Excerpt from the patent specification:
I. Electronic Magic Spell-Casting System
A disclosed electronic magic spell-casting system for use in a game provides disclosed hardware and software suitable for execution of steps of a disclosed method in which a user provides disclosed physical and audible input to a data processing system so as to produce a disclosed result in the game.
The user inputs information to the data processing system through the use of two primary mechanisms: (i) a “prop”, for physical input, and (ii) a microphone, for audible, i.e., verbal input. The prop can be in the form of a magic wand, hand gesture interface, magic potion bottle, crystal ball, spoon, voodoo doll, or other magic item. The prop includes a position-sensing mechanism, such as a compass, gyroscope, tilt sensor, GPS receiver, or other position-sensing mechanism. The microphone can be worn on the head of the user, lapel, or other body part or can be supported by a microphone stand or can be an area microphone built into data processing equipment, e.g., a computer, itself.
Physical and audible input is received by the computer and compared against patterns in a pattern database. If the user inputs a sequence of physical and audible input that is recognized as matching a pattern, a spell may be triggered under certain game conditions. Effects of the spell are implemented according to the rules of the game and displayed to the user as appropriate.
FIG. 4 depicts the basic steps for creation, deployment, and usage of a wand-based function of the present invention. A database of integration patterns is established 400. A database of wand input patterns is established 401. A database of speech input patterns is established 402. A database of magic spells is established 403. A database of magic spell effects is established 404. A database of users/players is established 405. A database of characters is established 406.
The databases are populated with information such as spell names 407. Each record in the magic spell database is assigned, through relational database “key” relationship, an integration pattern, which is a pattern for integration of an assigned speech input pattern and an assigned physical input pattern 408. Recognition of these patterns is the mechanism through which spells are triggered. Each record in the magic spell database is also related to one or more records in the magic spell effects database 409.
When a person is ready to play the game, he or she creates 410 a record in the users/players database and trains 411 the speech recognition engine by reading a number of prescribed words or sentences so as to establish speech files uniquely associated with his or her given player record. He or she also trains 412 the wand input recognition engine by performing a number of movements.
The user than creates or activates a character 426 and begins playing a game with which the present invention is to be used. If the user wishes to cast a spell 413, he or she inputs physical and verbal input. Different integration patterns require different sequences of input: some patterns call for verbal input to precede physical input; some patterns call for physical input to precede verbal; some call for overlap.
In FIG. 4, a user speaks 414 a “magic” word or phrase, such as the examples 1203 in FIG. 12. If this word or phrase is recognized by the speech recognition engine 415, the speech input is compared to speech input patterns in the speech input patterns database 416 to find any matching spells. The user then performs physical input 417 by moving the wand in a pattern such as the example depicted in FIGS. 6A, 6B, and 6C. If the physical input is recognized 418, the physical input pattern is compared to those of the set of spells that matched the speech input pattern 419 to find the identified spell. Only one spell will be identified by a particular combination of speech and physical input.
If both the physical and speech input have matched a spell, the spell identified is compared 420 against the character’s spell book to verify that the given character can cast the identified spell under game rules. If so, any applicable game rules are applied 421 to verify that the spell can be cast under the current game conditions. If so, the spell succeeds 422, and one or more spell effects associated with the spell that has been cast are applied 423 in the game and displayed, if displaying such effects is part of the game. If the user wishes to cast another spell 424, he or she begins the spell-casting process again. If any step is failed, the spell fails 425.
Note that, by design, it is possible for a user to cast a spell that is not the spell that he or she intended to cast; failed or unintended spell-casting is part of the fun and the challenge, since the risk of failure forces players to improve their pronunciation of magic words and cadence of verbal phrasing and to master physical gestures, spacing and timing of motions.
Note also that, as depicted in the example patterns for integrating speech input patterns with physical input patterns, the steps of providing audible input and providing physical input can be performed in any order.
The motion-sensing or position-sensing physical input apparatus 501 can be a wand or any other “magical” item, such as those depicted in FIG. 5. This apparatus 501 includes one or more motion or position sensors 502, such as a tilt sensor. Data is input to the computer 504 via such an apparatus 501 so as to convey relative or absolute position or motion information, such as XYZ coordinates, acceleration, or other position or motion-related data as measured by the sensor 502. Verbal input is provided through an audio input device 503, such as a headset microphone. The computer 504 is equipped with suitable speech recognition software to recognize and process such input.
FIGS. 6A through 6C depict an example of a wand pattern. From a level position, the wand 601 is pointed upward at time 1 as depicted in FIG. 6A. Then it is moved into a level position as depicted in FIG. 6B at time 2 before being moved to point upward again at time 3 as depicted in FIG. 6C. This physical input pattern, therefore, is (i) point up, (ii) point level, (iii) point up, which is one of an infinite number of physical input patterns that can be input through the process depicted in FIG. 7: a physical input device is moved into a first position 701, moved into another position 702, and, if more positions are called for in a given pattern 703, moved into another position 702, and so on.
An alternative function provides for the use of a laser-tag device instead of a wand. FIG. 8A depicts a laser tag vest 801 for use with a laser tag gun 802. The vest 801 includes target points in the abdomen 803, shoulders (“epaulets”) 804, etc. Physical input patterns using this type of physical input device are input by “shooting” target points in the target vest 804 in a particular order or combination. For instance, abdomen-epaulet-abdomen can serve as a first pattern; abdomen-abdomen-epaulet can serve as a second pattern. FIG. 8A depicts the physical input apparatus 802 shooting the vest 801 in the abdomen target 803. FIG. 8B depicts the physical input apparatus 802 shooting the vest 801 in the epaulet 804. Thus the action depicted in FIG. 8A and the action depicted in FIG. 8B together form a physical input pattern, namely, abdomen-epaulet.
When using the laser apparatus instead of the wand apparatus, not only is the spell identified by the physical input pattern but also the target of the spell is so identified: whoever is wearing the vest that a player shoots in order to perform a physical input pattern is the target of a spell so triggered. This dual usage for the information has obvious advantages when the present invention is used in a multiplayer setting. However, certain spells do not involve a target, have a default target (e.g., all evil characters), or the target is inherently the spell caster; in such cases, the sensor-based wand may seem more appropriate and intuitive to users.
A method for inputting physical input patterns for use in the laser-based function of the present invention is depicted in FIG. 9: a user shoots a first target 901, then another target 902, and then, if the desired physical input pattern calls for more targets in this combination 903, another target is shot 902, and so on.
A dummy target board 1000 in FIG. 10 can be used with the laser-based input device for spells that do not involve a target or for use in solo play. The dummy target board 1000 includes target points 1001-1008 which serve in the stead of abdomen, epaulet, back, and any other target points that may be included in an input pattern.
Other physical input devices can be used. One particularly attractive choice is that of a gesture interface suitable for input of hand signals. In this function, a gesture interface 1101 depicted in FIG. 11A captures positional and motion data as input by the hand of a user 1102. Example hand gestures for use with the gesture interface input apparatus appear in FIG. 11B (a “peace sign”) and FIG. 11C (a “hang loose” sign). FIG. 11D depicts the process for inputting a physical input pattern via gesture interface: a first gesture is made 1121, another is made 1122, and, if the desired input pattern calls for additional gestures 1123, these gestures are made 1122.
Like the wand, the gesture interface is particularly attractive as an input device because hand gestures are treated as a crucial component of spell-casting in many fantasy literature and game settings.
FIG. 12 depicts a method of integrating speech input patterns and physical input patterns. If the integration pattern begins with verbal input 1201, a verbal input pattern, such as “Abracadabra” or other verbal incantation as shown in FIG. 12, is input 1203 into the computer. Then, if the integration pattern has not yet been finished 1204 and the next input required in a desired integration pattern is nonverbal 1205, then an appropriate physical input pattern is input 1202. The process continues according to depicted steps until completion.
FIG. 13 depicts a set of abstract logical relationships between a single user/player and multiple games that he or she can play; multiple characters he or she can play within the context of a specific game; multiple spells that a specific character can cast; multiple spell effects associated with a specific spell; an integration pattern associated with the specific spell; and verbal and physical input patterns associated with the specific integration pattern.
FIG. 14 depicts an example of the abstract relationships depicted in FIG. 13, wherein a particular user plays a particular game using a particular character to cast a particular spell that is associated with a particular integration pattern, in which is combined a particular verbal input pattern and physical input pattern; casting of the spell produces particular spell effects in the game context.
FIG. 15 depicts an additional hand gesture (“thumbs-up”) for use with a gesture interface physical input apparatus.
Although not necessary, it may be useful to include a “reset word” function for use in verbal input patterns. When the reset word is spoken, the user has a predetermined period of time within which to perform physical and speech input. After this time period has expired, extraneous input–accidental spoken words or movements of the wand, for instance–will be ignored until the reset word is spoken again.
FIGS. 16 and 17 depict two possible timelines applicable when the reset word function is used. When the reset word function is used as it is in FIG. 16, the entire speech input pattern and physical input pattern must be input by the user prior to the ending of a predetermined period of time after speaking of the reset word; this period of time is called a “spell-casting window”. In FIG. 17, the last input pattern, whether physical or verbal, in a desired integration pattern must be begun before the end of the spell-casting window but need not be completed prior to that time.
The present invention involves numerous databases related to each other in primary ways as depicted in FIG. 18, which databases serve to make available to a user the complex of logical relationships depicted in FIG. 13. As will be plain to one skilled in the art, these databases and the relationships therebetween can be modified, omitted, or supplemented as necessary for a particular application of the present invention.
Numerous gaming scenarios for use of the spell-casting system are possible, including, (i) individual human player against computer opponents; (ii) multiple human players against each other in a computer environment (e.g., virtual reality); (iii) multiple human players against each other in a physical environment; (iv) multiple human players in a pre-existing role-playing game, wherein the present invention serves as but an enhancement to the pre-existing game. Each of the scenarios and the processing routines associated with each are described in detail below.
Single user play: In single user play, a videogame includes a spell-casting feature. The videogame can be a first person “shoot’em up” type game, a third person fighting game, or a role-playing game, or other type of videogame.
The player plays the game using conventional controllers for conventional features such as navigation, attacking with a gun or other weapon, etc. When the user wishes to cast a spell, however, he or she uses the speech input microphone and the wand or gesture interface to input data into the computer. This data is processed per the present invention, and the results of spells are incorporated into the game (e.g., causing damage to opponents, causing regeneration of the player’s character’s hit points, etc.).
Multiple human players in virtual environment: In this application, humans play against each other online conventionally. However, when a given player wishes to cast a spell, he or she does so through the present invention.
Multiple human players against each other in a physical environment: In this application, humans play against each other in a facility created for such play, such as a laser tag arena. Laser tag guns and vests are used as in typical laser tag games. However, when a given player wishes to cast a spell, he or she does so through the present invention.
Multiple human players in a pre-existing role-playing game: In this application, users play the pre-existing role-playing game, such as Dungeons and Dragons, as usual. However, when a player wishes to cast a spell, he or she does so per the present invention, with the dedicated dual monitor 6801 depicted in FIG. 68A, with included computer processor, serving to process physical and verbal input. The computer 6801 outputs a simple message, visually or aurally (e.g., an explosion sound), indicating whether the spell has been successfully cast. If the spell has been successfully cast, the dungeon master applies the effects of the spell in the game as per the rules of the given role-playing game.
Note: this patent family, although not the Abracadabble trademark, is now owned by Microsoft.
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