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1. (WO2018102788) LEARNING AID FOR CENTRAL WHEEL STRUCTURE AUTO-BALANCING DEVICE AND AUTO-BALANCING DEVICE HAVING SAME
Note: Text based on automatic Optical Character Recognition processes. Please use the PDF version for legal matters

LEARNING AID FOR CENTRAL WHEEL STRUCTURE AUTO-BALANCING DEVICE AND AUTO-BALANCING DEVICE HAVING SAME

Inventor (s) : Shane Chen

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/428,937, filed December 1, 2016, entitled Pedal Resistance System for Self-Balancing Unicycle Device and having the inventor as above.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to learning how to ride a central wheel structure auto-balancing transportation device and, more specifically, to riding aids that may extend from such devices .

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The prior art includes U.S. Patent no. 8,807,250, issued to Chen for a Powered Single-Wheeled Self-Balancing Vehicle for Standing User (the Λ250 patent), and U.S. Patent Application pub. no. 2016/0332690, submitted by Chen for a Fore-Aft Self-Balancing Transportation Device with Low and Centered Foot Platform. These documents are hereby incorporated by reference as though disclosed herein. The devices disclosed in these documents may be generally referred to as central wheel structure ("CWS") auto-balancing devices.

A CWS auto-balancing device typically has a single wheel structure (having one or more tires) and first and second foot platforms positioned on opposite sides of that wheel structure. In contrast to learning how to ride a bicycle, which as a front and back wheel and hence fore-aft stability, a CWS auto-balancing device requires learning how to achieve both fore-aft and side-to-side stability.

"Training wheels" may be employed in teaching how to ride a bicycle. While termed "training wheels," these wheels do not actually teach the balancing required to ride a bike but rather provide security against falling sideways while a rider figures it out for him or herself how to balance. Accordingly, they would be better termed "security wheels." Balancing on a bicycle comes from turning the steering wheel toward the side to which one is falling, to move the wheels under the center of gravity and, by centrifugal force, move the center of gravity away from the "falling" side.

In a CWS auto-balancing device, the need for an effective balancing training aid is more critical than in a bicycle because a rider is learning to balance both in fore-aft and side-to-side, simultaneously. In addition, in a CWS device (of the type shown) , there is no handlebar to provide balance support or to achieve turning. Balance to remain erect and to execute a turn, must be learned.

A need does exist for providing security to a rider of a CWS auto-balancing device while that rider is learning how to operate one. A more critical need exists, however, for actually teaching a rider the balancing skills required to competently and confidently ride such a device .

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide a training aid for a central wheel structure auto-balancing device that overcomes the shortcomings of the prior art.

It is another object of the present invention to provide a training aid for a central wheel structure auto-balancing device that affords stability while teaching a rider balancing techniques .

It is also an object of the present invention to provide a training aid for a central wheel structure auto-balancing device that permits a rider to adjust one or more features of the aid, including, but not limited to, height, resistance, compression strength, and compression range, among others.

These and related objects of the present invention are achieved by use of a training aid for CWS auto-balancing device as described herein.

The attainment of the foregoing and related advantages and features of the invention should be more readily apparent to those skilled in the art, after review of the following more detailed description of the invention taken together with the drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Fig. 1 is a perspective view of a central wheel structure auto-balancing device with training aids in accordance with the present invention.

Fig. 2 is a perspective view of another embodiment of a central wheel structure auto-balancing device with training aids in accordance with the present invention.

Figs. 3 and 4 are a bottom view and an elevation view of another embodiment of a foot platform and training aid in accordance with the present invention.

Fig. 5 illustrates another embodiment of the underside of foot platform.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring to Fig. 1, a perspective view of a central wheel structure auto-balancing device 10 with training aids 40 in accordance with the present invention is shown. Device 10 may be configured and operate in a manner similar to the devices of the Λ250 patent and other CWS auto-balancing devices. It preferably includes a wheel 12 having a rim 13 and a tire 14, two foot platforms 21,22 that may move between a deployed position (shown) and a retracted position, housing 16, handle 17 and lower leg contact surfaces or members 18,19. Device 10 also preferably includes a gyroscopic (or other) position sensor 24, control circuit 25, battery 27 and a drive motor (obscured from view) . The drive motor may be a hub motor or friction drive motor or other. Sensors, control circuits, batteries and suitable motors, as well as fore-aft self-balancing control, are known in the art.

Fig. 1 illustrates training aids, generally referred to with reference numeral 40, that include a left side training aid 41 and a right side training aid 42. They may be identical and/or symmetrical or otherwise configured without departing from the present invention. In fig. 1, the training aids are configured substantially symmetrically with one another about a central vertical plane, and include the same components and operate similarly.

Training aids 41,42 preferably include a block or frame or other support structure 49. In Fig. 1, support structure 49 is a block having a groove or recess into which a ground contact member such as wheel 43 (or other ground contact member) is positioned. The wheel axle 44 may be positioned in a slot 45 that allows up and down movement of the wheel. A bias spring 46, illustrated representatively, may bias axle 44 toward the bottom of slot 44. This allows shock absorption and/or the setting of axle 44 (and thereby wheel 43) at different heights, as described below. Adjusting the height of the wheels may better accommodate riders of different skill levels. In a preferred embodiment, even if wheel height is adjusted up, the wheel may still move vertically in the remainder of the length of slot 45 to provide shock absorption (i.e., compression) .

Knob 52 allows a releasable setting of the desired height of wheel 43 within wheel support structure 49, and/or an adjustable bottom range in slot 45. Knob 53 is coupled to a brake or friction member that contacts wheel 43. Knob 53 and the brake member attached thereto may be configured to allow a rider to select the amount of resistance exerted on the wheel from fully braking (i.e., high friction/resistance) to freely rotating. In use, a rider will typically select a level somewhere between these two. Knob 53 may be a screw knob that drives a brake pad.

Thus, in use, in one embodiment, wheels 43 are not wholly freely rotating but instead offer some degree of resistance when contacting the ground. In this embodiment, when wheel 43 hits the ground, it not only provides some lateral stability, but the friction at the point of contact causes a pivoting of device 10 around that pivot point. This causes the main wheel 12 to turn towards the center of gravity and, by centrifugal force, moves the center of gravity towards the other side of device 10. Thus, the aids 41,42 teach a rider that a sharper turn actually helps recover balance more quickly. Accordingly, the aids become a true balance teaching device, rather than just a lateral "security" device.

That said, with wheels 43 set to freely rotate, the training aids operate similar to conventional bicycle "training wheels," hence providing security against falling side-to-side. This setting may allow a rider to become comfortable with fore-aft balancing and propulsion first. Then, with that under his or her belt, a rider can then increase the resistance setting and focus on learning effective side-to-side balancing, as discussed above.

Referring to Fig. 2, another embodiment of a CWS auto-balancing device 110 having training aids in accordance with the present invention is shown. Device 110 may be similar or identical to device 10, yet as training aids 141,142 that are configured differently.

Training aids 141,142 may include a block, frame or other support structure 149 that is shaped to provide some desired side-to-side "security" yet made of a material that provides shock absorption, i.e., it is compressible, and contributes some degree of friction to teach balancing. Support structure 149 may be made of foam, or a rubberized or plasticized material, fiberglass or other suitable material. Further, the support structure 149 may be made of a first compressive material and capped (cap 155) with a second more durable material (which effective becomes the ground contacting member, though the bottom of structure 149 may inherently be the ground contacting member if so configured) . For example, the block may be made of rubber or a foam rubber material and the cap may be metal or fiberglass. In this manner, the rubber/foam provides compression and the metal/fiberglass cap or pads could be replaceable and could also come in different heights (providing height adjustment) and/or resistances.

Referring to Figs. 3 and 4, a bottom view and an elevation view of another embodiment of foot platform and training aid in accordance with the present invention are shown. The bottom of foot platform 221 may have a recess 261 into which training aid wheel 243 and its support shaft 263 fit. They may be pivotally connected at pivot shaft 262. Fig. 3 illustrates the retracted position and Fig. 4 the extended position. This arrangement may be similar, generally, to a retractable aircraft wheel or other retractable wheel arrangements.

Shaft 263 may be telescoping or otherwise arranged to allow height adjustment. Knob 252 may allow releasable height adjustment. Knob 253, coupled to axle 244, may provide adjustable resistance setting. Shaft 263 may include a spring such that the telescoping shaft components afford compression (of wheel 243 towards the platform) .

Fig. 5 illustrates another embodiment of the underside of foot platform 321. This embodiment includes two slots each with lateral grooves 273 and a terminal recess 275. The training aid 41 may have two internal pins with T-shaped heads. A biased member on the backside of the training aid (obscured from view Fig. 1)) can be actuated to withdraw the T-shaped heads. When extended, however, they may be slid into their complementary slots 271 and permitted to extend into terminal recess 275 when it is reached, thereby locking the training aid onto the foot platform. The release member may be actuated by a user to withdraw the pins and remove the training aids.

Other releasable mounting techniques may be used, including but not limited to, fasteners, latches and/or clips, Velcro, or the suitable mechanisms. Alternatively, the platforms themselves may be wholly replaceable, allowing platforms with training aids attached and those without (including trainings aids of different heights and material characteristics) .

While the invention has been described in connection with specific embodiments thereof, it will be understood that it is capable of further modification, and this application is intended to cover any variations, uses, or adaptations of the invention following, m general, the principles of the invention and including such departures from the present disclosure as come within known or customary practice in the art to which the invention pertains and as may be applied to the essential features hereinbefore set forth, and as fall within the scope of the invention and the limits of the appended claims.