ELECTRONICS MODULE SUPPORT SYSTEM FOR USE WITH SPORTS OBJECTS
A method and apparatus for suspending core electronics in a sports object is disclosed. The suspension is accomplished in such a manner as to protect the electronics from impact during normal play of the sports object. In one embodiment, a web like membrane is used to suspend the electronics in the sports object. Other embodiments include use of an impact absorbing memory foam, an air inflated inner core, or a flexible membrane in any combination with or without the web-like design, or individually used, suspend and support the core electronics while providing protection to the core electronics.
The present invention relates generally to embedding electronics in a sports object, and specifically relates to a method and composition used to embed a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) receiver and associated Radio Frequency (RF) transmitter components in a sports object to allow tracking and sending of information from the sports object without damage to the electronics during normal use of the sports object in a sporting or training event.BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
Sporting events and sports training activities of today see more use of electronics for training purposes and spectator enjoyment. For example, sports objects such as, but not limited to, baseballs, golf balls, footballs, basketballs, hockey pucks, soccer balls, lacrosse balls, racquet balls, tennis balls, jai alai balls, polo balls, billiard pool balls, and the like, may now contain electronics that provide object positional and flight path information of the sports object. This information can be used to assist training instructors, participants, and spectators. For example, for the participants, these types of electronics used in the sports object can assist in training events and also provide detailed information to assist refereeing the sporting event. For spectators, such electronics can provide enhanced enjoyment of the sport by allowing for detailed geographical, and positional information about the sports object to be made available via display screens at the sporting event, the use of such information to provide virtual replays of game events, the use of such information to enhance broadcast descriptions from the announcer's booth, and the like. In sport objects that do not contain a solid core, there are several challenges associated with placing electronics with the sports object.
In U.S. Pat. No. 7,095,312 (the '312 patent), incorporated herein in its entirety, a method and apparatus is disclosed for tracking location and flight path attributes of one or more sports objects. The '312 patent describes fitting sports objects with electronic devices that receive and transmit position and location information obtained from the Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) System, without adversely affecting the sports object's ability to perform in a standard way. The disclosed method and apparatus in this patent also illustrates, among other things, association of the sports objects with individual players, mapping each sports object location and flight path to surrounding field of play, and allowing each player to access the location and flight path attributes of their sports objects. The features offered by sports objects containing such electronics give sports participants and spectators a greater ability to play and train in various sporting events in a manner never before made available.
The sports objects that contain such delicate electronics have various characteristics that ordinary sports objects do not. If the electronics are embedded in the sports objects, it must be done in such a manner as to not affect the transmission and reception of the core electronics. In addition protection is required for the electronics from impact forces. Most sports objects are subjected to impact in the course of their typical use. A way of embedding the electronics is needed to protect the core electronics from damage due to deformation and impact-related G-forces. In addition, the sports object must have the same weight, dimensions and other physical attributes as a normal sport object that does not contain such electronics.SUMMARY AND OBJECTS OF THE INVENTION
The present invention, provides for an apparatus and method of containing electronics in a sports object and providing protection to the electronics from impact and other forces associated with the normal play of the sports object. The present invention also provides an apparatus and method of placing electronics in a sports object that have the ability to track the distance, location and flight path attributes of one or more sports objects, associate the sports objects with individual (or groups of) players, map each sports object location and flight path to a field of play or an arena, and allow each player or authorized user to access the location and flight path attributes of their sports object.
In one object of the invention, a sports object in a web like design suspends the core electronics. In further embodiments, an impact absorbing material such as memory foam, an air inflated inner core, or a flexible membrane in any combination with or without the web-like design, or individually used, suspend and support the core electronics while providing protection to the core electronics. The core electronics can be within, inserted within and/or attached to the sports object. Depending on such sports object, the placement of such material may be in any location within the sports object or attached thereto. Reception components such as antennas may also be within the skin or in the threads of the sport object's stitches.
The invention accounts for the mass of the electronics package or core added to the sports object to be offset by mass removed from the lining or outer layer of the hollow sports object. Such exchange of materials will be engineered in a way to guarantee the performance of the sports object in a manner that matches or closely approximates the performance and feel of the original object.
In an alternate embodiment when mass removed is insufficient to offset the mass of the electronics package, placement of the electronics package will be such that normal performance of the sports object will be affected as little as possible. In such alternate embodiment, when a weight discrepancy exists in a sports object, for example a football, placement of the electronics package will be made with such added mass being engineered to have as little impact on performance as possible. In one embodiment, electronics package is installed in the tip of the sports object.
An additional object of the present invention is to embed the replacement core of electronics and protective materials to be perfectly weighted and balanced to eliminate wobble or off-center spin behavior in the sports object. Additionally, the core's response to impact and acceleration will be constructed to be identical to that of the original sports object. A further object of the invention is to fully account for the well known mechanics of deformation, compression and shape restitution in a particular sports object, and to design the embedded electronics and suspension package in such a way so as to protect it from the effects of the deformation and compression envelope.
The foregoing objects are achieved and other features and advantages of the present invention will become more apparent in light of the following detailed description of exemplary embodiments thereof, as illustrated in the accompanying drawings.
In the drawings, wherein similar reference characters denote similar elements throughout the several views:
The invention will now be described in detail with reference to the accompanying drawings. Generally, the disclosed system and method relates to protection of electronic components suspended or otherwise supported in a sports object using a protective material such as a flexible membrane, web like design, memory foam and self contained inner air pockets and the like. Some sports objects have a solid core and some do not. Sports objects include, but are not limited to, baseballs, golf balls, footballs, basketballs, hockey pucks, soccer balls, lacrosse balls, racquet balls, tennis balls, jai alai balls, polo balls, billiard pool balls, and the like. Special challenges occur in placing electronics with objects that do not have a solid core.
Adverting to the drawings,
The electronics core can receive and transmit data, continuously, at intervals or upon the occurrence of a condition or conditions. For example, the user of the sports object may only want tracking information from the moment of impact of the sports object until the sports object comes to rest. In that case, a microprocessor in the electronics core can be programmed to begin transmitting data continuously from the time a motion sensor senses motion or impact until the motion sensor determines that sports object has come to rest. A motion sensor may be placed in the electronic core and may be any type of sensor capable of sensing motion such as an accelerometer, linear velocity sensor, infra-red sensor, compression sensor or a vibration sensor. Alternatively, a microprocessor may be programmed to define specific time periods for which to receive and transmit data. For example, the microprocessor can be programmed to receive and transmit data commencing upon impact and terminating after a period of 10 seconds has elapsed.
Depending on the embodiment, the membrane 18 may be an elastic type strapping that allows the electronics to be safely supported by and/or suspended within the sports object during normal play of the sport. In some instances the electronic core may move safely within the sports object. An antenna 16 may be used in the sports object to allow transmission of information to an external receiver. The antenna may be in the stitching of the sports object as shown in
In another exemplary embodiment, foam may be used to support the electronic core. As shown in
In addition to the memory foam, embodiments include the use of inflatable bladders, and the like. The bladders can be inflated to conform around the electronic core similar to the memory foam, or can occupy the entire inner space of the sports object, or some combination thereof. In another embodiment, certain types of gases may be used to stabilize the electronics within the sports object either in a solid or nonsolid core configuration. For example, gases included but are not limited to helium, nitrogen, argon and any combinations thereof.
Mass may be removed from the sports object to suspend or embed the electronic core. When mass is removed the electronic core mass that is added may be insufficient to offset the mass removed and normal performance of the sports object can be affected. In such an embodiment, when a weight discrepancy exists in a sports object, for example a football, placement of the electronics package will be made with such added mass being engineered to have as little impact on performance as possible. For example, the electronics package may be installed in one or both tips of the sports object.
The present invention allows embedding the core of electronics and protective materials to be weighted and balanced to eliminate wobble or off-center spin behavior in the sports object. Additionally, the core's response to impact and acceleration is constructed to be identical to that of the original sports object. The design of the embedded electronics and suspension package allows protection of the electronic core and protects it from the effects of the deformation and compression envelope.
Other alternative embodiments or implementations according to the various teachings of the present invention will be understood by those skilled in the art and are achieved without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. It is therefore intended that the present invention is not limited to the disclosed embodiments described herein but should be defined in accordance with the claims that follow.
1. A supporting apparatus for electronics in a sports object, such sports object being capable of receiving, storing and transmitting tracking data comprising:
- an electronics core including a receiver for receiving tracking data; a transmitter for transmitting the tracking data; a programmable microprocessor for controlling the receiver and the transmitter wherein tracking data is received by the sports object through the receiver such that the tracking data passes through the microprocessor before the tracking data is transmitted from the sports object by the transmitter; and
- at least one supporting means connected to the electronic core and the sports object.
2. The supporting apparatus of claim 1 wherein the supporting means is a flexible membrane.
3. The supporting apparatus of claim 1, wherein the supporting means is a self contained air bladder.
4. The supporting apparatus of claim 1, wherein the supporting means is a memory foam.
5. The supporting apparatus of claim 1 wherein the supporting means is connected to an inner wall of the sports object.
6. The sports object of claim 1 wherein the total mass of a modified sports object with the supporting means, and core electronics is identical to or closely resembles that of an original sports object.
7. The sports object of claim 1 wherein a modified sports object with the supporting means, and core electronics is identical to or closely resembles the balance and spin attributes that of an original sports object.
International Classification: A63B 43/00 (20060101);