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United States Patent Application 20160158657
Kind Code A1
Fulljames; Hugh Robert Gilles June 9, 2016

ENTERTAINMENT APPARATUS

Abstract

An entertainment apparatus (1) comprising two upright walls (3a, 3b), each having an inner surface. A plurality of game pieces (9) are located in the space (5) between the walls (3a, 3b), each of the game pieces (9) being in contact with the inner surface of at least one of the walls (3a, 3b).Each of the game pieces (9) comprises a drive assembly for moving the game piece over that inner surface, the drive assembly comprising a traction element (11), such as a wheel, for generating traction against the inner surface and an actuator for moving the traction element relative to the surface. At least one, and preferably both, of the walls (3a, 3b) are transparent, for example they are glass, such that a user can observe the game pieces (9) within the space (5), from outside the apparatus (1).


Inventors: Fulljames; Hugh Robert Gilles; (Bath, GB)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

AMAZEMENT MACHINES INC LIMITED

Bath and North East Somerset

GB
Assignee: Amazement Machines Inc Limited
Bath
GB

Family ID: 1000001746656
Appl. No.: 14/907322
Filed: May 29, 2014
PCT Filed: May 29, 2014
PCT NO: PCT/GB2014/051634
371 Date: January 25, 2016


Current U.S. Class: 273/441 ; 273/454
Current CPC Class: A63G 33/00 20130101; A63F 7/3622 20130101; A63F 9/24 20130101
International Class: A63G 33/00 20060101 A63G033/00; A63F 7/36 20060101 A63F007/36; A63F 9/24 20060101 A63F009/24

Foreign Application Data

DateCodeApplication Number
Jul 25, 2013GB1313297.2

Claims



1. An entertainment apparatus comprising: two upright walls, each having an inner surface, the inner surfaces facing each other and being spaced apart to define a space there-between, and a plurality of game pieces located in the space between the inner surfaces of the walls, each of the game pieces being in contact with the inner surface of at least one of the walls, and each of the game pieces comprising a drive assembly for moving the game piece over that inner surface, the drive assembly comprising a traction element for generating traction against the inner surface and an actuator for moving the traction element relative to the surface such that the game piece moves, and wherein at least one of the walls is transparent such that a user can observe the game pieces within the space, from outside the apparatus.

2. An entertainment apparatus according to claim 1, wherein both the walls are transparent such that the game pieces can be observed from either side of the apparatus.

3. An entertainment apparatus according to claim 1 or claim 2, wherein the movement of the game pieces is unconstrained, such that they are freely moveable, in any direction, over the inner surface.

4. An entertainment apparatus according to any preceding claim, wherein the apparatus comprises a wireless communication system arranged to wirelessly communicate a user input to at least one of the game pieces, such that said game piece is wirelessly controllable via the user input.

5. An entertainment apparatus according to claim 4, wherein the apparatus comprises a control system for controlling the plurality of game pieces with control signals, and the communication system is arranged to wirelessly communicate the control signals to the game pieces.

6. An entertainment apparatus according to claim 4 or claim 5, wherein the user input is an instruction to move the game piece(s), and the drive assembly of said game piece(s) is arranged to move its respective game piece in response to the user input.

7. An entertainment apparatus according to any preceding claim, wherein each game piece is simultaneously in contact with the inner surfaces of both walls.

8. An entertainment apparatus according to claim 7, wherein each game piece comprises biasing means, the biasing means being arranged to press outwardly against the inner surfaces of the walls such that the weight of the game piece is at least partially supported.

9. An entertainment apparatus according to any preceding claim, wherein each game piece is capable of maintaining its vertical position in the space.

10. An entertainment apparatus according to any preceding claim, wherein the apparatus comprises a power source for powering the drive means of the game pieces.

11. An entertainment apparatus according to claim 10, wherein the power source comprises a plurality of power storage elements, each power storage element being part of a respective game piece.

12. An entertainment apparatus according to any preceding claim, the apparatus being arranged to track the location of each game piece in the space.

13. An entertainment apparatus according to any preceding claim, wherein the apparatus comprises an opening for enabling ingress or egress of the game pieces from the space.

14. An entertainment apparatus according to any preceding claim, wherein the apparatus comprises an opaque boarder adjacent to at least part of the transparent wall, the game pieces being moveable behind the opaque border such that they can be re-located around the perimeter of the space without being seen by the user.

15. An entertainment apparatus according to any preceding claim, wherein the game pieces are decorated differently so as to represent different characters or objects.

16. An entertainment apparatus as herein described with reference to the drawings.
Description



TECHNICAL FIELD

[0001] The present invention relates to an entertainment apparatus, and more particularly, but not exclusively, to an entertainment apparatus comprising a plurality of game pieces located in a space between two upright walls.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Entertainment apparatus (sometimes referred to as `amusements`) are well known. An example of a known type of entertainment apparatus is a tank containing novelty items and a grabber which the user may operate to retrieve a novelty item from the tank. This, and other examples of entertainment apparatus, have been available for some considerable time, and can appear quite dated.

[0003] Computer games in which an electronic character, or object, are moved around an electronic screen are also well known. Typically these are played by a single player, often in the home environment, and playing therefore tends not to be particularly social activity. Furthermore, since the game is played on an electronic screen there tends to be limited physical input by the user.

[0004] Some other entertainment apparatus have also been suggested. For example, WO94/17882 discloses the combination of a poster and a track on which toy vehicles can be controlled. The vehicles interact with the poster to create kinetic movement of objects on the poster. U.S. Pat. No. 3,947,031 and GB 2007986 both disclose toy games designed to simulate basketball. In the above-mentioned apparatus, the playing pieces are subject to constrained movement in predetermined ways (along a track in WO94/17882, and via mechanical kinematic linkages in U.S. Pat. No. 3,947,031 and GB2007986). This means that there are limited ways in which the user can control the game pieces, and thus the apparatus tend to be less attractive than electronic computer games (where there tends to be much more freedom in controlling the character/game piece).

[0005] It is desirable to provide an alternative entertainment apparatus, preferably an entertainment apparatus which mitigates at least some of the above-mentioned drawbacks.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0006] According to a first aspect of the invention there is provided an entertainment apparatus comprising: two upright walls, each having an inner surface, the inner surfaces facing each other and being spaced apart to define a space there-between. A plurality of game pieces are located in the space between the inner surfaces of the walls. Each of the game pieces may be in contact with the inner surface of at least one of the walls. Each of the game pieces may comprise a drive assembly for moving the game piece over that inner surface. At least one of the walls is transparent such that a user can observe the game pieces within the space, from outside the apparatus.

[0007] By providing game pieces that are moveable over the inner surface of at least one of the upright walls, the apparatus can mimic the appearance of characters/objects within a computer game but in physical form (the upright walls in this case mimicking a computer screen). Thus, the apparatus may provide a striking new type of entertainment apparatus.

[0008] In some embodiments of the invention only one wall need be transparent. More preferably, however, both the walls are transparent such that the pieces within the space can be observed from either side of the apparatus. Such an arrangement also tends to make the apparatus more sociable to use because players and/or observers can be present on both sides of the apparatus and may be able to see each other through the walls.

[0009] The wall(s) may be sufficiently transparent that a user can observe the pieces within the shape. The transparent wall(s) may, therefore, to a small degree be translucent.

[0010] It will be appreciated that the upright walls may be at a slight inclination from the vertical (but nevertheless upright). More preferably, the walls are vertical. Having upright walls is beneficial because it enables the game pieces to look like they are "floating" in space, rather than resting on a surface, as would be the case if the walls were generally horizontal.

[0011] The game pieces are moveable over the inner surface. The game pieces are preferably moveable in a direction having at least a vertical component of movement. The vertical component is preferably in both an upward and downward direction. The game pieces are preferably moveable over the inner surface in directions having a vertical component and a horizontal component of movement. Such movement may be two-stage (e.g. separate vertical followed by horizontal movement), but is more preferably one stage (e.g. movement at an angle having both vertical and horizontal components).

[0012] Thus, the game pieces are preferably freely moveable all over the inner surface. The game pieces are preferably only moveable parallel to the plane of the space (i.e. in a plane parallel to the two walls). The game pieces are preferably not moveable out of the plane of the space. The movement of the game pieces may be unconstrained. The movement may be unconstrained such that they are freely moveable, in any direction, over the inner surface. Allowing unconstrained movement tends to enhance the impression of the game pieces `floating` in the space between the walls.

[0013] Each game piece may be capable of maintaining its vertical position in the space. The apparatus may be arranged such that the weight of each game piece is at least partially, and preferably fully, supported. Each game piece may comprise means for at least partially supporting its weight (for example a suction device for sucking the game piece to the inner surface, or a biasing means arranged to press outwardly against the inner surfaces of the walls).

[0014] The inner surfaces of the walls are preferably parallel. The space is thus preferably of constant depth. The space is preferably generally cuboidal. The largest faces of the cuboidal space are preferably defined by the walls. The space is preferably a narrow space (relative to the width and height of the walls); the space is preferably significantly wider and higher than it is deep (depth being measured as the distance between the two walls).

[0015] Each of the game pieces may be in contact, preferably in continuous contact, with the inner surface of at least one of the walls. The game pieces may be sandwiched between the inner surfaces of the walls such that each game piece is simultaneously in contact with the inner surfaces of both walls. Such an arrangement enables the game piece to be better supported in the space, compared to embodiments in which the game piece only contacts one of the inner surfaces. Each game piece may be continuously in contact with the inner surfaces of both walls. Thus, in some embodiments the game pieces are preferably moveable within the space in directions having both horizontal and vertical components, whilst also being continuously in contact with the inner surfaces of both walls.

[0016] The game pieces may be received in the space in an interference fit. The interference fit of each game piece between the inner surfaces may be sufficient for the weight of the game piece to be at least partially supported. The interference fit may be such that each game piece is capable of maintaining its vertical position in the space. Thus, in some embodiments the resilience of the game piece and/or wall may be such that the frictional force at the interface between the game piece and the inner surface is sufficient to hold the piece in position. In some embodiments of the invention each game piece comprises biasing means, the biasing means may be arranged to press outwardly against the inner surfaces of the walls such that the weight of the game piece is at least partially supported. The outward biasing force from the biasing means may be such that the weight of the game piece is fully supported. The outward biasing force from the biasing means may be such that the game piece can maintain its vertical position in the space. Such an arrangement is thought to be a relatively simple but effective way of supporting the game pieces. The biasing means may, for example, comprise a spring.

[0017] Each game piece comprises a drive assembly for moving the game piece within the space. Since each game piece comprises a drive assembly, there is no need for complex, or unsightly kinematic linkages, or other means, to effect the movement of the each game piece. Each game piece can instead be self-propelled (by the drive assembly). This may facilitate a greater range of movement, and/or more realistic movement, of the game piece. The drive assembly may also be used to maintain the game piece in its vertical position in the space (for example constantly correcting against a downward movement under gravity). In a preferred embodiment however, each game piece comprises separate means for maintaining its vertical position (for example the biasing means as described in the preceding paragraph may fully support the weight of the game piece).

[0018] The drive assembly may take a number of forms. The drive assembly may comprise a traction element for generating traction against an inner surface (e.g. wheel(s), ball or caterpillar track). The drive assembly may comprise an actuator for moving the traction element relative to the surface such that the game piece moves. The drive assembly is preferably arranged to overcome a force (e.g. frictional force) holding the game piece in its vertical position in the space. The drive assembly may comprise a fluid propelling device (such as a fan or jet). The fluid propelling device may be arranged to propel fluid parallel to the inner surface (e.g. to create movement having horizontal and/or vertical components of movement). Alternatively or additionally, each game piece may comprise a fluid propelling device arranged to propel fluid perpendicular to the inner surface (e.g. to reduce friction between the game piece and the surface).

[0019] The space is preferably gas-filled, for example it may simply contain air from the surrounding atmosphere. The space is preferably not liquid-filed.

[0020] Preferably, at least one of the game pieces is controllable by a user via a user input. The apparatus may comprise a communication system. The communication system may be arranged to communicate the user input to the game pieces (directly or via a control system). The drive assembly of each game piece may be arranged to move its respective game piece in response to the user input. The communication system may be arranged to wirelessly communicate the user input to the game pieces.

[0021] The apparatus may comprise a control system for controlling the movement of the game pieces in response to the user input.

[0022] The apparatus preferably comprises means for receiving a user input. The means for receiving the user input may, in principle, take a variety of forms. For example, the apparatus may comprise a controller for manipulation by the user (for example, the controller may be a joystick, roller ball, or touch screen). In other embodiments of the invention, the apparatus may comprise a gesture recognition module for observing and interpreting the gestures of the user.

[0023] The apparatus may be arranged to determine the location of each game piece in the space. The apparatus may be arranged to track the location of the game pieces in the space. Such an arrangement may facilitate better control of the game pieces. The apparatus may be arranged to measure the position of each game piece in the space. In some other embodiments, the game pieces may measure their own position in the space and report that position to a tracking module of the apparatus.

[0024] The apparatus may comprise a power source for powering the drive means of the game pieces. The power source may comprise a plurality of power storage elements (such as a battery or capacitor). Each power storage element may be part of a respective game piece. The apparatus may comprise a re-charger for re-charging the power storage elements. In other embodiments, the power source may be remote from the game pieces. The apparatus may comprise a power conductor for supplying power from the source to the game pieces. In embodiments having a power conductor for supplying power from the source to the game pieces, the user input may be communicated to the game pieces using the power supply (e.g. using the power supply as a carrier signal). The inner surface of each wall may comprise the power conductor. For example, the inner surface of one wall may comprise a positive terminal and the inner surface of the other wall may comprise a negative terminal. The game pieces may comprise pick-ups to form an electrical connection with the power conductor. In other embodiments, the power may be wirelessly transferred to the game piece, for example using an energy transfer system provided by WiTricity Corporation, USA.

[0025] The apparatus may be arranged to enable the game pieces to be accessed. The apparatus may comprise an opening for enabling ingress and/or egress of the game pieces from the space. Since the wall(s) are transparent, it may be beneficial to have an area in which the game pieces cannot be seen, for example to store them when not in use. The apparatus may comprise an opaque boarder adjacent to at least part of the transparent wall. The game pieces are preferably moveable behind the opaque border such that they can be re-located around the perimeter of the space without being seen by the user.

[0026] A benefit of the entertainment apparatus of the present invention is that it can be used as a platform for a variety of different games. Those games may involve a variety of different game pieces. Thus, the pieces may be decorated differently so as to represent different characters of objects. The game pieces may comprise different housings so as to represent different characters of objects.

[0027] At least some of the game pieces may be controllable via a user input. At least some of the game pieces may only be controllable via the user input in dependence on acceptance of a payment. Other game pieces may be controlled by the apparatus (or controlled by the apparatus in the absence of a user input). For example, the apparatus may comprise a, and more preferably a plurality, of game pieces that are controllable by a computer. The apparatus may comprise the computer. The computer may comprise software for determining the behaviour (e.g. location and/or movement) of a game piece. The computer may be operable in a display mode in which it controls all of the plurality of game pieces, and none of the game pieces are controlled by the user. The display mode may, for example, be adopted when the entertainment apparatus is not being played by a user, thereby enabling the computer to demonstrate the apparatus' capabilities and entice new users to play. The apparatus may, in some embodiments, be usable primarily, or even exclusively, as a display.

[0028] According to a second aspect of the invention, there is provided an entertainment apparatus comprising two upright walls, each having an inner surface, the inner surfaces being parallel, facing each other and being spaced apart to define a narrow space there-between,

[0029] a plurality of game pieces located in the space and sandwiched between the inner surfaces of the walls, each of the game pieces continuously being in contact with the inner surface of both walls, each of the game pieces comprising a drive assembly for moving the game piece within the space in directions having both horizontal and vertical components, and each of the game pieces comprising biasing means, the biasing means being arranged to press outwardly against the inner surfaces of the walls such that the weight of the game piece is supported,

[0030] and wherein both the walls are transparent such that a user can observe the game pieces within the space from both sides of the apparatus.

[0031] According to yet another aspect of the invention, there is provided an entertainment apparatus for use as a display. The apparatus comprises: two upright walls, each having an inner surface, the inner surfaces facing each other and being spaced apart to define a space there-between, and a plurality of display modules located in the space between the inner surfaces of the walls, each of the display modules being in contact with the inner surface of at least one of the walls, and each of the display modules comprising a drive assembly for moving the display module over that inner surface. The drive assembly preferably comprises a traction element for generating traction against the inner surface and an actuator for moving the traction element relative to the surface such that the display module moves. At least one of the walls is transparent such that a customer can observe the display pieces within the space, from outside the apparatus. The transparent wall may be the window of a shop. Each display module may contain an item being advertised for sale. The apparatus may comprises a control system for controlling the plurality of display modules. For example, the control system may be arranged to control the display modules to move in a predetermined pattern. The pattern may be continuously repeatable. The movement of the display pieces is preferably unconstrained, such that they are freely moveable, in any direction, over the inner surface.

[0032] It will be appreciated that any features described with reference to one aspect of the invention are equally applicable to any other aspect of the invention, and vice versa. The subject-matter of the second aspect of the invention is considered especially beneficial. Nevertheless, it will be appreciated that subject-matter falling within the scope of the first aspect and third aspects, but falling outside the scope of the second aspect, is also important.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0033] Various embodiments of the invention will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying schematic drawings of which:

[0034] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an entertainment apparatus according to a first embodiment of the invention, during use;

[0035] FIG. 2a is the same as FIG. 1 but with the users omitted for the sake of clarity;

[0036] FIG. 2b shows part of the drive assembly in one of the game pieces in FIG. 2a;

[0037] FIG. 3 is a side view of the apparatus in FIGS. 1 and 2a;

[0038] FIG. 4 is a perspective view of an entertainment apparatus according to a second embodiment of the invention;

[0039] FIG. 5 shows a selection of the game pieces from the apparatus in FIG. 4; and

[0040] FIGS. 6a-6c are views of a further embodiment of the invention

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0041] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an entertainment apparatus 1 according to a first embodiment of the invention. The apparatus 1 comprises two vertical walls 3a, 3b which are parallel to one another and spaced apart to define a narrow space 5 between the inner surfaces of each wall 3a, 3b. The walls 3a, 3b are both polycarbonate and are transparent, such that users 7 on one side of the apparatus can see the other users 7 on the other side of the apparatus. In other embodiments the walls may be glass.

[0042] Due to the transparent nature of the walls 3a, 3b it is also possible to observe the multiplicity of game pieces 9 located within the space 5. In the first embodiment of the invention, the game pieces comprise four `guns` 9' having laser emitters, ten reflective blocks 9'', and one bonus-generating piece 9''' (see FIG. 2a).

[0043] Each game piece 9 is sandwiched between the inner surfaces of each wall 3a, 3b and simultaneously touches the inner surfaces at contacts 10 which are visible as concentric circles on the game pieces in FIGS. 1 and 2a (corresponding contacts are also present on the other side of each game piece). FIG. 2b is a close up view of one of these contacts; the cuboidal housing of the contact enables it to be received as a single component in each game piece 9, with an input/output link 14 being provided on the upper face of the cuboid to interface with the drive assembly and communications system (see below).

[0044] Referring now to FIG. 2b each contact 10 comprises a rubber sphere 11 partly projecting through an orifice that is surrounded by a ring of PTFE13.The sphere 11 is biased outwardly by a spring (not visible) such that a contact area of the sphere 11 is forced against the inner surface of the wall. The sphere is also preventing from rolling by locking drive wheels inside a drive mechanism (described below). There is therefore a reasonably large frictional force preventing slip of the sphere against the inner surface. This friction, in combination with that generated by the other contacts, results in each game piece 9 being able to be supported in a fixed position in the space 5. The PTFE ring 13 seeks to prevent the body of the game piece from scratching the inner surface of the wall.

[0045] When stationary the sphere is locked in place to prevent rolling. However, the sphere 11 also forms part of a drive assembly on each game piece 9. Each sphere 11 in each game piece 9 can be unlocked and driven by two orthogonal drive wheels (not shown) inside the game piece. The drive wheels are, in turn, driven by a battery powered electric motor (not shown) inside the game piece 9. By driving the drive wheels by different amounts, the sphere 11 can be rolled in particular directions. Thus, by co-ordinating the rolling of the spheres on each contact, the game piece can be moved around the space in any direction (except out of the plane of the space due to the constraints of the walls 3a, 3b).

[0046] By virtue of being supported in the vertical plane, and being moveable parallel to the plane of the space (i.e. in directions having both horizontal and vertical components), the game pieces 9 may have the appearance of floating around the space 5.

[0047] In the first embodiment of the invention the apparatus comprises a communication system arranged to communicate a user input to the game pieces. The communication system comprises a movement recognition system for detecting movement of the users 7 and transmitting a signal representative of the user input (for example an instruction to move or rotate a game piece), to the `gun` game pieces 9' via a control module (not shown). The game pieces 9' thus move around the space 5, in dependence on the user input.

[0048] The reflective block game pieces 9'' and the bonus generating piece 9''' do not respond to the user input. They are instead positioned in the space in dependence on an output from software on a computer (not shown) within the apparatus. The software determines, depending on different gaming scenarios, where the blocks 9'' and bonus piece 9''' are to be positioned (and in some gaming scenarios they may move during the game). The apparatus also comprises a tracking module to track the location of the game pieces in the space. The tracking module provides data on the location of each game piece and feeds that information back to the computer to ensure the pieces do not collide or otherwise interfere with each other. As shown in FIG. 1 and FIG. 3, the apparatus 1 enables the users 7 to move the guns 9' in a way that laser beams 15 emitted from the guns 9' hit (either directly or by reflecting off the blocks 9'') the guns 9' of the opposing team on the other side of the apparatus, and/or the bonus piece 9'''.

[0049] The apparatus thus provides an exciting and new entertainment apparatus.

[0050] FIGS. 4 and 5 show an apparatus according to a second embodiment of the invention. Features in the second embodiment of the invention that correspond to similar features in the first embodiment of the invention, are shown with the same reference numerals as in the first embodiment, but with the addition of the prefix `1` (or `10` where appropriate). In a similar manner to the first embodiment, the apparatus comprises two vertical transparent walls 103a,b defining a space 105 between them.

[0051] The apparatus comprises a series of differently-shaped game pieces 109 for providing a course to convey a ball (not shown) from the top of the apparatus to the bottom.

[0052] The game pieces are shown in more detail in FIG. 5. Each game piece 109 comprises contacts 110 which are substantially identical to those in FIG. 2b. The game pieces include a platform 109', a hollow tube 109'', a curved hollow tube 109''', a funnel 109'''' and a spring platform 109''''.

[0053] When playing the apparatus, the software determines the initial positions of the game pieces 109 and of a ball release mechanism 117; the apparatus then emits an audio signal to indicate the user then has a set time period in which to re-arrange the pieces 109 to form a course along which a ball released by the mechanism 119 would follow to reach the lower-most funnel 109''''; the ball is then released. The user is able to move the game pieces in a similar manner to that described in the first embodiment.

[0054] It is useful for various game pieces in the second embodiment to be able to move around out of sight of the user. Thus, the apparatus 101 comprises an opaque border 117 (the edge of which is denoted by dotted lines in FIG. 3) which blocks the ball release mechanism 119 and the ball capture mechanism 121 from sight. Furthermore, on the right-hand side of the apparatus, game pieces 109 can be stored behind the border 117 whilst their batteries are re-charged by a re-charging mechanism (not shown).

[0055] The apparatus 101 has an opening adjacent in the border through which a mechanic can access the space to remove/add game pieces 109 as required for repair, replacement etc.

[0056] Whilst the present invention has been described and illustrated with reference to particular embodiments, it will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art that the invention lends itself to many different variations not specifically illustrated herein.

[0057] For example, in a third embodiment (not shown) the game pieces are received in an interference fit between the inner surfaces of the walls and may be held in position vertically by virtue of the frictional fit between the sides of the game piece and the inner surface (without the need for any specific biasing means). The game pieces also include a drive assembly in which sets of rubber caterpillar tracks in contact with the inner surfaces are powered by an on-board motor to move the pieces around the space.

[0058] In a fourth embodiment, the game pieces do not carry their own power source, but instead receive power via a conductive coating on the interior of the walls. The power is transmitted to the drive assembly via a conductive pick-up on each of the contacts of the game piece. The conductive coating also enables the user inputs to be communicated directly to the game pieces via the power signal (i.e. the power signal acts as a carrier signal).

[0059] In other embodiments, the game pieces are moveable using other types of drive assembly. For example, the drive assembly may comprise orthogonally orientated wheels for driving the game piece along the inner surface, or the drive assembly may comprise a plurality of piezo-electric motors to produce a wave-like motion to push the game piece along the surface.

[0060] Various different gaming scenarios can be envisaged beyond those described above. Indeed an advantage of the apparatus is that it can be used as a platform for many different games involving the game pieces.

[0061] A further embodiment of the invention will now be described with reference to FIGS. 6a, 6b and 6c. FIG. 6a shows the display at a first moment in time, and FIG. 6b shows the display a few seconds later. FIG. 6c shows one of the display modules 209 in isolation.

[0062] FIG. 6a shows a display apparatus 201 comprising eight display modules 209 moveable over the inner surface of a shop window 203a. Referring to FIG. 6c, each module 209 is formed of a circular ring 223 from the inside of which two upright supports 229 extend. An example of a trainer (shoe) 227 is held on the upright supports 229. This trainer 227 is presented to customers outside the shop (see FIGS. 6a and 6b).

[0063] In the embodiments shown in FIGS. 6a and 6b, the apparatus comprises a second, transparent, wall 203b, opposite the window 203a such that the display modules 209 can also be seen from inside the shop. In other embodiments of the invention (not shown) the rear wall may be opaque such that the modules are only visible from one side, such as from the street outside the shop (for example it may be an enclosed `window display` in a shop).

[0064] Each display module 209 comprises its own drive assembly for unconstrained movement of the module 209 across over the surface of the window 203a. The drive assembly comprises a motor (not shown) and two driven wheels 231. Part of each wheel 231 is visible in FIG. 6c on opposite edges of the circular ring 223. These wheels (which are also partly exposed on the opposite side too) contact the opposing windows 203a/b to generate traction such the module can move across the inner surface of the windows. A control system (not shown) coordinates the movement of the modules. In this embodiment of the invention they are arranged to move around the surface in a circumferential direction with reciprocating radial movement (i.e. in and out--see FIG. 6b compared with FIG. 6a).

[0065] The display apparatus thus provides an exciting and alluring display of the shop's goods and acts to attract people into the shop. Should customers wish to look more closely at any of the trainers in the display, the people on the shop floor can stop the display apparatus and access the trainers.

[0066] Although in the above-mentioned embodiment the apparatus displays trainers, other types of merchandise may equally be held within the display module (such as watches, cameras, jewellery, books, cloths etc.)

[0067] Where in the foregoing description, integers or elements are mentioned which have known, obvious or foreseeable equivalents, then such equivalents are herein incorporated as if individually set forth. Reference should be made to the claims for determining the true scope of the present invention, which should be construed so as to encompass any such equivalents. It will also be appreciated by the reader that integers or features of the invention that are described as preferable, advantageous, convenient or the like are optional and do not limit the scope of the independent claims.

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