US 3692307 A
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Description (OCR text may contain errors)
MIJIJU'MLDI O9-l9-=72 KR 396929307 1 Sept. 19,1972
[541 LIVE ACTION BACKBOARD  Francis B. Henry, 58 Winding Lane,
Basking Ridge, NJ. 07920 Filed: Nov. 20, 1970 Appl. No.: 91,241
 US. Cl. ..273/29 A, 350/167, 35/29 A  Int. Cl. ..A63b 69/38  Field of Search .....273/29 R, 29 A, 30; 272/8 R,
272/8 M; 40/135, 136,137, 160,106.51, 106.52; 88/l.5 NR; 350/131, 167; 35/29 R  References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 3,241,429 3/1966 Rice et a1... ..350/131 3,268,238 8/1966 Finkel ..40/135 x FOREIGN PATENTS OR APPLICATIONS 634,945 2/1962 Italy ..4o/137 Primary Examiner-Richard C. Pinkham Assistant Examiner-Theatrice Brown  ABSTRACT This invention relates broadly to a new type of backboard or practice board which is used for returning tennis balls or other balls played against its surface. The backboard is constructed of materials and is so designed as to give to the practicing player the impression that he is actually facing a competitor who appears on the surface of the backboard. The backboard is in part constructed of pictorial parallax panoramagram units which depict in depth one or more tennis players in various positions. The units are designed so that the depicted players appear to move when the practicing player changes position with respect to the backboard.
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LIVE ACTION BACKBOARD Tennis backboards or practice boards, as they are often called, are used throughout the world by players who desire exercise and who wish to practice fundamental strokes in order to improve their game. Backboards if properly used serve to improve timing, stroke and stamina, The backboards are positioned in close proximity to tennis courts and often form a part of the fencing which surrounds the actual courts. They are generally constructed of heavy exterior grade plywood arranged to present a vertical surface to the player. The board is preferably the width of a normal singles court (27 ft.) since only one player normally uses it. The surface facing the player is provided with a horizontal white line 3 feet high to represent the net tape. The background of the board is often painted dark green or some other uninspiring color. The height of conventional backboards varies but usually runs around feet. Due to the size and weight of these backboards, they are supported on footings and by braces which extend on an angle from the back of the backboard into the ground.
In addition to outdoor facilities, hundreds of indoor tennis courts are in operation and many'are being constructed in the United States and elsewhere. In most of the existing facilities there is found some .form of backboard against which the practicing player can attempt to improve his game. Quite often the backboard or practice board constitutes one of the walls of the indoor facility.
OBJECTS OF THE INVENTION Although practice boards are often available many experienced players often shun them in that they do not feel that pounding a ball against a backboard will really sharpen their game. Experienced players really need competition to attain sharpness and since the conventional backboard offers no opposition or competition their usefulness to a good tennis player is limited.
Beginning players, on the other hand, use the backboards more frequently since it is usually more difficult for them to get matches and since they need to practice basic strokes. The learner is not so much interested in sharpness as in learning the fundamentals. Every beginning player who uses the backboard will readily admit that such practice is tedious and not a great deal of fun. Many question the value of such practice since it involves no competition and makes no requirement that the player direct his shots.
The instant invention relates to an improved form of backboard or practice board which will be suitable for use not only by beginners but also by experienced players. The principal object of the invention is to place the practicing player in a competitive situation whereby he will feel he is playing under match conditions. This will serve to inspire the player and result in a more fruitful practice session. While the principles underlying the instant invention are described in connection with tennis,'they may be readily applied in connection with the practice and performance of other sports or games.
It is an object of the invention to provide a live action backboard for tennis or other game which creates the illusion that the practicing player is facing one or more opponents.
lt is a further object of the invention to provide a backboard which includes player images in depth and which appear to move depending upon the changing position of the observer.
it is a further object of-the invention to provide a backboard which will return tennis or other balls played against it in a manner which will cause the practicing player to feel that the balls are being returned by an opposing player.
It is a further object of the invention to provide a backboard having player images which take the form of real life players in realistic opponent positions, such as fore-hand volley, etc.
Still another object of the invention is to provide a backboard incorporating images of famous players in order to give the practicing player the feeling that he is facing the best possible opponent in order to increase his sharpness and effectiveness in his practice.
Still another object of the invention is to provide a tennis backboard which incorporates the images of a pair of doubles players, one at the net position and the other at the base line position, in order that the practicing player may attempt to direct his shots in a manner appropriate to doubles play.
Still another object of the invention is to provide a tennis backboard which provides the player with the appearance of an opponent at the net in order that the practicing player can practice his passing shots either down-the-line or cross-court.
it is still a further object of the invention to provide a tennis backboard which provides a practicing player with the illusion that he is facing an opponent over a net in order that he may adjust his shots according to his position on the court.
Another object of this invention is to provide a tennis backboard which, in addition to illustrating players as aforementioned, also illustrates the usual service and side lines, which lines will appear to move depending upon the vantage point of the practicing player.
Another object of this invention is to provide a tennis backboard having a surface which is either. entirely constructed of pictorial parallex panoramagram material or which contains sections of said material.
Still another object of this invention is to provide a tennis backboard having player representations on a lineated image layer having a suitable lineated screen or other parallex panoramagram lineator associated therewith.
It is still a further object of this invention to provide a substantially planar surface over said lineated screen or lineator in order that the tennis ball may be accurately played thereoff.
It is still a further object of this invention to provide player images on a tennis backboard which are in appropriate tennis dress and in appropriate player posiillusion that he is seeing opponent players in true three dimensional form.
The principles of this invention may be used to modify backboards in many different games or sports. For example, a backboard used in platform tennis could include the instant invention in order to give the practicing player the impression that he is up against moving opponents.
Other examples of the advantageous use of the invention could be given but the foregoing examples are sufficient for purposes of illustration.
DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS The invention including various novel features will be more fully understood by reference to the accompanying drawings and the following description of the several alternatives illustrated therein.
In the Drawings:
FIG. 1 illustrates in perspective a schematic of a conventional tennis backboard which forms part of the fencing surrounding a tennis facility;
FIG. 2A is a schematic illustration, in elevation, of a tennis backboard incorporating an embodiment of the present invention. This view depicts what would be seen by a practicing player from a center position in front of the backboard;
FIG. 2B depicts what a practicing player would see from a position to the left of the center position illustrated in FIG. 2A;
FIG. 2C depicts what a practicing player would see from a position to the right of the center position shown in FIG. 2A;
FIG. 3 illustrates an embodiment of the present invention in which a backboard depicts opponent doubles players in various opponent player positions depending upon the vantage point of the practicing player. Certain of the possible positions are illustrated in full, dotted and dot-dash lines;
FIG. 4 illustrates another embodiment of the present invention in which a backboard appears to depict a pair of opponent doubles players, one at the net position and another near the base line position. The position of each of the players further appears to move to and from the net position and the base line position depending upon the point of observation of the practicing player;
FIG. 5 illustrates in diagrammatic form a plan view of a practice court having installed thereon a practice board embodying the present invention. This figure depicts the practicing player in three different positions, one being on the centerline of the practice board, another being to the right of the centerline and a third position being to the left of the centerline; and
FIG. 6 illustrates a cross-section of a typical optical display unit incorporating lenticular screens which may be used in the practice of the present invention.
DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS In FIG. 1 there is illustrated a conventional backboard 10, or as it is often referred to, a practice board for tennis players. Practice boards are generally made of heavy lumber and are usually faced with heavy outdoor grade plywood to withstand year round weather conditions. The board illustrated in FIG. I is formed as part of the fencing 11 which surrounds a conventional tennis court 12. Quite often a practice board is located in a corner of the tennis court, which will allow practice to go on while there is a match being held on the court itself. The boards are usually 15 feet or so high and of a generous width so as to allow a player considerable latitude in practicing his forehand and backhand shots. Generally a white line, approximately 2% inches wide is painted or otherwise displayed across the surface of the board, 3 feet from the ground. This line is painted to represent the band or tape which covers the top of the net.
A practicing player stands away from the board and plays a tennis ball against the board. The player attempts to keep his ball above the white line 13 but generally attempts to keep the ball as close to the top of the white line as possible. Although many different varieties of shots are included in the repertoire of an accomplished tennis player it is acknowledged that the most important shots are the basic ground strokes which barely clear the net and then proceed back almost to the base line. The basic ground strokes must be learned by every player who is to play in any kind of serious competition. The ground strokes include both the forehand and the backhand and with the exception of the serve they are the most difficult shots which a player learns. An important aspect of the present invention is that it assists in development of basic ground strokes.
Attention is directed to the fact that the conventional backboard illustrated in FIG. 1 provides no target areas or in any way gives the practicing player the feeling that he is up against opposition. The player therefore merely plays his tennis ball against the backboard and attempts to keep it above the white line. The board provides no incentive to play to a certain position or to develop cross-court shots or passing shots since there is no target denoted. I have found practicing against the backboard to be tedious and not nearly as rewarding as such practice should be.
In view of the fact that it is not always possible to obtain a tennis partner, it is often necessary to play against backboards. Furthermore, such practice should be beneficial to the player if it is accomplished in the proper manner. In order to overcome the drawbacks of conventional backboards, I have developed the instant invention, which will now be described in more detail in connection with the remaining drawing figures.
Figure 2A illustrates a backboard 20 which may be manufactured with plywood in a manner similar to that described above in connection with FIG. 1. This backboard differs, however, in that at least part of the surface exposed to the practicing players view is covered with a material which may be broadly described as an optical display unit. In the preferred form of the invention the optical display unit will produce an illusion of depth to the practicing player facing it. and will illustrate an opponent player or players, preferably in full size in characteristic opponent player positions, so that the practicing player will be under the impression he is up against real competition. In FIG. 2A the optical display unit 21 covers only a portion of the surface of the board for reasons of economy. The display unit will be the most costly part of the backboard and it should, therefore, be kept to the minimum size possible. It may be inlaid or it may be affixed to the board in some other manner so that its surface is flush with that of the remainder of the backboard. The backboard is shown broken away in both height and length in order that its full outline can be shown in the Figure.
In accordance with the preferred form of my invention the optical display unit is made of a pictorial parallax panoramagram which produces an illusion of depth toa person viewing it. Pictorial parallax panoramagrams are well known in the optical art and'the details of construction, method of manufacture and characteristics of such units are described in the literature and in many issued patents. Attention is directed to United States Letters Pat. Nos. 2,151,301; 3,241,429; 3,420,663 and 3,504,059'for a disclosure of the theory of such units and for various methods for making such units. These patents reveal that the units may illustrate images in black and white and also in color. Furthermore, the units may show changing aspects of images both in a horizontal sense and in a vertical sense. The Rice et al. US. Pat. No. 3,241,429 carefully describes the panoramagram unit which produces the changeable picture. In other words the unit is constructed so as to create the illusion of seeing at least a portion of an image being viewed change in its position, depending on relative movement between the viewer and the unit. The instant invention could utilize any oneof the various panoramagram techniques described in these patents or their optical equivalents. The term pictorial parallax panoramagram" is therefore used herein in the same generic sense that the term is used in the art. Any optical display unit which can give depth and/or changeable picture can be utilized in carrying out the principles of the invention. In that the present invention is not concerned with the details of pictorial parallax panoramagram units per se, no detailed discussion concerning them will be given.
As mentioned above the backboard of FIG. 2A-2C includes in its surface an optical display unit such as described above. This unit is constructed so that it will show an opponent player in a plurality of positions depending on the position of the viewer. In FIG; 2A the practicing player is positioned on the center line of the backboard. He sees an opponent player 22 also positioned on the center line on the opposite side of the illusory tape 23. Preferably the illusory opponent is at a ready position at the net so as to cause the practicing player to try and avoid the opponent with his next shot. FIG. 2A shows the illusory opponent 22 in a forehand volley position with his racket 24 above the tape ready to return the player's shot. This position is of course only representative of any number of positions which the illusory player could assume.
If the practicing player sends his ball to the left of the illusory player, in the direction of the deuce court, the rebound will come back in the area to the left of the center line of the backboard. The practicing player will then have to run to his left to return the ball. When he does move to his left the image of FIG. 2A will disappear from his view andhe will see the image presented in FIG. 2B. This would be the normal countering position that an opponent player would take if the practicing player were driven deep into the right hand corner (viewed from the opponent side)of the court. Thus the opponent would try and cut down the practicing players angle of return and cause him to try very difficult passing shots. For example, in viewing FIG.2B note that the practicing player would tend to send his return shot into the open space to the right of the center line so as to avoid his illusory opponent.
If the practicing player sends his ball to the right of the center line and has to move to the right of the center line, he will see the illusory opponent illustrated in FIG. 2C. The other players, illustrated in FIG. 2A and 28 will not be visible. From a position to the right of the center line, the practicing player would attempt to drive his ball into the open space to the left of the center line and thereby pass his opponent with the classic passing shot.
Thus by moving from side to side in playing his ball in front of the backboard illustrated in FIG. 2A-2C, the practicing player will observe an illusory opponent who appears to move from side to side in order to counter his movements. This creates for the practicing player a competitive situation which greatly increases his interest and more quickly developes his shot making skills.
In FIG. 3 there is illustrated a form of backboard incorporating an optical display unit of the type described above in which a pair of illusory doubles players 30, 31 are depicted. The illusory opponent players are positioned at the net and the display unit is constructed so that they appear to move or change positions depending on where the practicing player moves. For example, the positions shown in full lines in FIG. 3 might be the positions seen from along the center line of the backboardeThe dotted line positions would correspond to the view observed from the left of the center line. The dot-dash line positions would correspond to the view seen from the right hand side of the center line. The changing images facing the practicing player cause him to'direct his shots so that they pass between his opponents or down the lines.
If desired the service court lines, side lines and base line can be depicted by the optical display unit. This is illustrated in FIG. 3 and greatly enhances the realism associated with this invention. The lines can be depicted as moving or changeable in order to truly represent perspective if this is desired. FIG. 3 therefore not only depicts illusory opponents in depth but also theopponents court in depth. It is apparent that this display unit therefore even more closely depicts a true tennis match.
The illusory opponents depicted in the Figures are only representative of what the players should look like. In my preferred form, the player representation would be made from photographs of actual tennis players in appropriate tennis attire. Both male and female players could be illustrated and in order to increase interest in practice I envision using photographs of famous professional and amateur players. There is no doubt that a practice session 'with the worlds greatest living player (although illusory) would elicit the best efforts from the practicing player.
In FIG. 4, I illustrate a further embodiment of my invention in which the optical display unit depicts doubles players (40, 41) who appear to move to and from the net depending on the position of the practicing player. The full line showing in FIG. 4 illustrates the opponent player 40 at the net in the deuce court. The other player 41 is back near the base line. This represents typical opponent player positions which would occur when the practicing player is receiving a serve in the ad court. His return shot should be normally directed into the ad court opposite him. When the practicing player moves to the right of the center line he would observe the players as they are shown in dotted lines. The illusory opponent player 42 would be guarding the alley on his side of the court and the other illusory player 43 would be seen stationed near the base line. The illusory player configurations shown in FIG. 4 would therefore be most suitable for practicing imagined returns of service. In FIG. 4, service lines etc. are shown and the outline a very realistic target'area into which the practicing player would direct his shots.
As described above, my invention provides for an increased capacity to practice all forms of strokes, including basic ground strokes, volleys, passing shots, lobs, etc. With regard to the latter, note that one may attempt to direct soft lobs over the illusory, life size opponents.
FIG. 5 is a diagrammatic plan view of the lines of sight of a practicing player. The optical display unit 21 is depicted in the central area of the backboard 20. When located along the center line of the backboard the practicing player 45 observes his opponent (or opponents) in the angle 50. In this case the player line of sight is substantially at right angles (note arrow 51) to the optical display unit and this would cause him to see illusory opponents which appear when he is in such a position.
When he moves to the right of the center line, such as illustrated by the reference number 46, he views the display unit through the angle 55 and his line of sight is at an angle (note arrow 56) to the surface of the backboard. This line of sight would cause the practicing player to see illusory opponents which appear when he is in such a position.
The player represented by 47 is stationed to the left of the center line of the backboard and he views the display unit through the angle 57. His line of sight is along the direction of arrow 58, which is at an angle to the surface of the board. This angle would cause him to see different opponent players positions than that observed from the other two practicing player positions discussed above.
In accordance with the known principles of panoramagrams, any number of illusory opponents may be shown and they may be illustrated as moving to and from any number of positions. Furthermore, the unit may be constructed so that it gives the appearance of progressive movement as opposed to an abrupt change in position.
FIG. 6 shows a cross-section of a typical parallax panoramagram unit, in which two lines of sight are illustrated. The unit is made up of a lenticular screen 60 and a lineated image layer 61. When viewed along lines of sight indicated by 65, the viewer would see the representations indicated on panels 66, 67. If the observer is looking along lines 70, he would see the representations on panels 71, 72. The panels which he sees make up a composite picture or representation. When he changes vantage point from one to the other line of sight, he no longer sees the previous representation but observes the new representation. This is a simplified description of the changeable picture phenomenon which is discussed in detail in the abovementioned patents. This is what occurs when the practicing player moves from one position to another. Generally lenticular screens are quite thin(0.005 in.0.025 in.) and the angular surfaces will not therefore affect the bounce of a tennis ball. It is possible to also coat the surface so that it is planar. Also, a sheet of transparent plexiglas, plastic, etc. could be mounted on top of the screen to protect it and make a flat surface.
The panoramagram may, of course, show a plurality of changeable pictures, as many as necessary to create the desired effect. In this regard note that in FIG. 2A-2C, three representations are used. In FIG. 4, only two changeable representations are used. In the event that changeable pictures are not desired, the opponent players and/or court may be shown in depth and present a relatively fixed portrayal of the opposite side of the court.
In connection with my invention, attention is also directed to the fact that it requires only conventional (natural or indoor) lighting for its operation. No additional power expenditure is therefore necessary.
The principles involved in this invention may be applied to the practice of various other sports, including tennis, and to the playing of other games in which movable illusory opponents or target areas are of benefit.
Although I have referred to backboards and practice boards, I do not intend these phrases to be construed in a narrow sense as referring only to wooden surfaces. The terms backboard and practice board are interchangeable and are used in a generic sense.
Such devices may be made of wood, plastic, glass, cement, metal, cinder blocks, etc. In many cases they may be formed as part of an interior wall.
I do not wish my invention to be limited to the particular embodiments of the accompanying figures. Those skilled in the art will recognize other arrangements and other applications of the invention which will differ from my examples only in detail, not in spirit. Only such limitations should be imposed as are indicated in the appended claims.
l. A practice device for improving a players performance and skills by creating for said player simulated game conditions whereby said practicing player visualizes he is actually facing an opponent player comprising, substantially vertically disposed surface means against which a practicing player may repetitively direct an object, said surface means including an optical display unit comprising a pictorial parallax panoramagram which pictorially depicts at least one illusory opponent player in a plurality of changing positions.
2. The practice device of claim 1 in which the panoramagram depicts at least one illusory opponent player in a plurality of opponent player positions depending upon the relative position of the practicing player with respect to the panoramagram whereby when said practicing player moves with respect to the device it will appear to him as if his illusory opponent is making counter moves.
3. The practice device of claim 1 in which the surface means of the practice device comprises a tennis backboard, said backboard having a substantially planar surface against which a practicing player can pound a tennis ball and including said optical display mounted so as to be in the view of the practicing player.
4. The practice device of claim 3 in which said optical display unit depicts in depth at least a portion of a tennis court.
5. The practice device of claim 4 in which the depiction of the tennis court illustrates side lines, service lines and the base line in proper perspective whereby a practicing player envisions that he is pounding his tennis ball into a real tennis court.
6. The practice device of claim 4 in which said optical display unit depicts a pair of illusory opponent players in appropriate tennis attire and in characteristic doubles positions.
7. The practice device of claim 6 in which said optical display unit depicts illusory opponent players who move to and from a net tape representation.
8. A tennis backboard comprising a substantially planar surface having thereon a representation of a net tape and against which tennis balls may be repetitively stroked, an optical display unit forming at least part of said surface, said optical display unit comprising a lenticular screen and a lineated image layer pictorially depicting at least one illusory opponent tennis player in a number of changeable positions.
9. A backboard as defined in claim 8 in which said optical display unit depicts at least one famous tennis player.
10. A backboard as defined in claim 8 in which said optical display unit depicts an illusory opponent tennis player who appears to move from side to side in response to side to side movement of a practicing player.
11. A backboard as defined in claim 8 in which said optical display unit depicts a pair of illusory opponent tennis players who appear to change position in response to movement of a practicing player.
12. A tennis training device comprising a backboard disposed substantially vertically such that tennis balls may be repetitively served and stroked thereagainst, said backboard including a parallax panoramagram pictorially representing at least one illusory tennis player in a plurality of positions on said backboard corresponding to positions which might occur in a tennis match.