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Title:
AUTOMATED RACKING OF WEIGHT LIFTING EQUIPMENT
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2016/064754
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Automated gym equipment sorting technology is presented for receiving, measuring, sorting, delivering and inventorying weights (dumbbells) used in a gym faciiity. Various mechanisms are employed for efficiently replacing weights on a rack accessible to gym members. Weights are randomly dropped off at and dynamically sorted by the technology based on dumbbell characteristics and an optional schema so that members can more efficiently find desired weights,

Inventors:
ZIMMERMAN, Greg (10 W 15th Street Apt. 314, New York, NY, 10011, US)
ZIMMERMAN, Ben (382 7th Avenue, Apt. 4RBrooklyn, NY, 11215, US)
HISKEY, Justin (712 S. Curley Street, Baltimore, MD, 21224, US)
SHARMA, Aditya, Karan (916 McKean Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19148, US)
ARORA, Saurabh (163 Liberty Avenue, 1st FloorJersey City, NJ, 07306, US)
Application Number:
US2015/056268
Publication Date:
April 28, 2016
Filing Date:
October 19, 2015
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
UNION SQUARE INNOVATIONS LLC (10 W. 15th Street, Apt. 314New York, NY, 10011, US)
International Classes:
B65G1/04; B65G1/137; B65G43/08; G01G3/12
Foreign References:
US20090114509A12009-05-07
US6014078A2000-01-11
US20050027393A12005-02-03
US20140039669A12014-02-06
US20060058916A12006-03-16
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SMITH, Erik C. et al. (Perkins Coie LLP, P.O. Box 1247Seattle, WA, 98111-1247, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

We claim

1. A method for an automated weight rack, comprising:

receiving at least one weight at a first conveyor, wherein the first conveyor is configured to simultaneously hold a plurality of different types and masses of weights;

delivering the at least one weight via the first conveyor to a second conveyor of a transport mechanism, wherein the second conveyor is configured to move weights about a first axis, wherein the transport mechanism is configured to move the second conveyor about a second axis that is substantially perpendicular to the first axis;

identifying a characteristic of the at least one weight by the first conveyor and/or by the second conveyor, wherein the characteristic is one or more of a mass, size, type, color, ago and history;

determining a position along a weight rack for delivering the at least one weight to a weight holder that is accessible to a user for retrieving the weight, based on the identified characteristic;

moving the transport mechanism about the second axis and relative to the weight rack such that the second conveyor is at a location approximate to the determined position of the weight holder; and

operating the second conveyor to move the at least one weight along the first axis to the determined position of the weight holder such that the at least one weight is delivered to the weight holder at a location availabie for retrieval by the user.

2. The method for an automated weight rack of claim 1 , wherein the at least one weight is a dumbbell, wherein the characteristic is mass and wherein the mass is identified via a load cell associated with the second conveyor.

3. The method for an automated weight rack of claim 1 , wherein the transport mechanism is configured to move along a third, vertical axis for repositioning weights to a plurality of weight racks of different heights.

4. The method for an automated weight rack of claim 1 , wherein the first conveyor includes a motor for causing the first conveyor to sequentially delivery a plurality of dumbbells along a first loading end of the first conveyor to a second delivery end of the conveyor for delivering at least one of the plurality of dumbbells to the second conveyor and wherein the first conveyor moves the at least on dumbbell in a direction substantially perpendicular to the first axis associated with the second conveyor.

5. The method for an automated weight rack of claim 1. wherein determining a position along the weight rack for delivering the at least one weight to a weight holder is based on a determination that one or more weight holders on the weight rack are unoccupied.

8. An automated dumbbell sorting method, comprising:

receiving one or more dumbbells at an automated dumbbell sorter;

determining, by the dumbbeli sorter, a mass of the one or more dumbbells;

identifying, by the automated dumbbell sorter, one or more dumbbell holders for holding the one or more dumbbells for user access;

transporting, by the automated dumbbell sorter, the one or more dumbbells to the one or more dumbbell holder locations, based on the mass of the one or more dumbbells; and

delivering, by the automated dumbbell sorter, the one or more dumbbells to the identified one or more dumbbell holder locations for user retrieval.

7. The automated dumbbell sorting method of claim 6, wherein the dumbbells are received at conveyor configured to move the one or more dumbbells to a strain gauge and/or scale for determining the mass;

8. The automated dumbbell sorting method of claim 6, further comprising delivering the one or more dumbbells via a first conveyor to a second conveyor, wherein the first conveyor is configured to transport the one or more dumbbells via a first axis and the second conveyor is configured to transport the one or more dumbbells via a second axis for delivering the one or more dumbbells to the identified one or more dumbbell holder locations,

9. The automated dumbbell sorting method of claim 8, wherein identifying the one or more dumbbell holders for holding the one or more dumbbells is based on a predetermined schema, wherein the predetermined schema is associated with an address assigned to the one or more dumbbells and a characteristic of the one or more dumbbells, wherein the characteristic includes one or more of size and the mass.

10. The automated dumbbell sorting method of claim 8, Wherein the transporting of the one or more dumbbells to the one or more dumbbell holder locations is via one or more conveyors.

1 1. An automated dumbbell racking system, comprising:

a weight rack including dumbbell holders, each dumbbell holder is configured to hold a dumbbell for retrieval by a user; and

a dumbbell sorting apparatus including

a loading mechanism configured to receive dumbbells:

a transport mechanism movable to transport dumbbells from the loading mechanism to corresponding dumbbell holders of the weight rack.

12. The automated dumbbell racking system of claim 1 1 , further comprising a controller programmed to:

identify empty dumbbell holders based on one or more characteristics of the dumbbells held by the loading mechanism, and

command the transport mechanism to sequentially transport dumbbells to corresponding empty dumbbell holders.

13. The automated dumbbell racking system of claim 11 , wherein the weight rack includes an upper row of the dumbbell holders and a lower row of the dumbbell holders, and wherein the transport mechanism includes:

a lift apparatus configured to vertically move the transport mechanism between the upper and lower rows of dumbbell holders, and

a conveyor apparatus configured to move the transport mechanism along the weight rack to move the dumbbell carrier relative to the dumbbell holders.

14. The automated dumbbell racking system of claim 1 1 , wherein the transport mechanism has at least one loading configuration for receiving dumbbells from the loading mechanism and at least one delivery configuration for delivering dumbbells to the dumbbell holders.

15. The automated dumbbell racking system of claim 1 1 , wherein the transport mechanism includes a carrying mode for carrying a dumbbell along the weight rack and an unloading mode for moving the dumbbell into one of the dumbbell holders.

16. The automated dumbbell racking system of claim 1 1 , wherein the transport mechanism is movable between a plurality of unloading positions, wherein the transport mechanism at each unloading position is positioned to deliver a dumbbell into a respective one of the dumbbell holders.

17. The automated dumbbell racking system of claim 1 1 , wherein the loading mechanism includes a feed assembly with a plurality of compartments for holding dumbbells while the feed assembly sequentially delivers dumbbells from the compartments to the transport mechanism.

18. The automated dumbbell racking system of claim 11 , wherein the transport mechanism is configured to deliver one or more dumbbells to the dumbbell holders while the loading mechanism holds dumbbells ready to be repositioned.

19. An automated dumbbell racking system, comprising:

a weight rack means, the weight rack means including dumbbell holders, each dumbbell holder is configured to hold a dumbbell for retrieval by a user; and a dumbbell sorting means, the dumbbell sorting means including

a loading means configured to receive dumbbells;

a transport means movable to transport dumbbells from the loading mechanism to corresponding dumbbell holders of the weight rack.

20. The automated dumbbell racking system of claim 19, further comprising a controller means to:

identify empty dumbbell holders based on one or more characteristics of the dumbbells held by the loading mechanism, and

command the transport means to sequentially transport dumbbells to corresponding empty dumbbell holders: wherein the transport means includes: a lift means configured to vertically move the transport means between the upper and lower rows of dumbbell holders; and

a conveyor means configured to move the transport means along the weight rack to move the dumbbell carrier relative to the dumbbell holders, wherein the transport means is configured to deliver one or more dumbbells to the dumbbell holders while the loading means holds dumbbells ready to be repositioned.

Description:
AUTOMATED RACKING OF WEIGHT LIFTING EQUIPMENT

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional application No, 82/086,237 filed October 20, 2014 which is incorporated herein in its entirety by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0002] The present disclosure relates generally to systems, apparatuses, and methods for automatically sorting and racking gym equipment for use by gym users in an athletic gym facility.

BACKGROUND

[0003] One of the primary forms of exercise within gym facilities is lifting weights. Weights ifting uses one or more types of weights (e.g.. bar and plate, and/or dumbbell weights) for developing strength and muscle size. Gym facilities store weights and other equipment for shared use amongst gym members, who may use weights having different sizes and masses based on personal goals and objectives. As a user progresses through various exercises, he/she may return weights to a shared rack so that other users can use the weights. Dumbbells are often stored on weight racks and generally have an intended location based on a weight rack layout (e.g., sequentially increasing weights from lowest to highest mass). As members share weights throughout the day, weights may not get reracked and/or get misplaced (e.g., one size of weight may be placed in a location designated for a different size of weight). Unsorted weights can result in members not efficiently locating their desired size and weight pairings (e.g., two 45 lbs. dumbbells) and can require gym employees and members to periodically scour gym facilities throughout the day to locate, move, use, sort and rack weights. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0004] Figure 1 Is a block diagram of a basic and suitable computer that may employ aspects of the described technology.

[000S] Figure 2A is a block diagram of an automated dumbbell racking system that implements various aspects of the technology.

[0006] Figures 2B - 2G are various perspectives of one or more embodiments of an automated dumbbell racking system.

[0007] Figure 3A - 3C are various perspectives of an embodiment of a weight rack mechanism.

[0008] Figure 4A - 4C are various perspectives of an embodiment of a loading mechanism.

[0009] Figure 5A - 5C are various perspectives of a transport mechanism.

[0010] Figure 8A - 8C are various perspectives of a linear rail mechanism.

[0011] Figure 7 is a flow diagram depicting one or more features of the technology.

[0012] Figures 8A - 8E are various perspectives of one or more embodiments of the automated dumbbell racking system.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0013] Introduced below are methods, apparatuses, and systems (collectively herein referred to as "technology") related to dynamically and automatically sorting, moving, and racking weights based on various techniques. The technology is capable of detecting a weight's (e.g., a dumbbell's) characteristics (e.g., type, weight, material, brand, age, preferred use, dimensions, etc.), transporting the weight from a drop-off location to a desired weight location on a rack for easy access by a user. The technology can reduce time and energy exerted by gym staff (and/or members) who must otherwise manually locate, lift and sort weights into a proper orientation/position on a rack. [0014] In one or more embodiments, the technology is an automated dumbbell racking system that includes various functions implemented into one or more weight rack mechanisms, linear rail mechanisms, transport mechanisms, loading mechanisms, and/or other mechanisms. Each "mechanism" includes technology and functionality that can be implemented separately and couple to technology and functionality implemented by other mechanisms, and/or a single mechanism can implement the technology and functionality of one or more of the individual mechanisms.

[0015] Gym members leave weights at one or more drop-off locations of the loading mechanism. In various embodiments, the loading mechanism, transport mechanism, and/or conveyor is configured with technology for identifying dumbbell characteristics for determining a type, size, configuration and/or weight of a dumbbell, for example. Various techniques are implemented by the technology for determining weight characteristics, such as one or more loading cells, scales or scanners (e.g., bar-code, QR-code, RF-ID detectors, etc.). Weight characteristics are stored (e.g., in RAM, a database, file or other means to store information), in some embodiments, for use by other mechanisms of the technology. The loading mechanism includes a feed assembly (e.g., a conveyor) with compartments for holding dumbbells while the feed assembly sequentially delivers dumbbells from the compartments to a transport mechanism. For example, after determining one or more characteristics (e.g., that a weight is a 15 pound dumbbell), the technology moves and releases (e.g., drops/pushes/releases/etc.) a dumbbell onto the loading mechanism and/or conveyor, which moves (e.g., in a forward/backward direction) one or more dumbbells to the transport mechanism (e.g., by allowing gravity to drop the dumbbell onto the transport mechanism after the dumbbell reaches the end of the conveyor).

[0016] The transport mechanism, in various embodiments, includes a load cell (e.g., a strain gage), lift and conveyor. The transport mechanism is configured to travel about a rail (discussed below) for moving dumbbells to dumbbell holders of a weight rack mechanism. Dumbbells are received at the transport mechanism's conveyor, which is configured to hold and move a dumbbell from a first end (i.e., a "receiving end") of the conveyor to a second end (i.e., a "delivery end") of the conveyor. The delivery end of the conveyor is positionable about a back end of a dumbbell holder of the weight rack mechanism, such that one or more dumbbells move on the conveyor from the delivery end of the conveyor onto the back end of the dumbbell holders (e.g., the conveyor can release, drop, push and/or otherwise reposition the dumbbell). In some embodiments, a lift is coupled to the transport mechanism and is configured to move dumbbells between an upper and a lower position of the transport mechanism for releasing weights at corresponding upper or lower levels shelves of dumbbell holders at the weight rack mechanism.

[0017] In some embodiments, the transport mechanism is equipped with technology for causing the transport mechanism to move to one or more assigned dumbbell holders based at least on one or more dumbbell characteristics. For example, the transport mechanism can independently move between various dumbbell holder locations via one or more motorized devices (e.g., a computer configured to operate a motor to move, via wheels or tracks, between one or more dumbbell holder locations). In some embodiments, the transport mechanism is configured to operate with a belt drive assembly of a rail (e.g., a guide rail system) that moves the transport mechanism about the length of the weight rack. In operation, in one or more embodiments, a dumbbell rests on the conveyor's transport mechanism as the transport mechanism moves (e.g., via the rail) a dumbbell to a location of the rack assigned to the dumbbell.

[0018] The rail mechanism can include one or more rails (e.g., linear guide rails) to directly or indirectly couple to the weight rack mechanism. When the transport mechanism reaches a desired location (e.g., a position on the rail that is in back of a dumbbell holder location), the technology automatically initiates operation of the transport mechanism's conveyor to transport the dumbbell from the transport mechanism into the designated dumbbell holder. If the dumbbell holder is at a lower/higher shelf than the conveyor is currently positioned, the technology, in one or more embodiments, automatically initiates operation of the lift to, for example, cause the actuator to move the conveyor to the lower/higher position. In various embodiments, when a rack is configured to use only a single shelf, the transport mechanism can be implemented without a lift. The transport mechanism, in some embodiments, can retrieve dumbbells from a dumbbell holder by reversing the conveyor in a direction opposite the direction used to move the dumbbell into a holder, for example, to move and/or resort dumbbells to new/different locations according to a schema based and/or dumbbell availability.

[0019] The weight rack mechanism, in some embodiments, is a stationary or semi- stationary weight rack that includes one or more dumbbell holders configured to store at least one dumbbell for manual retrieval by a user in a similar manner as weights are retrieved from traditional weight racks. As mentioned above, the weight rack mechanism can include one or more racks configured to be stacked on top and/or side~by~side other weight racks. This is useful because it allows a facility to custom configure racks based on the facilities' particular requirements (e.g., a weight rack mechanism with two levels of racks versus two single shelf racks configured in a side-by-side configuration). Each rack includes one or more dumbbell holder that is configured to receive one or more dumbbells from the transport mechanism (as described above), Dumbbell holders can be uniform in dimensions or be sized in accordance with a particular dumbbell configuration. For example, to maximize efficient use of space, in various embodiments, dumbbell holders are manually or automatically sized to store different types of dumbbells by, for example, automatically or manually moving dumbbell holder dividers closer together (e.g., for the 5 lb. dumbbell) or further apart (e.g., for the 85 lb. dumbbell).

[0020] A dumbbell holder can be predefined to store dumbbells based on one or more of dumbbell characteristics. For example, in a given row of dumbbell holders, each of several sets of holders can be configured to store progressively higher weight dumbbells (e.g., a set of two 5 lb. dumbbell holders, next to a set of two 10 lb. dumbbell holders, and up to, e.g., a set of two 85 lb. dumbbell holders.). Additionally and/or alternatively, dumbbell holders can store random dumbbells based on, for example, whether the dumbbell holder is a spare, not designated for a particular dumbbell, or designated for storing 'random' dumbbells. For example, each dumbbell holder can be assigned an address (e.g., a unique ID) which can be mapped to one or more dumbbell characteristics. For example, a dumbbell holder having an address of rack 1 , shelf 2, location 4 of 10 (R1 S2L4) can be assigned to store only 15 lb., unpadded dumbbells that are less than 2 years old. Or, for example, a dumbbell holder (e.g., R2S2L9) can have a blank address or be assigned to bold 'random' dumbbells to indicate that the dumbbell holder can store more than one type of dumbbell (e.g., both 45 lb. and 50 lb. dumbbells). Simple or complex mappings can be created by a user or dynamically determined by the technology to. e.g., partition portions of one or more racks to store newer/older weights, weights of a certain masses/sizes, padded/unpadded weights, gender-preferred weights, weights of the same brand, and/or other characteristics (e.g., color). Mappings can be manually or automatically programmed (e.g., via a computing device) and stored for retrieval by the technology for configuring new or modified rack layout schemas. In some embodiments, the technology can identify particular dumbbell holders (e.g., empty versus occupied dumbbell holders) using a variety of identification techniques, such as optical scanning (e.g., LED, LASER, or other light-based techniques), weight (e.g., an actuator and/or scale in the dumbbell holder configured to indicate whether the location is occupied), history (e.g., a log that stores present and past dumbbell placements), transducers (e.g., hall effect sensors), electrical switches (e.g., reed switches) and/or other detection/identification technologies and/or methodologies.

[0021] Certain details are set forth in the following description and in Figures 1-8 to provide a thorough understanding of various embodiments of the disclosure. Other well- known structures, systems and mechanisms often associated with traditional weight racks have not been shown or described in detail below to avoid unnecessarily obscuring the descriptions of the various embodiments of the disclosure. Additionally, a person of ordinary skill in the relevant art will understand that the disclosure may have additional embodiments that may be practiced without several of the details described below. In other instances, those of ordinary skill in the relevant art will appreciate that the methods and systems described can include additional details without departing from the spirit or scope of the disclosed embodiments.

[0022] Many of the details, dimensions, functions and other features shown and described in conjunction with the Figures are merely illustrative of particular embodiments of the disclosure. Accordingly, other embodiments can have other details, dimensions, functions and features without departing from the spirit or scope of the present disclosure. In addition, those of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that further embodiments of the disclosure can be practiced without several of the details described below.

[0023] The terminology used in the description presented below is intended to be interpreted in its broadest reasonable manner, even though it is being used in conjunction with a detailed description of certain specific embodiments of the described technology. Certain terms may even be emphasized below; however, any terminology intended to be interpreted in any restricted manner will be overtly and specifically defined as such in this Detailed Description section.

[0024] Some techniques introduced below can be implemented by programmable circuitry programmed or configured by software and/or firmware, or entirely by special- purpose circuitry, or in a combination of such forms. Such special-purpose circuitry (if any) can be in the form of, for example, one or more application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), programmable logic devices (PLDs), programmable logic controllers (PLCs), logic boards, field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), etc.

[0025] Figure 1 and the following discussion provide a brief general description of a suitable computing environment (e.g., a logic board) in which aspects of the technology can be implemented. Although not required, aspects of the technology may be described herein in the general context of computer-executable instructions, such as routines executed by a general- or special-purpose data processing device. Aspects of the technology described herein may be stored or distributed on tangible computer-readable media, including magnetically or optically readable computer discs, hard-wired or preprogrammed chips (e.g., EEPROM semiconductor chips), nanotechnology memory, or other data storage media, Alternatively, computer-implemented instructions, data structures, screen displays, and other data related to the described technology may be distributed over the Internet or over other networks (including wireless networks) on a propagated signal on a propagation medium (e.g., an electromagnetic wave, a sound wave, etc.) over a period of time. In some implementations, the data may be provided on any analog or digital network (packet switched, circuit switched, or other scheme). [0026] Referring to Figure 1 , the described technology employs a computer 100, such as a PCB having one or more processors 101 coupled to one or more input devices 102 and data storage devices 104. The computer 100 is also coupled to at least one output device such as a display device 106 and one or more optional additional output devices 108 (e.g., printer, plotter, speakers, tactile or olfactory output devices, etc.). The computer 100 may be coupled to external computers, such as via an optional network connection, a wireless transceiver, or both.

[0027] The input devices 102 may include a keyboard, a microphone, a sensor, a pointing device such as a mouse, and described technology for receiving human voice, touch, and/or sight (e.g., a microphone, a touch screen, and/or smart glasses). Other input devices are possible such as a joystick, pen, game pad, scanner, digital camera, video camera, and the like. The data storage devices 104 may include any type of computer- readable media that can store data accessible by the computer 100, such as magnetic hard and floppy disk drives, optical disk drives, magnetic cassettes, tape drives, flash memory cards, digital video disks (DVDs), Bernoulli cartridges, RAMs, ROMs, smart cards, etc. Indeed, any medium for storing or transmitting computer-readable instructions and data may be employed, including a connection port to or node on a network, such as a LAN, WAN, or the Internet (not shown in Figure 1 ).

[0028] Figure 2A is a block diagram of an automated dumbbell racking system that includes various mechanisms 300, 400, 500 and 600 which can function independently and/or in combination to implement various aspects of the technology. As described above and further described below, loading mechanism 400 is configured to receive dumbbells (e.g., via a user) and to deliver the dumbbells to a transport mechanism 500 that, in various embodiments, moves along a rail mechanism 800 to reach and deliver a dumbbell to a dumbbell holder of a weight rack mechanism 300.

[0029] Figures 2B - 2G are various perspectives of one or more embodiments of the automated dumbbell racking system 200 depicted in Figure 2A. Figures 2B - 2G include a weight rack mechanism 300 for at least providing dumbbells to users, a loading mechanism 400 for receiving and loading one or more dumbbells 203a dropped off by a user, and transport mechanism 500 that, in some embodiments, is configured to deliver, via rail mechanism 800, dumbbells to the weight rack mechanism 300, Figure 2B is a top- front perspective of an embodiment of the technology in a loading configuration; Figure 2C is a top-back perspective of an embodiment of the technology in a loading configuration; Figure 2D is a top-back perspective of an embodiment of the technology in a delivery configuration; Figure 2E is a top perspective of an embodiment of the technology in a loading configuration; Figure 2F is a side perspective of an embodiment of the technology in a loading configuration; and Figure 2G is a side perspective of an embodiment of the technology indicating a delivery configuration 204b for delivering a dumbbells to the weight rack mechanism 300.

[0030] Figure 3A - 3C depict exemplary views of one or more embodiments of the weight rack mechanism 300 that includes one or more weight racks 302a-302n, which can include one or more shelves 304a - 304n having one or more dumbbell holders 308a - 308n supported by legs 306, Dumbbell holders 308a - 308n are configured to hold one or more dumbbells 203a - 203n. Each dumbbell holder 308a-308n has an end for receiving a dumbbell (a "receiving end") 310b via the transport mechanism 500 and an end accessible to a user for removing a dumbbell (a "user end") 310a. In some embodiments, a single dumbbell holder 308a-308n can hold two or more dumbbells (not shown), such that when a front dumbbell is removed a next dumbbell is revealed and ready to be removed by a user. For simplicity and not by limitation, the following Figures depict embodiments that support a single dumbbell (e.g., 203a) per dumbbell holder (e.g., 308a- 308n).

[0031] Figures 4A - 4C depict exemplary views of an embodiment of the loading mechanism 400, which in one or more embodiments, includes a loading conveyor 404 connected together via stabilizers 408 and an optional loading cell 403, in addition to or as an alternative to a load cell associated with the transport mechanism 500 (as described below). Figure 4A is a side perspective of the loading mechanism 400; Figure 4B is a top- front perspective of the loading mechanism 400 for transporting a dumbbell 203a down the loading conveyor 404; and Figure 4C is a side perspective of the loading mechanism 400 in approximation to the weight rack mechanism 300. transport mechanism 500 and rail system 600. The loading mechanism 400 is configured to receive one or more dumbbells 203a - 203n from gym members and/or staff. In some embodiments, the loading mechanism 400 includes one or more dumbbell templates 405 for orientating dumbbells into a proper position for inserting the dumbbell into the loading mechanism 400. The optional loading cell 403 or other component of the loading mechanism 400 (e.g., or the conveyor), in various embodiments, includes technology for determining various characteristics of the dumbbell for use in determining which of several dumbbell holders to store the dumbbell. Dumbbell characteristics describe features of a particular dumbbell and/or dumbbell class, such as a size, shape, weight, material, color, brand, age, preferred use, preferred storage location, ID, group ID or other feature. For example, the loading cell 403 (or conveyor) can include technology for determining one or more characteristics for use in determining where to rack the dumbbell, such as a scale for measuring weight and/or optics for scanning one or more features of the dumbbell or a dumbbell ID (e.g., a bar code, QR code or other identifier) attached the dumbbell. The dumbbell ID can be a unique identification such that when scanned it can be used for triggering the technology to reference stored data that describes attributes previously defined for a particular dumbbell (e.g., an unpadded 501b dumbbell made by manufacturer 'A' and in service in the gym facilities for 3.5 years). Based on one or more of the characteristics, the technology can determine (e.g., based on a desired layout for the rack) a dumbbell holder for storing that dumbbell. The loading conveyor 404 includes dumbbell positions 409a-409n that hold one or more dumbbells as the loading conveyor 404 moves dumbbells from a first position (e.g., a loading position) 408a to a second position (e.g., a delivery position) 408b for delivering the dumbbell to transport mechanism 500.

[0032] Figure 5A - 5C depicts exemplary views of the transport mechanism 500 which receives dumbbells from the loading mechanism 400, transports dumbbells, via a rail mechanism 800, to a position in back of the dumbbell holders 308a-308n and delivers the dumbbells to the dumbbell holders 308a-308n for pickup by a user. Figure 5A depicts a front-side perspective of the transport mechanism 500; Figure 5B depicts a top side perspective of the transport mechanism 500 in approximation to the weight rack mechanism 300 and rail system 800; and Figure 5C depicts a backside perspective of the loading mechanism 500. Transport mechanism 500, in various embodiments, includes a delivery conveyor 503, stabilizers 508 and, in one or more embodiments, a lift/actuator 504. The transport mechanism 500 is configured to receive, at the delivery conveyor 503, one or more dumbbells 203a-203n from the loading mechanism 400 and further configured to transport the dumbbell 203 to a location in the back of a dumbbell holder 308a~3G8n, The loading mechanism 500, in one or more embodiments, has technology (e.g., a motor) (see, Figures 8A-8E) for moving itself about the weight rack mechanism 300 to a determined dumbbell holder 308a-308n. In some embodiments, the transport mechanism 500 is moved by an external force such as a rail mechanism 600 and is not required to have its own motor. When the transport mechanism 500 moves to the correct location of the weight rack mechanism 300, the delivery conveyor 503 is configured to activate and move the dumbbell 203 toward and into the dumbbell holder 308a-308n. The actuator 504, such as a vertical linear actuator, raises and lowers the delivery conveyor 503 for reaching shelves of dumbbell holders at different heights (e.g., when racks are vertically stacked). The actuator 504 can automatically activate when the technology determines that a dumbbell is at a higher/lower shelf than the current position of the delivery conveyer 503. A loading cell (not shown) is couplable to the transport mechanism 500 for determining various dumbbell characteristics (e.g., mass), as detailed above and further below.

[0033] Figure 6A - 6C depicts exemplary views of a rail mechanism 800 that, in various embodiments, guides the transport mechanism 500 to and from various dumbbell holders 308a-308n of the weight rack mechanism 300. Figure 8A and Figure 6B depict front-side perspectives of the rail mechanism 800 and Figure 6C depicts a front side perspective of the rail mechanism 600 in approximation to the weight rack mechanism 300. The rail mechanism 600 includes, in one or more embodiments, an actuator 804 (e.g., a belt actuator, linear rail drive/actuator, pneumatic actuator, etc.) for moving the transport mechanism 500 along one or more rails 606 attached via support stabilizers 602. In operation, the actuator 604 is configured to receive and guide (e.g., push/pull) the transport mechanism 500 into a position for delivering a dumbbell to the weight rack mechanism's dumbbell holders 308a-308n. [0034] Figure 7 is a flow diagram 700 depicting one or more features of the technology. Flow diagram 700 depicts an example sequence of steps 702-718 for moving a dumbbell into a dumbbell holder, The flow diagram 700 starts at step 701 and, at step 702, a dumbbell is received at the loading mechanism 400. At step 704, the loading mechanism 400 and/or transport mechanism 500 an determine one or more characteristics, such as the weight of the dumbbell. At step 708, the technology determines if the dumbbell is assigned a predefined dumbbell holder (e.g., based on querying a database inventory of dumbbells). \f there is not a predefined dumbbell holder, at step 708, a new dumbbell holder is identified for storing the dumbbell. For example, the technology may determine one or more unoccupied dumbbell holders that can store the dumbbell. At step 710, the transport mechanism 500 moves the dumbbell along the rail mechanism 600 to a position approximate to the weight rack mechanism 300 and, at step 712, delivers the dumbbell to the appropriate dumbbell holder (e.g., by moving the dumbbell down the delivery conveyor). At step 714, the location of the delivered dumbbell is optionally recorded (e.g., in a file, database and/or other recording means) and inventoried for reference by the technology in determining one or more other dumbbell holders for other dumbbells. The flow ends at step 716.

[0035] Figures 8A-8E depict embodiments that utilize, among other things, a horizontal loading conveyor 802, in opposed to the angled loading conveyor 404 in Figures 4A-4C. Figure 8A is a front side perspective of the technology, Figure 8B is a back side perspective of the technology, Figure 8C is a side perspective of the technology, Figure 8D is a top perspective of the technology and Figure 8E is a left side perspective of the technology. Referring to Figure 8A, the horizontal loading conveyor 802 includes optional weight separators 804 for partitioning weights (e.g., dumbbells) for transport, via motor 805, along the horizontal loading conveyor 802 to the delivery conveyor 808 (similar to delivery conveyor 503) of transport mechanism 806 (similar to transport mechanism 500). In one or more embodiments and as described above, transport mechanism 808 vertically rises, via motor 814, to accept one or more weights (e.g., dumbbells) from the horizontal loading conveyor 802 onto the delivery conveyor 808. In some embodiments, delivery conveyor 808 can simultaneously hold multiple weights (e.g., dumbbells) that are positioned side-by-side, top-on-top and/or lengthwise front~to-back, etc. This allows the delivery conveyor 808 to automatically and simultaneously move, position and/or sort multiple weights to various positions within the weight rack mechanism 810. Weight rack mechanism 810 is similar to weight rack mechanism 300, however, weight rack mechanism 810 optionally does not include partitioning (e.g., horizontal dividers) between its dumbbell holder positions 812 as depicted between dumbbell holder positions 308a - 308n in Figures 3A and 3B. Figure 8B depicts features discussed above for Figure 8A (e.g., elements 802, 804, 805, 806, 808, 810, 812 and 814) from a backside perspective. Figure 8C is a front side perspective of the technology which depicts, among features discussed above for Figure 8A (e.g., elements 802, 805, 806, 810 and 814) and, in addition, a loading cell (e.g., strain gauge) 816 (similar to loading cell 403). The loading cell 816, in some embodiments, is located at a position beneath the transport mechanism 808 and/or delivery conveyor 808 (not shown) for determining a weight's mass by measuring the strain caused by, e.g., a dumbbell positioned on the transport mechanism 806. As discussed above, determining a weight's mass at the loading cell 816 is useful when determining which of the dumbbell holders 812 of the weight rack mechanism 810 to reposition each respective dumbbell. Figure 8D depicts a top view of the technology that includes elements described above for Figures 8A - 8C (e.g., elements 802, 804, 806, 808 810 and 812) and Figure 8E depicts a left side view of the technology that includes elements described above for Figures 8A - 8D (e.g., elements 802, 808, 810 and 814).

CONCLUSION

[0038] In general, the detailed description of embodiments of the described technology is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the described technology to the precise form disclosed above. While specific embodiments of, and examples for, the described technology are described above for illustrative purposes, various equivalent modifications are possible within the scope of the described technology, as those skilled in the relevant art will recognize. For example, while processes or blocks are presented in a given order, alternative embodiments may perform routines having steps, or employ systems having blocks, in a different order, and some processes or blocks may be deleted, moved, added, subdivided, combined, and/or modified. Each of these processes or blocks may be implemented in a variety of different ways. Also, while processes or blocks are at times shown as being performed in series, these processes or blocks may instead be performed in parallel, or may be performed at different times.

[0037] The teachings of the described technology provided herein can be applied to other systems, not necessarily the system described herein. The elements and acts of the various embodiments described herein can be combined to provide further embodiments.

[0038] The techniques introduced above can be implemented by programmable circuitry programmed or configured by software and/or firmware, or entirely by special- purpose circuitry, or in a combination of such forms, Such special-purpose circuitry (if any) can be in the form of, for example, one or more application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), programmable logic devices (PLDs), programmable logic devices (PLCs), field- programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), etc.

[0039] Software or firmware for implementing the techniques introduced here may be stored on a machine-readable storage medium and may be executed by one or more general-purpose or special-purpose programmable microprocessors. A "machine- readable medium," as the term is used herein, includes any mechanism that can store information in a form accessible by a machine (a machine may be, for example, a computer, network device, cellular phone, personal digital assistant (PDA), manufacturing tool, any device with one or more processors, etc.). For example, a machine-accessible medium includes recordable/non-recordable media (e.g., read-only memory (ROM)); random access memory (RAM); magnetic disk storage media; optical storage media; flash memory devices; etc.).

[0040] The term "logic," as used herein, can include, for example, special-purpose hardwired circuitry, software and/or firmware in conjunction with programmable circuitry, or a combination thereof.

[0041] These and other changes can be made to the described technology in light of the above Detailed Description. While the above description details certain embodiments of the described technology and describes the best mode contemplated, no matter how detailed the above appears in text, the described technology can be practiced in many ways. The described technology may vary considerably in its implementation details, while still being encompassed by the described technology disclosed herein. As noted above, particular terminology used when describing certain features or aspects of the described technology should not be taken to imply that the terminology is being redefined herein to be restricted to any specific characteristics, features, or aspects of the described technology with which that terminology is associated. In general, the terms used in the following ciaims shouid not be construed to limit the described technology to the specific embodiments disclosed in the specification, unless the above Detailed Description section explicitly defines such terms. Accordingly, the actual scope of the described technology encompasses not only the disclosed embodiments, but also all equivalent ways of practicing or implementing the described technology.

[0042] To reduce the number of claims, certain aspects of the described technology are presented below in certain claim forms, but the applicant contemplates the various aspects of the described technology in any number of claim forms. For example, while only one aspect of the described technology is recited as a means-plus-function claim under other aspects may likewise be embodied as a means-pius- function claim, or in other forms, such as being embodied in a computer-readable medium. (Any claims intended to be treated under 6 will begin with the words "means for," but use of the term "for" in any other context is not intended to invoke treatment under Accordingly, the applicant reserves the right to pursue additionai claims after fiiing this application to pursue such additional claim forms, in either this application or in a continuing application.