- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
This invention relates to an exercise simulator for encouraging people, in particular, younger children, to exercise. The exercise simulator and method for encouraging exercise are particularly suitable for use indoors at quick-service restaurants and other locations frequented by younger children.
The fitness and health of children has been declining for several decades. A decline in exercise has contributed to declining fitness and health. Thus, there is a need to encourage exercise among children.
While many adults frequent indoor gyms to exercise, such gyms are generally not fun for children. Indoor exercise for fitness is often tolerable for adults but generally not tolerable for younger children. Thus, there is a need to make indoor exercise fun for children.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Traditionally, younger children obtained much of their exercise by playing games outside. However, conditions may not always be suitable for playing outdoor games. For example, it may be too dark, hot, cold, rainy, and even too dangerous to play outside. Also, outdoor play is often inconvenient when traveling close or far. Thus, there is a need to make exercise more convenient and more suitable during adverse weather and environmental conditions. There is also a need for simulating an environment, which may be an outdoor environment, while exercising indoors.
In one aspect of the invention, an exercise simulator is provided. In various embodiments the exercise simulator is especially suitable for use by children. The exercise simulator has a steering component including a user-movable element and a steering sensor for outputting a sensor signal indicative of the amount of movement of the user-movable element. The purpose of the sensor is to provide steering input to a computer. The computer has a program and data for providing a visually displayable simulated environment. The visually displayable simulated environment is navigable by user input including movement of the user-movable element. The computer is configured to receive the sensor signal. As used herein, the term “exercise simulator” includes an exercise device or devices for exercising. Such devices may include a component or components that display a visually simulated environment, which may be an outdoor or a virtual environment.
The exercise simulator may also include a variety of optional components. For example, the exercise simulator may include a display for displaying the visually displayable simulated environment to the user. The user-movable element may include a user-rotatable element and the user input may include rotation. The sensor may be mechanically linked to the steering component so that rotation of the user-rotatable element rotates the sensor. The sensor may be an accelerometer. The exercise simulator may also include an electronic circuit capable of converting the sensor signal into a digital signal. The electronic circuit may be capable of converting the sensor signal into a mouse format.
In one embodiment, the exercise simulator has a speed component. The speed component may include user-rotatable cranks. The exercise simulator may include a seat and a speed sensor for outputting a speed signal indicative of the speed of rotation of the user-rotatable cranks to provide a speed input to the computer. The user-movable element of the steering component may include a handlebar, a non-horizontal steering shaft attached to the handlebars, a sensor platform rotatable around a substantially horizontal axis, and a sensor attached to the sensor platform. The steering shaft is connected to the sensor platform so that rotation of the steering shaft causes rotation of the sensor platform around the horizontal axis. The steering component may include a flange attached to the steering shaft. The flange is connected to the sensor platform by a length adjustable connection member. Adjustment of the length of the connection member allows the rotational relationship between the sensor platform and the steering shaft to be calibrated. The exercise simulator may include a frame and two springs attached to the flange. One purpose of the springs is to center the steering component.
In another embodiment, the exercise simulator also includes a user platform for supporting the weight of a user. The exercise simulator may also have a base wherein the user platform is flexibly attached to the base so that the user platform may be tilted. The sensor may be an accelerometer attached to the user platform. The user platform may be flexibly attached to the base by two or more aligned fasteners, the fasteners inside flexible bushings.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
In a second aspect of the invention, a method of encouraging exercise by simulating an environment is provided. The method includes sensing the movement of a user-movable element and transmitting a sensor signal indicative of the amount of movement of the user-movable element. The sensor signal is received by a computer comprising a program and data for providing a visually displayable simulated environment. A simulated environment is displayed based on the data and the sensor signal. The simulated environment is navigable by user input including movement of the user-movable element. The simulated environment may be an outdoor environment.
FIGS. 1-4 depict a bicycle embodiment of the invention. FIGS. 1 and 3 are perspective and side views, respectively, of the bicycle embodiment with and without a cover, respectively. FIGS. 2 and 4 are perspective and elevation views, respectively, without the cover of the steering component from the side and front, respectively.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
FIGS. 5-8 depict a skateboard embodiment of the invention. FIGS. 5 and 6 are perspective and side elevation views of the skateboard embodiment, respectively. FIGS. 7 and 8 are exploded views of the steering component and a centering component, respectively.
In one aspect of the invention, an exercise simulator having an input device and a computer is provided. A first embodiment of the exercise simulator is a bicycle exercise simulator 10 as shown in FIGS. 1-4. Bicycle exercise simulator 10 has a bicycle input device 12 and a computer 90.
Bicycle Input Device
Bicycle input device 12 has a steering component 14, a seat 16, a speed component 18, and a cover 22. Cover 22 partially covers steering component 14 and speed component 18 for safety reasons.
Steering component 14 includes a user-movable element 24 and a steering sensor 26. User-movable element 24 includes a user-rotatable element 28, which includes handlebar 30. Handlebar 30 is attached at its ends to knobs 32. Alternatively handlebar 30 could have grips. (not shown) at its ends. Handlebar 30 is attached by a stem 33 to a steering shaft 34. Steering shaft 34 is partially contained within shaft housing 36.
Steering shaft 34 is mechanically linked to steering sensor 26. Steering sensor 26 may rotate around steering shaft 34 or may rotate around a different axis as discussed below. A flange 38 is at the end of shaft 34 opposite handlebar 30. Flange 38 is attached to shaft 34 so that flange 38 rotates with shaft 34. The attachment may include a key matched to a keyway. Flange 38 is attached by a length adjustable connection member 38a to a sensor platform 40. Sensor circuitry 42 including steering sensor 26 is mounted on sensor platform 40. Alternatively steering sensor 26 may be mounted to sensor platform 40 and sensor circuitry 42 may be mounted to a stationary portion of bicycle input device 12. Sensor 26 senses the rotation of user-rotatable element 28 and outputs a sensor signal indicative of the amount of movement of user-movable element 24, which may be user-rotatable element 28. The sensor signal output from steering sensor 26 can be analog or digital. If the sensor signal output is analog, sensor circuitry 42 transforms the analog sensor signal into a digital sensor signal for computer 90. The digital sensor signal may be in a format suitable for a parallel port, serial port (e.g., RS-232), a USB port etc., for example. A mouse format for input via a USB port is preferred for the digital sensor signal. For purposes of this invention, the sensor signal refers to both transformed and non-transformed sensor signals.
Flange 38 can also be used to provide a self-centering capability to user-movable element 24. In particular, flange 38 is attached to resilient members 46 and 47. Resilient members 46 and 47 preferably include springs 50 and 51 working in opposition to return steering component 14 to its center when the user is not providing input, e.g., return handlebar 30 to a horizontal position when a user releases handlebar 30. Resilient members 46, 47 are attached to a frame 52 via a bracket 53. Flange 38 may also have a pair of resilient stops 54 located on the right and left sides of flange 38 to prevent over-rotation of user-rotatable element 28 which could result in damage to springs 50 and 51 from over-extension. One of the pair of stops 54 contacts a plate 60 when user-rotatable element 28 reaches its limit position. Plate 60 is attached to shaft housing 36 and a steering support 62.
Sensor platform 40 is mounted to bicycle input device 12 so that it can rotate around an axis, preferably substantially horizontal. A sensor cradle 64 provides horizontally aligned mounting points for sensor platform 40 to have a substantially horizontal axis. Sensor 26 is preferably a linear capacitative accelerometer or mems inertial sensor. The accelerometer has an inertial axis for which it measures acceleration or tilt. The accelerometer axis is substantially perpendicular to the axis of rotation of sensor platform 40.
The length of connection member 38 a can be adjusted to allow the rotational relationship between sensor platform 40 and steering shaft 34 to be adjusted. Such an adjustment allows the sensor input to be calibrated so that when steering component 14 has successfully self-centered itself via resilient members 46 and 47, the sensor input corresponds to zero user input. Both ends of connection member 38 a are disposed in a respective receiving member 39 in a threaded relationship to allow the length adjustment by turning connection member 38 a. Rotation of connection member 38 a translates angular movement to a vertical movement which, in turn, results in tilting movement of sensor platform 40.
Seat 16 may be any kind of seat suitable for bearing the weight of a user while the user uses exercise simulator 10. Seat 16 is supported by frame 52 having a seat support 68, a support 70 and a base 72. Support 68 is connected to support 70, which provides support to speed component 18. The distance between seat 16 and speed component 18 may be adjustable to accommodate users of different leg length. For example, seat 16 is shown at the end of a base 72 in FIG. 1 while in FIG. 3 seat 16 is forward of the end of base 72. The distance between seat 16 and speed component 18 may be adjusted by raising a peg 74 having a knob 76 and further withdrawing or inserting support 68 from support 70. Peg 74 fits in holes (not shown) in support 68.
Speed component 18 has pedals 78 attached to user-rotatable crank arms 80. Crank arms 80 are attached at opposite ends to a spindle 82. A resistance mechanism (not shown) provides resistance to pedaling. The resistance mechanism may be any suitable resistance mechanism as known in the art for stationary bicycles, and may be composed of friction plates, for example. A speed sensor provides a speed signal indicative of the rate of pedaling. The speed sensor is connected to sensor circuitry 42, which receives the speed signal. The speed signal can be analog or digital. If the speed signal is analog, sensor circuitry 42 can transform the speed signal into a digital speed signal. Preferably sensor circuitry 42 combines the steering sensor signal and the steering signal into a single digital sensor signal having a steering sensor signal component and a steering signal component.
Computer 90 may be housed in a console 92 along with a display 94, associated with a transparent portion 96, and speakers 98, associated with speaker openings 100. Computer 90 may be a personal computer having a processor, USB ports, hard drive storage for storing the program and data, internet access, graphics card, etc. Computer 90 may be a general purpose computer or a specialized computer having hardware specialized for the exercise simulator. Computer 90 has a program and data, both for providing a visually displayable simulated environment. The simulated environment is displayed on display 94 and sounds for the simulated environment are played through speakers 98. Computer 90 receives a sensor signal from sensor circuitry 42. Based on the signal, computer 90 allows a user to navigate simulated environment based on the program and data. For example, a user may be presented in the simulated environment with a choice of going left or right. The user can then turn handlebar 30 left to go left in the simulated environment. In addition, the speed of movement in the simulated environment may or may not be dependent on the speed signal. The visually displayable simulated environment can be part of a computer animated game.
Skateboard Input Device
A second embodiment of the exercise simulator is a skateboard exercise simulator 110 as shown in FIGS. 5-8. Skateboard exercise simulator 110 has a skateboard input device or steering component 112 and computer 90. Skateboard input device 112 has a non-slip surface 114, a platform 116, a mounting plate 118, flexible supports 120 and 121, and a base 124. Surface 114 is a surface that has good anti-slip properties to prevent a user from slipping off skateboard input device 112 while standing on a tilting skateboard input device 112. Any such suitable surface may be used including a rubberized surface or a sandpaper-type surface. Surface 114 is attached to platform 116. Platform 116 has upwardly sloping ends 126 and 127 and is generally shaped like a skateboard. Platform 116 is attached to mounting plate 118. Mounting plate 118 is attached to flexible supports 120 and 121, which are attached to base 124. Base 124 may be attached to a platform or to a floor.
Flexible supports 120 and 121 as shown are identical, although this is not necessarily required. Each flexible support has a boot or cover 130 to cover a truck 132. Truck 132 has shoes 134 and 135. Shoe 134 has receiving portions 138 and 139 for receiving middle bushings 142 and 143. Similarly, shoe 135 has lower receiving portions 146′ and 147′ for receiving middle bushings 142 and 143. Shoe 135 has upper receiving portions 146 and 147 for receiving outside bushings 150 and 151. Shoes 134 and 135 are held together by fasteners, illustrated as bolts 154 and 155, washers 158 and 159, and nuts 162 and 163. Fasteners 154 and 155 can be any suitable fastener including bolts (as shown), screws or rivets, for example. Preferably, trucks 132 are aligned so that the four middle bushings and the fasteners contained within are substantially aligned to provide a tilt axis for a user to tilt the skateboard steering component 112. The number of middle bushings and fasteners may be varied. Depending upon the number of fasteners, the number of linearly aligned fasteners can be 2, 3, 4 or more.
A sensor platform 164 is attached to the under side of mounting plate 118 between flexible supports 120 and 121. Sensor circuitry 166 is supported by sensor platform 164. Sensor circuitry 166 is similar or identical to sensor circuitry 42. Sensor circuitry 166 may not have conversion capabilities for a speed signal as there generally is not a speed component for the skateboard embodiment 110. Associated with sensor circuitry 166 is sensor 168. Sensor 168 may be the same or similar to sensor 26. Sensor 168 provides via sensor circuitry 166 a sensor signal to computer 90.
Method of Encouraging Exercise
In a second aspect of the invention, a method of encouraging exercise by simulating an environment is provided. The method includes sensing the rotation of a user-movable element and transmitting a first sensor signal indicative of the amount of movement of the user-movable element. The sensor signal is received by a computer comprising a program and data for providing a visually displayable simulated environment. A simulated environment is displayed based on the data and the sensor signal. The simulated environment is navigable by user input including movement of the user-movable element.
The method may also include adjustably linking the user-movable element to a sensor so that rotation of the user-movable element around one axis causes rotation of a sensor around the same or a different axis. The sensor senses directly or indirectly the rotation of the user-movable element and outputs a sensor signal. The method may include transforming the sensor signal into a second sensor signal having a different format such as a digital format or a mouse format. The method may also include sensing the movement of a speed component and transmitting a speed signal indicative of the amount of movement of the speed component. The speed signal is received by the computer. The speed signal may be combined with the sensor signal to provide a second signal having a sensor signal portion and a speed signal portion. While the invention has been described with respect to certain preferred embodiments, as will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, it is to be understood that the invention is capable of numerous changes, modifications and rearrangements and such changes, modifications and rearrangements are intended to be covered by the following claims.