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TALKING DOLL WITH ANIMATED FEATURES
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to an animated audio doll for simulating a living object with audio-visual characteristics, and more particularly to an economical animated doll that can be manufactured and assembled within minimal cost and production tolerance constraints.
2. Description of the Prior Art
People in general and children especially are fascinated when an inert object, such as a doll, can be ani- 15 mated to provide lifelike characteristics, such as moving eyes and mouth with the coordination of sound. An early example in the patent literature can be found in U.S. Pat. No. 2,114,851 wherein a ventriloquist's dummy is disclosed with coordinated eye and mouth 20 movement. Subsequently, animated figures were coordinated with sound and with motors to move various parts of the body, such as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 2,711,603 wherein a motorized mannequin is capable of changing facial expressions including the movement of 25 its mouth. Another example can be found in U.S. Pat. No. 2,641,866 wherein a mechanized movable doll could also incorporate a sound producing mechanism to simulate a voice. Numerous examples exist of animated sounding toys, such as dolls, wherein a synchronization 30 of a sound producing device is coordinated with the movement of both a mouth or a pair of lips and eyes, such as U.S. Pat. No. 3,230,665, U.S. Pat. No. 3,264,778, U.S. Pat. No. 3,210,887, U.S. Pat. No. 3,353,296, and U.S. Pat. No. 3,364,618. The latter two patents represent the work of one of the present inventors and disclose a phonograph player in the trunk of a doll that would produce sounds that could be coordinated with both movable eyes and a mouth to produce a lifelike animated doll. The prior art is also aware of the alternative use of tape players with replaceable tape cartridges instead of phonographs positioned in the body of a doll to produce audible sounds with appropriate synchronization of the mouth movement, such as shown in U.S. Pat. No. 3,287,849 and U.S. Pat. No. 3,685,200. It has also been known to encode a tape cartridge with control signals coordinated with audio signals in slide projectors and toys.
The rapid advancement of relatively inexpensive 50 electronic component parts plus the miniaturization of electronic parts have permitted doll designers to design complex motions and sounds to be generated in dolls and other toys, such as robots. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 4,451,911 discloses a microprogrammable doll with 55 audio features.
Finally, various amusement parks have provided animated figures with coordinated body movements and audio sounds from tape players controlled through servo feedback systems that monitor the position of the go moving components.
Thus, the ability to either combine a phonograph unit or a tape player with synchronized mouth and eye movements has been common knowledge in the toy field for over 20 years. The allure of more sophisticated 65 miniaturizing of electronics that are well known in the toy industry has encouraged the manufacturers to make more complex and elaborate animated audio toys, such
as robot toys and dolls that can provide a number of toy play options to children.
While technology has become more sophisticated and the dissemination of this information is commonplace in the toy field, the ultimate user of the product is still a relatively young child. Thus, numerous sophisticated features may be appealing to an adult in buying the toy, but there is still a limitation as to the amount of money that the average purchaser is willing to spend on a luxury item, such as a toy. Additionally, children require a relatively rugged and tolerant toy that will not only function on its first day of purchase, but will be able to withstand the rigors of prolonged child's play.
Thus, there is still a demand in the toy field for a relatively economical, animated audio doll having an easily manufactured structure with relatively loose tolerance specifications to permit variables to occur without affecting the performance of the doll and that further can be subject to the relatively rigorous demands of the child during play.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The present invention is both an improvement and a simplification of the known animated audio doll toys that have moving eyes and coordinated mouth and audio production from a self-contained tape player in the body of the doll. The doll's head can be mechanized to provide an apparent random movement of the eyes in both the vertical and horizontal plane and can further provide a coordinated movement of the doll's mouth with the production of characteristic sounds symbolic of the living object represented by the doll, such as a little boy or girl. The eyes are mounted in a simulated head member to provide the coordinated vertical and horizontal movements and are driven through a series of gears and flexible links interconnected with timing cams and followers. Inexpensive uni-directional direct current (DC) motors can serve as the prime movers. The linkage system from the cam follower to the eyes includes elongated flexible links that are relatively rigid during the normal driven movement of the eyes but have a specific design flexibility and are positioned within a path of unrestrained freedom of movement to bend sufficiently to absorb the driven displacement if the eyes are restrained from movement, thereby protecting an overload on the DC motor. An equivalent flexible linkage can also be utilized to move the mouth and preferably a separate uni-directional DC motor drives the mouth.
A cassette tape player of a conventional compact configuration is mounted within the trunk of the doll body and can receive replaceable magnetic tape cassettes that are encoded with both fixed level frequency timing signals on one track and audio sounds on a separate track. The tape cassette can consist of only a pair of encoded timing signals providing a first and second fixed frequency level above a threshold base frequency to control the mouth movement. The base frequency is set below the operative range of the timing frequencies to improve the control circuit response time. These fixed frequency timing signals can be converted to digital signal levels that can drive the mouth motor to either an "on" or "off state.
A pair of pickup heads can be used, one to sense the audio signal which is subsequently pre-amplified and provided to a driver circuit to drive the audio speaker in the doll body, while the other pickup head senses the fixed frequency timing signals that are pre-amplified
and applied to a zero crossover detector circuit for digitizing the sensed timing signals. A differential circuit is provided for quantizing the sensed timing signals and a subsequent integrating circuit integrates the timing signals to voltage levels. A level detector circuit 5 means is provided for distinguishing between the first and second level timing signals, while a logic circuit is utilized to apply either the first level timing signal to the mouth motor and to a binary feedback switch, which can indicate if the mouth is in a closed position, or a 10 second level timing signal, which is supplied in a parallel manner to the mouth motor to continually drive the mouth in a cyclically open and closed fashion regardless of the state of the binary feedback signal from the switch and the presence of the first level timing signal. 15 Ordinary DC batteries can be used without voltage regulation since the signal processing of the binary digital signals take into account the wide variance in power output of relatively inexpensive battery supplies.
The features of the present invention, which are be- 20 lieved to be novel, are set forth with particularity in the pending claims. The present invention, both as to its organization and manner of operation, together with further objects and advantages thereof, may best be understood by reference to the following description, 25 taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 is a front elevational perspective view of the present invention in the form of a doll head and tape 30 player of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a plan view of the power transmission to the eyes and mouth with the eye mounting bracket rotated 180° from its normal position relative to the lower motors for illustration purposes; 35
FIG. 3 is a vertical, cross-sectional view of the apparatus of the present invention in combination with a toy in the form of a doll;
FIG. 4 is a schematic block diagram of the control circuit of the present invention; 40
FIGS. 5a and 5b form a circuit diagram showing the details of the audio and control circuit of the present invention;
FIG. 6 is an encoding and timing schematic diagram for explanation purposes; and 45
FIG. 7 is an exploded schematic disclosing the subunits that comprise the parts to be assembled for manufacturing.
DETAIL DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED
The following description is provided to enable any person skilled in the toy and electronic industry to make and use the invention, and it sets forth the best modes contemplated by the inventors of carrying out the in- 55 vention. Various modifications, however, will remain readily apparent to those skilled in the above art, since the generic principles of the present invention are applied herein specifically to provide a relatively economical and easily manufactured animated figure with coor- 60 dinated audio response, such as a talking toy doll.
The present invention is directed to provide an animated figure, such as a male or female toy doll. The toy doll has subjective facial design characteristics that are not part of the present invention. Flexible skinlike doll 65 heads containing mechanisms for moving the eyes of a doll and the mouth of a doll in coordination with sound are disclosed in the earlier work of one of the present
inventors in U.S. Pat. No. 3,364,618 and U.S. Pat. No. 3,353,296. The present invention represents a further improvement in simplifying the production cost of such animation mechanisms.
Additionally, while the toy field has for a considerable period of time been aware of the use of tape players and tape cassettes for both producing an audible voice in coordination with the control of motors, for example, to provide movement of the parts of the face, such as the mouth and eyes, there has been a recent tendency to complicate such mechanisms by providing an extremely elaborate microprocessor system and precise servosensing circuits. The present invention recognizes that such complexity not only increases the cost of the product but also increases the ability of the product to fail without significantly increasing the desirable play action for the child. Thus, a goal of the present invention is to simplify a talking animated doll that is driven by a tape player so that a rugged durable doll is provided that can be easily manufactured while retaining the essential play action features desired by the child. In accomplishing this purpose, the present inventors determined that a true or complete synchronization of mouth movement to duplicate the actual movement of a living object, such as a person, is not necessary to achieve the essential play action feature of the present invention. It has been decided as a design parameter of the present invention, that movement of the mouth during the production of an audible sound and conversely stopping of the movement of the mouth with the cessation of sound is the key feature and is sufficient to provide the essential play action feature desired by a child. Empirical observations by the inventors have noted that an observer assimilates the visual appearance of the movement of the mouth during the sound production which causes the observer to mentally coordinate the effect to the inanimated object and to perceive an animated, lifelike object. Thus, if the mouth is in motion in coordination with the starting of the sound and the mouth stops in coordination with the stopping of the sound, the essential play feature desired can be provided by the toy. Additionally, random eye movement heightens the lifelike perception of the observer.
While it should be appreciated that the present invention can be utilized in various forms of simulated, animated objects, such as mannequins, animals, amusement display devices, robots, etc., the present invention in the preferred embodiment will be described hereinafter with regard to a toy doll, such as a simulated little girl or little boy.
Accepting the above design parameter, the present inventors have proceeded to further provide mechanisms that will protect the uni-directional motors of the present invention from the natural curiosity of children, e.g. touching or holding fast the moving portions of the head, such as the mouth or the eyes, and have further provided a unique simplified encoding system that takes into consideration manufacturing tolerances in various tape players and the effect of relatively inexpensive battery supplies in the movement of the tape player.
Referring to FIG. 1, a female toy doll incorporates the present invention. A head member 4 is connected to the trunk 6 of the doll and can further support appropriate articulated limbs. The doll can be of any size that is large enough to contain the tape player mechanism, motors, transmission gears, etc. that are mounted within the housing member 8. The torso or trunk of the doll can have an appropriate cavity with an opening, usually
positioned on the rear body of the doll, to accomodate and hold the housing member 8 with appropriate access to controls for turning the doll on and inserting and replacing tape cartridges. As can be readily appreciated, the clothing of the doll is usually designed to 5 accomodate access to the tape player while covering the doll body to maintain the desired appearance to the child. The doll body itself may be rigid or flexible, depending upon the particular utilization of the toy, however, the doll head is preferably formed of a soft 10 flexible plastic shell.
Mounted within the housing member 8 is a tape player 10, shown in FIG. 7 that can accomodate replaceable magnetic tape cartridges 9. A power supply, such as four C batteries 14, see FIG. 5, is mounted 15 within the housing member 8 and is also accessible from the rear of the doll body 6. The specific tape player 10 is of a conventional design and consists essentially of a pre-amplifier and a driver circuit or audio amplifier to drive the speaker 12. One embodiment of the audio 20 circuit is disclosed schematically in FIG. 5, but it should be understood that circuits used in conventional tape recorders and tape players could be utilized. As can be seen, the pre-amplifier is transistorized to provide a lower current drain on the power supply as is known 25 and appreciated by a person of ordinary skill in this field. Additionally, the driving of the magnetic tape through a motor 16 with appropriate capstans and speed governors are well known. A magnetic tape is preferably contained in a self-enclosed cassette housing 9 (FIG. 30 7) and in the preferred embodiment of the present invention includes a pair of recording tracks with one track dedicated to the audio sounds that are to be picked up by the stereo head or transducer 18 and the other track to be picked up by the encoding head or trans- 35 ducer 20.
Referring again to FIG. 7, the speaker 12, of a conventional design, is mounted on cover member 11 while the gears and motors are mounted on a support plate 13. The tape player forms a rear portion 15 of the housing 40 member 8. As can be readily appreciated, by forming these parts of the invention in sub-units, manufacturing assembly can be easily accomplished.
Referring to FIGS. 2 and 3, a schematic of the mechanisms for moving the simulated eyes and mouth is 45 disclosed. Motor 22 for the eyes is a uni-directional DC motor of a conventional design and is independent of the mouth motor 172. It is connected through a speed reducer belt 24 to a pulley and pinion gear combination 26. An appropriate gear train assembly 28 drives an 50 output gear 30. The gears can be molded of plastic and preferably are designed to minimize any noise. The output gear 30 of the gear train assembly 28 meshes with gear teeth 32 on a compound cam assembly 34. A pair of separate camming surfaces are provided in paral- 55 lei planes on the cam member assembly 34 for rotational contact with respectively pivoted cam follower levers 36 and 38. The rotational movement of the cam member 34 is turned into a pair of linear displacements that will vary upon rotation, depending on the cut of respective 60 cam tracks. A pair of springs 40 bias the respective cam followers against their respective camming surfaces on the cam assembly 34. The cantilever end of each of the cam followers 36 and 38 are respectively attached to flexible links 42 and 44. These flexible links are rela- 65 tively rigid during normal operation to transmit the variable displacement of the respective cam followers 36 and 38 to pivotable links in the eye mechanism 46.
Links 42 and 44, however, have a specifically designed flexibility to bend sufficiently to absorb the driven displacement at any point along the cam surface if the doll's eyes 48 are restrained during operation. That is, if a child holds the eyes stationary, the links will bend rather than bind the followers 36 and 38, and the spring force in the links do not provide a sufficient torque load on the gear assembly that would adversely effect the motor 22. The flexible links 42 and 44 are also positioned to extend into the doll head 4 along a path of unrestrained freedom of movement to accomodate any possible bending. Preferably, the links 42, 44 and 214 are formed from nylon and are not positioned within any restraining casing.
One cam surface controls the vertical displacement of the eyes 48 while the other cam surface controls the horizontal displacement of the eyes 48. As can be seen from FIGS. 2 and 3, the eyes 48 are subject to a compound motion as they reside in the flexible sockets of the head member 4. A support plate 50 is fixedly mounted in the doll head 4 and includes a vertical slot 52 that accomodates a pin member 54 that supports a tie bar 56. Movement of the flexible link 42 can displace the pin 54 vertically along the slot 52 which in turn carries the tie bar 56 that is connected at either end to a respective eyeball. The connection with the tie bar 56 and the eyeballs 48 are such that the eyeballs can only rotate about an approximately vertical axis, when the tie bar 56 is displaced in a horizontal direction. When the tie bar 56 is displaced by the pin 54 in a vertical direction, the eyeballs 48 must also rotate about a horizontal axis to follow the displacement of the tie bar. Since the tie bar 56 provides a parallel linkage to each of the respective eyeballs 48, they will move in unison and can both look up and down in a vertical direction while sweeping horizontally depending upon the desired cam path configuration that is provided on the cam assembly 34.
A pivot plate or bellcrank 58 is attached to the horizontal flexible link 44 and rotates about the pivot point 60. At the upper end of the bellcrank 58, a tie rod 62 is connected through a ball joint at one end and to the tie bar 56, through another ball joint, at the other end. Since the tie bar 56 has a horizontal slot, displacement of the bell-crank 58 by the flexible link 44 permits the tie bar 56 to be displaced and to move each of the respective eyes 48 in unison. Thus, a horizontal sweep of the eyes can be efficiently provided. The use of these flexible links 42 and 44 rather than conventional cables mounted in a casing provides significant safety and rugged construction features that can withstand the rigors of child play. As can be appreciated, a compound motion is provided to the eyes to simulate a realistic appearance.
Referring to the circuit diagram of FIGS. 5a and 56, the audio track of the magnetic tape is picked up by the stereo head 18 and a pre-amplification is provided by portion 64 of the audio circuit in a known manner. The final audio amplification to drive the speaker 12 is provided by the circuit portion 66. Specific details of this audio circuit are standard and do not form an essential part of the present invention, and accordingly a detailed discussion will be omitted since these audio circuits can be easily understood by persons skilled in this field. The connector 183 permits attachment of an accessory which is not part of this invention.
The control circuit for driving the eyes 48 and the mouth 222 will now be described. In this regard, it should be appreciated that the motor 22 that drives the