Patent application title: Method for Tactile Signaling of Touches in the Sport of Fencing
Wayne E. Johnson (Anchorage, AK, US)
Jennifer Mcferran Brock (Anchorage, AK, US)
IPC8 Class: AA63B6902FI
Class name: Amusement devices: games fencing
Publication date: 2012-02-02
Patent application number: 20120028721
A method and apparatus are described for adding tactile signaling to the
electronic scoring equipment used in the sport of fencing. The tactile
signaling introduced by this invention is intended to complement, not
replace, existing electronic fencing scoring systems and the signals that
are already employed to indicate touches, both optical and auditory (i.e.
lights and a bell or buzzer, respectively). The system here would receive
indication that a touch had been scored from an existing scoring system.
Signals would be transmitted wirelessly to a unit on or near the
director's person. Tactile signaling would be accomplished by a pair of
offset motors attached to each of the director's hands (or wrists or
arms). When the fencer to the director's right scores a touch, the right
motor would vibrate. When the fencer to the director's left scores a
touch, the left motor would vibrate.
1. A method for signaling touches in a fencing bout in a tactile manner,
comprising a. detecting the touches achieved by the fencers in the bout,
b. sending signals indicating the touches wirelessly to a separate unit
which may be located near the director or on the director's person, c.
receiving signals indicating the touches wirelessly in a separate unit
which may be located near the director or on the director's person, and
d. using the received signals indicating the touches to actuate a tactile
signal in the director's left or right hand, wrist or arm, corresponding
to a touch achieved by the left or right fencer.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein the touches achieved by the fencers in the bout may be detected directly by monitoring the opening and closing of the circuits created by the fencers' weapons contacting valid or invalid target areas; or may be detected indirectly by monitoring an existing scoring system.
3. The method of claims 1-2, wherein circuitry for detecting and conditioning the signaled touches may be located in separate units housed on the person of each fencer, or in a single unit housed in or near the control box of an existing scoring system.
4. The method of claims 1-3, wherein the unit or units for detecting and conditioning the signaled touches mentioned in claim 3 contains a means of sending wireless signals to a separate unit located on or near the director's person (which is here called the receiving unit).
5. The method of claims 1-4, wherein the receiving unit contains both a means of receiving signals wirelessly that indicate when touches have been scored by either fencer, and circuitry for processing and conditioning these received signals.
6. The method of claims 1-5, wherein the signals received by the receiving unit are used to actuate tactile signals in the form of offset motors attached to the director's right and left hands, wrists or arms.
7. The method of claims 1-6, wherein the offset motors may be attached to the receiving unit either with wires or in a wireless manner.
8. The method of claims 1-7, wherein a tactile signal on the director's right hand, wrist or arm indicates that the right fencer has achieved a touch, and a tactile signal on the director's left hand, wrist or arm indicates that the left fencer has achieved a touch.
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
 Not applicable
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT
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REFERENCE TO A SEQUENCE LISTING, A TABLE, OR A COMPUTER PROGRAM, LISTING COMPACT DISC APPENDIX
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BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 The international sport of fencing has used an electronic scoring system in competition and training for over 60 years. The basic concepts of this system have not changed significantly since its creation; only the electronic components have seen significant advancements in solid state and micro-computer technology. The current system is activated by the athletes "touching" their opponent's target with their weapons, causing a visual signal (i.e. a scoring light) and auditory signal (i.e. a bell or buzzer). Electronic fencing scoring systems may either contain wires which connect the fencers directly to the system by means of a reel (for example, Reith and Overman, 1975), or be wireless, with wireless transmitters carried on each fencer's person (for example, Delcayre, 1977).
 In the entire sphere of modern sporting life, there is no other sport that uses electronic systems as an integral part of the activity the way it is used in fencing, although electronic systems are widely used in sports. Electronic timing is used in competitions based in speed, such as running or swimming events. Cameras are used to enhance and augment decision making in many sports, for example, computers are being used in tennis to determine whether balls land inbounds in challenges to linesman calls [Roke Manor Research Ltd., 2001]. However, in the sport of fencing, the electronic scoring system is essential to the action itself, as no official may award a touch to a competitor that was not first registered on the electronic scoring system. In all of the systems mentioned here, including electronic fencing scoring systems, the visual is emphasized, rather than the tactile. It is now possible and practical to introduce a tactile element to electronic scoring in fencing. This novel approach holds promise to significantly improve the experience of fencing for directors and participants at all levels.
 The introduction of the electronic scoring system, by design, revolutionized modern fencing by reducing the human judging element of the game to a single individual whose sole job is to apply the conventions of the game to the contest at hand. The materiality of each touch had previously been determined by a jury of officials, comprised of four side judges and a director, voting upon the validity of the fencers' hits. After an exchange between the fencers that might have resulted in the scoring of a touch, the director of the bout would describe the action to the jury and poll the judges as to their opinions regarding whether a touch had in fact occurred at each point in the exchange. If this polling resulted in general agreement on the touch, it was awarded as a valid hit. The introduction of the electronic scoring system to the sport of fencing reduced the number of judges to a single director, who now uses both the signals generated by the electronics and his or her knowledge of the rules of fencing to determine the validity of the touch. In a single technological leap, politics, prejudice and human error were significantly reduced and the ancient sport of fencing became part of the modern sporting scene. It is important to note that any electronic fencing scoring system can determine only two things: (1) whether a touch has in fact occurred, and (2) whether that touch was to a valid target area as defined by the rules of the particular weapon being used. A touch registered by an electronic scoring system might not be valid according to the rules of right-of-way or priority (see, for example, USFA, 2008). It is the job of the director to make the vital determination of which touches, once registered by the electronic scoring system, result in points being awarded to the fencers participating in the bout.
 Today, fencing uses three different weapons in competition. These weapons have evolved from the traditions of sword use in Western and Eastern Europe over the last five centuries. The development of the sport of fencing came directly from the use of the foil as a training device for the rapier, a weapon used in personal defense and warfare. Its use as a safe and light tool to teach students the offensive and defensive techniques of rapier combat was quickly recognized as a challenging and playful means of recreation and competition. Sword fighting, as a sport called fencing, was born. The other two weapons in use are the epee and the saber, which are the sporting versions, respectively, of the rapier itself and of the cavalry saber (although not engaged on horseback).
 Each of these weapons has its own specific set of conventions or rules, which in their own way determine the manner in which the electrical apparatus is structured and used in competition. The following is a brief description of each of the weapons, and how the electronic scoring system is used in scoring bouts with that weapon:
 The foil (a thrusting weapon) was designed to teach ideas and concepts to the student as well as techniques. Its conventions revolve around the concepts of delivering a serious wound and the logical structure of what to do when your opponent attacks you with a "pointy stick". These manifest themselves in a specific target area (the torso) for valid hits, and in the concept of priority, or right-of-way, in which the attack must be recognized by the defending fencer and dealt with effectively by blocking the attack or distancing oneself from the attack. The target is defined by a vest (lame) made of conductive material that is grounded by connections to the scoring apparatus. A competition foil features a conductive, spring-loaded tip which, when depressed, closes a circuit to ground when in contact with part of the lame, or creates an open circuit when in contact with any other surface. This allows the device to distinguish "valid" hits on the vest from "invalid" hits scored elsewhere on the body. The normal state of the foil tip is a closed circuit where power is constantly running until the point of the weapon is depressed on target, triggering a valid (colored) light on the machine, or off-target, triggering an invalid (white) light.
 The epee (a thrusting weapon) is the descendant of the rapier itself and has no artificial distinctions of target or conventions. It is the simplest of the weapons, where a touch can be scored with the point anywhere on the body. The only convention is that the fencer who scores first gets the touch, and simultaneous touches are scored against both contestants. A competition epee contains a spring-loaded, conductive tip which ordinarily acts as an open switch, but which is closed when the tip is depressed on the target, triggering the scoring light on the apparatus. Once one fencer's points is depressed, the machine shuts off after the passage of 1/25th of a second, therefore insuring that the fencer scoring first gets the touch. Touches that hit within the 1/25th interval are awarded as simultaneous to both fencers (except the last touch of the bout, which must be a single light).
 The saber (a cutting and thrusting weapon) is the descendant of the cavalry saber. Its conventions determine that the target is from the horn of the saddle (from the top of the hips) up to include the arms to the wrist and the head. The fencers wear a jacket of the same material as the foil lame with sleeves and the mask is constructed of conductive metal and fabric bib. These are attached to the scoring machine comprising one part of the electrical circuit. Unlike a foil or epee, a saber does not have a spring-loaded tip; rather, the entire blade is electrically active, allowing for slashing as well as stabbing motions. An additional difference is that there are no invalid lights used in saber. Any touch arriving on the lower extremities results in no touch registering on the scoring apparatus. The system uses an open circuit with one half being the weapon of one fencer and the other half their opponent's lame and mask. When the fencer's blade touches any part of the opponent's target area the signal light is activated. Saber employs the same conventions of priority as the foil, demanding recognition of the attack and response.
 The effectiveness of the electronic scoring system to fencing is indisputable and universally lauded by the sport's historians and participants around the globe; and yet the system does have difficulties that prejudice the "just and correct" results it was invented to insure. Fencing as it is practiced today is a technically and physically challenging discipline that demands of its officials extraordinary focus and attention in order to analyze the complex actions of the sport. The director uses the signals of the apparatus within the context of the rules of engagement to determine the results of the bout or match. This requires the director to intently focus on the actions of the fencers as they alternately attack and defend against each other while watching and listening for the scoring system's signals to determine exactly when a touch is scored. It is possible (and in fact common) for these complex exchanges of attack, defense, and counter-attack to involve three to four actions in a single second, requiring the director to know exactly when the signals are activated to make a correct call.
 This certainly qualifies as a daunting task under perfect conditions, and one that has proved prone to error within the real world environment polluted by background noise, visual distractions, fatigue, and the divided focus required in observing the fencing actions and watching/listening for the signals of the apparatus some distance from the action. A casual conversation between an interested observer and an experienced competitor, coach, or candid official will yield evidence of how commonplace significant errors are on every level of the sport, and yet little has been done in the intervening years since the introduction of electronic scoring to improve its use.
 The obvious culprits, as stated above, are divided attentions, distractions and director fatigue. These factors can and have been mitigated by controlling the environment and limiting the length of time directors are used, but cannot be entirely eliminated because the problems are systemic as well as situational. Deeper analysis reveals not only the nature of the systemic problems, but also insight into a solution.
 The athletes involved in a match are engaged at every level humanly possible and, as such, enjoy a significant advantage over the presiding official. They can see, hear, and feel every nuance of the actions between each other. The director must rely upon his or her sight and hearing alone, both of which senses are significantly impaired for all the reasons already discussed. Sight is a complex sense in that it can be used generally, taking in a large panorama and therefore not aware of specific details, or focused to a specific area, and in so doing missing other details within the field of vision. Hearing a specific sound can be overwhelmed by other more powerful sounds or confused by similar sounds (both of which happen frequently in fencing environments). Touch is a threshold sense in that once a stimulus is delivered at a level that triggers the nerves (those dedicated to pressure, for example) it is felt. Touch is precise and not easily confused or overwhelmed by the other senses. Tactile signaling has been proven extremely effective in other areas where the auditory and visual senses may be distracted or overwhelmed, including collision warning systems for automobiles [Scott and Gray, 2008], multisensory displays for aircraft pilots [van Erp et. al., 2006] and wearable tactile interfaces for computing [Gemperle, Ota and Siewiorek, 2001]. Research has shown that adding tactile in addition to visual signaling both improves the rate of detection of unexpected events and increases response time to the same [Sklar and Sarter, 1999]. The invention described here is designed to give these tactile cues to the director.
 Once armed with the ability to feel when the touches are actually activated (with a vibrating sensor in each hand corresponding to each fencer) the director's attention need no longer be divided, and in fact he or she will have the advantage over the fencers of knowing exactly when the touch is registered by the scoring machine (the fencers frequently believe that their touch has registered with the scoring system, when in fact it has not, either because contact was glancing or because not enough pressure was applied). Experienced and skilled directors will become even more accurate in their calls, and mid-level and novice officials will find it easier to focus and make the fine distinctions required by the conventions of the sport. In all cases, the need to see the indicator lights becomes a secondary issue for the director. He or she need only to glance at the scoring machine after the action has concluded to confirm what has already been felt. The ability to make the fine distinctions required by the rules will be greatly enhanced and as a result the original vision of ensuring a just and correct result will come closer to reality.
BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 This invention provides a method and apparatus for introducing a tactile signal to the electronic scoring systems used in fencing. The tactile signaling made possible by this invention is intended to complement, not replace, the signals already employed by electronic fencing scoring systems, that is optical signaling in the form of color-coded lights and audible signaling in the form of a bell or buzzer. In the preferred embodiment, tactile signaling would be accomplished by a pair of offset motors attached to each of the director's hands (or wrists or arms). When the fencer to the director's right scores a touch, the right motor would vibrate. When the fencer to the director's left scores a touch, the left motor would vibrate.
 In the preferred embodiment, a signal indicating a valid touch would be collected either directly from the circuitry associated with each fencer's weapon or from the control box of the existing electronic scoring system. The circuitry needed to collect and condition these signals might be housed in a pair of units located on the person of each fencer, or on a unit located in or near the control box of the existing electronic scoring system. In the preferred embodiment, the signals are relayed via a wireless transmitter to a wireless receiver in a unit located on or near the director's person. This unit would receive signals indicating a touch scored by the right or left fencer, and use these signals to activate the right or left offset motor. The offset motors might be connected to the receiving unit either by wires or in a wireless manner.
 A director using the system described here would feel a substantial advantage in being able to keep his or her unfocused attention fixed on the action between the fencers at all times, rather than having to divide his or her attention between the fencers and the scoring system's indicator lights. Once the tactile signal had alerted the director that the electronic scoring system has registered a touch, he or she would be able to quickly glance at the indicator lights to confirm that this was the case. The auditory signal that always accompanies a touch in existing scoring systems would provide further confirmation. The advantage of allowing the director to give undivided attention to the action of the fencing bout will become especially apparent in the drawings and detailed description that follow.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWING
 FIG. 1: a sketch, approximately to scale, of a fencing bout from the point of view of the director.
 FIG. 2: A) a simplified drawing of a foil; B) a simplified diagram showing how an electronic scoring apparatus indicates touches in foil fencing.
 FIG. 3: A) a simplified drawing of an epee; B) a simplified diagram showing how an electronic scoring apparatus indicates touches in epee fencing.
 FIG. 4: A) a simplified drawing of a saber; B) a simplified diagram showing how an electronic scoring apparatus indicates touches in saber fencing.
 FIG. 5: a block diagram of an electrical apparatus embodying this invention showing A) the unit containing the transmitter, and B) the unit containing the receiver.
 FIG. 6: a sketch demonstrating the intended manner of use of the tactile signals produced by this invention.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
 A fencing bout is shown from the point of view of the director 1 in FIG. 1. The bout is between fencers 2 and 3, who are called Left and Right, respectively, by the director 1. All action takes place on a strip (or piste) 4, which is 18 meters long by 2 meters wide. Each fencer has a weapon (5 and 6 for Left and Right, respectively), both of which are connected by means of a body cord (not shown, but carried on the person of fencers 2 and 3) to the electronic scoring system. The scoring system may consist of a pair of wires (7 and 8 for Left and Right, respectively) kept taut by spring-wound reels located at the end of the strip 4 (9 and 10 for Left and Right, respectively). Additional wires (floor cables) 11 and 12 may connect fencers 2 and 3 to a control box 13, which contains the software necessary both to interpret the signals from weapons 5 and 6 and to lock out any touches (per specifications particular to each type of weapon) that may occur after the initial action has concluded. A pair of colored indicator lights on the control box (14 and 15) is used to indicate valid touches to the target area. In the case of foil fencing, a second set of white lights (16 and 17) is used to indicate invalid touches outside the allowed target area. In a foil or saber bout, it is up to the director 1 to determine whether a valid touch as indicated by the control box 13 is also valid in terms of the rules of right-of-way. This is particularly important and difficult when an action concludes with indicator lights showing touches on both the right and left. The control box also uses an auditory signal (i.e. a buzzer) to indicate that a touch has been scored, ending the action. FIG. 1 is shown roughly to scale, to demonstrate the difficulty of the director's job in monitoring the action on the 18-meter long strip 4. It can be difficult for the director 1 to watch both the fencers 2 and 3 and the indicator lights 14-17, particularly when the action moves to one end of the strip.
 Note that the bout depicted in FIG. 1 could also be carried out with a wireless scoring system. In this case, the cables 7, 8, 11 and 12, and the reels 9 and 10 would be replaced by wireless transmitters (carried on the person of fencers 2 and 3) and receivers that would send signals indicating touches to the control box 13. Everything else about such a bout would remain as described above, including the difficulties for the director 1.
 FIG. 2A shows a simplified drawing of a fencing foil. The foil consists of a grip 18, a bell guard 19, and a blade 20. The tip of the blade contains a spring-loaded switch 21, which is depressed when a touch is made. A wire running along the blade 20 carries the signal to the body cord of the fencer, which plugs into a connector located in the bell guard 19. FIG. 2B shows a simplified diagram of an electronic scoring system for foil. The normal condition of the foil is a closed circuit 22, in which the tip of the blade carries a DC voltage 23 through a connection to the body cord of the fencer. If the tip is depressed on the lame of the opposing fencer, which is grounded, the switch is connected at 24. This sends a signal, which the control box 25 interprets as a valid touch. If the tip is depressed anywhere other than the opposing fencer's lame, the switch is connected at 26, and the control box 25 registers an invalid touch. Both valid and invalid touches stop the action in a foil bout. A signal 27 triggers an auditory signal (i.e. a buzzer) to signal the end of the action, and color-coded indicator lights to show valid or invalid touches by the Left or Right fencer.
 FIG. 3A shows a simplified drawing of an epee. The epee consists of a grip 28, a bell guard 29, and a blade 30 Like a foil, an epee also contains a tip 31 which acts as a spring-loaded switch and which is depressed when a touch is made. FIG. 3B shows a simplified diagram of an electronic scoring system for epee. Unlike a foil, the normal condition of the epee is an open circuit 32. The fencers do not wear lames. A touch anywhere other than the strip or the opponent's bell guard, which are both grounded, results in a closed connection 33 with the DC voltage 34. This is registered by the control box 35 as a valid touch, causing a signal 36 to be sent which activates the color-coded indicator lights and buzzer. A touch to the strip or opponent's bell guard, both of which are grounded, results in a connection at 37, which the control box 35 interprets as a non-registered touch. Only a valid touch stops the action in an epee bout.
 FIG. 4A shows a simplified drawing of a saber. The saber consists of a grip 38, a bell guard 39 and a blade 40. A saber does not have a depressible tip; rather, the whole blade is electrically active and may make contact with the opponent's scoring area. Saber fencers wear lames that cover the upper torso and arms, and conductive masks which cover the head and face. FIG. 4B shows a simplified diagram of an electronic scoring system for saber. The normal state of a saber is an open circuit 41. A touch of any part of the blade to the opponent's valid scoring area results in a closed circuit 42 to a DC voltage 43 delivered through the body cord of the fencer, which the control box 44 interprets as a valid touch. A valid touch results in a signal 45 being sent to activate color-coded indicator lights and a buzzer to indicate the end of the action. The weapon's bell guard is grounded, so a hit to this area will result in a connection 46, which the control box interprets as a non-registered touch. In a saber bout, an invalid touch does not cause a visual or auditory signal to be initiated or stop the action by right-of-way rule.
 A block diagram showing an electronic system embodying the invention is shown in FIG. 5. The aim of the invention is to provide a means of signaling touches in a tactile manner. This invention is intended to be used in concert with the electronic scoring systems, either wired or wireless, that are already used in fencing bouts. The existing systems indicate valid and invalid touches by means of optical signals (i.e. color-coded lights) and auditory signals (i.e. a buzzer). The tactile signal produced by this invention is intended to alert the director that a touch has been scored, while at the same time allowing the director to give his or her undivided focus to the action of the bout, rather than the indicator lights. The tactile signal need not differentiate between a valid and an invalid touch. Once the director has been alerted to a touch by the tactile signal, he or she can then glance at the indicator lights of the existing scoring system to confirm whether the touch was to the valid target area.
 The preferred embodiment of this invention would consist of separate transmitter and receiver units, which are shown in FIGS. 5A and 5B, respectively. Because the preferred embodiment of this invention need not differentiate between a valid and an invalid touch, it would accept as an input a signal that indicated that any touch (valid or invalid) had been achieved by the fencer on the director's Left 47 or Right 48. The signal would pass through any circuitry required for amplification or other conditioning 49 to a wireless transmitter 50. The wireless transmitter would send a coded signal through an antenna 51, which might be radio frequency (RF) or any other wireless signal, to wireless receiver 52 and antenna 53. The coded signal would indicate whether the touch had been achieved by the Left or Right fencer. In the preferred embodiment, the receiver would be contained in a separate unit from the transmitter. Once a coded signal is received, circuitry 54 will be enabled to lock out any additional touches as specified for each of the weapons, and perform any additional signal conditioning. A touch Left will result in a signal being sent to an offset motor attached to the director's left hand (or wrist or arm) 55. A touch Right will result in a signal being sent to an offset motor attached to the director's right hand (or wrist or arm) 56.
 The offset motors 55 and 56 will result in a tactile signal, i.e. vibration. A sketch of the intended use of the tactile signal produced by this invention is shown in FIG. 6. The offset motor may be contained within a small box or disc 57, which may be attached by some means to the director's hand 58. In the preferred embodiment, the structure containing the offset motor would be attached to one or more of the fingers in a manner that allowed the rest of the hand to remain free. This invention would also work as intended if the offset motor were attached to the director's wrist or arm, as long as the differentiation between right and left is maintained. The structure containing the offset motor might be connected to the receiver unit by means of a wire 59, or in a wireless manner.
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