particularly relates to an intelligent device that utilizes a condition responsive circuit to selectively illuminate articles, such as restaurant invoices, menus and credit card bills, in response to low ambient lighting conditions.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The problems associated with low-lighting conditions in restaurants and other places are well known. One of the most significant problems is the difficulty patrons have in reading printed matter, such as a restaurant bill, in a restaurant. Typically, the restaurant's bill is presented to the patron in a folder made of leather or vinyl over reinforced cardboard. Such folders are widely used, and may employ a first pouch for holding a credit card partially extended from the top of the folder and a second pouch or flap adapted to retain the restaurant bill and/or credit card receipt prior to signing by the patron. These folders also typically include a logo of the establishment and/or a bank or credit card company logo on the front cover and/or on an inner surface of the folder. When the patron attempts to read the bill or invoice, especially a patron with deteriorated eyesight, the patron experiences great difficulty, often searching for an alternative light source which is usually not to be found.

Some attempts have been made to address this problem. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,639,156 to Broxson discloses an illuminated reading device comprised of a foldable book-like device in which illumination means is energized upon one of the cover portions being opened to a pre-selected degree of tilt. The Broxson device does not directly illuminate the printed material to be read or illuminate it from behind, and requires a complicated tilt-sensitive switching assembly which uses mercury.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,808,208 to Ward discloses a restaurant check holder in which a slidable magnifying member and light-emitting assembly are removably attached to an inner facing surface of the holder. Ward suffers from the disadvantage that the slidable magnifying member requires a specific edge structure and magnifier, and does not illuminate the document upon which the printed matter to be read is printed upon from behind. Additionally, the light member of Ward is located in a position where it provides the greatest amount of illumination when the two cover sections are moved toward each other. Therefore, users who require significant illumination to read printed matter will have to substantially close the booklet in order to use the device, which is both counterproductive and counter intuitive.

U.S. Patent Application Publication No. US 2004/0059689 to Masden discloses a check presentation system which includes a folder having a credit card pocket and a bill/credit card receipt pocket on one side and a tip calculator on the other. A light is provided for downwardly directing light from an illumination source onto the key pad of the tip calculator. Not only does the light source of Masden not illuminate the document upon which the printed matter has been placed from behind, but the light source, being positioned opposite the printed bill/credit card receipt pocket as in Ward, requires the folder to be nearly folded in half for the light source to illuminate the printed matter.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,409,357 to Thompson discloses an illuminated billfold which directs light from an illumination source off of a reflector downwardly toward, and in a direction parallel to, a sheet of printed matter such as a restaurant bill or credit card invoice. Again, this device does not illuminate the document upon which the printed matter appears from behind, and, given that the direction of incident light from the light source is parallel to the surface upon which the printed matter is printed, only a small amount of illumination results.

U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,850,767 and 5,813,748 to Maxymych discloses a transaction tray comprised of a folder having an illuminated window or windows on one side and a recessed tray having a light source disposed about the tray's periphery on the other side. Once again, no illumination of the document containing the printed matter from behind is accomplished.

U.S. Pat. App. Pub 2004/0099546 A1 to Schlosser discloses a “Guest Check Presenter” which employs a tip calculator, a mirror, a “backlight” panel which purports to illuminate a printed document such as a restaurant bill or a credit card invoice from behind, a magnifier for the bill or invoice, and a series of waiter alert lights. Among the drawbacks of Schlosser are that the device incorporates features not necessary for the basic function of assisting a restaurant patron to view a bill or invoice, thereby rendering the device unduly complicated and expensive to manufacture and maintain. Schlosser also fails to provide an enabling disclosure of the “backlight” feature. All that can be discerned from the disclosure of Schlosser is that a transparent or translucent panel 26 is illuminated from behind that panel to light a bill or invoice. Additional lighting is provided by a lamp 44 in the Schlosser device which supposedly illuminates the bill or invoice from the side. Moreover, Schlosser's device appears to contemplate the use of non-rechargeable batteries, and does not show how power is provided to the panel 26, how the panel 26 is uniformly illuminated, how the illumination source for illuminating panel 26 is energized and de-energized, and under what conditions that would occur. Still further, by illuminating panel 26 from behind the panel (i.e. on the rear side of panel 26 opposite the side on which the bill or invoice would be overlaid), Schlosser's device would have to be unduly thick, which would take up unnecessary space in any given restaurant. Even further, by not being rechargeable, the batteries in Schlosser will have to be constantly replaced, adding unnecessarily to the maintenance burden imposed upon the restaurant's employees in which the device is used. In actuality, the likelihood that batteries will be replaced in devices such as Schlosser, given the frequency with which they will have to be changed, will diminish over time and whatever benefits the illumination components of Schlosser provide will be totally lost.

Moreover, the device of Schlosser does not provide any means to automatically reduce or eliminate power supplied to the “backlight” feature when the device is either not in use or in conditions of bright ambient light, when there is absolutely no need to provide illumination. Therefore, the device of Schlosser is highly inefficient in as much as it is not able to conserve battery power when illumination is unnecessary. Still further, the Schlosser device is a complicated, expensive and impracticable aggregation of components, most of which require significant electrical power to operate. Therefore, the resulting product is subject to high power consumption, resulting in the need for frequent battery replacement. Additionally, there is no teaching whatsoever in Schlosser of the structure, orientation or operation of the so-called “backlight” feature or of the waiter alert feature. Therefore, Schlosser does not teach one of skill in the art to make and use the device.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,637,907 to Levy discloses a lighted restaurant menu in which conductive ink is used on the rear side of the menu. When the menu is contacted by a user, lights along the side edge of the menu will cast light downwardly onto and across a printed menu. No means for charging batteries which operate the lights is disclosed. No circuit is disclosed for causing the device to operate. The device of Levy illuminates from the side and not from a generally uniformly illuminated panel disposed below the menu, and the light provided by the device of Levy is so diffuse that it does not appear to be sufficiently concentrated to illuminate a small area such as that occupied by a restaurant bill or invoice. Moreover, the device of Levy does not utilize an intelligent, condition responsive, circuit and lighting system adapted to minimize battery power consumption while maximizing the convenience to the restaurant patron. Finally, the disclosure in Levy appears to be inadequate to enable one of skill in the art to make and use the invention.

Therefore, there is still a need for a light sensitive illuminated exhibitor that provides variable, condition sensitive, lighting by way of an illuminable panel to allow one to read printed matter in a low light environment using the widely accepted, standard, restaurant invoice and credit card receipt presentation folder in use today with minor modifications.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to a light sensitive illuminated exhibitor which employs an illuminatable panel to automatically illuminate from behind the receipt in conditions of low ambient lighting, but which does not illuminate the credit card bill in the presence of relatively high ambient lighting. The present invention also employs any one of a variety of recharging systems for the power source. Finally, an enunciator may be employed to produce a customizable or pre-recorded audible message.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of a light sensitive illuminated exhibitor in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a front elevational view of the outside of one embodiment of the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of the present invention in the fully open position.

FIG. 3A is a front elevational view of the inside of one embodiment of the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of the present invention in the fully open position.

FIG. 3B is a cross-sectional bottom plan view of the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of the present invention taken along lines 3B-3B of FIG. 3A.

FIG. 3C is a cross-sectional bottom plan view of the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor taken along lines 3C-3C of FIG. 3A.

FIG. 4A is a front elevational view of the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of the present invention with the inside covering layer removed to expose various components of a first embodiment of the device.

FIG. 4B is a schematic representation of an exemplary charging circuit which may be used with the present invention.

FIG. 5 is an exploded perspective view of an example of an illuminated panel which may be employed with the invention.

FIG. 6A is a front elevational view of the exhibitor with the inside covering layer removed to expose various components of a second embodiment of the device.

FIG. 6B is a cross-sectional bottom plan view taken along lines 6B-6B of FIG. 6A.

FIG. 7 is a front elevational view of the exhibitor with the inside covering layer removed to expose various components of a third embodiment of the device.

FIG. 8 is a rear elevational view of a light sensitive illuminated exhibitor in accordance with the invention showing battery charging contacts of a fourth battery charging embodiment.

FIG. 9 is a schematic representation of a circuit which can be used to operate the various aspects of the invention, showing provision for the illumination of two illuminatable panels as well as memory and an audio circuit for producing customizable or pre-recorded audible messages.

FIG. 10 shows one embodiment of a multiple cradle charger for use with the embodiment of the present invention shown in FIG. 8.

FIG. 11 is a front perspective view of a light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of the present invention situated in the cradle charger of FIG. 10.

FIG. 12 is a partial cutaway perspective view of FIG. 11.

FIG. 13 is a single panel embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Generally, the present invention is directed to a light sensitive illuminated exhibitor that assists in providing illumination for reading and viewing objects in low-light environments, such as restaurants or any other environment in which low level lighting dictates a need for illumination of printed matter. A first embodiment of the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor includes a front cover pivotally connected to a back cover as well as a light source, integrated circuit, power source that may be rechargeable and a light sensor. The light source includes an illuminatable panel adapted to illuminate printed matter from behind when printed matter is placed within the exhibitor. The light sensor may be an ambient light-responsive switch, photocell or any other current varying (e.g., variably) resistive means to adjust the intensity of the light source in proportion to the ambient light level. The exhibitor may include one or more additional panels that illuminate and can be used to display any type of information such as advertising, logos or the like. Finally, an enunciator may be employed which includes an audio amplifier, sound card and speaker to provide audible messages such as greetings, music and/or salutations when the exhibitor is opened and/or closed.

For a fuller understanding of the invention, reference is had to the following description, taken in connection with the accompanying drawings, in which like reference numbers reference like parts throughout.

FIG. 1 provides a perspective view of one embodiment of the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor 100 of the present invention. Exemplified as being incorporated within a standard restaurant bill folio in FIG. 1, the exhibitor 100 includes a front cover 110 pivotally connected to a back cover 120 by a spine or seam 119, or any other hinge arrangement. One of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that seam 119 may be located along the sides, top or bottom of front cover 110 and back cover 120 without departing from the teachings of the present invention. As stated above, and still within the teachings of the present invention, seam 119 can be replaced by any suitable structure used to pivotally connect front cover 110 to back cover 120, including, but not limited to, hinges or binders. Standard restaurant bill folios are generally comprised of a semi-rigid cardboard backing surrounded by a leather or vinyl sheet, stitched or otherwise joined about a peripheral edge of the folio.

The front cover 110 has a front side 111 and a back side 117. As depicted in FIG. 1, the front side 111 of the front cover 110 may include a panel 112A used to illuminate a restaurant logo and another panel 112B used to illuminate a credit card logo. Either or both of these panels may be illuminated by the teachings of the present invention, which will be discussed in detail further along in this detailed description. In the alternative, if such an illuminated display on the front side 111 of the front cover 110 may disturb the ambience of the setting, it is possible to include the logos without illumination, or with a switching structure to interrupt power to the source of illumination of the panels 112A and 112B. If desired, the front side 111 of the front cover 110 may be provided without one or both of panels 112A or 112B without departing from the scope or spirit of the invention.

The back cover 120 also includes a front side 121 and a back side 127. As depicted in FIG. 1, the front side 121 of the back cover 120 may include a credit card pouch or holder 123, a credit card bill and/or receipt flap 129 and an illuminator, such as illuminatable panel 122. The details of the front side 121 of the back cover 120 are discussed in further detail in connection with FIG. 3A.

FIG. 2 is a front elevational view of the outside of a modified embodiment (the illuminatable panel 112B shown in FIG. 1 has been deleted) of the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor 200 of the present invention. The back cover 220 is pivotally connected to the front cover 210 by a seam 219. In this embodiment, the front side 211 of the front cover 210 includes or defines one window 212 and the back side 227 of the back cover 220 does not include or define any windows. One of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that alternate embodiments may be accomplished utilizing the teachings of the present invention, such as, for example, employing a window or windows (not shown) on the back side 227 of back cover 220, which can be used for advertising or other information disseminating purposes.

Any of the “windows” of this invention may employ “transparent” coverings, which may be clear or translucent, or may simply be openings defined by the covering material of the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor without employing any protective covering over the illuminatable panel. As used throughout this description and the appended claims, the term “transparent” means capable of conducting, radiating, permitting passage of, or otherwise conveying or exhibiting visible light.

FIG. 3A is a front elevational view of the inside of the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor 300 of the present invention. The inside of the exhibitor 300 is comprised of a back side 317 of front cover 310 and a front side 321 of back cover 320. In this embodiment, the front cover 310 is pivotally connected to the back cover 320 along a seam 319. Similar to the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the seam 319 may take other forms and/or be alternately located or constructed and still be within the teachings of the present invention.

The embodiment of the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor 300 depicted in FIG. 3A includes light sources, preferably illuminatable panels 314, 322, substantially in registry or substantially aligned with two transparent windows; first transparent window 312 defined by the back side 317 of front cover 310 and second transparent window 325 defined by the front side 321 of the back cover 320. The present invention is not limited to these embodiments and may include only one of either of the transparent windows and associated illuminatable panels. In an alternative embodiment, additional windows and associated illuminatable panels may be included.

The structure, purpose and utility of the transparent windows and associated illuminatable panels will be discussed in more detail below with respect to FIGS. 3B, 3C and 5. However, it is to be understood that the term “window,” as used herein and in the appended claims, means an opening or aperture in the respective covers. The windows may or may not be covered by a transparent (as defined herein) sheet to cover the illumination source. One or more of the windows may be partially covered by opaque or translucent graphical material such as lettering and/or graphics which, when illuminated from behind, are permanently emphasized.

FIG. 3B is a cross-sectional bottom plan view along lines 3B-3B in FIG. 3A. As shown in FIG. 3B, the illuminatable panel 314 of the front cover 310 is aligned with the window or aperture 312 in the back side 317 of the front cover 310. In this embodiment, there is no transparent sheet or other covering over the window 312. Window 312 is simply an aperture in the back side 317 of front cover 310. The surface of the illuminatable panel 314 is located in substantially the same plane as the back side 317 of the front cover 310. This may result in direct contact between the illuminatable panel 314 and the bill or receipt when the bill or receipt is placed upon the panel 314. As a result, the illuminatable panel 314 is preferably fabricated to withstand the expected abuses to be encountered in a variety of settings, including spilled drinks, curious children, friction from numerous bills and receipts being dragged thereover, just to name a few.

FIG. 3C is a cross-sectional bottom plan view taken along lines 3C-3C in FIG. 3A. Similar to FIG. 3B, the illuminatable panel 322 is substantially co-planar with the front side 321 of back cover 320. Once again, window 325 is simply an aperture in the front side 321 of back cover 320. As discussed previously, the embodiments depicted in FIGS. 3B and 3C provide two examples of the position and arrangement of the windows in accordance with the present invention. In alternative embodiments, the windows may include transparent sheets or opaque sheets containing logos and insignia, and may be located in any position as will occur to those of skill in the art.

FIGS. 3B and 3C provide cross-sectional bottom plan views at two locations of the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor 300. The front cover 310 and back cover 320 and the material out of which they are fabricated may be reinforced and secured by reinforcement material 309 between the front sides 311, 321, and back sides 317, 327. The reinforcement material 309 may include cardboard, plastic, or any other material that is thin and lightweight, but that will provide adequate support to allow the exhibitor to be used for its intended purpose.

The embodiment of the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor 300 depicted in FIG. 3A includes an optional pouch or pocket 323 for a credit or debit card on the front side 321 of the back cover 320. One of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the location and size of the pockets 323 can be varied without detracting from the scope of the present invention, such as by placing them on the back side 317 of front covers 310 or on the outside of the exhibitor 300. The pocket 323 may be made of plastic or any other suitable material. Any number of pockets 323 may be employed.

FIGS. 4A, 6A and 7 provide internal views (i.e., with back side 417, 617, 717 of front cover 410, 610, 710 and front side 421, 621, 721 of back cover 420, 620, 720 removed to expose the interior of the light sensitive illuminated exhibitors) of three embodiments of the light sensitive illuminated exhibitors 400, 600, 700 of the present invention. All of the embodiments depicted in FIGS. 4A, 6A and 7 include illuminatable panels 414, 614 and 714 associated with the back sides 417, 617 and 717 of the front covers 410, 610 and 710 and illuminatable panels 422, 622 and 722 associated with the front sides 421, 621 and 721 of the back covers 420, 620 and 720. The illuminatable panels 414, 422, 614, 622, 714, 722 are placed generally substantially in registry or substantially aligned with the windows 312, 325 present in the embodiments depicted in FIGS. 3A, 3B and 3C. Details of an example of an illuminatable panel such as panels 414, 422, 614, 622, 714, 722 or any other panels employed in the instant invention are provided in connection with FIG. 5, discussed below. The windows 312, 325, if they include (i.e., are covered by) a transparent sheet, are located in registry with, and illuminated by, the illuminatable panels 414, 422, 614, 622, 714, 722. The windows 312, 325 may simply be transparent windows or may include information such as logos or advertising of the owner of the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor 300. In an alternate embodiment, no transparent sheet is used to cover the windows, such that the illuminatable panels 414, 422, 614, 622, 714, 722 are joined or placed substantially in registry with windows 312, 325. Once again, these embodiments are provided for exemplary purposes only and are not intended to limit the scope of the appended claims.

The embodiments of the invention provided in FIGS. 4A, 6A and 7 include internal batteries 415, 615, 715, optional speakers 416, 616, 716, two illuminatable panels 414, 422, 614, 622, 714, 722, one or more component parts 430, 630, 730 of a charging circuit, a processor 431, 631, 731, and an ambient light condition responsive (i.e., automatic) dimmer switch such as photo cell 432, 632, 732. It is to be understood, however, that all that is needed to practice the principles of this invention is to provide a single illumination source, such as one or more of illuminatable panels 422, 622, 722 to illuminate the bill or receipt or other printed material.

Preferably, the internal batteries 415, 615, 715 are sufficiently flat so as to fit within the light sensitive illuminated exhibitors 400, 600, 700 without appearing bulky and detracting from the general overall appearance. Some suitable examples of internal batteries include lithium-ion, nickel-cadmium and nickel metal hydride batteries. At the present time, a lithium-ion battery is preferred because it is readily available, re-chargeable, inexpensive, lightweight, has a high power density and does not exhibit a memory effect. In addition, the lithium-ion battery preferably operates at 3.6 volts, which is the voltage required by one embodiment of the illuminatable panel(s) of the present invention. Therefore, there is no need for the addition of a limiting resistor to adjust the battery's voltage. However, one of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that battery technology is continually evolving and other batteries, both currently existing and future developed, may function equally well in connection with the teachings of the present invention.

The light source L of the present invention, as shown in FIG. 5, may be located along the side of, or within the illuminatable panels 514 (which for purposes of this description corresponds to the construction of panels 414, 422, 614, 622, 714 and 722). The light source L selectively projects light into the illuminatable panels 514 in response to a control signal. Illuminatable panel 514 is preferably made of vinyl, plastic, glass, acrylic, thermoplastic acrylic resins sold under the Trademarks LUCITE or PERSPEX by Lucite International, or another other transparent or translucent material, and corresponds in thickness generally to the thickness of reinforcement material 309 shown in FIGS. 3B and 3C. The material of panel 514 is preferably transparent, but may be translucent, and conducts light. A light diffusive film layer 513 may be associated with the restaurant bill/credit card receipt-facing side of panel 514. A light supporting strip 540, to which is attached one or more lights “L” such as LED lights, nests within notches created by tabs 543, 544 of panel 514, to hold light supporting strip 540 in place relative to panel 514. Lights L preferably align with corresponding recesses 542 defined by panel 514 to maximize to the greatest extent possible the transfer of light energy from lights L to panel 514. An opaque or a light reflective film layer 548 may be associated with the bottom (i.e. the side facing away from the restaurant bill/credit card invoice when it is placed within the exhibitor 500) of panel 514, as well as an opaque or reflective film layer 549 associated with the rear side of the light supporting strip 540, to channel the light energy from lights L into panel 514. For the same reason, a like film layer 518 may be placed along the front edge of panel 514. Electric leads 545, 546 supply power to the lights L from battery 515 (not shown, but the same as batteries 415, 615 and 715). Light supporting strip 540 may function as a printed circuit board in the event LED lights are used as the light source. Alternatively, any other suitable light sources may be employed.

A suitable provider of an LED illuminatable panel 514 is the Shenzen MingPu Optotech Co., Ltd of Shenzen, Peoples' Republic of China. The panel has a peak forward current of 100 mA, a reverse voltage of 5V, a power dissipation of 5 W, an average luminous intensity of 113 cd/m2, a forward voltage of between 3.0 and 3.5 V, and a reverse current of 0.01 mA. It is to be appreciated that the forgoing specifications are but an example of a suitable range of characteristics, and that illuminatable panels having other characteristics are contemplated to be within the scope of the invention.

Another suitable illuminatable panel 514 for use with the present invention is produced by Marktech Optoelectronics of Latham, N.Y. The preferred illuminatable panel 514 is available in a variety of sizes and colors and includes a durable acrylic sheet layer 513 on its surface (thereby acting as a protective covering and removing the need to include a transparent sheet over the windows). The preferred illuminatable panel 514 typically lasts 100,000 hours or more and utilizes less power than standard incandescent, electroluminescent (EL), or cold cathode fluorescent lamp (CCFL) light sources. The Marktech illuminatable panel 514 (Marktech Part No. MTBL2129-G) provides 574 nm of light at an intensity of 220.00 millicandelas.

The three embodiments depicted in FIGS. 4A, 6A and 7 also include a processor 431, 631, 731. The processor 431, 631, 731 can be designed to control the charging circuit (indicated as 436 in FIGS. 4B and 936 in FIG. 9), the speaker 416, 616, 716, the illuminatable panels 414, 422, 614, 622, 714, 722 and the photocell 432, 632, 732. The processor 431, 631, 731 can be designed using standard “chip on board” (“COB”) technology. A processor 431, 631, 731 suitable for use in the invention closes (i.e., enables) the circuit and thereby illuminates the illuminatable panels 414, 422, 614, 622, 714, 722 when the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor 400, 600, 700 is opened and opens (i.e., disables) the circuit when the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor 400, 600, 700 is closed, rendering the illuminatable panels 414, 422, 614, 622, 714, 722 dark. In an alternate embodiment, the processor 431, 631, 731 is connected to a photo cell 432, 632, 732, and thereby adjusts the intensity of the illuminatable panels 414, 422, 614, 622, 714, 722 responsive to changes in resistance of the photo cell resulting from changes in the ambient light intensity. For example, when the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor 400, 600, 700 is opened outside, the photo cell 432, 632, 732 will detect the light and direct the processor 431, 631, 731 not to activate the illuminatable panels 414, 422, 614, 622, 714, 722. One of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that additional processor embodiments may also be designed without departing from the teachings of the present invention, such as automatic de-energization of the illuminatable panels 414, 422, 614, 622, 714, 722 after a predetermined period (i.e. 10 minutes) of non-use or the like.

FIG. 4B shows a schematic of a representative circuit 437 for operating the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor 400 under the control of a processor 431 in accordance with the present invention. Battery 415 supplies direct current (DC) power to processor 431. A charging circuit 436 is connected between battery 415 and processor 431 to accomplish a battery charging function of the invention, to be described in more detail below. A variable impedance device, such as a photocell 432, a rheostat (not shown) or the like, may be used to vary the current flowing to illuminatable panels 414, 422 in proportion to ambient lighting conditions, the position of the rheostat (not shown) or the like. In other words, in the case of a photocell 432, if the ambient light is bright, the power to illuminatable panels 414, 422 can be reduced or eliminated entirely by the processor 431, reducing or eliminating its power output to the illuminatable panels 414, 422 responsive to a substantial reduction in impedance or resistance of the photocell 432. The extinguishment or dimming of the illuminatable panels 414, 422 reduces battery depletion and extends the life of the battery 415 or the time between recharging.

The charging circuit 436 is utilized in conjunction with the component part 430, to be described in more detail below. The charging circuit 436 protects the battery 415 from being overcharged during the recharging process and prevents the battery 415 from being depleted.

One of ordinary skill in the art will also recognize that inclusion of a processor 431, 631, 731 is not required to practice the teachings of the present invention. The electrical connection between the battery 415, 615, 715 and any one or more of the illuminatable panels 414, 422, 614, 622, 714, 722 shown herein could be designed to provide a closed (i.e., enabled) circuit when the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor 400, 600, 700 is open and an open (i.e., disabled) circuit when it is closed. For example, the connection between the battery 415, 615, 715 and one or more of the illuminatable panels could be disconnected by a manually depressable switch (an example of one which is shown as 733 in FIG. 7) associated with one of the covers (710 in FIG. 7). Alternatively, the connection between the battery 415, 615, 715 and one or more of the illuminatable panels, preferably an illuminatable panel located on the opposite cover from the battery 415, 615, 715, could by associated with the seam 419, 619, 719, which is caused to be opened when the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor 400, 600, 700 is closed, thereby opening the circuit and rendering any one or more of the illuminatable panels dark. When the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor 400, 600, 700 is opened, the electrical connection between the battery 415, 615, 715 and the illuminatable panel so connected could be rejoined, thereby lighting the particular panel or panels.

Moreover, there may be users who desire to have the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor 400, 600, 700 illuminated when closed as opposed to opened, for any variety of reasons, such as to illuminate one or more panels associated with one or more information conveying articles (e.g., logos). If so desired, this may be accomplished by reversing the circuit described above as to such panels.

To help reduce waste and lengthen battery life, the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor of the present invention contemplates a variety of alternative battery recharging systems. Suitable recharging systems include using solar, magnetic and electric energy sources. In FIG. 4A, the recharging mechanism is an inductive coupler which employs a near field charge coil as the component part 430 of the charging circuit 436 and a corresponding charging base (not shown) which generates a magnetic field into which one or more of light sensitive illuminated exhibitors 400 are to be placed. One such charging system is sold under the trademark “Splash Pad” by Splashpower Ltd., of Cambridge, U.K. When the battery 415 needs recharging, the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor 400 is placed in the charging base (not shown). The charging base generates a magnetic field that induces a current in the charge coil 430, which is used to charge the battery 415. The benefit of this embodiment is that one or more light sensitive illuminated exhibitors 400 can be placed in the charging base (not shown) whenever staff has finished using them. As the technology is wireless, there is no need to “plug in” the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor 400. This embodiment is convenient as it reduces the need for owners to monitor staff for compliance with re-charging because a visual survey of the light sensitive illuminated exhibitors lying in the charging base provides the needed assurances that re-charging is occurring.

FIGS. 6A and 6B show an alternate embodiment of the battery charging system of the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor 600 of the present invention. In this embodiment, charging pins are used as the component part 630 and are connected to the processor 631 to facilitate recharging the battery 615. These connections may be made by a piece of wire, flexible circuit or direct contact with charging pins 630 of adjacent light sensitive illuminated exhibitors (not shown) stacked one upon the other such that the charging pins 630 of adjacent exhibitors 600 contact each other. As depicted in FIGS. 6A and 6B, the charging pins 630 are located in each corner of the front cover 610 and back cover 620. The charging pins 630 extend from the back side 617 to the front side 611 of the front cover 610 and from the front side 621 to the back side 627 of the back cover 620. With this design, multiple exhibitors 600 can be stacked on top of each other for recharging. A charging base (not shown) is provided in which the first exhibitor 600 is placed. The charging base contains charging contacts (not shown) that mate with the charging pins 630 of the next adjacent exhibitor 600. Additional exhibitors can then be stacked one on top of the other when charging is required to achieve electrical continuity between all stacked exhibitors. At the end of an event or at the close of business, the manager can view the charging base and light sensitive illuminated exhibitors stacked therein to determine that the staff has complied with any recharging requirements.

As shown in FIG. 7, the present invention may also utilize a conventional plug-in charging connector to facilitate charging. The exhibitor 700 may include an electrical connector as the charging component 730 to be used with a corresponding connector 750 to conductively couple battery 715 to the charging source. Re-charging would occur by plugging one or more transformers 760 into an electric source, such as a standard household outlet or car cigarette lighter adapter. Electrical lead 762 between electrical connector 750 and transformer 760 may be split into any number of parallel leads such that charging of multiple batteries 715 can be accomplished at the same time. One skilled in the art will readily appreciate that the transformer 760 may be varied in its characteristics to accommodate the charging of multiple batteries simultaneously.

The embodiment depicted in FIG. 7 employs an additional element to the internal components of the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor 700 in the form of an on/off switch 733. Inclusion of such a switch 733 is useful when the charging pin method is used or if the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor is used in both day and night time conditions. For example, a restaurant may have outside seating and not require the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor to be illuminated by day, but may need it by night. In that case, the battery charge can be saved during daylight hours by turning off the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor. When dusk falls, the switch 733 can be manually turned on by depressing switch 733 to cause the panels 714 and/or 722 to be lit. In lieu of switch 733, a hinge switch (not shown) associated with hinge 719 may be employed. The hinge switch interrupts power to the processor 731 and thereby to panels 714, 722 when the front cover 710 is placed in its closed position atop rear cover 720, and permits current to flow to processor 731 when front cover 710 is opened (i.e. moved from abutting relationship with rear cover 720).

FIGS. 8 and 10-12 depict a still further battery charging option in which electrical contacts serve as the charging component 830 and are used to electrically couple battery 815 (not shown) to a charging source, such as charging cradle or base 1000. Base 1000 may employ one or more charging cradles or slots 1011 into which one or more exhibitors 800 may be placed, which will cause charging contacts 830 of exhibitor 800 to come into conductive contact with corresponding charge base contacts 1050. In all other respects, the features and arrangements of the exhibitor 800 correspond with any one or more of the features and arrangements disclosed in connection with any other embodiment herein. Moreover, the battery charging scenario disclosed in connection with FIGS. 8 and 10-12 may be used in place of any of the other battery charging scenarios disclosed herein or which may occur to one of skill in the art.

FIG. 9 is a schematic of a representative circuit 937 which can be used to operate the various aspects of the invention, showing provisions for the illumination of two illuminatable panels as well as memory and an audio circuit for producing customizable or pre-recorded audible messages. Two LED drivers 934, memory 935, a charging circuit 936 and an audio circuit 938 are coupled to the processor 931. Each of the two LED drivers 934 are connected to their respective lights L. In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 9, the oscillation regulator 939 is shown connected to one of the two LED drivers 934. The LED drivers 934 are connected to the panels 122, 322, 422, 622, and 722. The panels 122, 322, 422, 622 and 722 perform the function of illuminating the printed matter from behind. Oscillation regulator 939, in the preferred embodiment, causes one or more lamps L, such as those shown in FIG. 5, associated with one or more of the panels 122, 322, 422, 622, and 722 to illuminate when the presenter is opened (i.e., when the front cover panel is rotatably moved away from the rear panel). When this happens, an oscillation is detected by oscillation regulator 939 and power is caused to be sent to lamp L to give an initial illumination thereto. Thereafter, photocell 932 regulates the luminosity of lamps L, as well as the associated panel 122, 322, 422, 622 and/or 722, to cause the panels to be fully illuminated if the ambient light is diminished sufficiently, or to cause the panels to be unlit if the ambient light is sufficiently strong, and to cause the panels to be illuminated with any intensity therebetween if the ambient light warrants. The power provided to the panels is inversely proportional to the degree of ambient light detected by the photocell 932. In other words, the amount of light provided by the panels 122, 322, 422, 622 and/or 722 can vary depending on the amount of environmental lighting encountered by the photocell 932.

The audio circuit 938 preferably includes a speaker (see 416, 616 and 716 in FIGS. 4, 6 and 7) and associated drive circuitry 938, such as an audio amplifier and a sound card, and may alternatively include an audio-media player (e.g., MP3 player, WAV player or MIDI player) controlled by the processor 931.

The memory 935 may include one or more audible messages (e.g., greetings, music and salutations) that are programmed to be output to the audio circuit 938 in response to signals from the processor 931. For example, when the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor (900) is initially opened, the photocell 932 may trigger the processor 931 to retrieve a salutary announcement from the memory 935, such as “Greetings!” or “Welcome to our Restaurant!” The processor 931 forwards the salutary announcement to the audio circuit 938, which may include circuitry to convert the message from digital format to analog, as well as an audio amplifier and a speaker. When the light sensitive illuminated exhibitor 900 is closed, the processor 931 may optionally retrieve a tribute announcement, such as “Thank you, please come again” or “We hope you enjoyed our restaurant,” from the memory 935 and provide the announcement to an appropriate decoder/player (not shown) for audio playback.

In an alternate embodiment, the memory 935 may be programmed with, for exemplary purposes only, ten different greetings, messages and/or musical compositions. Each time the photocell 932 detects ambient light (i.e., each time the exhibitor is opened), processor 931 instructs the memory 935 to replay the next successive announcement or to randomly choose an announcement to replay. The memory 935 returns to the first message after producing the tenth message. In this embodiment, customers sitting at adjacent tables may not hear the same messages. As with batteries, memory storage capabilities are increasing at a rapid pace. The best mode of the present invention utilizes a memory device that includes ten different messages of six seconds each. However, it is easily conceivable that future memory devices will be capable of holding more and longer messages without detracting from the teachings of the present invention.

In a still further embodiment of the invention, shown in FIG. 13, the exhibitor may take the form of a single panel embodiment 1100 including a panel 1120 to which is mounted an illuminatable panel 1122, a credit card receiving pouch or pocket 1123, a printed matter receiving/holding pocket 1129, an ambient light condition responsive switch, such as photocell 1132, and a manual on/off switch 1140. In this embodiment, because there is no cover as there was in the previous embodiments, provision is made to cause the illuminatable panel 1122 to be in the non-illuminated state until switch 1140 is placed in to the “on” position (as by depression of a mechanical switch). Provision is made in the processor software to cause the illumination of panel 1122 to be extinguished after a predetermined amount of time so that the panel will not remain illuminated until the battery (not shown) is depleted. Means are provided to recharge the battery (not shown), such as those examples described elsewhere herein. Photocell 1132 functions to detect the amount of ambient light available and supplies an indication of such amount to the processor. The processor controls the output from the battery (not shown) to the panel 1122 such that the amount of battery power supplied to the panel 1122 is inversely proportional to the detected strength of the available ambient light. Therefore, the more ambient light there is present, the lower the strength of the signal sent to the panel 1122. In this way, power consumption is kept to a minimum. The panel 1122 is structured and arranged in accordance with the disclosure of panels 414, 422, 514, 614, 622, 714 and 722.

The invention has been shown and described herein in the form of preferred embodiments with alternative features. It is to be understood, however, that the invention is not limited to the embodiments and additional features disclosed herein, and that the invention is intended to be limited only by the following claims.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7686468 *Sep 25, 2007Mar 30, 2010Leanza Anthony SIlluminated clipboard with LCD display and recorder and method of use
US20110186194 *Feb 4, 2010Aug 4, 2011Gus GalloIlluminated billholder and method therefor
US20130311251 *May 16, 2012Nov 21, 2013Justin R. GibsonSystem and Method for Presenting Advertisements in Conjunction with Presentation of a Bill
US20140033582 *Aug 6, 2013Feb 6, 2014John G. MyersCheck Presenter
DE102010044320A1 *Sep 3, 2010Mar 8, 2012Christian SchechBeleuchtungseinrichtung
DE102010044320B4 *Sep 3, 2010Mar 29, 2012Christian SchechBeleuchtungseinrichtung
WO2012116356A2 *Feb 26, 2012Aug 30, 2012Pugliese CelestinaMethod and apparatus for guest check presentation
Classifications
U.S. Classification362/98
International ClassificationA47B19/00
Cooperative ClassificationG09F13/04, G09F27/00
European ClassificationG09F27/00, G09F13/04