1990?- The Grid
The interface that is of interest includes a grid of conductive wires in a flat, planar arrangement. The grid is connected to a computer or video game device. One of a variety of substantially planar boards having different layouts (surfaces) can be placed over (via register pins) the grid to be used as a playing field in a game or learning tool. Individual pieces can be placed on the board by a user and their locations on the board can be scanned and recorded by the connected computer. The computer uses the locations of the pieces and the movement of the pieces by the player to provide feedback to the user on a display screen or other feedback device connected to the computer. In one embodiment, each piece includes a metal or similar material which causes an electromagnetic field "signature" in the electrical signals of the grid below. Each individual piece can thus be quickly identified and located on the board by the computer, as well as distinguished from other pieces on the board.
The described interface has many applications. One application is in the field of interactive video games and utilities. A player of a game can use the interface to move playing pieces representing figures in the game, and the locations of the playing pieces are scanned and applied to game situations. For example, in a football game, a player can position the football player pieces in a preferred lineup on the board. The computer then displays an animated play based on the positions of the playing pieces on a video screen. The player can also move pieces to indicate the intended final location of a piece as a play is happening. In another application, the interface can be used as a learning tool in which, for example, children can place alphabet letter pieces in a certain work arrangements on a board and the spelling of the words can be checked by the computer. In other applications, one piece on the board can represent and manipulate a plurality of objects in the computer environment.
The interface provides a spatial reference to users of a computer system so that the user can manipulate objects, locations, and selections in a computer environment directly rather than through a confined interface such as a joystick or keyboard. This can help the user visualize situations in games and other applications and allow easier, more natural manipulation of the computer environment in many situations.
The same underlying grid can be used in infinite ways by using different game surfaces, pieces and software to create additional playing or learning environments.
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