|Publication number||USRE42183 E1|
|Application number||US 09/393,998|
|Publication date||Mar 1, 2011|
|Filing date||Sep 8, 1999|
|Priority date||Nov 22, 1994|
|Also published as||US5666138|
|Publication number||09393998, 393998, US RE42183 E1, US RE42183E1, US-E1-RE42183, USRE42183 E1, USRE42183E1|
|Original Assignee||Immersion Corporation|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (117), Non-Patent Citations (84), Referenced by (3), Classifications (9), Legal Events (1)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
The present invention relates to an interface control. More particularly, the present invention relates to an interface control device which allows a user to control the operation of computer applications, machinery, and video games.
Joystick controls have been employed in a wide variety of applications, including computer software, industrial machinery, and multimedia interfaces to control the positioning of an object displayed on a screen, such as a cursor or pointer. A typical prior art joystick includes a gimballed stick pivotally coupled to a flat base portion. Angle sensors coupled to the gimballed stick generate position control signals in response to a user pivoting the gimballed stick relative to the base portion. These control signals are used to manipulate the position of the cursor. A depressible switch coupled to the top of the stick is used to generate a trigger control signal for implementing various functions, such as selecting items from a pull down menu or causing a character in a video game to jump.
The structure of these gimballed joystick controllers makes them somewhat difficult to operate. Rotating the arm and wrist to control positioning functions (i.e., pivoting the stick) while pressing downward with the thumb or finger to manipulate trigger functions requires a fair amount of practice and coordination. Further, requiring a user to simultaneously combine these motions may lead to an inadvertent change in the positioning of a cursor while implementing a trigger function. For instance, in a point-and-shoot operation, where a user first positions the cursor onto a target on the display screen and then activates the trigger function, depressing the trigger switch with the thumb or finger often results in slight movements of the arm and/or wrist, thereby causing the cursor to slip off the target. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as cursor creep.
The conventional joystick controller described above has the further disadvantage of undesirably requiring the use of two hands, i.e., one hand to hold the base of the controller and the other hand to operate the controller's stick. The only manner in which these controllers may be operated with one hand is to place the controller on a table or other flat surface.
Other joystick controllers have been developed in response to the above-mentioned problems. One such controller includes a pivoting, handgrip-shaped stick having one or more squeezable trigger switches built into a side portion of the handgrip. The positioning of an image is controlled by pivoting the handgrip, while the trigger functions are controlled by squeezing the trigger switches with the fingers. Although in such a design the positioning controls are somewhat isolated from the trigger function controls (i.e., squeezing the trigger switch with the index finger is not likely to cause as much of an inadvertent change in position as would depressing a trigger switch on the top of the stick with the thumb), cursor creep is nevertheless a problem. Further, such a controller requires the use of two hands or, alternatively, a tabletop support.
Some have attempted to develop a one-handed controller by simply reducing the size of conventional joystick controllers. These controllers fit within a user's hand, where the thumb, resting atop the stick, controls the positioning function. The trigger function is controlled by squeezing a trigger switch located on the side of the controller's stick.
These miniaturized versions of conventional joystick controllers are for the most part clumsy and ineffective. Merely reducing the size of a controller designed for two-handed operation so as to be operated by one hand severely limits the precision with which a user may control a cursor. Further, these miniaturized controllers are ineffective in isolating trigger controls from positioning controls. Indeed, squeezing a trigger switch with, for example, the index finger typically causes the controller stick to move forward, thereby resulting in undesirable vertical cursor creep.
This undesirable interaction between positioning and trigger controls of miniature joystick controllers, coupled with users' complaints of inferior ergonomics, has led others to revert to the more primitive two-handed video game controller shown in FIG. 1. Controller 1 has four keys 2a-2d clustered together in a first portion of controller 1 and three keys 4a-4c grouped together in a second portion of controller 1. Keys 2a-2d control the positioning of a displayed object (such as the hero of the video game) by generating digital positioning signals in response to a user depressing one or more of keys 2a-2d. Keys 4a-4c control various trigger functions (i.e., start-stop, jump, shoot, for example). The controller shown in
Thus, there is a need for joystick controller which may be operated in one hand. There is also a need for a controller having improved precision and ergonomics. Such a device should also isolate positioning and trigger controls, thereby eliminating cursor creep and other inadvertent position control signals produced during activation of trigger functions.
In accordance with the present invention, an interface control is disclosed which offers users superior performance and ergonomics. In the preferred embodiment, a thumbpiece is slidably disposed within a longitudinal arm member having a first end pivotally coupled to a fixed point. The arm member may pivot about the fixed point such that a second end portion of the arm member follows an arcuate path having as its center the fixed point. The thumbpiece slides back and forth along the longitudinal axis of the arm member. A first sensor coupled to the arm member in a region proximate to the fixed point senses the angular position of the arm member. A second sensor coupled to the thumbpiece senses the linear movement of the thumbpiece relative to and longitudinally along the arm member. A third sensor coupled to the thumbpiece senses a downward force exerted upon the thumbpiece.
The interface control may, in one embodiment, comfortably rest in the palm of a user's hand. Positioning the fingers along the underside of the interface control, a user places the thumb in the thumbpiece. The user controls the horizontal positioning of, for example, a cursor by causing the arm member to pivot either to the right or to the left about the fixed point. This motion is detected by the first sensor, which in response thereto causes the cursor to move either right or left, respectively, on a display screen. The vertical positioning of the cursor is controlled by sliding the thumbpiece along the length of the arm member. The second sensor detects this linear movement of the thumbpiece and, in response thereto, causes the cursor to move up and down on the display screen. A user may implement trigger functions by exerting a downward force on the thumbpiece. This pressure is detected by the third sensor which, in turn, causes some predetermined function to be implemented on the display screen.
In another embodiment, the longitudinal arm member is disposed within a track defining an arcuate path rather than being coupled to a fixed pivot point. In this embodiment, positioning and trigger functions are controlled in the same manner as described in the preferred embodiment. By moving the arm member along the arcuate path as defined by the track, the thumbpiece follows an arcuate path having as its center a virtual pivot point. A sensor coupled to the arm member senses the arcuate movement of the arm member relative to the interface control and in response thereto generates a horizontal positioning control signal. The vertical positioning of the cursor and trigger functions are implemented as described above in connection with the preferred embodiment.
Embodiments of the present invention isolate the trigger function from the positioning controls. The downward force used to implement a trigger function will always be orthogonal to those motions of the thumb which are used to control the positioning of the cursor, regardless of the positions of the arm member or thumbpiece. This orthogonal relationship prevents a user from inadvertently altering the positioning of the cursor when trying to implement a trigger function.
Embodiments in accordance with the present invention also achieve superior ergonomics. The arm member is preferably of a length approximately equal to that of an adult thumb where different length arm members can be provided for different size hands. Together the arm member, which rotates to form an arcuate path, and the thumbpiece, which slides along the length of the arm member, emulate the natural pivoting and curling/extending motions of the thumb, respectively. The result is a comfortable, precise, and easy to use interface control.
In another embodiment, additional trigger switches are provided within cavities formed in the underside of the interface control. The fingertips of the user's hand, each comfortably nestled within an associated cavity, control the operation of the additional trigger switches, which may be used to implement numerous other functions.
Embodiments of the present invention are usable as an interface between a user and a machine where the machine carries out come predetermined function in response to commands issued by the user. In one embodiment, for instance, the user may control the mechanical operation of construction equipment. In another embodiment, the user may control moveable elements on a display screen, such as a cursor in a software application or an object in a video game.
This invention will be more fully understood in view of the following description taken together with the drawings.
In accordance with the present invention, an interface control is disclosed which allows a user to simultaneously control both a trigger function and the positioning of a cursor through a single contact surface using only the thumb. In the preferred embodiment shown in
First sensor 26 (
Thumbpiece 28 (
Shaft 40 (
Second sensor 42 is preferably a linear resistive potentiometer. If a rotary potentiometer is used as second sensor 42, thumbpiece 28 may be coupled to the potentiometer by a conventional rack and pinion gear. It is to be understood, however, that any other sensing device capable of detecting either motion or pressure may be used as first sensor 26 and second sensor 42 in interface control 10. Although first sensor 26 and second sensor 42 preferably produce analog positioning signals, interface control 10 may also employ s sensors which produce digital positioning signals.
A third sensor 44 (
A user cradles hand-held interface control 10 in the palm of his or her hand, positioning his fingers along the underside of bottom plate 14 and resting his thumb on curved contact surface 38 of thumbpiece 38, as shown in FIG. 5. Using only his thumb, the user may control the horizontal and vertical positioning of, for instance, a cursor on a display screen, as well as implement various related functions (such as selecting options from a pull-down menu).
The horizontal positioning of the cursor is manipulated by pivoting arm member 20 about point 22, whereby arm member 20 traces an arcuate path as indicated by arrows 25a, 25b (FIG. 2). First sensor 26, in response to the arcuate motion of arm member 20, generates a first positioning signal which controls the horizontal positioning of a cursor on a display screen indicative of the angular position of arm member 20. For instance, to move the cursor to the right on the display screen, the thumb (resting in thumbpiece 28) is used to move arm member 20 in an arcuate path to the right, as indicated by arrow 25a.
Preferably, arm member 20 is of a length (measured between portions 16a and 16b of side wall 16) approximately equal to that of the user's thumb so that when a user places the thumb on contact surface 38 of thumbpiece 28, the user's large thumb joint is immediately above point 22. The length of arm member 20 may be of varying lengths so as to accommodate different size hands. As discussed above, arm member 20, pivoting about point 22, travels in an arcuate path between sidewalls 16a, 16b of interface control 10. This arcuate path emulates the natural motion of the thumb as it pivots about the large thumb joint, thereby resulting in a natural and ergonomic relationship between the thumb and arm member 20. Hence, interface control 10 uses the natural arcuate motion of a user's thumb to effect linear changes in the horizontal positioning of a cursor on the display screen.
The vertical positioning of the cursor is controlled by sliding thumbpiece 28 along the length of arm member 20 as indicated by arrows 32a, 32b (FIG. 2). Second sensor 42 detects the linear movement of thumbpiece 28 and, in response thereto, generates second positioning signals which control the vertical positioning of the cursor. For instance, to move the cursor up or down on a display screen, the user simply uses his or her thumb to move thumbpiece 28 away from or towards point 22. This movement is easily achieved by extending or curling the thumb. Note that by positioning the fingers on the bottom side of base plate 14, the combined movement of the fingers assist the thumb in the curling and extending motions.
Trigger functions are implemented by exerting a downward pressure (using the thumb) upon thumbpiece 28. Third sensor 44 senses this downward pressure and, in response thereto, generates a trigger control signal. Depending upon the particular application with which interface control 10 is being used, this trigger control signal may implement a variety of functions. For instance, in computer software or interactive systems, this trigger control may select items from a menu. When used with a video game, for example, this trigger control may cause a character to jump.
The downward pressure exerted by the thumb to implement a trigger control signal is always orthogonal to the thumb motions used to control horizontal and vertical positioning, regardless of the angular position of arm member 20 or the linear position of thumbpiece 28. This orthogonal relationship eliminates undesirable interaction between the trigger control and the positioning controls and thus prevents cursor creep. A user, when exerting a downward pressure on thumbpiece 28, is not likely to inadvertently pivot or extend/curl the thumb (which would cause a change in the positioning of the cursor). Thus, by isolating the trigger and positioning controls, as described above, interface control 10 provides advantages over conventional joystick controllers which suffer from cursor creep problems.
In a similar manner, a right-handed user may place one of the three fingers closest to the thumb (of the right hand) in each of cavities 54a, 54b, and 54c to operate associated switches 58a, 58b, 58c, which, like switches 56a, 56b, 56c, generate second, third, and fourth trigger control signals, respectively, for implementing various predetermined functions.
If additional control signals are desired for implementing even more predetermined fractions, control circuitry may be added so that the simultaneous depression of two of more switches 56a, 56b, 56c (or 58a, 58b, 58c for right-handed users) generate these additional control signals. For instance, simultaneously depressing switches 56a and 56b (for left-hand operation) or 58a and 58b (for right-hand operation) may generate a fifth trigger control signal.
The embodiments in accordance with the present invention are advantageous over conventional joystick controllers. Indeed, interface controls 10 and 50 are suitable for one-handed operation, thereby leaving the user's other hand free to perform other tasks. This one-handed operation also eliminates the need for a flat surface, as required when using a mouse or operating conventional joystick interface controls with one hand.
Using the thumb to control positioning functions contributes to the superior ergonomics of interface controls 10 and 50. As mentioned above, conventional joystick controllers require various combinations of wrist and arm movements to control the positioning of a cursor and additional finger or thumb motions to control trigger functions. Such unnatural combinations of motions necessitate training and practice in order for a user to become proficient. This is especially true as the size of such a control is reduced. Unlike conventional controllers, embodiments in accordance with the present invention (1) isolate the horizontal and vertical positioning functions from each other and (2) isolate the positioning functions from the trigger functions while simultaneously allowing both functions to be controlled by a single user contact point. The result is an interface control which allows users to issue vertical and horizontal positioning commands in concert for smooth and precise motions along both axes (i.e., a diagonal motion), as well as implementing trigger functions without inadvertently altering those positioning commands. Further, the interface controls described herein allow users to control both positioning and trigger control functions with simple, intuitive thumb motions.
When a user traces his or her thumb across the tips of the fingers, every joint in his or her hand moves in concert to facilitate the thumb's motion. This opposed position of a user's thumb relative to his or her fingers and palm is utilized by interface controls 10 and 50 to achieve a comfortable and natural interface between the user and a machine (such as a computer). Indeed, by positioning a user's fingers along the bottom surface of base plate 14 and his or her thumb in thumbpiece 28, interface controls 10 and 50 operate in a manner consistent with the thumb's natural motions. By taking advantage of the thumb's full arcuate motion about the large thumb joint and the thumb's excellent linear motion, interface controls in accordance with the present invention allow a user to quickly and easily position a cursor or pointer on a display screen. The superior ergonomics of the above interface controls afford users a high degree of precision and efficiency without the extensive practice and training required of conventional joystick controllers. This accuracy and ease of use makes the present interface controls especially well suited for CAD or any other computer illustration systems.
The frictional coupling between elements of the preferred embodiments may be manipulated to adjust the “feel” of interface controls 10 and 50. For instance, contact surface 38 (
In a similar manner, the frictional coupling between third sensor 44 (
The positioning and trigger functions of interface control 65 are controlled in a manner identical to those of interface control 10 as described above (see
The embodiments described above may be used in virtually any application which requires an interface control between a user and a machine. Embodiments in accordance with the present invention may be used to control the operation of a construction crane or boom. Interface controls 10 and 50 are ideal for replacing the mouse or trackball in computer software applications such as word processing, databases, and spreadsheets. For instance, interface control 50 of
Embodiments of the present invention may also be incorporated into conventional two-banded video game controllers (see
The above described interface controls may be mounted in virtually any enclosure, including (but not limited to) control panels, automobile dashboards, steering wheels, or handgrips of other interface controls. For instance, in one such embodiment, base plate 14 (
In another embodiment, interface controls in accordance with the present invention may be disposed within a control panel such as the dashboard of an automobile, boat, or even an airplane to provide control over certain operations. For example, interface control 10 may be mounted in the control panel of construction equipment to control the operation of a boom or crane. A control panel-mounted interface control 10 could also be used to manually control, for instance, the processing operations of an industrial application or the positioning and firing of lasers in medical applications. These embodiments, like those discussed above, are advantageous since multiple control functions (1) are disposed on a single contact surface and (2) are isolated from one another.
Some of the ergonomic advantages discussed herein may be compromised in order to provide a user interface control capable of controlling positioning in three, rather than two, directions. In one such embodiment in accordance with the present invention, various elements of interface control 10 may be incorporated into the handgrip of a conventional full-size joystick to provide three-dimensional positioning control as well as trigger functions.
A user curls the four fingers of his or her hand around stick 72 and places the thumb in thumbpiece 28 (FIG. 10). The user controls the horizontal and vertical positioning of, for instance, a cursor displayed on a CRT in a conventional manner as described above, i.e., by pivoting stick 72 about the base portion. The user controls the depth positioning of the cursor with the thumb by pivoting arm member 20 about pivot point 22 (see FIG. 2). Trigger functions are activated by pressing downward on thumbpiece 28 (as discussed in reference to interface control 10).
Various forms of feedback may be added to the above described embodiments to provide a user with additional information about the particular application he or she is controlling, as described below in reference to
In a similar manner, a second actuator may be provided that in response to a second feedback signal inhibits the movement of thumbpiece 28 along arm member 20, as illustrated in FIG. 12. Arm member 20 has provided therein a sliding bar 90 having a first end coupled to thumbpiece 28. Iron core 92 is coupled to arm member 20 and is positioned in a region proximate to a second end of bar 90. Magnetic coil 94 is wound around ferrous care 92. A second feedback current provided to coil 94 will induce a magnetic attraction between bar 90 and against core 92, thereby resulting in an increased frictional coupling between bar 90 and core 92. This increased frictional coupling resists the sliding motion of thumbpiece 28 along arm member 20. Note that in some embodiments shaft 40 (
The embodiments described above and illustrated in
In other applications, interface control 80 (
The actuators discussed above may comprise a solenoid, a servomotor, or any other suitable device known in the art which generates a force in response to electric signals. The actuators may also employ shape-memory alloys, piezo ceramics, or electro-rheological compounds. Further, motor-type actuators may be employed to augment or restrain motion.
In other embodiments, the actuators discussed above may used to activate and deactivate electrically controlled detents so as to provide tactile click stops in the pivoting motion of arm member 20 (
Embodiments of the present invention may also be equipped with a spring return mechanism. With reference to interface control 10 (FIG. 2), a centering spring may be coupled to arm member 20 which causes arm member 20 to return to its center position whenever arm member 20 has deviated from the center position by exerting pressure on arm member 20. A manually controlled latch may also be provided which engages the centering spring to and disengages the centering spring from arm member 20 so as to turn on and off the centering mechanism. Such a centering mechanism is useful in applications requiring proportional control (i.e., a conventional joystick) rather than absolute control (i.e., a mouse). The centering spring may also be electrically actuated by an external signal from the interfaced device (i.e., computer, video game, and so on). Inclusion of such an electrically actuated spring allows the interfaced device to switch the controller between two modes of operation (spring centering and non-centering), as the particular application may require. In a similar manner, an additional centering spring may be coupled to thumbpiece 28 to provide proportional control in the vertical direction.
While particular embodiments of the present invention have been shown and described, it will be obvious to those skilled in the art that changes and modifications may be made without departing from this invention in its broader aspects and, therefore, the appended claims are to encompass within their scope all such changes and modifications as fall within the true spirit and scope of this invention.
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|JPS59160229A *||Title not available|
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|U.S. Classification||345/161, 345/184, 345/157|
|International Classification||G09G5/00, G06F3/033|
|Cooperative Classification||G06F3/0338, G06F3/0362|
|European Classification||G06F3/0362, G06F3/0338|
|Feb 12, 2002||AS||Assignment|
Effective date: 19991102
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Owner name: IMMERSION CORPORATION (DELAWARE CORPORATION), CALI