Search Images Maps Play YouTube News Gmail Drive More »
Sign in
Screen reader users: click this link for accessible mode. Accessible mode has the same essential features but works better with your reader.

Patents

  1. Advanced Patent Search
Publication numberUS20080139080 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/828,124
Publication dateJun 12, 2008
Filing dateJul 25, 2007
Priority dateOct 21, 2005
Also published asWO2009014545A1
Publication number11828124, 828124, US 2008/0139080 A1, US 2008/139080 A1, US 20080139080 A1, US 20080139080A1, US 2008139080 A1, US 2008139080A1, US-A1-20080139080, US-A1-2008139080, US2008/0139080A1, US2008/139080A1, US20080139080 A1, US20080139080A1, US2008139080 A1, US2008139080A1
InventorsYu "Brian" Zheng
Original AssigneeZheng Yu Brian
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Interactive Toy System and Methods
US 20080139080 A1
Abstract
A system, method and apparatus for interactive play is provided. In an exemplary embodiment, an interactive toy is validated on a network. The validation includes the toy sending a code to a base-station, the base-station forwarding the code to a server on the network. The server sending a verification message to the base-station, which in communicated to the interactive toy. In another embodiment, accomplishments are sent to the server and additional functionality is imparted to the interactive toy based on these accomplishments. This Abstract is provided for the sole purpose of complying with the Abstract requirement rules that allow a reader to quickly ascertain the subject matter of the disclosure contained herein. This Abstract is submitted with the explicit understanding that it will not be used to interpret or to limit the scope or the meaning of the claims.
Images(32)
Previous page
Next page
Claims(90)
1. A method of providing an interactive experience comprising
communicating a code from an interactive toy to a base-station;
communicating the code from the base-station to a server on a network;
validating the code on the server;
communicating a first validation message from the server to the base-station;
communicating a second validation message from the base-station to the interactive toy; and
enabling functionality on the toy based on receiving the second validation message.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein a functionality of the interactive toy is configurable.
3. The method of claim 1, wherein the code is a unique code associated with the toy.
4. The method of claim 1, wherein the communication of the code from the toy to the base station comprises transmitting a wireless communications signal from the toy and receiving the wireless communications signal at the base station, the wireless communications signal comprising the code.
5. The method of claim 4, wherein the wireless communications signal comprises a signal selected from a group consisted of: a wireless local area network signal, a wireless personal area network signal, a wireless metropolitan area network signal, an orthogonal frequency division multiplexed wireless signal, a direct sequence spread spectrum wireless signal, a frequency hopped spread spectrum wireless signal, and an impulse wireless signal.
6. The method of claim 1, wherein the base-station comprises a device selected from a group consisting of: a computer, a personal computer, an electronic device, a portable electronic device, a laptop computer, a desktop computer, a personal digital assistant, and a handheld electronic device.
7. The method of claim 1, wherein the network comprises a network selected from a group consisting of: a wireless local area network, a wireless personal area network, a wireless metropolitan area network, a public switched telephone network, a cellular network, a local area network, a personal area network, a metropolitan area network, and the Internet.
8. The method of claim 1, wherein validating the code comprises executing a query on a database.
9. The method of claim 8, wherein the database resides at a location, the location comprising a location selected from a group consisting of: a location on the server, a location on the network, and location on another electronic device on the network.
10. The method of claim 1, wherein the server comprises a device selected from a group consisting of: a computer, a personal computer, a desktop computer, a personal electronic device, a portable electronic device, a laptop computer and a personal digital assistant.
11. The method of claim 1, wherein the first and second validation messages contain the same data.
12. The method of claim 1, wherein the first and second validation messages contain different data.
13. The method of claim 1, wherein the interactive toy comprises a processor, a memory, and a storage medium and the enabling of functionality comprises executing a set of instructions on the processor, the set of instructions stored on the storage medium.
14. The method of claim 13, wherein the storage medium comprises a storage medium selected from a group consisting of: a removable storage medium, a non-removable storage medium, a CD, a DVD, and a memory module.
15. The method of claim 13, wherein the code is a unique code associated with the storage medium.
16. The method of claim 1, wherein the interactive toy comprises a device selected from a group consisting of: a doll, a handheld electronic device, a portable electronic device comprising a video display, a portable electronic device comprising a speaker, an article of clothing, a backpack, and a portable item.
17. The method of claim 1, further comprising
communicating an accomplishment from the interactive toy to the base-station;
communicating the accomplishment from the base-station to the server;
communicating an enabling message from the server to the base-station; and
enabling different functionality on the interactive toy based on receipt of the enabling message.
18. The method of claim 17, wherein the interactive toy is a first interactive toy and the accomplishment is the base-station receiving a communication signal from a second interactive toy.
19. The method of claim 18, wherein the second interactive toy comprises a device selected from a group consisting of: a doll, a handheld electronic device, a portable electronic device comprising a video display, a portable electronic device comprising a speaker, an article of clothing, a backpack, and a portable item.
20. The method of claim 17, wherein the accomplishment comprises a total of points accrued through interaction with the toy.
21. The method of claim 17, wherein the accomplishment comprises the achievement of a higher level of interaction with the toy.
22. The method of claim 17, wherein the interactive toy comprises a processor, a memory, and a storage medium and the enabling of different functionality comprises executing a set of instructions on the processor, the set of instructions stored on the storage medium.
23. The method of claim 22, wherein the storage medium comprises a storage medium selected from a group consisting of: a removable storage medium, a non-removable storage medium, a CD, a DVD, and a memory module.
24. The method of claim 17, wherein the base-station and the interactive toy each comprise a processor and a portable storage medium drive, the enabling of different functionality comprising enabling the base-station portable medium drive to write a set of processor executable instructions to a portable medium, the set of processor executable instructions sufficient to configure the interactive toy with different functionality when executed by the interactive toy's processor.
25. The method of claim 17, wherein the interactive toy comprises a processor, a memory, the enabling message comprises data and enabling of different functionality comprises transferring the data to the interactive toy.
26. A computer software product comprising:
a storage medium, the storage medium containing a set of executable instructions that when executed by a processor configure a base-station to:
receive a code from an interactive toy;
communicate the code to a server on a network;
receive a validation message from the server; and
enable functionality on the interactive toy.
27. The computer software product of claim 26, wherein a functionality of the interactive toy is configurable.
28. The computer software product of claim 26, wherein the code is a unique code associated with the interactive toy.
29. The computer software product of claim 26, wherein receiving of the code from the toy comprises receiving a wireless communications signal from the toy, the wireless communications signal comprising the code.
30. The computer software product of claim 29, wherein the wireless communications signal comprises a signal selected from a group consisted of: a wireless local area network signal, a wireless personal area network signal, a wireless metropolitan area network signal, an orthogonal frequency division multiplexed wireless signal, a direct sequence spread spectrum wireless signal, a frequency hopped spread spectrum wireless signal, and an impulse wireless signal.
31. The computer software product of claim 26, wherein the base-station comprises a device selected from a group consisting of: a computer, a personal computer, an electronic device, a portable electronic device, a laptop computer, a desktop computer, a personal digital assistant, and a handheld electronic device.
32. The computer software product of claim 26, wherein the network comprises a network selected from a group consisting of: a wireless local area network, a wireless personal area network, a wireless metropolitan area network, a public switched telephone network, a cellular network, a local area network, a personal area network, a metropolitan area network, and the Internet.
33. The computer software product of claim 26, wherein the server comprises a device selected from a group consisting of: a computer, a personal computer, a desktop computer, a personal electronic device, a portable electronic device, a laptop computer and a personal digital assistant.
34. The computer software product of claim 26, wherein the interactive toy comprises a processor, a memory, and a storage medium and the enabling of functionality comprises executing a set of instructions on the processor, the set of instructions stored on the storage medium.
35. The computer software product of claim 34, wherein the storage medium comprises a storage medium selected from a group consisting of: a removable storage medium, a non-removable storage medium, a CD, a DVD, and a memory module.
36. The computer software product of claim 34, wherein the code is a unique code associated with the storage medium.
37. The computer software product of claim 26, wherein the interactive toy comprises a device selected from a group consisting of: a doll, a handheld electronic device, a portable electronic device comprising a video display, a portable electronic device comprising a speaker, an article of clothing, a backpack, and a portable item.
38. The computer software product of claim 26, wherein the configuration of the base-station further comprises a configuration to:
receive an accomplishment from the interactive toy at the base-station;
communicate the accomplishment from the base-station to the server;
receive an enabling message from the server at the base-station; and
enable different functionality on the interactive toy based on receipt of the enabling message.
39. The computer software product of claim 38, wherein the interactive toy is a first interactive toy and the accomplishment is the base-station receiving a communication signal from a second interactive toy.
40. The computer software product of claim 39, wherein the second interactive toy comprises a device selected from a group consisting of: a doll, a handheld electronic device, a portable electronic device comprising a video display, a portable electronic device comprising a speaker, an article of clothing, a backpack, and a portable item.
41. The computer software product of claim 38, wherein the accomplishment comprises a total of points accrued through interaction with the toy.
42. The computer software product of claim 38, wherein the accomplishment comprises the achievement of a higher level of interaction with the toy.
43. The computer software product of claim 38, wherein the interactive toy comprises a processor, a memory, and a storage medium and the enabling of different functionality comprises executing a set of instructions on the processor, the set of instructions stored on the storage medium.
44. The computer software product of claim 38, wherein the storage medium comprises a storage medium selected from a group consisting of: a removable storage medium, a non-removable storage medium, a CD, a DVD, and a memory module.
45. The computer software product of claim 38, wherein the base-station and the interactive toy each comprise a processor and a portable storage medium drive, the enabling of different functionality comprising enabling the base-station portable medium drive to write a set of processor executable instructions to a portable medium, the set of processor executable instructions sufficient to configure the interactive toy with different functionality when executed by the interactive toy's processor.
46. The computer software product of claim 38, wherein the interactive toy comprises a processor, a memory, the enabling message comprises data and enabling of different functionality comprises transferring the data to the interactive toy.
47. A base-station apparatus comprising:
a processor;
a memory coupled to the processor;
a storage media coupled to the memory and the processor;
a network connection coupled to the processor and to a network;
a wireless transceiver coupled to the memory and the processor, the wireless transceiver configured to transmit and receive wireless communication signals from a plurality of interactive toys;
wherein the storage media contains a set of machine executable instructions that when executed by the processor configure the interactive play apparatus to:
receive a code from at least one of the plurality of interactive toys;
communicate the code to a server on the network;
receive a validation message from the server; and
enable functionality on the interactive toy.
48. The base-station of claim 47, wherein a functionality of at least one of the plurality of the interactive toys is configurable.
49. The base-station of claim 47, wherein the code is a unique code associated with the interactive toy.
50. The base-station of claim 47, wherein receiving of the code from the toy comprises receiving a wireless communications signal from the toy, the wireless communications signal comprising the code.
51. The base-station of claim 50, wherein the wireless communications signal comprises a signal selected from a group consisted of: a wireless local area network signal, a wireless personal area network signal, a wireless metropolitan area network signal, an orthogonal frequency division multiplexed wireless signal, a direct sequence spread spectrum wireless signal, a frequency hopped spread spectrum wireless signal, and an impulse wireless signal.
52. The base-station of claim 47, wherein the base-station comprises a device selected from a group consisting of: a computer, a personal computer, an electronic device, a portable electronic device, a laptop computer, a desktop computer, a personal digital assistant, and a handheld electronic device.
53. The base-station of claim 47, wherein the network comprises a network selected from a group consisting of: a wireless local area network, a wireless personal area network, a wireless metropolitan area network, a public switched telephone network, a cellular network, a local area network, a personal area network, a metropolitan area network, and the Internet.
54. The base-station of claim 47, wherein the server comprises a device selected from a group consisting of: a computer, a personal computer, a desktop computer, a personal electronic device, a portable electronic device, a laptop computer and a personal digital assistant.
55. The base-station of claim 47, wherein at least one of the plurality of interactive toys comprises a processor, a memory, and a storage medium and the enabling of functionality comprises executing a set of instructions on the processor, the set of instructions stored on the storage medium.
56. The base-station of claim 55, wherein the interactive toy's storage medium comprises a storage medium selected from a group consisting of: a removable storage medium, a non-removable storage medium, a CD, a DVD, and a memory module.
57. The base-station of claim 55, wherein the code is a unique code associated with the toy's storage medium.
58. The base-station of claim 47, wherein the interactive toy comprises a device selected from a group consisting of: a doll, a handheld electronic device, a portable electronic device comprising a video display, a portable electronic device comprising a speaker, an article of clothing, a backpack, and a portable item.
59. The base-station of claim 47, wherein the configuration of the base-station further comprises a configuration to:
receive an accomplishment from at least one of the plurality of interactive toys at the base-station;
communicate the accomplishment from the base-station to the server;
receive an enabling message from the server at the base-station; and
enable different functionality on the interactive toy based on receipt of the enabling message.
60. The base-station of claim 59, wherein the interactive toy is a first interactive toy and the accomplishment is the base-station receiving a communication signal from a second interactive toy.
61. The base-station of claim 60, wherein the second interactive toy comprises a device selected from a group consisting of: a doll, a handheld electronic device, a portable electronic device comprising a video display, a portable electronic device comprising a speaker, an article of clothing, a backpack, and a portable item.
62. The base-station of claim 59, wherein the accomplishment comprises a total of points accrued through interaction with the toy.
63. The base-station of claim 59, wherein the accomplishment comprises the achievement of a higher level of interaction with the toy.
64. The base-station of claim 59, wherein at least one of the plurality of interactive toys comprises a processor, a memory, and a storage medium and the enabling of different functionality comprises executing a set of instructions on the toy's processor, the set of instructions stored on the toy's storage medium.
65. The base-station of claim 64, wherein the toy's storage medium comprises a storage medium selected from a group consisting of: a removable storage medium, a non-removable storage medium, a CD, a DVD, and a memory module.
66. The base-station of claim 59, wherein the base-station and at least one of the plurality of interactive toys each comprise a processor and a portable storage medium drive, the enabling of different functionality comprising enabling the base-station portable medium drive to write a set of processor executable instructions to a portable medium, the set of processor executable instructions sufficient to configure the interactive toy with different functionality when executed by the interactive toy's processor.
67. The base-station of claim 59, wherein at least one of the plurality of interactive toys comprises a processor, a memory, the enabling message comprises data and enabling of different functionality comprises transferring the data to the interactive toy.
68. An interactive toy comprising:
a processor;
a memory;
a storage medium; and
a communication transceiver,
wherein the storage medium contains a set of executable instructions that when executed by the processor configure the interactive toy to:
communicate a code to a base-station;
receive an enabling message from the base-station, the enabling message originating from a server on a network connected to the base-station;
enable interactive toy functionality based on receiving the enabling message from the base-station.
69. The interactive toy of claim 68, wherein the functionality of the interactive toy is configurable.
70. The interactive toy of claim 68, wherein the code is a unique code associated with the interactive toy.
71. The interactive toy of claim 68, wherein the communication of the code comprises transmitting a wireless communication signal from the toy to the base station, the wireless communication signal comprising the code.
72. The interactive toy of claim 71, wherein the wireless communications signal comprises a signal selected from a group consisted of: a wireless local area network signal, a wireless personal area network signal, a wireless metropolitan area network signal, an orthogonal frequency division multiplexed wireless signal, a direct sequence spread spectrum wireless signal, a frequency hopped spread spectrum wireless signal, and an impulse wireless signal.
73. The interactive toy of claim 68, wherein the base-station comprises a device selected from a group consisting of: a computer, a personal computer, an electronic device, a portable electronic device, a laptop computer, a desktop computer, a personal digital assistant, and a handheld electronic device.
74. The interactive toy of claim 68, wherein the network comprises a network selected from a group consisting of: a wireless local area network, a wireless personal area network, a wireless metropolitan area network, a public switched telephone network, a cellular network, a local area network, a personal area network, a metropolitan area network, and the Internet.
75. The interactive toy of claim 68, wherein the server comprises a device selected from a group consisting of: a computer, a personal computer, a desktop computer, a personal electronic device, a portable electronic device, a laptop computer and a personal digital assistant.
76. The interactive toy of claim 68, wherein the storage medium comprises a storage medium selected from a group consisting of: a removable storage medium, a non-removable storage medium, a CD, a DVD, and a memory module.
77. The interactive toy of claim 68, wherein the code is a unique code associated with the storage medium.
78. The interactive toy of claim 68, wherein the interactive toy comprises a device selected from a group consisting of: a doll, a handheld electronic device, a portable electronic device comprising a video display, a portable electronic device comprising a speaker, an article of clothing, a backpack, and a portable item.
79. The interactive toy of claim 68, wherein the configuration of the interactive toy further comprises a configuration to communicate an accomplishment from the interactive toy to the base-station; and
enable different functionality on the interactive toy.
80. The interactive toy of claim 79, wherein the interactive toy is a first interactive toy and the accomplishment is the interacting with a second interactive toy.
81. The interactive toy of claim 80, wherein the second interactive toy comprises a device selected from a group consisting of: a doll, a handheld electronic device, a portable electronic device comprising a video display, a portable electronic device comprising a speaker, an article of clothing, a backpack, and a portable item.
82. The interactive toy of claim 79, wherein the accomplishment comprises a total of points accrued through interaction with the toy.
83. The interactive toy of claim 79, wherein the accomplishment comprises the achievement of a higher level of interaction with the toy.
84. The interactive toy of claim 79, wherein the enabling of different functionality comprises executing a set of instructions on the processor, the set of instructions stored on the storage medium.
85. The interactive toy of claim 68, wherein the base-station comprises a processor and a portable storage medium drive, the enabling of different functionality comprising enabling the base-station portable medium drive to write a set of processor executable instructions to a portable medium, the set of processor executable instructions sufficient to configure the interactive toy with different functionality when executed by the interactive toy's processor.
86. An interactive play system comprising:
a doll, the doll configured with a plurality of controls, each of the plurality of controls capable of controlling the doll to take a unique physical action the doll further configured with a first communications transceiver; and
a handheld electronic device, the handheld electronic device comprising controls a display, a processor, a second communications transceiver; a storage medium, the storage medium configured with a set of processor executable instructions that when executed by the processor configure the handheld device to allow a user to play a video game;
wherein the electronic device is further configured to receive a first communication signal and adapt the play of the video game based on the received communication signal.
87. The interactive play system of claim 86, wherein the plurality of controls comprises knobs and push-buttons.
88. The interactive play system of claim 86, wherein the unique actions are selected from a group consisting of: a twist, a spin, and a duck down action.
89. The interactive play system of claim 86, wherein the first communications transceiver is configured to transmit the first communication signal containing data related to a unique action.
90. The Interactive play system of claim 86, further comprising a base station, the base station comprising a third communication transceiver, the third communication transceiver configured to receive a second communication signal from the doll and transmit the first communication signal to the handheld electronic device, the first and second communications signals containing data related to a unique action.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED CASES

This application is a continuation-in-part of co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/726,454, filed Mar. 22, 2007, which is a continuation-in-part of co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/540,369, filed Sep. 29, 2006, which is a continuation-in-part of co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/368,300, filed Mar. 3, 2006, which is a continuation-in-part of co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/255,852, filed Oct. 21, 2005. Priority is claimed to these applications and they are incorporated by reference in their entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to an interactive system. More particularly the present invention concerns a system, apparatus, and methods for interactive play.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Interactive toys have become increasingly popular in recent times. Children enjoy playing with toys that communicate or respond to different selections or prompts from the player.

For example, U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,663,393 (Ghaly) 5,607,336 (Lebensfeld et al.), 6,648,719 (Chan) and 6,585,556 (Smirnov) all disclose toys, dolls or action figures who act or respond based on some activation by the user, or by the surrounding events.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a system, apparatus and methods for overcoming some of the difficulties presented above. In an exemplary embodiment, a method of validation of an interactive toy, or storage medium is provided. In this embodiment, the interactive toy communicates a code to a base-station. The base-station communicates the code to a server on the network. The server validates the code and responds to the base station with a verification message. The base station sends a verification message to the interactive toy. In response to receiving a validation message, functionality is enabled on the interactive toy.

In a another embodiment a method of updating the functionality of interactive toys is provided. In this embodiment, once an interactive toy has been validated a user can interact with the toy. Over time the interactive toy will accrue an accomplishment point total based on the user interactions. These accomplishments are communicated to the server and once they exceed a predetermined threshold, additional functionality is imparted to the interactive toy via the base-station.

In a still further embodiment, base-station apparatus is provided. In this embodiment, the base-station includes a network interface configured to communicate with a server on a network, such as the Internet. The base-station is further configured with a communications transceiver configured to communicate with interactive toys. When a new interactive toy communicates with the base-station, the toy is authenticated on the network. Additionally, the base-station is configured to send accomplishments to the server and receive additional functionality from the server based on the accomplishments.

An additional provided embodiment is an interactive toy. The interactive toy make take a plurality of forms. The toy includes a processor, a memory, a storage medium, and a communications transceiver. The toy may be configured to authenticate itself on a network via a base-station and a server. Further, in some embodiments, the interactive toy may change its functionality through the download of additional data and in some instances software. The download may be initiated once an accomplishment point total is achieved.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Various embodiments of the present invention taught herein are illustrated by way of example, and not by way of limitation, in the figures of the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an interactive doll system according to one embodiment of the present invention with the doll shown positioned in the doll station;

FIG. 2 is a front perspective view of the doll station of the system of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a rear perspective view of the doll station of the system of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is an exploded perspective view of the base of the doll station of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a block diagram illustrating the electrical components of the system of FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 is a rear perspective view of a doll according to one embodiment that can be used with the system of FIG. 1;

FIG. 7 is a flow chart illustrating one possible flow of operation for the system of the present invention;

FIG. 8A illustrates a chip that can be used in connection with an accessory according to the present invention;

FIGS. 8B-8G illustrate various accessories that can be used with the system of the present invention;

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of a multi-doll system that utilizes the principles of the present invention;

FIG. 10A is a perspective view of an interactive doll system according to another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 10B is a block diagram illustrating the electrical components of the system of FIG. 10A;

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of an interactive toy system according to another embodiment of the present invention;

FIGS. 12A-12C illustrate various accessories that can be used with the toy system of FIG. 11;

FIG. 13 illustrates modifications that can be made to the teddy bear in the system of FIG. 11;

FIG. 14 is a block diagram illustrating the electrical components of the system of FIG. 13;

FIG. 15 is an exploded perspective view of a toy system according to yet another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 16 is a block diagram illustrating the electrical components of the system of FIG. 15;

FIG. 17 is a flow chart illustrating one possible flow of operation for the system of FIGS. 15-16.

FIG. 18 illustrates an example of a play activity that can involve the incorporation of accessories;

FIG. 19 is a perspective view of the interactive doll system of FIG. 10A with modifications made thereto;

FIG. 20 is a perspective view of an interactive doll system according to another embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 21 is a block diagram illustrating the electrical components of the system of FIG. 20;

FIG. 22 is a block diagram of the base station in FIG. 21;

FIG. 23 is an exploded perspective view of an interactive clothing system according to one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 24 is a block diagram illustrating the electrical components of the system of FIG. 23;

FIG. 25 is an exploded perspective view illustrating one example of the operation of the interactive clothing system of FIG. 23;

FIG. 26 is a block diagram illustrating a modification that can be made to the storage device of FIGS. 23 and 24;

FIG. 27 illustrates a network consistent with provided embodiments;

FIG. 28 illustrates the flow of a provided method;

FIG. 29 illustrates the flow of another provided method;

FIG. 30 illustrates an interactive play system consistent with various provided embodiments; and

FIG. 31 illustrates a base-station device consistent with various provided embodiments.

It will be recognized that some or all of the Figures are schematic representations for purposes of illustration and do not necessarily depict the actual relative sizes or locations of the elements shown. The Figures are provided for the purpose of illustrating one or more embodiments of the invention with the explicit understanding that they will not be used to limit the scope or the meaning of the claims.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

In the following paragraphs, the present invention will be described in detail by way of example with reference to the attached drawings. While this invention is capable of embodiment in many different forms, there is shown in the drawings and will herein be described in detail specific embodiments, with the understanding that the present disclosure is to be considered as an example of the principles of the invention and not intended to limit the invention to the specific embodiments shown and described. That is, throughout this description, the embodiments and examples shown should be considered as exemplars, rather than as limitations on the present invention. Descriptions of well known components, methods and/or processing techniques are omitted so as to not unnecessarily obscure the invention. As used herein, the “present invention” refers to any one of the embodiments of the invention described herein, and any equivalents. Furthermore, reference to various feature(s) of the “present invention” throughout this document does not mean that all claimed embodiments or methods must include the referenced feature(s).

As used herein, the term “doll” is not limited solely to a fashion doll or play doll, but encompasses figurines, action figures, toy animals, plush toys, miniature animals, or any miniaturized or toy version of any living creature.

Embodiments of the present invention provide an interactive toy system which allows the user to enact real-life activities of a doll, animal, action-figure or similar creature. More specifically, the present invention provides a toy system 20 which provides for interactive play between the system 20 and the user. The user can select different play programs which will program the doll or toy with certain emotions, responses or characters, and which will allow or direct the user to enact selected real-life activities for the doll or toy.

According to one embodiment of the present invention, the doll or toy merely functions as an object that is used by the player to enact selected real-life activities, and does not communicate or interact with the player. According to this embodiment, the player communicates solely with a base unit or doll station, which provides instructions or messages to the player regarding how the real-life activities are to be enacted. The player then utilizes the doll or toy to carry out the enactment. In this embodiment, the doll or toy may communicate interactively with the base unit or doll station, but will not communicate directly with the player.

FIG. 1 illustrates the basic components of an interactive play system 20 according to one embodiment of the present invention. In its most basic form, interactive play system 20 includes a doll 22, a doll station 24 and a storage device 26. However, as explained herein below, the interactive play system 20 can also include a plurality of dolls 22, a plurality of doll stations 24, and a plurality of storage devices 26, all of which can be utilized to create a multi-variety interactive game system.

The storage device 26 can have a housing 28 that houses any conventional and well-known medium that includes a memory 30 (see FIG. 5) for storing digital data. Memory 30 can be embodied in the form of a memory card or cartridge or any other conventional storage medium, including a RAM, a ROM, or any writeable memory. Housing 28 can be ornamentally configured according to a given theme (e.g., princess theme) for the system, and can also include a communication (e.g., input/output) port 32 which is adapted to be removably coupled to a communication (e.g., input/output) port 34 at the doll station 24. Memory 30 can be adapted to store programs (software) for controlling the operation of doll station 24, as described below. Memory 30 can also be adapted to store data that can be transferred to doll station 24. Such data can include verbal or written messages, pre-recorded statements, sounds, music, light shows and other similar responses that can be displayed on the display screen 36 at doll station 24, or emitted from speaker 38 at the doll station 24. As used herein, display screen 36 and speaker 38 are mechanisms used by the interactive play system 20 to present a message. In addition, interactive play system 20 can provide a plurality of different storage devices 26, with each storage device 26 storing software and/or data for different applications. For example, one storage device 26 can contain software and data directed to a princess doll application, another storage device 26 can contain software and data directed to a beach application, another storage device 26 can contain software and data directed to a party application, and another storage device 26 can contain software and data directed to a safari application, among others, The player can vary his/her play variety by selecting the desired storage device 26 for a desired application.

In addition, the storage device 26 can be coupled to a personal computer PC (see FIG. 5) to download new programs (either from the PC or from a network such as the Internet) that can be used to play the system 20. In this regard, the storage device 26 can be embodied in the form of a CD or other diskette.

In one embodiment doll station 24 is adapted to hold a doll 22 during use. Referring to FIGS. 2-3, doll station 24 has a base 40, a rear wall 42, and a roof 44. Another embodiment of doll station 24 is illustrated in FIG. 4, the base 40 has a base housing 46 and a front panel 48. The base housing 46 defines an interior space 50 for holding the doll 22, and has an opening 52 in its front wall 54 for receiving the front panel 48. Front panel 48 houses the electronics (see FIG. 5) of doll station 24, which in some embodiments includes a processor 56 and memory 58. Memory 58 can be used to store basic operating instructions for processor 56, in which case the memory 58 can be embodied in the form of a Random Access Memory (RAM) or Read Only Memory (ROM).

In one embodiment, memory 58 is used to store some or all of the programs. In this embodiment memory 30 on storage device 26 is used primarily for storing data that can be utilized to control or change the operation parameters of the programs stored in the memory 58. Referring to FIGS. 4 and 5, communication port 34, speaker 38 and display screen 36 are provided on front panel 48, and are all coupled to the processor 56. The front panel 48 can also include a control pad 60 and control buttons 62. Communications port 34 functions to allow data and instructions to be transferred from the memory 30 in storage device 26 to processor 56 in front panel 48. Display screen 36 functions to display words, images, colors, and patterns that are in response to instructions or data. In one embodiment, display screen 36 displays animations and videos. In some embodiments the contents of display screen are provided by the storage device 26 or the doll 22.

In a further embodiment speaker 38 emits sounds to provide vocal instructions and music. Speaker 38 and display screen 36 are both controlled by processor 56. Control pad 60 and buttons 62 are additionally coupled to processor 56 and may provide control signals to processor 56. One feature of this embodiment is that it allows a player to control the operation of the interactive play system 20 by interacting with control pad 60 and buttons 62. For example, the player can press selected buttons 62, or control pad 60, to select desired play modes or features, or to perform any of the play functions described herein below.

Another embodiment is illustrated by referring back to FIG. 3. In this embodiment base 40 is provided with a battery compartment accessed by battery cover 64. Batteries 66 (see FIG. 5) can be housed inside the battery compartment, and coupled to the electronics to power the operation of doll station 24.

In one embodiment rear wall 42 extends from the top rear portion of base 40, and is slightly curved to define a background wall for doll 22. An optional window 68 is provided, in some embodiments, in rear wall 42 for ornamental or functional (e.g., provide access) purposes. In further embodiments, antenna 70 is provided in the rear wall 42 (see FIG. 3), antenna 70 is coupled to the electronics shown in FIG. 5 via wiring (not shown) that extends through base housing 46 and front panel 48.

Roof 44 is optional, and can be attached to the top of rear wall 42 to provide a cover or shade for doll 22 when doll 22 is positioned inside the doll station 24. In some embodiments a handle (not shown) is provided on top of roof 44 to provide a mechanism for a user to carry doll station 24.

In some embodiments, illustrated in FIG. 1, interior space 50 of base 40 is adapted to hold a doll 22 with the doll 22 in the standing position. The doll 22 may be positioned in front of rear wall 42, and below roof 44. A user can insert doll 22 into interior space 50 via the open front space defined by roof 44, base 40 and rear wall 42. Even though the present embodiment illustrates the doll 22 as being positioned in a standing position, in some embodiments base housing 46, rear wall 42 and roof 44 are configured to accommodate doll 22 in any desired position (sitting, standing, etc.).

Another embodiment is illustrated in FIG. 6. In this embodiment doll 22 is provided with a electronic chip 72 that is secured in slot 74 that is cut out from torso 76 of doll 22. Referring to FIG. 5, chip 72, in some embodiments, includes memory 78 that is coupled to controller 82 that is in turn coupled to antenna 80. Antenna 80, and associated transceiver electronics, are adapted to communicate with the electronics in base 40 via antenna 70 in rear wall 42. In addition, in some embodiments, a small battery 84 is fitted into part of slot 74 and powers chip 72. Battery 84 can be embodied in the form of a small watch battery. In some embodiments, memory 80 in doll 22 contains data which identifies doll 22 and certain characteristics of doll 22. These characteristics can include the name, age, height, weight, size, likes, dislikes, mood, requests, type of voice (low-pitch, high-pitch, soft, loud, etc.), and any other characteristic (e.g., shy, outgoing, gregarious, etc.) that can be ascribed to a doll. Data corresponding to desired characteristics can be transferred from memory 80 to doll station 24 to activate different responses (e.g., verbal or written messages, pre-recorded statements, sounds, music, light shows, etc.) that can be displayed on display screen 36 at doll station 24, or emitted from speaker 38 at doll station 24. As a further alternative, memory 78 in chip 72 can contain programs relating to different activities that specific doll 22 can engage in, and these programs can be executed by processor 56.

In one embodiment when doll 22 is placed inside interior space 50 of base 40, antennas 70 and 80 are capable of communicating with each other. In one non-limiting embodiment of the present invention, antennas 70 and 80 are selected to be used with short-range communication technologies that can only communicate wireless signals over a short distance. The use of such short-range communication technologies ensures that the doll 22 is positioned in, or in close proximity to, base 40 before that particular doll 22 can be the subject of the activity. One feature of this embodiments is that the use of short range communication technology allows base 40 to interact with multiple types of doll 22 when each is in communication range of base 40. In embodiments where longer range communication technologies are used in a multi-doll interactive play system 20, antenna 70 at base 40 can be receiving signals from multiple dolls 22.

Next, the characteristics of the doll 22 are transferred to the processor 56 at doll station 24 (see step 102 below) and processor 56 can identify doll 22. In addition, as described below, the user can select a desired application by selecting one of a variety of storage devices 26.

FIG. 7 is a flowchart that illustrates one non-limiting example of an activity flow for the interactive play system 20. In a first block 100, doll 22 is placed inside interior space 50 of base 40. In block 102, processor 56 identifies doll 22 in the manner described above, and receives the characteristics of doll 22. For example, interactive play system 20 can be provided with a plurality of different dolls 22 that can all be used with the same doll station 24. Thus, the identity of doll 22 is determined in block 102. Flow continues to block 104 where a player may select a storage device 26 and insert it into front panel 48. In block 106, processor 56 identifies selected storage device 26 (e.g., via signals from memory 30 to processor 56 that are communicated via ports 32 and 34) and determines whether the selected storage device 26 can be used with the selected doll 22. For example, some of storage devices 26 have applications that cannot be used with some of the dolls 22 in the interactive play system 20, and block 106 functions to determine whether the player has selected a compatible storage device 26 (i.e., application). If the selected storage device 26 is not compatible with the selected doll 22, the processor 56 will, in some embodiments, cause a message to be displayed on display screen 36, or announced through speaker 38, in block 108. This informs the player that an incompatible storage device 26 has been selected. If the selected storage device 26 is compatible with the selected doll 22, in block 110, processor 56 will, in some embodiments, download different software programs from memory 30 in storage device 26, and may display the various choices in the form of a menu on display screen 36. In block 112, the player can select the desired program for play, which is then executed in block 114. At the end of the execution of the selected program, processing returns to block 112 where the player can again select the next program for play.

Even though the flow of the present invention is described as including the use of a menu displaying various selections of programs, it is also possible to provide each storage device 26 with only one selection, so that a menu would be unnecessary.

A variety of different programs can be provided for selection by the player. Many of these programs are adapted to allow the player to enact real-life activities for doll 22, as if doll 22 were alive and going through the normal daily activities of a living doll. These programs can be based on any of the following: (i) the characteristics of doll 22 that have been downloaded from memory 78 on chip 72, (ii) the nature of the environment portrayed by doll station 24, and (iii) the programs and/or theme of the selected storage device 26. These programs can also be independent of any of these parameters, and any of these parameters can be used together or independent of each other. It is the provision and selection of these parameters that allow the player to be able to enact the real-life activities of doll 22. The following are a few non-limiting examples of programs (enacting activities) that can be stored in memory 30 and/or 58 and/or 78 for play on doll station 24.

EXAMPLE 1

Processor 56 causes speaker 38 to emit an instruction, such as “I'm cold, please put a jacket on me”. The player then goes to his/her doll accessories, takes a doll jacket and dresses doll 22 with a jacket.

EXAMPLE 2

Processor 56 causes speaker 38 to emit an instruction, such as “I would like to go to the beach”. The player then takes doll 22 out of base 40 and takes doll 22 to another doll station 24 that represents a beach environment, and inserts doll 22 into base 40 of the beach doll station 24. The steps outlined in FIG. 7 are then executed with respect to the beach doll station 24, and the play continues.

EXAMPLE 3

Processor 56 causes the speaker 38 to emit an instruction, such as “I would like to play with a friend”. The player then takes a different (second) doll 22 and places it adjacent the doll station 24 so that the two dolls 22 can supposedly play with each other. The steps outlined in FIG. 7 are executed with respect to the second doll 22 and the station 24, and the play continues.

EXAMPLE 4

Processor 56 causes display screen 36 to display a colorful message, accompanied by music from speaker 38. This performance can reflect the identity of doll 22. For example, if doll 22 is intended to be a happy doll, display screen 36 can be caused to display bright and colorful images, and speaker 38 can broadcast cheerful music. On the other hand, if doll 22 is intended to be an evil doll, display screen 36 can be caused to display malicious or dark images, and speaker 38 can broadcast somber music. These performances can be used to reflect the attitude, character, emotions or mood of doll 22.

EXAMPLE 5

In one non-limiting embodiment, the accessories that accompany doll 22 can be provided with electronic chips similar to chip 72 that allow for the accessory to communicate with doll station 24. For example, FIGS. 5 and 8A illustrate an electronic chip 172 that can be provided for use with an accessory. The electronic chip 172 is coupled to antenna 180 that is further coupled to memory 178 and controller 182. In one embodiment memory 178 is memory 78 and controller 182 is controller 82. Antenna 180 allows the electronic chip 172 to communicate with processor 56 via antenna 70. Memory 178 in chip 172 stores data identifying the characteristics of the intended accessory. Antenna 180 can be the same as the antenna 80.

FIGS. 8B-8G illustrate various accessories that, in some embodiments, incorporate chip 172, such as hat 130 (FIG. 8B), hair brush 132 (FIG. 8C), a pair of boots 134 (FIG. 8D), skirt 136 (FIG. 8E), blouse 138 (FIG. 8F), and a pair of trousers 140 (FIG. 8G). Any of these accessories can be used or carried by doll 22. For example, doll 22 could be wearing blouse 138 when it is placed inside base 40. Chip 172 on blouse 138 would communicate with processor 56 (via antennas 70 and 180) to identify blouse 138. If blouse 138 is not the correct blouse 138 for the particular doll 22, processor 56 can cause a message to be delivered (either via the speaker 38 and/or the display screen 36) stating that “the blouse does not belong to this doll”. As another example, if the program decides that doll 22 is supposed to wear another article of clothing, the program can cause processor 56 to deliver a message (via the speaker 38 and/or the display screen 36) stating that “I do not like to wear this blouse; please dress me with another article of clothing”. The same play examples can be provided for any accessory.

Alternatively, a program from any of the memories 30, 58, 78, or 178 can cause speaker 38 or display screen 36 to emit an instruction, such as “Please give me my hair brush”. The player then takes hair brush 132 and places it in the doll's hand. The electronic chip 172 on hair brush 132 would communicate with processor 56 (via antennas 70 and 180) to identify hair brush 132. If the player inadvertently places the wrong accessory (e.g., hat 130) on doll 22, processor 56 can cause speaker 38 and/or display screen 36 to emit a message informing the player that the wrong accessory has been chosen.

FIG. 18 illustrates one non-limiting example of a play activity that can involve the incorporation of accessories. The image shown in FIG. 18 can be shown on display screen 36 (or any of the display screens 36 c, 36 d described below). FIG. 18 is an image on the screen 36 that illustrates doll 22 inside a fashion store that sells shoes 134 and handbags 133, as well as other accessories 131. These shoes 134 and handbags 133 are virtual representations of actual shoes 134 and handbags 133 that are supplied with the interactive play system 20. The player can then take a selected accessory (e.g., a pair of shoes 134) and dress or otherwise associate the actual doll 22 with the actual accessory. When shoes 134 are worn by the doll 22, controller 182 on chip 172 of shoes 134 will communicate with processor 56 to identify the shoes 134 being worn. The processor 56 will then cause display screen 36 to change the image shown in FIG. 18 to show the selected shoes 134 being removed from shelf 129 (shelf 129 is a virtual shelf that only appears on display screen 36) and placed on to the feet of the virtual image of doll 22 on display screen 36. When the player removes shoes 134 from the feet of the actual doll 22, the image on display screen 36 will replicate that activity. The player can select another pair of shoes 134 to be worn by the actual doll 22, and the image on display screen 36 will again show the newly-selected shoes 134 being removed from shelf 129 and placed on to the feet of the virtual image of doll 22 on display screen 36.

Other play activities involving these accessories can include games and challenges. For example, a program from any of the memories 30, 58, 78, or 178 can cause speaker 38 and/or display screen 36 to guide a user through a first activity (e.g., a game or challenge) where the user can accumulate points for use in a second or subsequent activity (e.g., a shopping spree). For example, the user can accumulate points by correctly answering certain questions, successfully navigating a maze or other obstacle(s), or designing new fashion outfits. The program then guides the user through a shopping spree where the user can visit any number of shops selling these accessories, and purchase any desired accessories using the points accumulated from the first activity. For example, if a user has accumulated fifty points, the user can allocate these fifty points for use in purchasing different accessories from different shops, with each accessory having a different point requirement for purchase. As the user purchases these accessories, the user can physically dress doll 22 with the tangible embodiment of the accessory (e.g., the blouse 138) while interactive play system 20 checks to ensure that blouse 138 being worn by doll 22 corresponds to blouse 138 that had been purchased.

EXAMPLE 6

The processor 56 causes speaker 38 to emit an instruction, such as “I want to dance”. The player then takes doll 22 out of base 40 and plays with doll 22, pretending that doll 22 is dancing. During this time, speaker 38 can be broadcasting dance music, and display screen 36 can be displaying bright lights and other images.

EXAMPLE 7

The processor 56 can recognize and store information relating to the programs selected by the player, play patterns of the player, or anything related to the use and play of interactive play system 20. This information can be transferred to memory 30 in storage device 26 via ports 34 and 32. The player can select such recognition and storage functions by manipulating buttons 62 and/or control pad 60. The information in memory 30 can then be transferred by storage device 26 to a PC where the information can be analyzed, processed and stored for any desired purpose.

EXAMPLE 8

FIG. 9 illustrates the provision of a multi-doll interactive play system 20 a, where a plurality of dolls 22 a (each of which can be the same in construction as doll 22) can be electrically coupled to a plurality of doll sub-stations 24 a (each of which can be the same in principle as base 40). The sub-stations 24 a can be part of a larger doll station 24 b. Each sub-station 24 a can have its own antenna or communication device, but an additional antenna 70 a (or communication device) can be provided to facilitate communication between doll station 24 b and any (or all) of dolls 22 a.

EXAMPLE 9

Memory 58 can contain programs that include diaries, directories and calendars so that the user can input important dates, addresses, and entries for either the user or doll 22. A user can access these diaries, directories and calendars via front panel 48, or base unit 24 c described below.

FIGS. 10A-10B illustrate another embodiment of system 20 c consistent with various embodiments of the present invention where doll station 24 is now replaced by a hand-held base unit 24 c. In particular, doll 22 c (which can be the same as doll 22) does not need to be positioned inside or adjacent a doll station 24, but can instead be positioned as a stand-alone doll 22 c without a base station 24. The base unit 24 c can include all the functions and basic elements of doll station 24. A separate storage device 26 c (which can be the same as storage device 26) can be inserted through a port 34 c (which can be the same as port 34) in the housing 46 c of base unit 24 c. Similar to doll station 24, the base unit 24 c can also include a display screen 36 c, speakers 38 c, and a control pad 60 c that can be the same as the corresponding elements in the doll station 24. An antenna 70 c can be provided in the housing 46 c of the base unit 24 c for communicating with antenna 80 c (see FIGS. 10A and 10B) in doll 22 c.

The interactive play system 20 c can operate in the same manner as interactive play system 20, as described above. Specifically, interactive play system 20 c allows a player to enact real-life activities of doll 22 c, such as the activities described in Examples 1, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 9 above. The interactive play system 20 c can also implement the flowchart of FIG. 7.

Between the interactive play systems 20 and 20 c, the interactive play system 20 c may be better suited for use with a single doll 22 c, so that base unit 24 c does not need to distinguish between signals received from a plurality of dolls 22 c that are positioned in close-enough proximity to the base unit 24 c. On the other hand, interactive play system 20 may be better suited to use with a plurality of dolls 22 because the short-range communications technology used in some embodiments of interactive play system 20 allow doll station 24 to distinguish between different dolls 22.

In some embodiments, the accessories used with doll 22 c can also include patches of conductive ink. For example, in FIG. 10, dress 136 c can be provided with patches of conductive ink 135 c which can incorporate circuitry and even an antenna. Thus, the conductive ink 135 c can be used in lieu of the chip 172 that is provided for the accessories in FIGS. 8B-8G.

FIG. 10B illustrates the electrical components of interactive play system 20 c, with the same elements in FIGS. 5 and 10B having the same numeral designations except that a “c” has been added to the designations in FIG. 10B. In some embodiments, the interactive play systems shown in FIGS. 5 and 10B are the same except that the interactive play system 20 c in FIG. 10B can provide electrical contacts 77 c and 177 c on doll 22 c and the accessory (e.g., dress 136 c), respectively. These contacts 77 c and 177 c form an electrical coupling between doll 22 c and the accessory (e.g., dress 136 c) so that interactive play system 20 c can accurately identify the specific accessory that has been used with doll 22 c. In particular, controller 182 c in chip 172 c of dress 136 c can communicate with controller 82 c in doll 22 c, which can in turn can communicate to processor 56 c the identity of dress 136 c that has been connected. These contacts 77 c, 177 c can be embodied using any of the concepts described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,648,719 and 6,719,604, whose entire disclosures are incorporated by this reference as though set forth fully herein.

The principles of the present invention are not limited to action figures and fashion dolls only. FIGS. 11 and 12 illustrate another embodiment of an interactive play system 20 d that is consistent with various embodiments of the present invention where doll 22 c is now replaced by a teddy bear 22 d or other toy animal. The interactive play system 20 d also includes a base unit 24 d that, in some embodiments, is identical to base unit 24 c, and a storage device 26 d that is identical to storage devices 26 c and 26. Teddy bear 22 d can also include an electronic chip (such as 72) and a battery (such as 84) to facilitate operation and use in the same manner as for the dolls 22 and 22 c described above. Thus, a player can enact the same activities described above for the teddy bear 22 d, including changing accessories and outfits. For example, teddy bear 22 d can be provided with accessories that incorporate an electronic chip 172 d, including a fork 132 d (see FIG. 12A), a shirt 138 d (see FIG. 12B), and a pair of trousers 140 d (see FIG. 12C). These accessories are capable of communicating with station 24 d in the same way that the accessories in FIGS. 10 10A-10B are capable of communicating with the doll station 24 c.

In addition, as best shown in FIG. 13, teddy bear 22 d can be provided with pivotable appendages 200 that are pivotably connected to other appendages 200 to create movable limbs and body parts. These appendages 200 can be controlled by gears (e.g., 202) that are operatively connected to a servo motor (not shown) housed in a motor unit 204. The motor unit 204 can include an electronic chip (not shown) that, in some embodiments, is the same as electronic chip 72 in doll 22, and can also include an antenna 80 d. The motor unit 204 has a port 206 that can receive another storage device 26 e. The storage device 26 e can contain software which imparts different characteristics to teddy bear 22 d, and which can be used in addition to the software stored in station 24 d and storage device 26 d (i.e., that is used with station 24 d). For example, a plurality of different storage devices 26 e can be provided, each designed to cause teddy bear 22 d to assume a different mood (e.g., happy, sad, angry, etc.) or character (e.g., quiet, gregarious, etc.) or motion (e.g., cause the appendages to move faster or slower, or to dance, or to walk, etc.). A player can select a specific storage device 26 e depending on the mood, character and/or motion desired for teddy bear 22 d. Storage device 26 d can be used to enact a different activity for teddy bear 22 d, with the activity carried out based on the chosen mood, character and/or motion determined by storage device 26 e. Alternatively, the different moods, characters and/or motions can be programmed into the memory (not shown) inside the motor unit 204 (instead of providing a plurality of storage devices 26 e), and selected by the player by actuating control buttons 208 on motor unit 204.

The teddy bear 22 d in FIGS. 11 and 13 can be modified to function as a base unit or station itself, so that the station 24 d can be omitted and the elements of the station 24 d can be provided as part of teddy bear 22 d. For example, a display screen 36 d, a speaker 38 d, a control pad 60 d and control buttons 62 d can be provided on the teddy bear 24 d. In this embodiment, motor unit 204 houses a battery 66 d, a processor 56 d and a memory 58 d that are electrically coupled to the antenna 80 d, the display screen 36 d, the speaker 38 d and the control buttons 62 d and control pad 60 d in the manner illustrated in FIG. 14. Thus, when FIG. 14 is compared with FIG. 5, these two interactive play systems 20 and 20 d are essentially the same except that (i) antenna 80 d now functions as antenna 70, (ii) port 206 now functions as port 34, (iii) storage device(s) 26 e now function as storage device(s) 26 and 26 d, and (iv) electronic chip 72 in FIG. 5 has been omitted. In addition, each electronic chip 172 d be coupled to an antenna 180 d, controller 182 d and memory 178 d that correspond to antenna 180, controller 182 and memory 178 in FIGS. 1-5 and 8A-8G, and each storage device 26 e can include a memory 30 e and port 32 e that correspond to the memory 30 and port 32 in FIGS. 1-5.

In some embodiments, the wireless connection via the antennas 80 d and 180 d, is replaced by, electrical contacts 77 d and 177 d which are provided on teddy bear 22 d and accessory (e.g., shirt 138 d), respectively. Referring to FIG. 14, contacts 77 d and 177 d can form an electrical coupling between teddy bear 22 d and accessory (e.g., shirt 138 d) so that interactive play system 20 d can accurately identify the specific accessory that has been used with teddy bear 22 d. In particular, controller 182 d in electronic chip 172 d of shirt 138 d can communicate with processor 56 d in teddy bear 22 d, thereby indicating to processor 56 d the identity of shirt 138 d that has been connected.

In some embodiments, interactive play system 20 d is modified to include a Personal Computer (“PC”) and a PC monitor 210. The antenna 70 d on the station 24 d can communicate signals with antenna 212 on the PC or other computer, and the images displayed on screen 38 d can be replicated on monitor 210. The PC can even be used to store programs, and to transfer programs to station 24 d for execution thereat.

The principles in FIGS. 13 and 14 can also be applied for use with systems shown in FIGS. 1-10B. In particular, dolls 22 and 22 c can be provided with appendages (similar to 200 in FIG. 13) so that a user can use the doll station 24 or the station 24 c to move the appendages on doll 22 or 22 c. This is illustrated in FIG. 19 using the interactive play system 20 c, where doll 22 c is shown as having movable limbs (e.g., 71 c and 73 c) that can be controlled by doll station 24 c. In some embodiments, doll 22 c is provided with a speaker 75 c at the mouth, a movable head 81 c, and blinking lights 83 c (e.g., an LED) at the eyes so that doll 22 c can simulate a real-life human being by speaking through speaker 75 c, blinking through lights 83 c, and moving its limbs 71 c, 73 c.

The doll systems shown and described in connection with FIGS. 1 and 10A can be configured in a variety of different ways, with different components. FIGS. 20 and 21 illustrate yet another way of configuring the doll system. The interactive play system 20 h in FIGS. 20 and 21 has a doll 22 h that can be the same as doll 22 c, a station 24 h that can be the same as the station 24 c (with the exceptions noted below), a storage device 26 h that can be the same as the storage device 26 c (with the exceptions noted below), and a doll station that has a base 40 h, a rear wall 42 h, and a roof 44 h that can be the same as the base 40, the rear wall 42, and the roof 44 in FIG. 1 (with the exceptions noted below), respectively. FIG. 21 illustrates the electrical components of the system 20 h, with the same elements in FIGS. 5, 10B and 21 having the same numeral designations except that an “h” has been added to the designations in FIG. 21.

One difference between the interactive play system 20 h and the interactive play systems 20, 20 c is in the communication modes between the respective components. In some embodiments of the interactive play system 20 h, the base 40 h does not have the front panel 48 (which is now incorporated into the base unit 24 h), but the base 40 h includes the electrical components illustrated in FIG. 22, including an infrared transmitter 90 h, a controller 92 h, a battery 94 h and a memory 98 h that are interconnected in the manner shown in FIG. 22. Memory 98 h can be used to store data, software and programs similar to data, software and programs that are stored in memory 58. The antenna 70 h in the rear wall 42 h can be electrically connected to the controller 92 h. In addition, an infrared receiver 96 h can be provided on the housing of the base unit 24 h and electrically connected to processor 56 h, so that base unit 24 h no longer has the antenna 70 c. The storage device 26 h can further include an antenna 97 h that is coupled to a processor 99 h inside the storage device 26 h. The elements 30 h, 32 h, 58 h, 66 h, 72 h, 80 h, 82 h, 78 h, 172 h, 180 h, 182 h, 178 h in FIG. 21 can be identical to the elements 30, 32, 58, 66, 72, 80, 82, 78, 172, 180, 182, 178 in FIG. 5, respectively.

The interactive play system 20 h operates in the following manner according to one non-limiting embodiment of the present invention. The doll 22 h communicates with the base station via antenna 80 h at doll 22 h and antenna 70 h at the rear wall 42 h. The controller 92 h in base 40 h receives these communications from antenna 70 h, and then communicates with base unit 24 h via the infrared transmitter 90 h and the infrared receiver 96 h to the processor 56 h.

The provision of an antenna 97 h at the storage device 26 h provides another alternative form of communication. If the base station is misplaced, omitted, or not used, doll 22 h can still communicate with station 24 h. Specifically, doll 22 h can communicate with storage device 26 h via antenna 80 h at doll 22 h and antenna 97 h at storage device 26 h. The processor 99 h in storage device 26 h receives these communications from antenna 97 h, and then communicates with station 24 h via ports 32 h and 34 h.

The interactive play system 20 h can operate in the same manner as the interactive play systems 20 and 20 c, as described above. Specifically, interactive play system 20 h also allows a player to enact real-life activities of doll 22 h, such as the activities described in Examples 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7 above. In some embodiments, interactive play system 20 h implements the functionality illustrated in flowchart of FIG. 7.

The principles in FIGS. 11 and 13-14 can be further extended to provide an interactive constructional or building system. FIGS. 15-16 illustrate a constructional system 20 f having a station 24 f that, in some embodiments, is similar to teddy bear 22 d in interactive play system 20 e of FIG. 14 where teddy bear 22 d is itself a station. In this embodiment, the station 24 f forms a basic building block upon which other pieces 130 f, 132 f, 134 f can be connected or assembled to form different resulting objects.

In some embodiments station 24 f includes all of the elements of the station 24, including a battery 66 f, a processor 56 f, a memory 58 f, a display screen 36 f, a speaker 38 f, a control pad 60 f, a control button 62 f and a port 34 f that can be the same as the corresponding elements in FIGS. 1-5. The station 24 f can also include an electrical coupling 70 f for receiving a piece 130 f, 132 f, 134 f, etc. In some embodiments, coupling 70 f is similar to contacts 77 c and 77 d described above. The storage device 26 f can include all of the elements of the storage device 26, including a memory 30 f and a port 32 f. In addition, each of the pieces 130 f, 132 f, 134 f can correspond to different accessories 130, 132, 134, etc., in FIGS. 8B-8G, and in this embodiment can represent a head 130 f, an arm 132 f and a leg 134 f. Each of these pieces 130 f, 132 f, 134 f can also include an electronic chip 172 f that can be the same as the electronic chip 172, and include the corresponding coupling 177 f (which can be the same as coupling 177 c and 177 d described above), controller 182 f and memory 178 f.

In one embodiment, the station 24 f includes software that is adapted to recognize the various pieces 130 f, 132 f, 134 f, etc. In addition, each different storage device 26 f can include software for guiding a player in constructing a particular object. For example, memory 30 f in a specific storage device 26 f can contain software for guiding the player in constructing a dinosaur, and memory 30 f in another storage device 26 f can contain software for guiding the player in constructing a bird. Alternatively, storage device 26 f can be omitted, and memory 58 f in station 24 f can store the different software that can be selected by the player for guiding the player in constructing the different objects.

One possible use of the interactive play system 20 f is illustrated in the flowchart of FIG. 17, which is educational in nature. In block 220, a player first selects the object to be constructed. This can be accomplished by selecting a software that has been stored in memory 58 f, or by selecting the desired storage device 26 f and inserting the selected storage device 26 f into port 34 f. Next, in block 222, the selected software will cause instructions or images to appear on display screen 36 f and/or through speaker 38 f illustrating the next piece (e.g., arm 132 f that needs to be connected to station 24 f. In block 224, the player connects coupling 177 f of arm 132 f to the appropriate coupling 70 f. In one embodiment coupling 70 f is an electrical coupling (e.g., an electrical contact) that allows controller 182 f in electronic chip 172 f of arm 132 f to communicate with processor 56 f in station 24 f, thereby indicating to processor 56 f the identity of the piece that has been connected. In block 226, processor 56 f checks to see if the correct piece has been connected. If yes, then processing proceeds to block 230 to determine if the object has been completed. If the object has not been completed, processing returns to block 222 to issue the next instructions or images for connecting the next piece. If at block 226 it is determined that the incorrect piece has been connected, processing proceeds to block 228 where an error message is displayed (on display screen 36 f) and/or broadcast (over speaker 38 f). Processing then returns to block 222 where the same instruction or image is displayed or broadcast again. This continues until the desired object has been completed at block 230. The flowchart of FIG. 17 can also include an alternative block 232 where the player can use the completed object in the same manner as teddy bear 22 d to enact real-life activities for the completed object, according to the principles described above.

The interactive play system 20 f can be used to generate a variety of different activities. According to a second activity, memory 30 f in storage device 26 f or memory 58 f in base unit 24 f can store software and a database relating to the construction of different objects. This activity allows the player to initiate the construction and then gives the player choices as to what object(s) the player can assemble based on the start initiated by the player. Thus, this activity is more creative and interactive in nature. For example, in a first step, the player connects a piece (e.g., arm 132 f) to any coupling (e.g., 70 f) in station 24 f. Then, in the next block, the software will determine the different objects that can be constructed based on the initial first connection, and will display the options to the player on display screen 36 f, including instructions for assembling each option. The player can continue to connect additional pieces, and as each additional piece is connected, the software will update its identification of the connected pieces from its database, and cause display screen 36 f at station 24 f to display new and updated options for the player. This process continues until an object is completely assembled, and even at that point, the player can continue to connect additional pieces, while the software will continue to search its database for possible new objects that can be built. This activity allows the player to engage in either (i) a challenging and creative interactive building game where the player attempts to outwit the interactive play system 20 f in building an object, or (ii) an instructional interactive game where the interactive play system 20 f can guide the player in building one of many different objects.

As a non-limiting example, even though the present invention illustrates the use of antennas to facilitate communication between doll station 24 and doll 22 and accessories, it is also possible to use wires and other known electrical couplings to facilitate such communication. Also, the wired communication between ports 32 and 34 can be replaced by wireless communication utilizing separate antennas at the locations of ports 32 and 34.

In other embodiments of an interactive play system 20 full-size clothing and accessories may interact with interactive play system 20. As used herein the term full-size refers to non-toy sized accessories. For example, clothing and carried articles, such as a backpack, that are designed for use by a person playing with interactive play system 20. Further, in some embodiments, these full-size items provide an interactive experience to a user that is independent of interactive play system 20.

FIG. 23 illustrates the basic components of an interactive system 1020 according to one embodiment of the present invention. In its most basic form, system 1020 includes an article of clothing 1022, a hand-held unit 1024 and a storage device 1026. The clothing 1022 can be a shirt, a vest, a hat, a pair of trousers, or any other conventional article of clothing or accessory. The system 1020 can include more than one item of clothing 1022, but for simplicity's sake, the present invention will be described herein below in the context of one article of clothing 1022.

The storage device 1026 can have a housing 1028 that houses any conventional and well-known medium that includes a memory 1030 (see FIG. 24) for storing digital data. The memory 1030 can be embodied in the form of a memory card or cartridge or any other conventional storage medium, including a RAM, a ROM, or any writeable memory. The housing 1028 can be configured to include a communication (e.g., input/output) port 1032 which is adapted to be removably coupled to a communication (e.g., input/output) port 1034 at the hand-held unit 1024. The memory 1030 can be adapted to store programs (software) for controlling the operation of the hand-held unit 1024, as described below. The memory 1030 can also be adapted to store data that can be transferred to the hand-held unit 1024. Such data can include verbal or written messages, pre-recorded statements, sounds, music, light shows and other similar responses that can be displayed on the display screen 1036 at the hand-held unit 1024, or emitted from the speaker 1038 at the hand-held unit 1024. As used herein, the display screen 1036 and the speaker 1038 are mechanisms used by the system 20 to present a message. In addition, the system 1020 can provide a plurality of different storage devices 1026, with each storage device 1026 storing software and/or data for different applications. For example, one storage device 1026 can contain software and data directed to an environmental application (e.g., for measuring and broadcasting temperature or other environmental conditions), another storage device 1026 can contain software and data directed to an entertainment application (e.g., for playing certain music or a video), and another storage device 1026 can contain software and data directed to a game, among others. The player can vary his/her play variety by selecting the desired storage device 1026 for a desired application.

In addition, storage device 1026 can be coupled to a personal computer (“PC”) (see FIG. 24) to download new programs (either from the PC or from the Internet) that can be used to play the system 1020. In this regard, storage device 1026 can be embodied in the form of a CD, a cartridge or other diskette.

In an exemplary embodiment, the electronics (see FIG. 24) of the hand-held unit 1024 includes a processor 1056 and a memory 1058. The memory 1058 can be used to store basic operating instructions for the processor 1056, in which case the memory 1058 can be embodied in the form of a RAM or ROM. Alternatively, memory 1058 can be used to store some or all of the programs, with memory 1030 on storage device 1026 used primarily for storing data that can be utilized to control or change the operation parameters of the programs stored in memory 1058. The communication port 1034, speaker 1038 and display screen 1036 are provided in housing 1048 of hand-held unit 1024, and are all coupled to the processor 1056. The housing 1048 can also include a control pad 1060 and control buttons 1062. The port 1034 functions to allow data and instructions to be transferred from memory 1030 in storage device 1026 to processor 1056 in housing 1048. The screen 1036 functions to display words, images, colors, and patterns that are in response to instructions or data provided by storage device 1026 or clothing 1022. The speaker 1038 emits sounds to provide vocal instructions and music. The speaker 1038 and screen 1036 are both controlled by processor 1056. The control pad 1060 and buttons 1062 are coupled to processor 1056 to provide control signals to processor 1056, so that a player can control the operation of interactive system 1020 by controlling pad 1060 and buttons 1062. For example, a player can press selected buttons 1062, or control pad 1060, to select desired modes or features, or to perform any of the operational functions described herein below.

In addition, an antenna 1070 can be provided in housing 1048, with antenna 1070 coupled to the electronics shown in FIG. 24. In addition, housing 1048 in some embodiments is provided with a battery compartment accessed by a battery cover (not shown). Conventional batteries 1066 (see FIG. 24) can be housed inside the battery compartment, and coupled to the electronics to power the operation of the hand-held unit 1024.

Even though the term “hand-held” is used to describe the unit 1024, the unit 1024 can be hand-held, or can be a main unit that is secured to any stationary or larger object, such as the dashboard of an automobile, a cabinet or piece of furniture, the wall of a building, etc. As described herein, the unit 1024 is essentially a control unit.

The clothing 1022 is provided with a chip 1072 that allows for clothing 1022 to communicate with hand-held unit 1024. For example, FIG. 24 illustrates an electronic chip 1072 that can be provided for use with an article of clothing 1022. The chip 1072 includes a memory 1078 that is coupled to a controller 1082 that is in turn coupled to an antenna 1080. The antenna 1080 is adapted to communicate with the electronics in the hand-held unit 1024 via the antenna 1070 in the housing 1048. In some embodiments, memory 1078 in electronic chip 1072 contains data which is relevant to the designated activity, and can include, but is not limited to information relating to the article of clothing 1022, the game being played, a condition being measured (e.g., temperature), etc. This data or information can be transferred from memory 1078 to hand-held unit 1024 to activate different responses (e.g., verbal or written messages, pre-recorded statements, sounds, music, light shows, etc.) that can be displayed on display screen 36, or emitted from speaker 1038, at hand-held unit 1024. As a further alternative, memory 1078 in electronic chip 1072 can even contain programs relating to different activities that the user can engage in, and these programs can be transferred to processor 1056 during operation.

In various embodiments, an electronic device 1085 can be attached to the clothing 1022, and electrically coupled to controller 1082. The electronic device 1085 can be a sensing device (e.g., a temperature sensor for measuring temperature, a CCD sensor for capturing images), or a speaker, or a display screen, among others.

The clothing 1022 can also include patches of conductive ink that are well-known in the art. For example, in FIG. 23, the clothing 1022 can be provided with patches of conductive ink 1075 which can incorporate circuitry and even an antenna, as is well-known in the art. Thus, the conductive ink 1075 can be used in lieu of the chip 1072.

Some embodiments of the interactive system 1020 operate in the following general manner. The clothing 1022 communicates with unit 1024 via antennas 1080 and 1070. The processor 1056 in unit 1024 receives these communications from antenna 1070, and then displays images at display screen 1036 and/or broadcasts sounds or music at speaker 1038 that are dependent upon the data being communicated by clothing 1022 to unit 1024. The communication can be initiated by either controller 1082 or processor 1056, with initiating controller 1082 or processor 1056 directing a communication signal to be sent via antennas 1070, 1080 to other of processor 1056 or controller 1082. Any of the conventional communication protocols can be used to facilitate the initiation of the communication, and the continued communication between, processor 1056 and controller 1082.

The storage device 1026 can provide another alternative form of communication. In this embodiment, storage device 1026 b further includes an antenna 1097 b and communication electronics that are coupled to processor 1099 b inside storage device 1026 b, as best shown in FIG. 26. The clothing 1022 can communicate with storage device 1026 b via antenna 1080 at clothing 1022 and antenna 1097 b at storage device 1026 b. The processor 1099 b in storage device 1026 b receives these communications from antenna 1097 b, and then communicates with unit 1024 via the ports 1032 b and 1034. The memory 1030 b can be coupled to the processor 1099 b. The memory 1030 b and port 1032 b can be the same as the memory 1030 and the port 1032, respectively.

The following are some examples illustrating how the interactive clothing system 1020 can be used.

EXAMPLE 1

The electronic device 1085 can be a camera which takes photographs when actuated by a switch (not shown) provided on clothing 1022 and electrically coupled to the camera. The captured image(s) can then be transmitted (via the antennas 1080 and 1070) to the processor 1056 to be displayed by display screen 1036. The captured image(s) can be stored in memory 1078, or transferred to memories 1058 and/or 1030. This camera can be a hidden camera that appears to be a badge or accessory that is part of the clothing item 1022, and be suited for use in police or investigative work. The camera can even be positioned on the rear of a shirt or trouser so that the user can hold the unit 1024 as he/she is walking so that he/she can see if anyone is following him/her without turning the head. If used in this manner, the camera can operate as a safety device.

EXAMPLE 2

In one embodiment the electronic device 1085 is a thermometer which measures the temperature of the environment. The measured temperature(s) can be stored in memory 1078, and/or transmitted (via the antennas 1080 and 1070) to the processor 1056 to be displayed by the display screen 1036 or broadcast by the speaker 1038. In one application, the program in memory 1058 that is executed by the processor 1056 will only broadcast or display a temperature only if the temperature exceeds or falls below a certain threshold. Thus, in this application, the system 1020 will be used as a warning or notification device that notifies the user of a potentially dangerous situation. For example, a mountain-climber might wear a jacket having chip 1072, with electronic device 1085 measuring the temperature, wind chill, wind speed or other environmental condition, and then issuing a warning at the unit 1024 if a particular condition exceeds or falls below a certain threshold. The captured environmental condition can even be stored in memory 1078, or transferred to memories 1058 and/or 1030.

EXAMPLE 3

The interactive system 1020 can be used to match the colors or styles of different items of clothing 1022, or to locate items of misplaced clothing. In this Example, electronic device 1085 on clothing 1022 can be a sensor that will detect the motion, environment, or other measurable characteristic, and will convey the information to hand-held unit 1024 via antennas 1070 and 1080.

For example, a clothing line can provide electronic chips 1072 in all of its clothing 1022 sold to customers. Each item of clothing 1022 has a chip 1072, with memory 1078 in chip 1072 pre-programmed to contain information about that particular item of clothing 1022 and that line of clothing. For example, a designer can pre-program certain desired matches (e.g., a particular top with a particular skirt or a particular pair of shoes), and certain undesirable matches, into memory 1058 at unit 1024 or even in memory 1030 at storage device 1026. When a user puts on two or more items of clothing 1022 from the same line, controller 1082 in chip 1072 at the items of clothing 1022 will communicate their identities to processor 1056 at unit 1024 (via the antennas 1080 and 1070), and processor 1056 will determine whether the selected clothing items are a desirable match, and communicate to the user via speaker 1038 or display screen 1036.

The user can also use this system to locate misplaced clothing 1022. For example, the identities of all clothing items having a chip 1072 can be stored in memory 1058 or memory 1030. If the user cannot find a particular item of clothing 1022, the user can use control pad 1060 and control buttons 1062 on unit 1024 to instruct the processor 1056 to locate clothing 1022. The processor 1056 would then communicate with controller 1082 (via the antennas 1070 and 1080) on the particular clothing 1022, and controller 1082 would cause a speaker (i.e., an electronic device 1085) to emit beeps or other sounds so that the user can be led to the location of the clothing 1022.

EXAMPLE 4

In one embodiment the system can be used as a single user game. In this embodiment, clothing 1022 can contain a number of touch pads provided in different colors (i.e., as an electronic device 1085), and a game can be stored in any of memories 1030, 1058 and 1078. The unit 1024 can broadcast instructions via its display screen 1036 or its speaker 1038, such as “touch the red patch” or “touch the green patch”, and the user will attempt to touch the correct touch pad, earning points for each successful touch. The electronic device 1085 on clothing 1022 can also include a sensor that will detect the motion, environment, or other measurable characteristic, and will convey the information to the hand-held unit 1024 via antennas 1070 and 1080.

The same game can be modified to be more educational, for example, by providing touch pads on different parts of a long-sleeve shirt. The unit 1024 can broadcast instructions via its display screen 1036 or its speaker 1038, such as “touch your shoulder”, or “touch your chest” or “touch your back”, and the child will attempt to touch a correct touch pad that is located at the correct body area, earning points for each successful touch. This game can be effective in teaching toddlers their body parts.

EXAMPLE 5

In another embodiment the interactive system 1020 can be used as a multi-user game. A game can be stored in either memory 1030 or memory 1058. A first player wears clothing 1022, and a second player controls the unit 1024. The first player can attempt to run around in an irregular (or regular) manner, and the first player's movement will be displayed on display screen 1036 (via communication through antennas 1080, 1070 and processor 1056). Many different games can be played based on tracking the movement of the first player. For example, the second player can manipulate control buttons 1062 and control pad 1060 in an attempt to catch the image of the first player on display screen 1036. As another example, the game can be a version of a “hide-and-seek” game where the second player cannot see where the first player is, but can track the location of the first player on display screen 1036. These games can be extended to more than two players, where two or more players, each wearing a different clothing 1022, can be moving around and being tracked by a separate player who manipulates the unit 1024. The electronic device 1085 on clothing 1022 can also include a sensor that will detect the motion, environment, or other measurable characteristic, and will convey the information to hand-held unit 1024 via antennas 1070 and 1080.

EXAMPLE 6

In this embodiment, the system 1020 can be used in lieu of security tags on merchandise. Each merchandise can contain a chip 1072, and when a purchaser pays for clothing 1022, the cashier utilizes a main unit 1024 to identify the clothing 1022 that is being purchased, which will disable an alarm (e.g., the electronic device 85). If a thief removes clothing 1022 from the store without disabling the alarm, then the alarm will activate when the thief passes the security zone.

EXAMPLE 7

FIG. 25 illustrates how an embodiment of the interactive system 1020 can be implemented when the article of clothing 1022 is a pair of shoes 1022 a. The shoe 1022 a can have a chip 1072 a that can be the same as chip 1072. As shown in FIG. 25, the user U can wear the shoe 1022 a during an activity, such as dancing, jogging, and walking, among others. The electronic device 1085 on shoe 1022 a can be a sensor that will detect the motion, environment, or other measurable characteristic, and will convey the information to hand-held unit 1024 via antennas 1070 and 1080.

For example, interactive system 1020 can be used as part of a real-time virtual simulation system where the user U wears shoe 1022 a and goes on a walk or a jog. As the user U walks, the sensor detects the speed of the walking or jogging motion, and communicates with unit 1024 to display images on the display screen 1036 correlating to the motion. The images can depict the user walking through a scenic forest, or a hiking trail, or other virtual scene. The speed through which the user is shown navigating through the scene will depend upon the speed of the motion of shoe 1022 a. The speaker 1038 can be used to broadcast soothing and relaxing music relating to the activity or scene.

As another example, the system can be used to detect environmental characteristics associated with the ground. In this example, the user U wears the shoe 1022 a and the sensor detects the temperature or other environmental characteristic, which is then communicated to unit 1024 where it can be displayed on display screen 1036 or broadcast via speaker 1038.

As yet another example, the system can be used to simulate a dance performance. In this example, the user U wears shoe 1022 a and begins a dance routine. As the user U dances, the sensor detects the dancing motion, and communicates with unit 1024 to display images on the display screen 36 correlating to the dancing motion. The images can depict the user doing his/her dance routine, while the speaker 1038 can be used to broadcast music that accompanies the selected dance.

In all the above embodiments and Examples, processor 1056 can also recognize and store information relating to the programs selected by the player, play patterns of the player, or anything related to the use and play of the system 1020. This information can be transferred to memory 1030 in storage device 1026 via ports 1034 and 1032. The player can select such recognition and storage functions by manipulating control buttons 1062 and/or control pad 1060. The information in memory 1030 can then be transferred by storage device 1026 to a PC where the information can be analyzed, processed and stored for any desired purpose.

The system 1020 can even be modified to include a PC and a PC monitor. The antenna 1070 on unit 1024 can communicate signals with an antenna on the PC or other computer, and the images displayed on the screen 1038 can be replicated on the monitor. The PC can even be used to store programs, and to transfer programs to the unit 1024 for execution thereat.

As a further example, the PC can be used to connect to the Internet for communicating with other units 1024 at distant locations. For example, some of the activities described hereinabove for interactive system 1020 can be controlled by a user at a distant or remote location. One example is the multi-user game described in Example 5 above. The second player can be in a remote or distant location with the signals being communicated from clothing 1022 worn by the first player to unit 1024 located near the first player, and then from unit 1024 to a PC which then transmits these signals via the Internet to a PC where the second player is located.

Various provided embodiments utilize communication technologies and networks. When embodiments refer to communications via antennas one of ordinary skill will understand that there are communications transceivers coupled to the antennas. As is known in the art, networks can be classified in a number of ways. A network may be classified by the range supported by the underlying technology. For example, some network technologies are designed to provide communication across significant ranges. The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) is a network with almost global reach. Significant portions of the PSTN comprise a wired infrastructure. Portions of the PSTN comprise optical fiber media. Other portions of the PSTN infrastructure may include microwave or radio frequency links communicating across a wireless medium. Wireless and cellular telephone networks interface to the PSTN.

The development of cellular networks has evolved over time. Initially, cellular networks only supported voice traffic. More recently, data technologies have been enabled across these networks. One of the earlier cellular based data technologies was General Packet Radio Service (GPRS). GPRS is packet based wireless communication service that provides data communication services in the 50 to 100 Kilobit per second (Kbps) speed range. The GPRS standard is based on the Global System for Mobile (GSM) standard and compliments existing services such as circuit switched cellular phone connections and the Short Message Service (SMS). As used herein, the terms circuit switched and packet switched refer to types of network connections. Circuit switched connections are typically dedicated connections between users during the entirety of the communication. Packet switched refers to a connection in which packets are routed across a network based on destination and source addresses of the packets.

Other cellular based data technologies exist and others are currently under development, Enhanced Data GSM Environment (EDGE) is a faster data transfer technology capable of data rates up to almost 400 Kbps. Like GPRS, EDGE is based on the GSM standard and uses the GSM Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) frame structure. Cellular or mobile based data technologies continue to evolve. The High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HDSPA) is one of the next steps in the evolution of the Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service (UMTS). The goal of UMTS is to provide up to 2 Megabits per second (Mbps) to the user which will allow the transmission of text, video, voice multi-media and other services. Other Third Generation (3G) cellular efforts are additionally based on the GSM architecture. The CDMA2000 based data services include Evolution Data Optimized (EV-DO) and 1X-EVDO may additionally be employed to practice aspects of the present invention. (CDMA2000 is a registered trademark of the Telecommunications Industry Association).

Other types of data networks, may or may not interface with voice networks. These networks may have essentially global ranges, such as the Internet. These networks may include wireless metropolitan area network technologies such as the technology currently referred to as WiMax. Metropolitan area networks may include wired or optical media as well as a wireless medium. Local area networks may be wired, typically employing twisted-pair wired media, or wireless. Wireless local area networks (WLANs) may include networks employing wireless technologies like Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS) or Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM). These two wireless technologies are currently the basis for well known WLAN technologies commonly referred to as WiFi or 802.11a, b, g, and n.

Wireless networks may additionally be classified as Wireless Personal Area Networks (WPAN). Typically in WPAN technologies the data rates can be quite significant but the ranges may be limited to under 20 meters. One example of WPAN technology includes a frequency hopping spread spectrum technology, such as the technology currently known as BLUETOOTH (BLUETOOTH is a registered trademark of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group). Other WPAN technologies that are currently under development include Ultra-Wideband, which currently is being implemented as an impulse technology, a DSS technology, and a frequency hopping OFDM technology. Still further short range wireless technologies include RFID.

Some provided embodiment embodiments employ low range communication technologies. These low range technologies may include the WPAN technologies mentioned above or may comprise other low data rate low range communication transceivers.

Networks may be additionally, classified by structure. In client-server networks such as the one illustrated in FIG. 27, network 2010 may comprise a number of servers 2020. Additionally, the network 2010 may contain a number of clients 2030. Consistent with one embodiment of the present invention a client 2030 may forward data to and from a number of wireless devices 2040. In this embodiment wireless device 2040 may be configured as an interactive play base-station, interactive dolls, handheld devices, interactive toys, or interactive clothing. In a typical client-server network 2010, clients 2030 communicate with servers 2020 over network 2010. Servers 2020 may be located locally within a particular business location where customer service interaction occurs or servers 2020 may be remotely located. Additionally, network 2010 may additionally comprise a number of computers 2060 which may be configured base stations in interactive play systems. Network 2010 may also include routers 2050 which route real-time business information to computers 2060 and wireless devices 2040. As illustrated in FIG. 27, network 2010 may comprise or additionally include the PSTN 2200.

An embodiment of an interactive play system is illustrated in FIG. 30. In this embodiment, a base-station 2180 is connected to a server 2160 across a network 2010. As stated above, network 2010 can comprise any form of network, but in an exemplary embodiment network 2010 is the Internet. Further, as illustrated base-station 2180 is connected to the network 2010 with a wired medium such as a twisted pair cable. As is known in the art this connection of the base-station 2180 to network 2010 may be a wireless connection. It may additionally comprise a connection through a router (not shown). Server 2160 is additionally connected to network 2010 and like the above base-station 2180 connection, this connection may take many forms. As discussed above, base-station 2180 may take many forms such as doll station 24, base 40, or other devices illustrated in the above embodiments.

In one embodiment, base-station 2180 comprises a wireless communications transceiver and associated antenna. Base-station 2180 is configured to communicate across a wireless medium to a plurality of interactive devices 2190. These interactive devices may include interactive dolls, accessories, handheld devices, articles of clothing, and other interactive toys. Further, base-station 2180 may communicate information received from interactive devices 2190 to server 2020 across network 2010. As illustrated server 2020 may include a database 2160. In alternate embodiments, (not shown) database 2160 may reside on other electronic devices on network 2010.

The flow of data and functionality provided by various embodiments is illustrated in FIG. 28. Flow begins in block 2070 where a wireless enabled interactive toy 2190 communicates a code to a base-station 2180. This communication may include an authentication code unique to the interactive toy 2190, or alternatively may include an authentication code unique to a storage medium. In the embodiment where the code is associated to an interactive toy 2190, it may serve to authenticate the interactive toy 2190. In the embodiment were the code is associated to a storage medium, it may authenticate the data and/or software present on the storage medium. Flow continues to block 2080 where base-station 2180 communicates the code to server 2020 across network 2010. In block 2090 the code is validated on server 2020. In some embodiments this validation block is accomplished by submitting a query to a database 2160 and verifying the code is found in the database and therefore authentic.

Flow continues to block 2100 where the server 2020 sends a validation message to base-station 2180 across network 2010. Once receiving an appropriate validation message from the server base-station 2180 sends a validation message to interactive toy 2190 in block 2110. Flow continues to block 2121 where functionality is enabled on interactive toy 2190.

In various embodiments, the wireless communication comprises transmitting and receiving a wireless communications signal. As is known in the art this wireless communication signal could take many forms. Exemplary forms include: a wireless local area network signal, a wireless personal area network signal, a wireless metropolitan area network signal, an orthogonal frequency division multiplexed wireless signal, a direct sequence spread spectrum wireless signal, a frequency hopped spread spectrum wireless signal, and an impulse wireless signal. Further, base-station 2180 may comprise a number of devices, exemplary devices include: a computer, a personal computer, an electronic device, a portable electronic device, a laptop computer, a desktop computer, a personal digital assistant, and a handheld electronic device.

FIG. 29 illustrates another embodiment of a provided method. In this embodiment, like the above embodiment, flow begins in block 2070 and continues through block 2120 in the same manner as the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 28. Flow then continues to block 2130 where an accomplishment is communicated to base-station 2180 from an interactive toy 2190. This accomplishment, in some embodiments is a point total accrued by interacting with interactive toy 2190 through various activities. These activities include, but are not limited to play activities, or other interactions a user has with the interactive toy 2190. In some embodiments these activities also comprise interactions between interactive toys 2190. Flow continues to block 2140 where the accomplishment is communicated to server 2020 across network 2010.

In block 2150 an enabling message is sent from server 2020 to base-station 2180. In one embodiment this enabling message contains a code or other authentication mechanism that allows additional functionality resident on an interactive toy 2190 to be enabled. In other embodiments, this enabling message contains additional data and in some instances software that when executed by an interactive toy 2190 impart new functionality to the interactive toy 2190. In block 2160 new interactive toy 2190 functionality is enabled. The enablement of new functionality, in some embodiments, is accomplished by unlocking new functionality at a base-station 2180 where the new functionality may be stored on a storage medium suitable for use in an interactive toy 2190. As discussed above, various storage media are known and may be used to practice the current invention. Exemplary storage media include a removable storage medium, a CD, a DVD and a memory module.

In another embodiment, base-station 2180 communicates the data and potentially new software to the interactive toy 2190 through the wireless communication technology. In this embodiment, the data and software imparting the new functionality may be stored in the internal memory of the interactive toy 2190. TAs is known in the art, this internal memory may be in the form of removable memory, non-removable memory, ROM, or RAM.

One feature of this embodiment, is as a user interacts and plays with interactive toy 2190, additional functionality is imparted the system. For example, a user may play with an interactive doll 22 in a manner described above, and accrue accomplishment points. The user may then put on an article of interactive clothing, such as shoes, and an interactive back-pack. When the user approaches another interactive toy 2190 user, the interactive toys may “recognize” each other and allow the users to interact. When the users return to their respective base-station 2180, the points accrued from the interaction are “uploaded” to server 2020 across network 2010. Once the accomplishment points reach a predetermined level, additional functionality is imparted to the interactive toys 2190. In this manner the user is encouraged to find and interact with other users of the interactive toy system, and rewarded when the interaction occurs.

An embodiment of a base-station 2180 is illustrated in FIG. 31. In this embodiment, base station 2180 comprises a network connection 2210 for connecting base-station 2180 to a network, like the Internet. As illustrated, network connection 2210 is a wireless network connection communicating with wireless router 2050. In other embodiments, base-station may communicate with a router 2050 through a wired media, such as twisted-pair cable. In other embodiments, router 2050 may not be present and base-station 2180 may communicate directly with network 2010. Base-station 2180 further comprises a processor 2230, memory 2240, a storage media 2180, and an Input/Output (I/O) port 2220. Base station 2180 further comprises a wireless transceiver 2260 and antenna 2270 for communication with interactive toys 2190.

In one embodiment, storage media 2250 contains a set of machine executable instructions that, when executed by processor 2210 configure base station 2180 to function as described in the flow charts illustrated in FIGS. 28 and 29. As discussed above, in embodiments where new functionality is to be downloaded from server 2020 across network 2010, the new functionality may be transmitted to the interactive toys 2190 or in alternate embodiments written to removable storage media through I/O port 2220. As is known in the art I/O port may be any form of port which allows data and in some instances software to be written to removable media. As discussed above, exemplary media include CD Rom and DVDs. Other media are known in the art and may be used to practice the current invention.

Another embodiment of an interactive play system includes a handheld electronic device and an interactive doll 22. In this embodiment, the hand held electronic device may be configured to allow a user to play a video game. The doll may be a doll as described above but further comprises a plurality of controls such as buttons or knobs. The controls are used to configure the doll into various positions. For example, interacting with a knob may cause the doll to twist, while interaction with another control, such as a button, may cause the doll to spin or duck. Each control is associated with a unique action. In this embodiment actions taken in the video game may be supplemented by movements by the doll. For example, a user may be playing an action video game where the character in the video game is involved in a fight scene. In a situation where the video character needs to dodge or spin to avoid an action within the game, the user may pause the game, and interact with a control on the doll. This action repositions the doll and the character in the video game.

In this embodiment, the control action selected by the user indicates a unique action. Data related to this unique action is communicated via wireless communication to the handheld electronic device. When the handheld electronic device receives the data, the game-play is adapted according to this data. In another embodiment, the system includes the base station, once the user interacts with a control, the doll communicates the interaction to the base station which communicates the action to the handheld device and the character in the game responds accordingly.

Thus, it is seen that a system, method and apparatus for interactive play are provided. One skilled in the art will appreciate that the present invention can be practiced by other than the above-described embodiments, which are presented in this description for purposes of illustration and not of limitation. The specification and drawings are not intended to limit the exclusionary scope of this patent document. It is noted that various equivalents for the particular embodiments discussed in this description may practice the invention as well. That is, while the present invention has been described in conjunction with specific embodiments, it is evident that many alternatives, modifications, permutations and variations will become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art in light of the foregoing description. Accordingly, it is intended that the present invention embrace all such alternatives, modifications and variations as fall within the scope of the appended claims. The fact that a product, process or method exhibits differences from one or more of the above-described exemplary embodiments does not mean that the product or process is outside the scope (literal scope and/or other legally-recognized scope) of the following claims.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7841965 *Jul 14, 2006Nov 30, 2010Sony CorporationAudio-signal generation device
US8715031 *Aug 6, 2009May 6, 2014Peter Sui Lun FongInteractive device with sound-based action synchronization
US20110034103 *Aug 6, 2009Feb 10, 2011Peter Sui Lun FongInteractive device with sound-based action synchronization
WO2011093694A1 *Feb 1, 2010Aug 4, 2011Ijsfontein Holding B.V.Game system, toy device, game environment definer and method
WO2014060731A2 *Oct 14, 2013Apr 24, 2014China Industries LimitedInteractive toy
Classifications
U.S. Classification446/268
International ClassificationA63H3/00
Cooperative ClassificationA63H2200/00, A63H3/28
European ClassificationA63H3/28
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Feb 12, 2008ASAssignment
Owner name: PATENT CATEGORY CORP., CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:ZHENG, YU BRIAN;REEL/FRAME:020498/0854
Effective date: 20080131