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Title:
VIBRATING TRANSDUCER WITH WOBBLING MOTOR
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2006/127374
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A vibrating transducer includes a rigid, cylindrically-shaped housing; an electric motor enclosed within the rigid housing and having attached thereto an eccentric weight; and a cushioning motor mount for supporting the electric motor within the rigid housing. The cushioning motor mount, which may be formed of a foam cushion wrapped substantially about the electric motor, allows the motor to wobble, and rotor of the motor to travel along an elliptical path, during operation, which increases the strength of the vibration. A separately housed power supply and driver circuit, which may include may include a current amplifier or timing sub-circuits, is provided for facilitating operation of the electric motor.

Inventors:
Parsons, Christopher V. (112 Anastacia Place, San Antonio, TX, 78212, US)
Tumey, David M. (12935 Bridger Dr, Germantown, MD, 20874, US)
Application Number:
PCT/US2006/019179
Publication Date:
November 30, 2006
Filing Date:
May 17, 2006
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
SOLUTIONS FOR THOUGHT, LLC (112 Anastacia Place, San Antonio, TX, 78212, US)
Parsons, Christopher V. (112 Anastacia Place, San Antonio, TX, 78212, US)
Tumey, David M. (12935 Bridger Dr, Germantown, MD, 20874, US)
International Classes:
B06B1/16; H02K5/02
Foreign References:
US6714123B12004-03-30
US20040100366A12004-05-27
Other References:
PATENT ABSTRACTS OF JAPAN vol. 1998, no. 14 31 December 1998 (1998-12-31)
PATENT ABSTRACTS OF JAPAN vol. 2003, no. 09 3 September 2003 (2003-09-03)
PATENT ABSTRACTS OF JAPAN vol. 2003, no. 12 5 December 2003 (2003-12-05)
PATENT ABSTRACTS OF JAPAN vol. 2000, no. 26 1 July 2002 (2002-07-01)
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Cernyar, Eric W. (GUNN & LEE, P.C. 700 N. ST. MARY'S STREET, Suite 150, San Antonio TX, 78205, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS
1. A vibrating transducer for producing tactile stimulations, the vibrating transducer comprising: an electric motor having a shaft; a rigid housing enclosing the electric motor; an eccentric weight attached to the electric motor shaft; and a motor mount supporting the electric motor within the rigid housing, the motor mount being adapted to enable the motor, when energized, to wobble within the rigid housing so that the eccentric weight orbits about an elliptical path.
2. The vibrating transducer as recited in claim 1, wherein the rigid housing comprises a generally cylindrically shaped tube.
3. The vibrating transducer as recited in claim 2, further comprising: a power supply for supplying power to the electric motor; a second housing enclosing the power supply, wherein the second housing is distinct from and not in fixed relation to the rigid housing enclosing the electric motor; and an electrical cable connecting the power supply to the electric motor.
4. The vibrating transducer as recited in claim 3, further comprising a clip connected to the vibrating transducer, the clip being adapted to removably attach the vibrating transducer to a conventional belt.
5. The vibrating transducer as recited in claim 1, further comprising a digital input device and controller to energize the motor according to a programmed rhythm.
6. The vibrating transducer as recited in claim 5, wherein the controller is adapted to energize the motor to produce multiple, readily differentiable tactile stimulations.
7. The vibrating transducer as recited in claim 5, wherein the digital input device and controller comprises a sports training device.
8. The vibrating transducer as recited in claim 5, wherein the digital input device and controller comprises a golf swing training device.
9. The vibrating transducer as recited in claim 7, wherein the sports training device is distinct from and not in fixed relation to the rigid housing enclosing the electric motor.
10. The vibrating transducer as recited in claim 1, further comprising a controller adapted to periodically energize the motor in a pattern whose timing is consistent with that of a human heart beat.
11. The vibrating transducer as recited in claim 1, further comprising a controller adapted to periodically energize the motor in a pattern whose timing is consistent with that of a measured human heart beat.
12. The vibrating transducer as recited in claim 11, wherein the measured human heart beat is a heart beat of a pregnant woman in a third trimester of her pregnancy.
13. The vibrating transducer as recited in claim 12, wherein the rigid housing is enclosed within one of the following group consisting of: a crib mattress; a blanket; a pillow; and a garment of clothing.
14. The vibrating transducer as recited in claim 10, further comprising: a monitor to measure a human heart beat; and a wireless communication system linking the monitor to the controller; whereby the controller is adapted to periodically energize the motor in a pattern consistent with that of the human heart beat, in real time.
15. A vibrating transducer for producing multiple, readily differentiable tactile stimulations, the vibrating transducer comprising: an electric motor having a shaft; a rigid housing enclosing the electric motor; an eccentric weight attached to the electric motor shaft; and a foam cushion encircling the electric motor within the rigid housing, the cushion being adapted to enable the motor, when energized, to wobble within the rigid housing so that the eccentric weight orbits about an elliptical path.
16. The vibrating transducer as recited in claim 15, wherein the rigid housing comprises a generally cylindrically shaped tube.
17. The vibrating transducer as recited in claim 16, wherein the foam cushion is wrapped by a securing sheet.
18. The vibrating transducer of claim 15, further comprising a driver circuit for facilitating operation of the electric motor.
19. The vibrating transducer as recited in claim 18, wherein the driver circuit comprises a plurality of timing subcircuits.
20. The vibrating transducer as recited in claim 19, wherein each said timing subcircuit is adapted to operate said electric motor for a distinct period of time.
21. The vibrating transducer as recited in claim 20, wherein: each timing subcircuit is activated by a trigger signal; each trigger signal is derived from a single input signal; and wherein the trigger signals are differentiated by filtering of the input signal.
22. The vibrating transducer as recited in claim 21, further comprising a digital signal generator for producing the input signal.
23. The vibrating transducer as recited in claim 22, wherein the signal generator is adapted to produce pulse trains of differing time durations.
Description:
VIBRATING TRANSDUCER WITH WOBBLING MOTOR

Related Applications

This application claims priority to, and incorporates by reference, U.S. patent application serial number 11/138,753 for a "Vibrating Transducer with Provision for Easily

Differentiated Multiple Tactile Stimulations," which was filed on May 26, 2005, and U.S. patent application 11/138,755 for a "Tactile Rhythm Generator," which was also filed on

May 26, 2005.

This application also incorporates by reference U.S. patent application serial number 10/306,262 for a "Tactile Rhythm Generator," filed November 27, 2002, and PCT application serial number PCT/US03/023634 for a "Tactile Rhythm Generator," filed July 29, 2003.

Technical Field

The present invention relates to tactile stimulation. More particularly, the invention relates to a method and apparatus for producing multiple tactile stimulations that are easily differentiated one from one or more others.

Background Art

Vibrating transducers comprising eccentric weights thrown into motion with electric motors are commonplace components in pagers, cellular telephones and the like. Typically, these types of transducers are utilized to produce a tactile stimulation indicative of the occurrence of some event such as, for example, an incoming page or telephone call.

Applicant has recognized, however, that multiple tactile stimulations, if readily differentiable, may be usefully employed for the indication of one of a plurality of occurrences. Unfortunately, the vibrating transducers of the prior art are not readily susceptible to the generation of readily distinguishable multiple tactile stimulations, especially in applications requiring short durations of stimulation.

Summary of the Invention Recognizing this deficiency, Applicant has a primary object of the present invention improved upon the vibrating transducers of the prior art by developing a vibrating transducer capable of delivering a high energy level in a short time duration, thereby enabling the vibrating transducer to produce easily differentiated, multiple tactile stimulations. As a further object of the present invention, Applicant has developed such a vibrating transducer

that is also extremely compact and therefore readily adaptable to a wide variety of applications. Still further, it is an object of the present invention to produce such a vibrating transducer that may be readily and economically manufactured.

In accordance with the foregoing objects, the present invention - a vibrating transducer for producing multiple readily differentiable tactile stimulations - generally comprises a rigid housing; an electric motor enclosed within the rigid housing and having attached thereto an eccentric weight; and wherein the electric motor is supported within the rigid housing with resilient, but easily deformable, cushioning to enable the motor to wobble within the housing during operation. The motor mount may be formed of a cushion, which may be made from foam material or the like. In at least one embodiment of the present invention, the cushion is wrapped substantially about the electric motor, centering the electric motor within the cylindrically shaped tube forming the rigid housing. In order to facilitate manufacture of the vibrating transducer of the present invention, the cushion may be wrapped by a securing sheet such as, for example, a thin paper wrapping, a length of adhesive tape or the like.

In a further embodiment of the vibrating transducer of the present invention, a driver circuit may be provided for facilitating operation of the electric motor. The driver circuit may include a current amplifier, a plurality of timing sub-circuits (such as may comprise monostable multivibrators) or a combination thereof. Preferably, the timing sub-circuits are each adapted to operate the electric motor for a distinct period of time.

Each timing sub-circuit is preferably activated by a trigger signal: which may be derived from a single input signal. In at least one embodiment of the present invention, the trigger signals are differentiated by filtering of the input signal. A signal generator may be provided for producing input signal, which may comprise a pulse train. Preferably, the pulse train comprises pulses of at least two distinct electrical characteristics such as, for example, differing time durations.

The inventors have discovered that placing the vibrating transducer in contact with the bony areas of the body - such as the user's spine, shin bone, ankle bone, or wrist bone - yields a more noticeable sensation than placing the transducer in contact with a person's soft tissue, because the bone conducts the vibrations much better than soft tissue. Furthermore, the inventors have discovered that limiting the surface area of the transducer that comes into contact with the body increases the perceived sensation. More particularly, the inventors discovered that giving the transducer with a small, cylindrical housing, provided a more noticeable sensation than a transducer with a flat or rectangular housing.

To reduce the size of the transducer housing, and thereby increase the tactile sensation, the driver circuit and power supply for the transducer is preferably placed in a third portable housing separate from that of the transducer's housing, with wires to carry power and/or control signals connecting the third housing to the transducer's housing. This has an added benefit of isolating the vibrating transducer from the driver circuitry, which if not sufficiently rugged can be harmed by excessive vibrations.

The vibrating transducer of the present invention can be used in, or in connection with, cell phones, personal digital assistants, portable music devices like Apple Corporation's I-Pod ® , and sports training devices, such as a golf swing and/or putting stroke tempo training device.

Furthermore, the vibrating transducer of the present invention can be incorporated into an infant mattress, blanket, or pillow and provide soothing rhythmic vibrations to the infant corresponding to a parent's heartbeat, or alternatively, in an adult pillow for use by the parent and provide tactile stimulations corresponding to the infant's heartbeat or breathing. A biofeedback mechanism is provided to detect the infant's or parent's breathing or heartbeat and transmit corresponding signals to the receiving unit.

Finally, many other features, objects and advantages of the present invention will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the relevant arts, especially in light of the foregoing discussions and the following drawings, exemplary detailed description and appended claims.

Brief Description of the Drawings

Figure 1 shows, in an exploded perspective view, the preferred embodiment of the vibrating transducer of the present invention.

Figure 2 shows, in a cross sectional side view, details of the arrangement of the internal components of the vibrating transducer of Figure 1.

Figure 3 shows, in a cross sectional end view taken through cut line 3-3 of Figure 2, additional details of the arrangement of the internal components of the vibrating transducer of Figure 1.

Figure 4 shows, in a partially cut away perspective view, a representation of the forces produced in the operation of the vibrating transducer of Figure 1.

Figures 5A through 5F show, in schematic representations generally corresponding to the view of Figure 3, changes in the relative positions of various internal components of the vibrating transducer of Figure 1, which changes occur as a result of the operational forces represented in Figure 4.

Figure 6 shows, in a functional block diagram, one embodiment of a system for employing the vibrating transducer of Figure 1.

Figures 7A and 7B show, in schematic diagrams, exemplary electronic circuits such as may be utilized (if necessary) in the system of Figure 6 for conditioning signal generator output signals for driving the vibrating transducer of Figure 1.

Figures 8A and 8B show, in voltage time plots, typical signals generated by an electronic metronome for divisional and downbeats, respectively, or by telegraph devices for dashes and dots, respectively, or the like.

Figure 9A shows, in a voltage time plot, the signals of Figures 8 A and 8B after being passed in a pattern through an envelope detector, as implemented in the design of Figure 7 A, and Figure 9B shows, in a voltage time plot, the same composite signal after further being passed through a class C amplifier, as also implemented in the design of Figure 7A.

Figure 10 shows, in a voltage time plot, the signal of Figure 9B after being low pass filtered by a first order R-C filter, as implemented in the design of Figure 7A. Figures 1 IA and 1 IB show, in voltage time plots, output signals from first and second monostable multivibrator, or "one-shot." circuits, as implemented in the design of Figure 7 A, the output from the first being the result of inputting the signal of Figure SA to the circuit of

Figure 7A and the output from the second being the result of inputting the signal of Figure 8B to the circuit of Figure 7A, whereby the first is used to drive the vibrating transducer of Figure 1 to produce a tactile stimulation easily recognized as a divisional beat, dash or the like and the second is utilized to drive the vibrating transducer of Figure 1 to produce a tactile stimulation easily recognized as a downbeat, dot or the like.

Figure 12 depicts the vibrating transducer of the present invention used in connection with a portable personal communications, information, training or entertainment device, such as a cell phone, personal digital assistant, sports training device, or portable music device.

Figure 13 depicts the vibrating transducer of the present invention used in connection with a digital tactile rhythm generator.

Figure 14 depicts the vibrating transducer of the present invention used in connection with a golf swing training device. Figure 15 depicts one embodiment of a digital sports training device (which may incorporate a signal generator) for use with the vibrating transducer of the present invention.

Figure 16 depicts one embodiment of a portable personal communications, information, training or entertainment device used in conjunction with a separately housed

vibrating transducer, connected by power wires, and attached to separate clips that can be affixed to a belt.

Figure 17 depicts the vibrating transducer of the present invention used in connection with a biofeedback pillow, providing vibrations that correspond to a person's heartbeat or respiration.

Disclosure of the Invention

Although those of ordinary skill in the art will readily recognize many alternative embodiments, especially in light of the illustrations provided herein, this detailed description is exemplary of the preferred embodiment of the present invention, the scope of which is limited only by the claims appended hereto.

Referring now to the Figures, and to Figures 1 through 4 in particular, the vibrating transducer 20 of the present invention is shown to generally comprise an electric motor 24 having attached thereto an eccentric weight 29 and encased within a rigid housing 21. As is typical with pager transducers and the like, operation of the electric motor 24 turns a shaft 30 upon which the eccentric weight 29 is mounted with, for example, a pin 31. As will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art, rotation upon the shaft 30 of the eccentric weight 29 produces a vibratory effect upon the motor 24 resulting from the forward portion of the motor attempting to shift laterally outward from the nominal axis of rotation 32 of the shaft 30, as depicted by the centrifugal force lines F in Figure 4.

In typical implementations of this principle, the electric motor is rigidly fixed to some body such as, for example, a pager or cellular telephone housing with mounting clamps, brackets or the like. In the present invention, however, unlike the vibrating transducers of the prior art, the electric motor 24 is encased within a rigid housing 21 by the provision of a wobbling motor mount 34, which allows the forward portion 28 of the electric motor 24 to generally wobble within the rigid housing 21 as the eccentric weight 29 is rotated upon the motor shaft 30. In this manner, the resultant forces F are the product of much greater momentum in the eccentric weight 29 than that obtained in the fixed configuration of the prior art. In the preferred embodiment of the present invention, as detailed in Figures 1 through

4, the wobbling motor mount 34 generally comprises a wrapping of preferably easily compressible yet resilient foam cushion material 35, which is sized and shaped to snuggly fill the space provided between the electric motor 24 and the interior of the rigid housing 21. The inventors have found that a urethane, open cell foam tape made by 3M ® and identified by

part number 4016 comprises a suitable source of foam cushion material 35. The foam tape has a nominal thickness of 1/16 th of an inch (1.6 mm) with a tolerance of between 0.045 and 0.08 inches (1.14 to 2.03 mm) and an approximate density of 11 pounds/ft 3 or 175 kg/m 3 (which is considerably less than the approximately 1100-1200 kg/m 3 of rubber), The foam tape has a tensile strength of about 140 psi or 965 IdPa. The foam also has a compression deflection property (i.e., the force it takes to compress a standardized test specimen 25% of its height) of between about 10 and 82.8 kPa, and a compression set % loss (i.e, the amount, measured in percentage, by which the test specimen fails to return to its original thickness after being subjected to a standard compressive load or deflection for a fixed period of time) of between about 5 and 12%.

To facilitate manufacture of the vibrating transducer 20, as generally depicted in Figure 1, the foam cushion 35 may be held in place about the body of the electric motor 34 with a cushion securing sheet 37, which may comprise a thin paper glued in place about the cushion 35, a thin adhesive tape, or any substantially equivalent means. To complete the manufacture of the vibrating transducer 20, the cushioned electric motor 34, with eccentric weight 29 attached to its shaft 30 is inserted into the rigid housing 21 and secured in place by the application of epoxy 23 into the open, rear portion 22 of the housing 21. Once inserted, the foam cushion material 35 has a substantially uncompressed "interference fit" within the rigid housing 21. As will be understood by those of ordinary skill in the art, the epoxy 23 also serves to stabilize the power cord 36 to the electric motor 24, thereby preventing accidental disengagement of the power cord 26 from the electric motor 24.

Referring now to Figures 3 through 5, the enhanced operation of the vibrating transducer 20 of the present invention is detailed. At the outset, however, it is noted that in order to obtain maximum benefit of the present invention, the rigid housing 21 is provided in a generally cylindrical shape, as will be better understood further herein. In any case, as shown in the cross sectional view of Figure 3, and corresponding views of Figures 5 A through 5F, the forward portion 28 of the electric motor 24 is encompassed by the forward portion 36 of the foam cushion 35. At rest, i.e., without the electric motor 24 in operation, the electric motor 24 is substantially uniformly surrounded by the foam cushion 35, as shown in Figure 5 A.

Upon actuation of the electric motor 24, however, the centrifugal forces F generated by the outward throw of the eccentric weight 29 causes the axis of rotation 32 of the motor's shaft 30 to follow a conical pattern, as depicted in Figure 4. As a result, the forward portion 28 of the electric motor 28 is thrown into the forward portion 36 of the foam cushion 35,

depressing the area of cushion 35 adjacent the eccentric weight 29 and allowing expansion of the portion of the cushion 35 generally opposite, as depicted in Figures 5B through 5F corresponding to various rotational positions of the eccentric weight 29.

As is evident through reference to Figures 5B through 5F, the cooperative arrangement of the cushion 35 about the electric motor 24, as also enhanced by the cylindrical shape of the rigid housing 21, allows the eccentric weight 29 to build greater momentum than possible in embodiments where the motor is rigidly affixed to a body. As the forward portion 36 of the foam cushion 35 compresses under the centrifugal forces F of the eccentric weight 29, however, a point is reached where the foam cushion 35 is no longer compressible against the interior wall of the rigid housing 21 and the forward portion 28 of the electric motor 24 is repelled away from the interior wall toward the opposite portion of interior wall.

The result is a vibratory effect much more pronounced than that obtained in prior art configurations calling for the rigid affixation of an electric motor to a housing. Additionally, Applicant has found that the resulting pronounced vibratory effect is generally more perceptible to the human sense of touch than is that produced by prior art configurations. In particular, small differences on the order of tens of milliseconds or less in duration of operation of the vibrating transducer 20 of the present invention, i.e., duration of powering of the electric motor 24, are easily perceived and differentiated. As a result, the vibrating transducer 20 of the present invention is particularly adapted for applications requiring differentiation of multiple tactile stimulations such as, for example, the transmission of Morse code or other signaling systems, implementation of tactile metronomes with distinct tactile stimuli representing downbeats versus divisional beats, implementations of sports training devices used to reinforce rhythms and for timing of motions or the like. Referring now to Figure 6, a representative tactile stimulation system 38 employing the foregoing improvements is shown to generally comprise a signal generator 39 in electrical communication with the vibrating transducer 20 of the present invention. As will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art, the signal generator 39 may take any of a variety of forms, but in any case is adapted to generate a driving signal for the vibrating transducer 20 in whatever tempo, duration, complex rhythm or the like is appropriate for the application for which the vibrating transducer 20 is to be utilized. Additionally, a signal conditioning circuit 40 may be implemented whereby a single implementation of the vibrating transducer 20 may be made compatible with a plurality of signal generators 39 having widely diverse electrical output characteristics.

As shown in Figure 7 A, such a signal conditioning circuit 40 particularly includes an output amplifier 48 with the capability to provide the necessary current for operation of the motor 23 of the vibrating transducer 20 and preferably comprises a power conditioning circuit 51, as shown in Figure 7B, having the capability to prevent and/or suppress voltage spiking, such as may be expected in response to the highly inductive load typical of the type of electric motor 24 utilized in the implementation of the vibrating transducer 20. Additionally, the signal conditioning circuit 40 preferably comprises one or more provisions for accepting input signals of varying electrical characteristics. For example, the conditioning circuit 40 of Figure 7A includes an envelope detector 42, which, as is known to those of ordinary skill in the art, is capable of accepting a burst of voltage pulses as if the burst were a single pulse having the same time duration as the burst or, without different result, accepting a single pulse of the same time duration as the burst; at the output of the envelope detector 42, the signals from each will be largely indistinguishable.

Although those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that lesser, or in some cases no, signal conditioning circuit may be required depending upon the electrical characteristics of the signals output from the signal generator 39, an exemplary only signal conditioning circuit 40 is shown in Figure 7 A to generally comprise an input jack 41 for receiving signals from the signal generator 39; an envelope detector 42 for transforming various types of input signals into a common characteristic pulse train wherein the time duration of each pulse dictates the output of the vibrating transducer 20; an input amplifier 43 for squaring the output of the envelope detector for further processing; a first signal generator 45 for generating "moderate intensity" or short duration outputs from the vibrating transducer 20 and a second signal generator 46 for generating "intense" or long duration outputs from the vibrating transducer 20; an output amplifier 48 for providing necessary current for operation of the electric motor 24 of the vibrating transducer 20; an output jack 50 for connection, through a power cord jack 27, of the power cord 26 leading to the motor 24 of the vibrating transducer 20; and other circuitry in support of the foregoing operations and/or for providing additional features, as will be better understood further herein.

Looking closer at the signal conditioning circuit 40 depicted in Figure 7A, the envelope detector 42 is shown to comprise a IN4148 diode D2, having its anode connected to terminal Jl-I of input jack 41, and a 0.022 μF capacitor C2 tying the cathode of diode D2 to ground. Signals input at terminal Jl-I of input jack 41 feed into the anode of diode D2 and the envelope of those signals are output at the cathode of diode D2. In order to produce cleaner, more square representations of the resulting signal envelope, facilitating further

processing of the input signals, the envelope signal from the envelope detector 42 is passed through an input amplifier 43, which comprises a 2N3904 NPN BJT transistor Ql configured as a common emitter amplifier in Class C operation. A 47 kΩ resistor R2 is selected to limit the current through the base-emitter junction of transistor Ql and to raise the input impedance of the amplifier 43 to a level that will not load down the input envelope signal. A 2.2 WZ resistor R3 is selected to operate the amplifier 43 in saturation, resulting in a squared off, amplified output at the collector of transistor Ql .

In the next stage of the signal conditioning circuit 40, a pair of signal generators 45, 46 is provided for producing drive signals for operation of the electric motor 24 of the vibrating transducer 20. Each signal generator 45, 46 comprises an LM555N CMOS timer Ul, U2, respectively, configured as a monostable multivibrator or "one-shot." As shown in the figure, the output timing circuit of the first CMOS timer Ul comprises a 68 k'Ω resistor R5 and a 0.22 μF capacitor C4 in order to produce a short duration output signal at pin 3 of the CMOS timer Ul of about 10 milliseconds. Upon delivery of the output signal to the electric motor 24 of the vibrating transducer 20, a moderate intensity (or short) tactile sensation will be produced. The output timing circuit of the second CMOS timer U2, on the other hand, comprises a 100 k'Ω resistor R6 and n 0.47 /IF capacitor C6 such that the output signal generated at pin3 of the second CMOS timer U2 is approximately 40 milliseconds in duration, which when delivered to the electric motor 24 the vibrating transducer 20 will produce a distinctly more intense (or long) tactile sensation.

In order to differentiate between input signals, the amplified, envelope signal from the collector of transistor Ql, i.e., the output from the input amplifier 43, is delivered "as is" to the trigger pin 2 of the first CMOS timer Ul, but is filtered through a first order R-C low pass filter 44 prior to delivery to the trigger pin 2 of the second CMOS timer U2. As will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art, this prevents shorter duration input pulses or pulse streams from triggering the second monostable multivibrator signal generator 45. As also will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art, the required R-C filter 44 is readily implemented with a 5.8 k'Ω series resistor and 2.2 μF capacitor to ground.

The output (from pin 3 of CMOS timer Ul) of the first monostable multivibrator signal generator 45 and the output (from pin 3 of CMOS timer U2) of the second monostable multivibrator signal generator 46 are then combined through a solid state OR circuit comprising a pair of IN4148 diodes D3, D4 having their cathodes tied together. In this manner, either the presence of a signal from the first signal generator 45 at the anode of the first diode D3 or the presence of a signal from the second signal generator 46 at the anode of

the second diode D4 will result in the presence of a signal at the common cathodes of the diodes D3, D4, which is then fed into the output amplifier 48.

While many of the foregoing features of the signal conditioning circuit 40 as thus far described may not be required in every implementation of the present invention, the output amplifier 48, or its substantial equivalent, will generally be required for any implementation in which logical level signals will be expected to drive the electric motor 24 of the vibrating transducer 20, which will generally have a current requirement beyond the capabilities of most solid state components.

As shown in Figure 7 A, an exemplary output amplifier 48 comprises a 2N3904 NPN BJT transistor Q2, configured as an emitter follower, coupled with a TIP42 high current PNP transistor Q3 in a TO-220 heat dissipating package, for providing the necessary current for operation of the electric motor 24 of the vibrating transducer 20. As will be recognized by those of ordinary skill in the art, the output amplifier 48 as shown may be considered a two stage, high current emitter follower. In any case, the output from the output amplifier 48 is fed through an output power level selector 49 to an output jack 50, into which the power cord jack 27 to the electric motor 24 of the vibrating transducer 20 may be plugged. As shown in Figure 7 A, the output power level selector 49 preferably comprises a 22 'Ω resistor R8, which is selectively placed in series with the output circuit by selecting the appropriate position of a single pole, single throw switch SW2. Although Applicant has found that 22 'Ω is an appropriate value for the resistor R8, it is noted that the value is selected empirically in order to obtain the user desired tactile feel for the "low" output selection. Additionally, those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the resistor R8 may be replaced with a potentiometer, thereby providing a fully adjustable output power level. Finally, as previously discussed, a power conditioning circuit 51, such as that which is shown in Figure 7B, is preferably provided to prevent and/or suppress voltage spiking, such as may be expected in response to the highly inductive load typical of the type of electric motor 24 utilized in the implementation of the vibrating transducer 20. As shown in Figure 7B, the power conditioning circuit comprises a 10 μF electrolytic capacitor Cl tying to ground the 9- V power bus from, for example, a 9- V battery BAT. As will be recognized by those of ordinary skill in the art, the electrolytic capacitor Cl will temporarily supply additional current to the 9- V bus as may be required to compensate for transients resulting from the draw upon the output amplifier 48 caused during startup of the electric motor 24 of the vibrating transducer 20. Additionally, the power conditioning circuit preferably

comprises an ON-OFF switch SWI and may also include a power on indicator 52. As will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art, such a power on indicator may be readily implemented with a 1 kΩ current limiting resistor Rl in series with a light emitting diode ("LED") Dl between the 9-V power bus and ground. Referring now to the figures generally, and to Figures 8 through 11 in particular, the operation of the vibrating transducer 20 of the present invention is detailed. For purposes of this exemplary discussion, it is assumed that the vibrating transducer 20 is to be used in an application requiring the differentiation of two distinct tactile stimulations. It should be recognized, however, that the vibrating transducer 20 of the present invention is readily capable of being used in applications requiring more. Still further, especially in light of this exemplary disclosure, those of ordinary skill in the art will readily recognize the necessary modifications of the previously described circuits as may be required for the implementation of higher order systems.

In any case, Figures 8A and 8B depict, in voltage time plots, representative input signals as may be produced by a signal generator 39 such as that shown in Figure 6. In particular, Figure 8A shows a "short" pulse train, approximately 3 milliseconds in duration. This pulse train may be generated by the signal generator 39 to represent a first event. Likewise, Figure 8B shows a "long" pulse train, of approximately 15 milliseconds in duration, such as also may be generated by the signal generator 39 of Figure 6. This latter pulse train may be generated to represent a second event. In operation of the vibrating transducer 20 of the present invention utilizing the signal conditioning circuit 40 of Figure 7A, the pulse trains of Figures 8 A and 8B will be fed in a desired pattern into the input jack

41 of the of the conditioning circuit 40 at terminal Jl-I. For example, the pulse trains may be fed in the pattern SHORT-LONG-SHORT-SHORT-SHORT-LONG. As previously described, the conditioning circuit 40 first produces the envelope of the input signal. Continuing with the example as set up, then, the output of the envelope detector

42 will be 3 s depicted in the voltage time plot of Figure 9 A representing the signal obtained at the cathode of diode D2. As shown in the plot of Figure 9 A, however, the output of the envelope detector 42 will generally reflect effects of the time constant of its capacitor C2, resulting in roll off in the waveform. In order to produce a cleaner, more square waveform (and thus more readily utilizable for controlling timing operations), the output of the envelope detector 42 is preferably passed through an input amplifier 43 configured to operate in Class C, or saturation. As depicted in Figure 9B. representing the voltage waveform at the collector of the transistor Ql forming the input amplifier 43, the output of the input amplifier 43 is a

series of generally squared pulses. In any case, those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the input signal pattern SHORT-LONG-SHORT-SHORT-SHORT-LONG is at this point still preserved.

As also previously discussed, the next stage of the conditioning circuit 40 comprises a pair of monostable multivibrator, or "one-shot," signal generators 45, 46. The amplified signal depicted in Figure 9B is fed directly into the trigger pin 2 of the CMOS timer Ul of the first signal generator 45. As will be understood by those of ordinary skill in the art, each pulse of the input signal crossing the threshold trigger level, shown as TRIG on Figure 9B, will trigger the first timer Ul, causing an approximately 10 millisecond pulse, as depicted in Figure HA, to be output from pin 3 of the timer Ul. It is desired, however, that only the longer pulses trigger the CMOS timer U2 of the second signal generator 46. To affect this result, then, the amplified signal of Figure 9B is first passed through a low pass filter 44 prior to application to the trigger pin 2 of the CMOS timer U2 of the second signal generator 46. As is evident from the depiction of Figure 10, representing the filtered signal output from the low pass filter 44, only the longer duration pulses are of low enough frequency to sufficiently pass the filter 44 to cross the threshold level as indicated on Figure 10 as TRIG. As a result, when this waveform is fed into the trigger pin 2 of the CMOS timer U2 of the second signal generator 46, only the longer pulses cause the generation of the approximately 40 millisecond pulse, as depicted in Figure 1 IB, at the output pin 3 of the CMOS timer U2 of the second signal generator 46.

The pulse trains thus generated by the pair of monostable multivibrator, or "one-shot," signal generators 45, 46 is are then combined by the solid state OR circuit 47 depicted in Figure 7A. Upon combination, as will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art, the following voltage pattern will be present at the input to the output amplifier 48: V 1O m S -PaUSe- V 1Oms -Pause- V 1 OmS -Pause - Viom s -Pause- V 1Oms -Pause- V 4 o ms , representing a series of 40 millisecond duration and 10 millisecond duration pulses of voltage in the SHORT-LONG- SHORT-SHORT-SHORT-LONG pattern of the input signal. These voltages are then passed through the output amplifier 48, which provides sufficient current for operation of the motor 24 of the vibrating transducer 20, and then passed to motor 24 of the vibrating transducer 20, which is turned on for 10 milliseconds, turned off, turned on for 40 milliseconds, turned off, turned on for 10 milliseconds, turned off, turned on for 10 milliseconds, turned off, turned on for 10 milliseconds, turned off, and then turned on for 40 milliseconds. As has been found by Applicant, the input signal pattern is readily perceived through the vibrating transducer 20.

The transducer of the present invention may be used in a wide variety of applications. Figure 12 depicts the vibrating transducer 20 of the present invention used in connection with a portable personal communications, information, or entertainment device 53, such as a cell phone, personal digital assistant, portable music device, or sports training device. The vibrating transducer 20 connects to the portable personal communications, information, or entertainment device 53 through a power cord 26 and power cord jack 27 that plugs into the personal communications, information, or entertainment device 53. In this manner, the vibrating transducer 20 may be worn at a different location - for example, in the small of the back - than the personal communications, information, or entertainment device 53. Alternatively, the vibrating transducer is incorporated within the housing of the portable personal communications, information, or entertainment device 53. The personal communications, information, or entertainment device 53 controls the duration, intensity, and rhythmic pattern of tactile pulses delivered by the vibrating transducer 20. For example, a cell phone could cause the vibrating transducer 20 to vibrate to indicate an incoming call. A personal digital assistant could cause the vibrating transducer 20 to vibrate to remind the wearer of an upcoming appointment. A portable music device could cause the vibrating transducer 20 to vibrate in accordance with the rhythm of the song being played.

Figure 13 depicts a digital tactile rhythm generator 54 comprising a signal generator 52 in electrical communication with the vibrating transducer 20 of the present invention. As explained above, the signal generator 52 is adapted to produce various rhythms and/or complex patterns. The signal generator 52 then communicates a generated rhythm and/or pattern through the vibrating transducer 20 to a user. In this manner, as will also be better understood further herein, the digital tactile rhythm generator 54 may be utilized by a user, such as an athlete 60, to enhance sports acuity and/or accuracy and/or the like. Additionally, the digital tactile rhythm generator 54 of the present invention may also be utilized for therapeutic purposes such as, for example, assisting patients with neurological, muscular and/or neuromuscular disorders and/or physical injuries in their treatment and/or rehabilitation.

Likewise, the tactile rhythm generator 54 is particularly suited for applications such as speech therapy wherein a user may be required to speak in cadence with a signal source. Traditionally such therapy involves listening for audible tones generated by a signal source and attempting to speak in cadence with the tones while also listening to one's own speech for feedback. Unfortunately, the traditional technique suffers greatly through the overload placed upon the patient's auditory neural pathway. The present invention, however, may be utilized

to relieve this load by replacing the audible tones with tactile stimuli, thereby freeing the patient's auditory senses for concentration on his or her own speech.

As particularly shown in Figure 13, the signal generator 52 generally comprises a controller 57 with associated read only memory 13, non- volatile random access memory 14 and various additional implementation components as are readily within the grasp of those of ordinary skill in the art. As will be better understood further herein, the non-volatile random access memory 14 is utilized to store data defining the rhythm or pattern desired for a particular application of the tactile rhythm generator 20. In use, program instruction stored in the read only memory 13 is utilized by the controller 57 to generate an electrical output according to the data stored in the non- volatile random access memory 14. This output, in turn, is utilized by the vibrating transducer 20 to produce a tactile sensation corresponding to the rhythm or pattern.

As also shown in Figure 13, a programming interface 19 is provided for initially communicating the desired rhythm or pattern to the signal generator 52. In particular, the user utilizes the programming interface 19, which may comprise a desktop or laptop computer, a keypad and display system, a USB port, a wireless interface, a PDA, buttons or dials or any other substantially equivalent system, to input the details of the timing of the desired rhythm or pattern into the non- volatile random access memory 14 of the signal generator 52. Preferably, the programming input 19 interfaces with the signal generator 42 through a bus cable connection, which is only connected during programming of the signal generator 52.

Before turning to Figure 14, it should be noted that consistent, natural rhythm is an important factor in many sports. The concept of consistent rhythm is emphasized and taught to participants in basketball (free-throw shooting motion), tennis (service motion), baseball (hitting, pitching motion), golf (swing and putting stroke), and many other sports.

There are many references to the importance of rhythm in golf instruction. The consensus of most golf instructors is that a golfer's swing should have a consistent rhythm for every shot. This is especially important for the putting stroke. This concept is discussed extensively by Dave PeIz in his book, Dave Pelz's Putting Bible (see pages 132-141, 227- 232), which is herein incorporated by reference. In his book, Mr. PeIz describes in detail how a golfer can identify their natural rhythm and practice their putting using a naturally rhythmic stroke. Mr. PeIz and other instructors suggest using an auditory metronome set to the golfer's preferred natural rhythm to practice and hone a repeatable, rhythmic putting stroke.

The vibrating transducer of the present invention can be used by participants of golf and other sports to practice and perfect a consistent, rhythmic movement that is repeatable in competition. For example, the vibrating transducer could be used as the metronomic training device to help a golfer practice a naturally rhythmic putting stroke and golf swing. It would be superior to the auditory metronome because it is quiet and could be used in crowded practice facilities without disturbing other golfers. In fact, many golfers in close proximity could all use the device, set to their own preferred rhythm, without interference. The inventors have also found that the stimulus of the vibrating transducer more effectively promotes a natural, internal rhythm than does an auditory metronome. This advantage will make it an effective training device for golfers and participants in many other sports.

Figure 14 depicts the vibrating transducer of the present invention used in connection with a golf swing and/or putting stroke tempo training device 10. In use, an athlete 60 or other user attaches the vibrating transducer 16 to his or her ankle, wrist, chest or other area of the body as dictated by the physical activity in which the user will participate, utilizing an elastic or cloth material strap 17 integrally affixed thereto. The tactile transducer 16 is then electrically connected to the signal generator 11 through an electric cable 18. Control inputs 15 provided on the signal generator 52 are then utilized to commence generation of the desired rhythm or pattern. For example, a golfer may utilize the golf swing and/or putting stroke tempo training device 10 of the present invention to generate a simple, repeating "one- two" stimulation that the golfer may follow in perfecting his or her swing. Other athletes, such as a high jumper, might use a more complex pattern to time his or her accelerating footsteps on approach to the highjump. A basketball player might use the vibrating transducer to perfect his or her free throw shooting skills.

Figure 15 depicts one embodiment of a digital sports training device 71 (which may incorporate a signal generator 52) for use with the vibrating transducer 20 of the present invention. Digital sports training device 71 has a display 70 and a user interface with tempo increase 63 and decrease 64 buttons, a program pattern button 65, a pulse-strength selection button 66, a pulse duration button 67, and a next pulse button 68. Furthermore, the display 70 is adapted to provide a digital readout of the current tempo (in pulses/minute), the number of the current pulse within the programmed pulse pattern, the strength of the current pulse, and the duration of the current pulse. A user holds the program pattern button 65 down for at least 2 seconds to program a new pulse pattern or modify a previously stored pulse pattern. With pulse-strength selection button 66, the user defines the strength (e.g., strong, weak, quiet) of the current pulse. With the pulse duration button 67, the user defines the duration

(e.g., Vi interval, 1 interval, 2 intervals, 3 intervals, 4 intervals) of the current pulse. With the next pulse button 68, the user advances to the next pulse in the pattern, whereafter the user again programs the strength and duration of that pulse. To signal completion of a programmed pattern, the user selects the program pattern button 65 again. The digital sports training device 71 is preferably equipped with sufficient storage memory to store at least nine different pulse patterns. By selecting the program pattern button 65, followed by selection of the tempo buttons 63 and 64 (which also serve during normal operation to select the speed at which the pulse pattern is played), the user can program, reprogram, or select for operation, any of the nine or more different pulse patterns. Additionally, it is contemplated that the sports training device 71 may incorporate an interface (not shown), such as a USB connection or a wireless bluetooth or infrared connection, for connecting the device 71 to an external digital input source, such as a general purpose laptop computer, a general purpose personal digital assistant, or some other portable consumer electronics device. This would be particularly useful to enable a sports trainer to program the sports training device 71, or a plurality of sports training devices 71 used by several students simultaneously, to produce the desired complex pulse patterns. To this end, the sports training device 71 is equipped with a switch 69 that enables the athlete to select between an external or remote control channel, wherein the sports training device 71 receives a pattern from an external source, and a local control channel, where the digital input device 71 outputs a pulse pattern selected by the athlete using the built-in user interface.

Additionally, display 70 may be adapted to provide a graphical readout corresponding to a playing pulse pattern. The sports training device 71 is preferably provided with memory storage, such as flash memory, to store the various complex patterns defined or selected thereon. In this manner, the sports training device 71 is equipped to program, record, and store sequences. Although not shown in FIG. 15, the sports training device 71 may also be provided with a speaker and an audio control button, a light indicator, and other features. The sports training device 71 may also be provided with a infrared-based remote control unit to start and stop the sequence.

Figure 16 depicts one embodiment of the portable personal communications, information, or entertainment device 53 comprising a transducer housed in a small cylinder 75, about 2-3 centimeters in length, attached to a belt clip 76. Flexible decoupling material, such as cotton, foam, or rubber, is placed between the transducer housing 75 and the clip 76 itself. The clip 76 is designed to fit on a user-selected and adjustable location on a conventional belt 77. The transducer is intended to be worn so that the outside of the

transducer housing 75 will contact the user, preferably, at the small of the user's back, to facilitate conduction of the vibrations through the user's bones. Wires 74 connect the transducer to the portable personal communications, information, or entertainment device 53, which is also adjustably clipped to the conventional belt 77, such as at the user's side. The wires 74 are preferably partially concealed and protected within the conventional belt 77 or placed on the inside of the conventional belt 77, using any suitable means - such as snap loops, ties, or hook and loop material - for keeping the wires inside the conventional belt 77 or in contact with the inside surface of the conventional belt 77, while still facilitating the adjustable positioning of the transducer housing 75 and portable personal communications, information, or entertainment device 53. It will be understood that the clip 76 may be replaced with any other suitable means for removably attaching the transducer housing 75 to the conventional belt 77.

Figure 17 depicts a between-a-parent-and-her-baby biofeedback system 80 using a vibrating transducer such as that disclosed herein. In one embodiment, the biofeedback system 80 comprises a vibrating transducer 89 that is placed in a baby's bedding 93 - a crib mattress, a blanket, or a baby pillow — or alternatively in a strap (not shown) that goes around the baby's chest, waist, arm, or leg — or further alternatively in the baby's clothing (e.g., the baby's shirt or pants). The vibrating transducer 89 is controlled by a controller 87, which causes the vibrating transducer 89 to pulse with a heartbeat-like rhythm. The controller 87 may be programmed via programming input 85 to provide tactile pulses corresponding to a recorded pattern of the mother's heartbeat during the baby's third trimester in the womb. This may produce a calming effect on the baby 94, helping the baby 94 to sleep at night.

In another embodiment, the biofeedback system 80 is adapted to cause the transducer 89 to produce tactile impulses corresponding to a parent's current heartbeat or breathing. In this embodiment, the biofeedback system 80 further comprises a heart rate or breathing monitor 81 (which may take the form of a microphone or wrist band or watch 91 worn by the parent 95) to sense the parent's heart beat or breathing. The sensed respiration or heart beat is fed from the monitor 81 to a controller 84 to a wireless transmitter or transceiver 83, where it is transmitted via wireless signals to a wireless receiver or transceiver 86, where it is then fed to controller 87 and then to transducer 89.

In a further embodiment, the biofeedback system 80 is also adapted to provide the parent 95 with tactile stimulations corresponding to the baby's heart or respiration rate. A baby monitor 88, which may take the form of a microphone or a heart rate monitor, is provided to sense the baby's heart beat or breathing. Like the vibrating transducer 93, the

baby monitor 88 may be attached to the crib, a bed post, placed in a baby's bedding 93 (e.g., a crib mattress, a blanket, or a baby pillow), placed in a strap (not shown) that goes around the baby's chest, waist, arm, or leg, or placed in the baby's clothing (e.g., the baby's shirt or pants). The sensed respiration or heart beat of the baby 94 is fed from the monitor 81 to the controller 87 to a wireless transmitter or transceiver 86, where it is transmitted via wireless signals to a wireless receiver or transceiver 83, where it is then fed to controller 84 and then to transducer 82. With respect to the parent 95, the transducer 82 is preferably placed in a bed pillow 92, although it may be placed in any convenient place, including the bed post (not shown), the mattress (not shown), a blanket (not shown), a strap (not shown) that goes around the parent's chest, waist, arm, or leg, or placed in the parent's clothing (e.g., the parent's shirt, pants, or gown). This baby-to-parent biofeedback system may produce a calming effect on a worried parent 95, helping the parent 95 to sleep at night.

In yet another embodiment, the controllers 84 and 87 (which may comprise a single unit) are adapted to increase the rate or intensity of the transducers' vibrations if no respiration, heart beat, and/or movement is detected for an unusual period of time. The increased rate and intensity of vibrations should increase to a level sufficient to wake up both the baby 94 and the parent 95 if no resumption of respiration, heart beat, and/or movement is detected within a few seconds, hi this embodiment, the biofeedback system 80 is preferably equipped to also sound an audible alarm and flash a light on and off, to ensure that corrective action is taken before it is too late.

The monitor 81, transducer 82, and controller 84 may also be used as a snore-control device to quietly alert an adult when he or she starts snoring or experiences sleep apnea - without bothering the adult's mate. In this embodiment, the monitor 81 would be tuned to detect snoring noises or periods of sleep apnea. It will be recognized that the vibrating transducer of the present invention has many other applications, including, for example, speech pathology therapy, occupational and physical therapy, and helping persons recover from a stuttering disorder.

While the foregoing description is exemplary of the preferred embodiment of the present invention, those of ordinary skill in the relevant arts will recognize the many variations, alterations, modifications, substitutions and the like as are readily possible, especially in light of this description, the accompanying drawings and claims drawn thereto. In any case, because the scope of the present invention is much broader than any particular embodiment, the foregoing detailed description should not be construed as a limitation of the scope of the present invention, which is limited only by the claims appended hereto.