Anticipate This!™ | Patent and Trademark Law Blog

They Invented What? (No. 86)

Posted in They Invented What? by Jake Ward on February 12, 2008

U.S. Pat. No. 5,392,735:  Marine mammal communication device.

 dolphintalk

What is claimed is:

1. A communication device for communication between marine mammals and humans comprising:

           a submersible keyboard, said keyboard having at least one panel in which a plurality of hollow keys are disposed, said at least one panel having a front surface and a plurality of openings, each key having
          a housing open at a first end and mounted at said first end to an opening in said panel,
          an object situated in said key housing near said panel opening, said object comprising an echolocatable object providing a unique echoic or visual representation of an audible language element, and,
          a switch means which can be activated by a marine mammal to produce a signal when a key is selected; and,
          an audio generator coupled to each key for detecting said signal and generating said audible language element when said switch is activated.

2. The communication device as set forth in claim 1, wherein said switch comprises a photosensor circuit in which at least one optical beam is transmitted across the opening of the key housing adjacent to said front surface, said switch activatable by interrupting the beam radiated across the opening of the key.

3. The communication device as set forth in claim 2 additionally comprising a means for visual feedback, wherein each key is illuminated by an illumination means coupled to said switch when said switch is activated.

4. The communication device as set forth in claim 3, wherein said photosensor is housed together with an optical beam generator and said illumination means in a fluid-impervious housing, said illumination means coupled to at least one fiber optic cable for carrying a visible light beam from the illumination means to the opening of said key, said fluid-impervious housing additionally comprising an optically clear coupling element forming a part of said housing, said coupling element having an interior surface facing into said housing, and an exterior surface facing outwardly from said housing, and a blind hole extending into said exterior surface less than all the way through said coupling element, said blind hole sized to snugly hold said fiber optic cable, whereby the visible light beam from the illumination means can pass through said optically clear coupling element into said fiber optic cable for transmission to the key opening, and each fiber-optic cable can be removed and replaced without the intrusion of water into said watertight housing.

5. The communication device as set forth in claim 4 wherein said fluid impervious housing also includes a first through hole for connecting a first fiber optic cable to the optical generator and a second through hole for connecting a second fiber optic cable to the photosensor, whereby said first fiber optic cable carries a light beam from the optical generator to the opening of the key so as to cast an optical beam across the opening of the key, and said second fiber optic cable is spaced apart from and aligned with said first fiber optic cable to receive the optical beam on the opposite side of the key and carry it to the photosensor switch, so that when said beam is interrupted, the photosensor will detect the interruption and generate a signal, said first and second fiber optic cables each having a water proof coupling for sealing the through holes in said housing to prevent the ingress of water into the fluid impervious housing.

6. The communication device as set forth in claim 1, wherein the audible language element comprises a spoken word.

7. The communication device as set forth in claim 1, additionally comprising a control means which detects said signal generated when a key is selected by activation of said switch, and controls the audio generator to generate the audible language element associated with that key.

8. The communication device as set forth in claim 7, whereby said control means controls the audio generator by determining which key has been selected and then transmitting a code identifying the associated audible language element to be generated.

9. The communication device as set forth in claim 8, said control means further comprising a storage means for storing the codes identifying the audible language element to be output for each key.

10. The communication device as set forth in claim 8, wherein said audible language elements comprise spoken words, said control means storing multiple versions of the spoken word associated with each key, said versions differentiated by the voice of the spoken word, said control means selecting a version to be generated when a key is selected.

11. The communication device as set forth in claim 7, wherein said control means further comprises a recording means for recording a log of events, including the keys selected and the time at which the keys were selected.

12. The communication device as set forth in claim 11, said control means further comprising an operator interface for recording observations made by an observer corresponding to said events, wherein the log of events further indicates the corresponding observations recorded.

13. The communication device as set forth in claim 12, wherein the observations recorded by the observer are verbal observations, and said control means receives the verbal observations and translates them into digital information to be stored in the control means.

14. The communication device as set forth in claim 13 wherein said control means includes a replay function for creating and displaying a log of events recorded, for selecting an event from the log to review, and for interfacing with the audio means for replaying any verbal observations recorded by the observer which correspond to the event being reviewed.

15. A communication device for communication with marine mammals comprising:

         a submersible keyboard having at least one panel in which is disposed a plurality of hollow keys, each key including a non-contactable switch capable of generating a signal when activated, and a unique echolocatable object situated inside the hollow key;
         a means for detecting said signal and providing audible feedback to said marine mammal when a key is selected by activating said switch, said feedback representative of a language element associated with the object in said key, whereby said marine mammal will be enabled to learn to communicate language elements by identifying and selecting keys associated with desired language elements and activating the switch in those keys.

16. The communication device as set forth in claim 15, wherein said non-contactable switch comprises a photodetector in combination with an optical generator which generates at least one optical beam which is radiated across the opening of the key, said switch activatable by interrupting the beam radiated across the opening of the key.

17. The communication device as set forth in claim 16, wherein said optical beam is an infrared beam.

18. The communication device as set forth in claim 16, additionally comprising a means for providing visual feedback to said marine mammal when a key is selected and said switch is activated.

19. The communication device as set forth in claim 18 wherein said means for providing visual feedback is a visible light generator which illuminates the key when a signal is detected indicating that the switch has been activated.

20. The communication device as set forth in claim 16, wherein said photosensor and optical beam generator are housed together with said visible light generator in a fluid-impervious housing, said visible light generator coupled to at least one fiber optic cable for carrying a visible light beam from the visible light generator to the opening of said key, said fluid-impervious housing additionally comprising an optically clear coupling element forming a part of said housing, said coupling element having an interior surface facing into said housing, and an exterior surface facing outwardly from said housing, and a blind hole extending into said exterior surface less than all the way through said coupling element, said blind hole sized to snugly hold said fiber optic cable, whereby the visible light beam from the visible light generator can pass through said optically clear coupling element into said fiber optic cable for transmission to the key opening, and each fiber-optic cable can be removed and replaced without the intrusion of water into said watertight housing.

21. The communication device as set forth in claim 20 wherein said fluid impervious housing includes a first through hole for connecting a first fiber optic cable to the optical beam generator and a second through hole for connecting a second fiber optic cable to the photosensor, whereby said first fiber optic cable carries a light beam from the optical beam generator to the opening of the key so as to cast an optical beam across the opening of the key, and said second fiber optic cable is spaced apart from and aligned with said first fiber optic cable to receive the optical beam on the opposite side of the key and carry it to the photosensor switch, so that when said beam is interrupted, the photosensor will detect the interruption and generate a signal, said first and second fiber optic cables each having a water proof coupling for sealing the through holes in said housing to prevent the ingress of water into the fluid impervious housing.

22. The communication device as set forth in claim 15, additionally comprising a recording means to record a log of events, each event indicating the key selected and the time at which the key was selected.

23. A method for training marine mammals to communicate using a communication device having a submersible keyboard with at least one panel in which one or more hollow keys are disposed, each said hollow key having an object disposed therein which is distinguishable by the marine mammal from other objects and a switch which can be activated by said marine mammal, the communication device further comprising a computer for receiving a signal generated by the switch when said switch is activated by said marine mammal and providing feedback in the form of an audible language element associated with the selected key, said method comprising the steps of:

         submerging said keyboard in an aquatic environment containing one or more marine mammals;
         permitting the marine mammals to echolocate or visually distinguish the object in each key to locate a desired key and to select that key by activating said switch to generate the spoken word or phrase associated with the selected key; and
          reinforcement of correct selection by human recognition of and an appropriate response to the keys selected by the marine mammal.

24. The method for training as set forth in claim 23, wherein each key switch further comprises a photosensor that is activated, and generates said signal, when a light beam radiated across the opening of the key is interrupted, said step of selecting a key further comprising interrupting the beam radiated across the key opening.

25. The method of claim 24 additionally comprising the step of using the computer to record and transmit the order of key selections to a human observer whereby an appropriate response can be formulated and transmitted to a marine mammal engaged in communicating.

26. The method of training as set forth in claim 23 in which the keyboard also provides a means for illuminating a selected key, whereby the key will be illuminated when a marine mammal selects a key and activates said switch.

27. The method for training as set forth in claim 23, further comprising the step of using a program in the computer to record the observations made, including keys selected, during a session.

28. A method for communication by marine mammals using a communication device having a submersible keyboard with at least one panel in which a plurality of hollow keys are disposed, each said hollow key having an object disposed therein which is distinguishable by the marine mammal from other objects in other keys, each said key associated with a specific audible language element which has been learned by the marine mammal, and a switch which can be activated by said marine mammal when a key is selected, the communication device further comprising a computer for receiving and processing a signal generated by said switch, said method comprising the steps of:

         submerging said keyboard in an aquatic environment containing one or more marine mammals;
         permitting the marine mammals to select the keys which are associated with the language elements which the marine mammals wish to use, said keys being selected by activating said switch; and
         observing the key selections and responding to the key selections made by the marine mammal when an understandable message is communicated.

29. The method of claim 28 wherein the response to the key selections is an audible response which can be heard by the marine mammal.

30. A communication device for communication with marine mammals comprising:

         a panel;
         a key disposed in said panel and having
         an open end,
         an object disposed therein which is distinguishable by the marine mammal, and
         an optical switch which can be activated by said marine mammal, said switch including an optical beam generator means positioned at said open end for radiating an optical beam across said open end, and a photosensor, aligned with and positioned opposite said optical beam generator means for detecting the radiated optical beam, whereby said switch generates a signal when an object passes between said optical beam generator and said photosensor, thereby indicating the key has been selected; and,
        a controller for receiving and processing said signal.

31. The communication device as set forth in claim 30, wherein said optical beam is an infrared beam.

32. The communication device as set forth in claim 30, wherein said optical beam and photosensor are mounted between said open end and said object.

33. The communication device as set forth in claim 30, wherein said object is visually distinguishable by said marine mammal.

34. The communication device as set forth in claim 30, wherein said object is distinguishable by said marine mammal by means of echolocation.

35. The communication device as set forth in claim 30, additionally comprising an illumination device for illuminating said open end of said key.

36. The communication device as set forth in claim 35, wherein said illumination device illuminates said key at a second intensity when said signal is generated.

37. The communication device as set forth in claim 35, wherein said illumination device illuminates said open end of said key when said signal is generated.

38. The communication device as set forth in claim 37 wherein said illumination device is operated by said controller.

39. The communication device as set forth in claim 35 wherein said photosensor is housed together with said optical beam generator means and said illumination device in a fluid-impervious housing, said illumination device coupled to at least one fiber optic cable for carrying a visible light beam from the illumination device to the opening of said key, said fluid-impervious housing additionally comprising an optically clear coupling forming a part of said housing, said coupling element having an interior surface facing into said housing, and an exterior surface facing outwardly from said housing, and a blind hole extending into said exterior surface less than all the way through said coupling element, said blind hole sized to snugly hold said fiber optic cable, whereby the visible light beam from the illumination device can pass through said optically clear coupling element into said fiber optic cable for transmission to the key opening, and each fiber-optic cable can be removed and replaced without the intrusion of water into said watertight housing.

40. The communication device as set forth in claim 39 wherein said fluid impervious housing includes a first through hole for connecting a first fiber optic cable to the optical generator and a second through hole for connecting a second fiber optic cable to the photosensor, whereby said first fiber optic cable carries a light beam from the optical generator to the opening of the key so as to cast an optical beam across the opening of the key, and said second fiber optic cable is spaced apart from and aligned with said first fiber optic cable to receive the optical beam on the opposite side of the key and carry it to the photosensor switch, so that when said beam is interrupted, the photosensor will detect the interruption and generate a signal, said first and second fiber optic cables each having a water proof coupling for sealing the through holes in said housing to prevent the ingress of water into the fluid impervious housing.

41. The communication device as set forth in claim 30, additionally comprising an audio generator for generating audible sound when said signal is generated.

42. The communication device as set forth in claim 41 wherein said sound is an identifiable human word or phrase.

43. The communication device as set forth in claim 42 additionally comprising a recording means operatively linked to said controller for recording signals from said key.

44. The communication device as set forth in claim 43, wherein a plurality of keys are disposed in said panel, and wherein said recording means produces a log of events, each event indicating the key selected and the time at which the key was selected.

45. The communication device as set forth in claim 44, wherein the log of events further identifies the audible sound produced in response to each signal generated by each key.

46. The communication device as set forth in claim 44 wherein said plurality of keys are arranged in an irregular configuration in said panel to provide local spatial cues.

47. The communication device as set forth in claim 44 additionally comprising an operator interface means operatively linked to said controller for recording on said recording means observations made by an observer.

48. The communication device as set forth in claim 47, further comprising a replay means having a log display means for displaying the log of events recorded and an event selection means for selecting for review an event from the log; said replay means operatively linked to said audio generator for replaying any verbal observations recorded through said operator interface and corresponding to the selected event.

49. The communication device as set forth in claim 48, wherein said communication device comprises a plurality of panels mounted on a frame which locates the panels at predetermined angles to one another.

50. The communication device as set forth in claim 49 additionally including landmarks to enable a marine mammal to distinguish any one of said panels from the remaining panels.

51. The communication device as set forth in claim 41, wherein the controller controls said audio generator, whereby when said signal is generated, the controller will output a corresponding digital signal to said audio generator to produce a preselected audible sound.

52. The communication device of claim 30 wherein said key further comprises a hollow, cylindrical housing.

53. The communication device as set forth in claim 30, wherein said device is mobile.

54. The communication device as set forth in claim 53, additionally comprising a remotely operated vehicle to which said panel is attached.

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