CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT STATEMENT
This is a non-provisional patent application claiming benefit of provisional patent application 61/561,504, filed on Nov. 18, 2011, by Jesse Cobb.
- MICROFICHE APPENDIX
- INCORPORATION BY REFERENCE
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
Provisional patent application 61/561,504, filed on Nov. 18, 2011, by Jesse J. Cobb is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.
1. Field of the Invention
The invention relates generally to the field of electronic toys, and in particular to toys for blind and visually impaired children. This is a non-provisional patent application claiming benefit of provisional patent application 61/561,504, filed on Nov. 18, 2011, by Jesse J. Cobb.
2. Background of the Invention
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
While some ordinary toys suitable for sighted children are also suitable for and played with by blind or visually impaired children, many toys provide a primarily visual stimulus and, therefore, are not of much interest to children who cannot see. In order to keep a blind child happy and developing mentally and emotional, it is important to provide the child with an ever expanding range of non-visual sensory experiences through a variety of techniques. One such technique is to use specialized toys for blind children that help teach and develop sound and music skills. New toys that provide an outlet for a blind or visually impaired child to develop his or her mind are, therefore, always in need.
Accordingly, the following discloses an electronic musical puzzle toy for blind or visually impaired children. The toy comprises an electronic deck featuring a plurality of ordered slots and one special “reader slot” into which any of a plurality of blocks may be placed. Each block contains a remote electronic identifier (e.g. an RFID tag) that the deck is capable of reading. When a block is placed in the “reader slot”, a unique tone, musical phrase, or sound recording associated with the particular block is played back. The same sound is played back when the block is placed in its unique correct slot and then pressed down. To solve the puzzle, the child must place each block in its correct slot. Once the puzzle is solved in this way, the child may selectively play back each sound by pressing on a block of choice. In embodiments where each bock represents a single tone, the child can then play the blocks like an electronic keyboard.
It is an object of the invention to help blind and visually impaired children explore the world and play in new ways, thereby aiding in their mental and emotional development.
It is a further object of the invention to teach blind and visually impaired children the elements of music, thereby aiding in their mental and emotional development.
It is a further object of the invention to teach blind and visually impaired children to solve puzzles using sound and touch, thereby helping them to develop their non-sight senses and problem solving skills.
It is a further object of the invention to provide similar benefits to other groups, such as a blind and visually impaired adults, as well as sighted children and adults. Anyone may find the invention entertaining and developmentally useful.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Additional features and advantages of the invention will be set forth in the description which follows, and will be apparent from the description, or may be learned by practice of the invention. The foregoing general description and the following detailed description are exemplary and explanatory and are intended to provide further explanation of the invention.
The accompanying drawings are included to provide a further understanding of the invention and are incorporated into and constitute a part of the specification. They illustrate one embodiment of the invention and, together with the description, serve to explain the principles of the invention.
FIG. 1 shows an exemplary braille instruction manual that could accompany the invention.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
FIG. 2 shows a top view of an exemplary embodiment of the invention.
Referring now to the invention in more detail, FIG. 1 shows a braille instruction manual (1) to be read by blind or visually impaired older children or adults who may be using the invention or supervising the use of the invention by a child who has not yet learned to read braille. FIG. 2 shows a top view of a first exemplary embodiment of the invention. The invention comprises a plurality of electronically identifiable blocks (2) of identical size and shape and an electronic deck (3) featuring a number of internal and external electronic components. The externally installed components comprise a reader slot (10), a plurality of ordered slots (11), a first table (12) of musical rhythm, style, and tempo selections, a rhythm control (13), an instrument selector (14), a second table (15) of selectable instrument sounds, and a power button (16). The internally installed electronics (not shown) comprise a microprocessor, computer memory, power source, one or more electronic identification devices, a plurality of electronic switches and controls, input adapter, audio adapter connected to one or more speakers, all in electronic communication through a main bus or similar circuit.
Referring still to the invention of FIG. 2, the blocks (2) are all identically sized and shaped. They are made of a material suitable for children's toys and are of a size that a child of the intended age may easily pick up. Many suitable designs and materials for blocks are known in the prior art. The blocks (2) need not be cubic, and take any shape. Alternative embodiments may eschew blocks entirely in favor of another form of token, such as cards. Regardless of the size and shape, each block is electronically identifiable. This may be achieved, for example, with RFID chips placed inside of each block, with bar codes printed on the exterior of the block, or any other suitable means of uniquely electronically identifying an object. Many such means are known in the prior art.
Referring still to the invention of FIG. 2, the electronics deck (3) is of a size convenient for a child of a particular intended age to easily reach all of the controls. The construction is in the usual manner for electronics casings, and many electronics casings are known in the prior art. The reader slot (10) is a depressed area into which one of the blocks (2) may be placed. In the shown embodiment, the reader slot (10) is larger than any face of any block (2) so that the blocks may be easily placed into and removed from the reader slot (10). The ordered slots (11) are depressed areas into which one of the blocks (2) may be placed, however each ordered slot fits a block more closely than the reader slot (10), thereby providing a tactile cue to the user that the block (2) is in a slot (11). Additionally, each ordered slot (11)'s bottom face is linked to a pressure sensor (which may take any form; many such sensors are known in the prior art). Many designs and materials for pressure switches on children's toys are known in the prior art.
Referring still to the invention of FIG. 2, the first table (12) listing any number of rhythms and musical styles with which the puzzle's sounds may be played back is, in the embodiment shown, printed, etched, or written onto the face of the deck (3) in braille and in visual print. The rhythm control (13), in the embodiment shown, comprises a plurality of buttons with which a particular style or rhythm may be selected. In other embodiments, the rhythm control (13) may take the form of switches, a selection wheel, or any other electronic control. The setting for the rhythm control (13) is noted in braille as well as visual writing. Similarly the second table (15) listing the available instrument sounds is printed, etched, or written onto the face of the deck (3) in braille and in visual print. The instrument selector (14), in the embodiment shown, comprises a wheel that may be turned to a desired setting for a particular instrument sound. In other embodiments, the instrument selector (14) may take the form of switches, buttons, or any other electronic control.
The setting for the instrument selector (14) is noted in braille as well as visual writing. The power button (16), in the embodiment shown, takes the form of a button, however other embodiments may utilize a switch or other electronic control. The described electronic switches and printing techniques for applying braille and visual writing to the exterior of electronics casings are well known in the prior art.
Referring still to the invention of FIG. 2, the above-referenced electronic components are all to be understood as in electronic communication with each other. For example, the components may be mounted on and electronically connected through a printed circuit board. The above referenced power source may include battery mount points from which to provide electrical power for the device, or may include an external cord and wall plug in order to draw electrical power from wall current. In addition, the power button (16) may be directly connected to the power supply to selectively allow or disallow electric power to reach the primary electronics, or may be connected through the input adapter to the microprocessor, which monitors the power button for activity and switches the device between an active mode and a standby mode accordingly. Many such electronic power supplies are known in the prior art.
In addition to the electronic components, persistently stored on the computer memory is a software program to be executed by the microprocessor having the following functional features: [i] to access the electronic identification means to sense the presence of a block (2) in the reader slot (10); [ii] to access the electronic identification means to identify a unique block (2) present in the reader slot (10); [iii] to detect and respond to the presence of a block (2) in any ordered slot (11) by accessing that ordered slot (11)'s pressure sensor; [iv] to identify a block  that has been placed inside a particular ordered slot (11); [v] to determine whether a particular block (2) and particular ordered slot (11) match, according to a table that has been predetermined and stored in the computer memory; [vi] to read inputs from the rhythm control (13) and instrument selector (14) and to retain the device's state based on those inputs; [vii] to generate a synthetic sound, tone, or musical phrase or to play back a pre-recorded sound, tone or musical phrase associated with a particular unique block (2) or combination of a unique block (2) with its matching ordered slot (11), as modified by the selected rhythm and instrument settings; and [vii] to output the playback sound through the sound adapter and speakers.
To use the invention, the rhythm and tone are first selected. The participant or supervising individual selects a desired rhythm pattern, using the rhythm selector (13). Available rhythm patterns can be as simple as the continuous play of a single tone, short or long play of a single tone, or a series of tones to played to express each unique block (2). Similarly, the participant of supervising individual selects a desired instrument or voice with the instrument selector (14). Available instruments may include simulated instruments, voices, or abstract sounds, or may include any pre-recorded sound. Whether basic, complex, or unusual, the combination of rhythm selection and instrument selection will determine how each block sounds.
Once a rhythm pattern and instrument are selected, the child or adult participant begins with the device powered on and the several blocks (2) placed on the floor or table in front of the deck (3). The participant picks up a block (2) and places it in the reader slot (10). The software program will operate to identify the presence of the block (2) in the reader (10), identify which block (2) is present, and play back the corresponding sound. The participant may repeat this process or return to it as many times as he or she likes with any number of available blocks.
When the participant is ready, he or she may place a block (2) in one of the ordered slots (11) and press down. Pressing down on a block (2) in an ordered slot (11) causes the software program to operate to identify which block is present in the ordered slot (11). If the ordered slot (11) matches the particular block (2) placed in it, according to a predetermined relationship table stored persistently in the computer memory, then the software will play back the sound associated with the particular block (2). If on the other hand, the block (2) does not match the ordered slot (11), then the software program will not play back the sound associated with the block (2), but may instead display no sound at all, or a negative feedback sound (for example, a sharp low buzz may be used to indicate an incorrect pairing). Alternatively, a decoy sound may be used to test the participant's memory of the correct sound for the block, which the participant may produce at will by placing the block in the reader slot (10).
As the participant locates the correct positions of the blocks (2) in the ordered slots (11) by listening to the auditory feedback, the ordered slots (11) will fill up with blocks (2). When all or most of the ordered slots (11) are filled with the correct blocks (2), the participant may selectively press down on the blocks to play music. To facilitate this, the ordered slots (11) may be arranged so that the particular notes associated with the correct blocks forms a musical scale, allowing the user to play the device like an electronic keyboard.
While the foregoing written description of the invention enables one of ordinary skill to make and use what is presently considered to be the best mode thereof, those of ordinary skill in the art will understand and appreciate the existence of variations, combinations, and equivalents of the specific embodiment, method, and examples herein. The invention should, therefore, not be limited by the above described embodiment, method, and examples, but by all embodiments and methods within the scope and spirit of the invention.