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Title:
AN ELECTRIC FIRE INCLUDING A TOUCH SCREEN PANEL
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2008/062059
Kind Code:
A2
Abstract:
An electric fire is disclosed that is configured to provide for a controlled generation of simulated fire effects. The fire is controllable using a touch screen panel located within an active area defined within a front screen of the fire, such that a user can simultaneously control the fire while looking at the resultant fire effects generated. The active area includes a light source configured to illuminate the controls of the touch screen panel so as to enable a user to select an appropriate control, the light source being configured to extinguish after a predetermined period has elapsed since a touching of the touch screen panel.

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Inventors:
O'COIMIN, Aubrey (Lynn Wood Cottage, Colpe RoadDublin Road, Co. Louth Drogheda, IE)
BETZ, Martin (Strand Road, Annagassan, Co. Louth, IE)
MULLANEY, Conor (Dunleer, Co. Louth, IE)
KERRIGAN, Liam (6 Boyne View, Johnstown, Co. Meath Navan, IE)
Application Number:
EP2007/062751
Publication Date:
May 29, 2008
Filing Date:
November 23, 2007
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
BASIC HOLDINGS (Old Airport RoadCloghran, Co. Dublin, IE)
O'COIMIN, Aubrey (Lynn Wood Cottage, Colpe RoadDublin Road, Co. Louth Drogheda, IE)
BETZ, Martin (Strand Road, Annagassan, Co. Louth, IE)
MULLANEY, Conor (Dunleer, Co. Louth, IE)
KERRIGAN, Liam (6 Boyne View, Johnstown, Co. Meath Navan, IE)
International Classes:
F24C7/00
Domestic Patent References:
WO2004079267A22004-09-16
WO1997041393A11997-11-06
Foreign References:
GB2408569A2005-06-01
EP1020685A22000-07-19
GB2412429A2005-09-28
KR20030094998A2003-12-18
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HANNA MOORE & CURLEY et al. (13 Lower Lad Lane, D2 Dublin, IE)
Download PDF:
Claims:

Claims

1. An electric fire configured to provide for a controlled generation of simulated fire effects, the fire being controllable using a touch screen panel located within an active area defined within a front screen of the fire, such that a user can simultaneously control the fire while looking at the resultant fire effects generated, and wherein the active area includes a light source configured to illuminate the controls of the touch screen panel so as to enable a user to select an appropriate control, the light source being configured to extinguish after a predetermined period has elapsed since a touching of the touch screen panel.

2. The fire of claim 1 further including a display panel, the display panel being provided so as to enable a display of the generated fire effects.

3. The fire of claim 2 wherein the active area does not overlap with the display of generated flame effects on the display panel. 4. The fire of claims 2 or 3 wherein the generated fire effects are flame patterns. 5. The fire of claims 2 to 4 further including a second panel, the second panel being located in front of and substantially parallel to the display panel, the second panel having the touch screen panel defined within an active area of the second panel. 6. The fire of any preceding claim wherein the light source is activated by a touching of the touch screen panel.

7. The fire of claims 4 or 5 wherein the footprint of the second panel is greater than that of the display panel.

8. The fire of claims 5 to 7 further including a fuel bed located between the touch screen panel and the display panel.

8. The fire of claim 2 wherein the touch screen panel is integrally formed with the display panel.

9. The fire of any preceding claim wherein the touch screen panel includes an at least partially mirrored front surface.

Description:

Title

An electric fire including a touch screen panel

Field of the Invention The present invention relates to electric fires and in particular to an electric fire that is configured to provide for simulated fire effects. The invention more particularly relates to an electric fire that is controllable using touch screen technology. In a preferred embodiment, the invention more particularly relates to an electric fire incorporating a flat panel display that is controllable using touch screen technology.

Background

A fireplace is a traditional structure provided in most homes. Traditionally the fireplace has included a hearth that is set into a wall and which provides a base for a combustible material such as coal or wood. The burning of the material requires an exhaust flue so as to enable the generated gases to be transferred out of the room. The burning of the fire generates heat, light and sound.

Although traditionally provided in a home for the generation of heat, it has become more and more common for the other features of the fire - the light and sound element- to be the driving motivators behind the provision of the fire. With the development of central heating, the main heating of the home is now provided through radiators or the like and the fireplace simply become a focal feature to the room in which it is in.

Electric fires have filled this gap as they may be used to generate one or both of flame or fuel effects at the touch of a button. Such fires can be used as direct replacements of existing solid fuel fires, even to the extent that they can

occupy the insert where the previous fire was located, or can be free standing or can be wall mounted.

In all three arrangements there is a desire to provide a fire experience to the user where the user believes that they are viewing a real fire. Much of the development in this area has been in improving the quality of the flame effect generated. However irrespective of these improvements all these fires suffer in that as they are electric fires they need to be operated.

Traditionally, the operation of the fire was by means of a manual control that would be located at the side of the fire or behind a grate, both locations being chosen to occlude the control mechanism from normal viewing of the fire. Such locations require the user to get access to the control to achieve operation. Improvements to this arrangement include the provision of remote control mechanisms which allow a user to remotely control the operation of the fire. These suffer in that, similar to all remote controls, there is a tendency for the control to become lost.

There is therefore a need to provide an electric fire with an improved control mechanism which may be provided in an unobtrusive fashion.

Summary

These and other problems are addressed by an electric fire in accordance with the teaching of the invention that includes touch screen technology to achieve control of the fire. Desirably the touch screen features are provided within an active area defined within a front screen of the fire such that the user can simultaneously control the fire while looking at the resultant fire effects generated. The active area includes a light source configured to illuminate the controls of the touch screen panel so as to enable a user to select an appropriate control, the light source being configured to extinguish after a predetermined period has elapsed since a touching of the touch screen panel.

Accordingly, a first embodiment of the invention provides an electric fire configured to provide simulated fire effects according to claim 1. Advantageous embodiments are provided in the dependent claims.

These and other features of the invention will be better understood with reference to the following drawings.

Brief Description of the Drawings Figure 1 is a perspective view from the front and side of an electric fire in accordance with the teachings of the invention. Figure 2 is a side view of the fire of Figure 1

Detailed Description of the Drawings

The teaching of the present invention provides for the use of touch screen technology to control an electric fire that is useable to generate simulated fire effects. In this context the type of fire, be that wall mounted or free standing, is not critical- in that such fires are well known. Examples of such fires include those described in our earlier application GB2402469 which is a floor mounted fire that uses mechanical means to generate flame effects on a screen. Other arrangements such as that disclosed in PCT/EP2006/065031 include electrical means to generate flame effects. As such fires are well known within the art, the present invention will be described with regard to a specific type of fire- a wall mounted fire. This, it will be appreciated is purely exemplary and it is not intended to limit the use of a control mechanism within the context of electrical fires to one particular arrangement for providing the simulated fire effects.

Figure 1 shows a simulated fireplace or electric fire 100 in accordance with the teachings of the present invention. The fire 100 in this exemplary embodiment includes a flat panel display screen 105 which is configured to

display images of a burning fire 110. The display may be selected from one of a variety of different flat panel display types such as plasma screens, liquid crystal displays (LCD's) or the like as will be well apparent to those skilled in the art. The display is mounted within a frame 115, that provides a tapered surface 120 from a front edge portion 125 which is distally located from the screen to a rear edge portion 130 which is coincident with the screen. The frame defines the overall depth of the fire. The tapering effect is chosen so as to increase the apparent depth of view of the displayed images on the screen 105. A glass sheet 135 whose footprint is larger than that of the display panel is mountable to the front edge portion of the frame such that once mounted the image 110 is viewable through the sheet. Once mounted the area between the tapered surface 130 of the frame 125, the display panel 105 and the sheet 135 defines an air volume 140 between the sheet and the display panel. Located within this air volume may be provided a fuel bed 145 which is configured to resemble the effect of a real fuel bed of coals or logs or the like.

In a preferred embodiment of the invention the glass sheet 135 is provided as a smoked glass sheet or a mirrored glass sheet. The smoking of a glass sheet is a technique that is used during the manufacture of the glass and achieves a darkening of the glass. Using such glass within the context of the provision of a simulated fireplace is advantageous for at least two reasons. Firstly, when the image is not being displayed, the darkness of the glass occludes the frame and display panel behind. As such if the fireplace is mounted to a wall, all that is visible is a darkened glass sheet, which is aesthetically pleasing. Of course the configuration of the glass could also be altered to provide for different shapes. Once the display is effected, the flame effects 110 are visible through the smoked glass but are tempered somewhat by the colouring of the glass. It has been found by the present inventors that despite it appearing initially counter intuitive to increase the absorption of light in light passing through a glass screen in front of an image displayed using the high light emission characteristics of a flat-panel display, that the smoked effect

selectively absorbs light in the wavelength ranges most suited to the light emitted by a fire, and as such the effect of the fire is enhanced.

If a mirroring option is used, the mirroring may optimally be chosen to such a level that when the display is off that the mirror effect is complete such that a user to the front of the fire gets a full reflection of their image. When the display is turned on, the light emitted by the display is then visible through the front sheet. Such an embodiment is particularly useful for wall mounting installation where the non use of the fire enables a user to avail of a mirror, thereby providing a dual functionality.

To achieve control of the fire, the present invention teaches the use of touch screen technology. As shown in Figure 1 an active area 150 of the surface 145 of the front screen could be defined within the screen surface, this active area being responsive to touch to enable a user 155 to effect control of one or more features of the fire. In accordance with specifics of the touch screen technology used, the user may have to physically touch the screen or may be able to use a stylus or some other pointing instrument to achieve the necessary stimulation of the active area to effect the desired control. The active region may incorporate one or more different areas 150a, 150b, etc., each of the areas corresponding to a different function operation. Desirably as shown in Figure 2, a rear surface 160 of the screen which is coincident with the active area on the front surface could be used for mounting the necessary electronic or other circuitry 165 that may be used to effect an activation of the required fire effects in response to a touching of an appropriate area within the active region. Of course the physical location of the control circuitry is not important as certain embodiments or arrangements may provide for the circuitry to be located elsewhere within the chassis of the fire.

Desirably the specifics of the contours of the controls of the touch screen are not visible during normal operation of the fire, but are illuminated using a light source on touch. In this way the touch of a user can effect a lighting of the

controls for a predetermined time period so as to allow a control of the fire characteristics. After that time period has elapsed the lighting will extinguish so that the controls are no longer visible, thereby improving the overall aesthetic of the fire. Touch screen technology is well developed since its origins in the 1970s and it is not intended to limit the invention to any one type of application of this technology. Furthermore the underlying principles of the technology will be well known to the person skilled in the art and will not be explained herein. Suffice to say that there are numerous possible implementations of the technology that could be utilised within the context of providing the controls for the fire on a surface of the fire. Examples of available technologies include those based on resistive or capacitive circuits. In the former, the front panel could have a thin metallic electrically conductive and resistive layer that causes a change in the electrical current which is registered as a touch event and sent to a controller 165 for processing. In the latter a coating of a material such as indium tin oxide could be used that that conducts a continuous electrical current across the sensor and whose response will change when touched by a human finger.

By providing a touch screen panel it is possible for the user of the fire to view the effect provided by the control changes applied while applying these changes. As the controls for the fire are integrally formed within the front touch screen panel, the physical appearance of the fire is not affected by the provision of the fire controls in a touch screen implementation. Where the fire is wall mounted or indeed encased in an insert environment it is not necessary for the user to grasp around the sides of the fire looking for the controls as they are easily accessible on the front surface. Furthermore, as the controls do not project proudly of the surface it is possible to create a more seamless structure than heretofore possible.

Where the touch panel is located on a screen in front of the display screen it is optimum that where such a screen has a foot print larger than the display screen that the touch controls be provided on an area that does not overlap with

the displayed image. While such a configuration is illustrated in Figures 1 and 2 it will be appreciated that it is not intended to limit the application of the touch screen technology to any one illustrated embodiment as modifications will be apparent to the person skilled in that art which are not described with reference to the exemplary embodiment. In this way it is not intended to limit the invention in any way except as may be deemed necessary in the light of the appended claims. For example a touch screen could be provided with a much smaller foot print than the screen used for the display of the flame effects and could be offset from that screen. Alternatively, the touch screen features could be incorporated into the actual screen that is used for display of the flame effects. Such modifications will be apparent to the person skilled in the art.

The words comprises/comprising when used in this specification are to specify the presence of stated features, integers, steps or components but does not preclude the presence or addition of one or more other features, integers , steps, components or groups thereof.