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Publication numberWO2002058810 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberPCT/US2001/002507
Publication date1 Aug 2002
Filing date25 Jan 2001
Priority date25 Jan 2001
Publication numberPCT/2001/2507, PCT/US/1/002507, PCT/US/1/02507, PCT/US/2001/002507, PCT/US/2001/02507, PCT/US1/002507, PCT/US1/02507, PCT/US1002507, PCT/US102507, PCT/US2001/002507, PCT/US2001/02507, PCT/US2001002507, PCT/US200102507, WO 02058810 A1, WO 02058810A1, WO 2002/058810 A1, WO 2002058810 A1, WO 2002058810A1, WO-A1-02058810, WO-A1-2002058810, WO02058810 A1, WO02058810A1, WO2002/058810A1, WO2002058810 A1, WO2002058810A1
InventorsRick A. Briggs
ApplicantKoala Corporation
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: Patentscope, Espacenet
Interactive waterplay ride
WO 2002058810 A1
Abstract
An amusement park ride is provided generally in the form of a roller-coaster or gondola ride incorporating interactive waterplay elements, such as water guns and water bombs and the like. Ride participants use the interactive waterplay elements to dump or expel water or other projectiles onto persons and/or targets disposed below the ride. Additional interactive play elements, such as water guns or projectile accelerators, can also be provided on or adjacent to the ride or in a target area below the ride to allow other play participants to "fight back" and to generally play out the theme of an air-attack with bombers attacking from the air with water bombs and machine guns (projectile accelerators or water guns) and anti-aircraft guns (projectile accelerators, water guns and the like) attacking from the ground below the ride vehicle and in the general target area thereof. Thus, a fun and entertaining ride is provided.
Claims  (OCR text may contain errors)
CLAIMSWhat is claimed is::
1. A passenger carrying vehicle for use with an amusement park ride of the type which has a path elevated above the ground surface, comprising: at least one support area suitable for occupation by at least one passenger; and at least one payload reservoir with at least one outlet selectively openable and closeable by the passenger; the payload reservoir being adapted to receive a payload and direct the payload at a target in response to opening the outlet.
2. The passenger carrying vehicle as in Claim 1, further comprising a conduit for supplying additional payload to the payload reservoir.
3. The passenger carrying vehicle as in Claim 1, further comprising: at least one conduit in communication with the payload reservoir, the conduit having an open end suitable for catching payload falling in the vicinity of the open end; the conduit being configured such that payload caught by the open end will travel along the conduit and into the payload reservoir.
4. The passenger carrying vehicle as in Claim 1, further comprising a coupling above the support surface, the coupling slidably engaging the path.
5. The passenger carrying vehicle as in Claim 1, further comprising a coupling below the support surface, the coupling slidably engaging the path.
6. The passenger carrying vehicle as in Claim 1, further comprising a propulsion source operable by the passengers to selectively move the vehicle.
7. The passenger carrying vehicle as in Claim 1, wherein the payload reservoir comprises: at least one container portion suitable for holding the payload; and at least one gate portion adjacent the container portion; the gate portion being operable by the passenger so as to permit the payload to travel out of the container portion and drop out and away from the payload reservoir to a target below the passenger carrying vehicle.
8. The passenger carrying vehicle as in Claim 1, wherein the payload reservoir comprises: a container portion with a lower end and an opening in the lower end; a generally planar gate disposed in the lower end above the opening, the edges of the gate being in generally sealing engagement with the lower end, the gate being adapted to be pulled vertically by the passenger so as to take the gate out of sealing engagement with the lower end and permit the payload to flow out of the container portion through the opening.
9. The passenger carrying vehicle as in Claim 1, wherein the payload reservoir comprises a bucket.
10. The passenger carrying vehicle as in Claim 1, wherein the payload comprises at least one quantity of liquid, and the payload reservoir comprises: at least one container portion suitable for holding the quantity of liquid; and at least one valve in fluid communication with the container portion; the valve being operable by the passenger so as to permit at least part of the quantity of liquid to flow out of the container portion and drop out and away from the payload reservoir to a target below the passenger carrier.
11. The passenger carrying vehicle as in Claim 10, wherein the container portion comprises at least one length of pipe mounted with its longitudinal axis running substantially horizontally.
12. The passenger carrying vehicle as in Claim 10, wherein the container portion comprises at least one length of pipe mounted with its longitudinal axis running substantially vertically.
13. The passenger carrying vehicle as in Claim 10, wherein the container portion comprises at least one length of pipe mounted with its longitudinal axis running at an angle of about 45 - 90 from the horizontal.
14. The passenger carrying vehicle as in Claim 10, wherein the container portion comprises: at least one length of pipe mounted with its longitudinal axis running substantially vertically, the length of pipe having a lower end; and at least one elbow pipe section with a first end and a second end, the first end of the elbow pipe section being joined to the lower end of the length of pipe; wherein the valve is disposed at the second end of the elbow pipe section.
15. The passenger carrying vehicle as in Claim 10, wherein the container portion comprises: at least one length of pipe mounted with its longitudinal axis running substantially vertically, the length of pipe having a lower end, and at least one elbow pipe section with a first end and a second end, the first end of the elbow pipe section being joined to the lower end of the length of pipe; wherein the valve is disposed at the junction of the lower end of the length of pipe and the first end of the elbow pipe section.
16. The passenger carrying vehicle as in Claim 10, wherein the valve comprises a slide-gate valve.
17. The passenger carrying vehicle as in Claim 10, wherein the valve comprises a butterfly valve.
18. The passenger carrying vehicle as in Claim 10, wherein the valve comprises a length of flexible hose adjacent the container portion, the flexible hose being capable of assuming a clamped or folded over position to restrict the passage of liquid, and an open or released position to permit the passage of liquid out of the container portion.
19. The passenger carrying vehicle as in Claim 1, wherein the payload comprises at least one quantity of liquid, and the payload reservoir comprises: at least one container portion suitable for holding the quantity of liquid; and at least one pressure source in fluid communication with the container portion; the pressure source being operable by a passenger to expel at least part of the quantity of liquid from the container portion at a target.
20. The passenger carrying vehicle as in Claim 1, wherein the payload comprises at least one quantity of liquid, and the payload reservoir comprises: a first container portion suitable for holding the quantity of liquid; a second container portion suitable for holding at least part of the quantity of liquid, the second container portion having: an expulsion end with an expulsion opening; a fill opening; a first one-way valve in fluid communication with the expulsion opening; and a second one-way valve in fluid communication with the fill opening; the second container portion being in fluid communication with the first container portion through the fill opening; and a plunger disposed within and coaxial with the second container portion, the plunger being moveable longitudinally within the second container portion and in substantial sealing engagement with an inner perimeter of the second container portion such that movement of the plunger away from the expulsion end creates, in conjunction with the first one-way valve, a low pressure area between the plunger and the expulsion opening, which tends to draw the liquid from the first container portion into the second container portion through the fill opening and the second one-way valve, and such that movement of the plunger toward the expulsion end forces the liquid through the first one-way valve and the expulsion opening, out and away from the payload reservoir, the second one-way valve preventing the liquid from flowing back through the fill opening toward the first container portion.
21. The passenger carrying vehicle as in Claim 1, wherein the payload comprises at least one play projectile constructed of a soft material, and the payload reservoir comprises: at least one container portion suitable for holding the play projectile; and at least one pressure source; the pressure source being operable by the second group of participants to propel the play projectile at a target.
22. An amusement park ride, comprising: at least one path elevated above the ground surface; one or more carriages, cars, or gondolas adapted to carry one or more passengers and move along the path, the carriages, cars or gondolas further comprising a first group of one or more play elements adapted to contain a payload and operable by a passenger to direct the payload at a target.
23. The amusement park ride as in Claim 22, wherein the carriages, cars, or gondolas travel generally above the path.
24. The amusement park ride as in Claim 22, wherein the carriages, cars, or gondolas travel generally below the path.
25. The amusement park ride as in Claim 22, wherein the carriages, cars, or gondolas further comprise a motor to propel the carriage, car, or gondola along the path.
26. The amusement park ride as in Claim 22, wherein the path has one or more shields, the shields being adapted to prevent one or more of the carriages, cars or gondolas from exposure to payloads directed by one or more of the first group of play elements.
27. The amusement park ride as in Claim 26, wherein the shields have one or more openings suitable to permit payloads directed by one or more of the first group of play elements to penetrate the shield.
28. The amusement park ride as in Claim 22, wherein the play elements comprise: at least one container portion suitable for holding the payload; and at least one gate portion adjacent the container portion; the gate portion being operable by the passenger so as to permit the payload to travel out of the container portion and drop out and away from the container portion to a target below the passenger carrying vehicle.
29. The amusement park ride as in Claim 22, wherein the payload comprises at least one quantity of liquid, and the play elements comprise: at least one container portion suitable for holding the quantity of liquid; and at least one pressure source in fluid communication with the container portion; the pressure source being operable by a passenger to expel at least part of the quantity of liquid from the container portion at a target.
30. The amusement park ride as in Claim 22, wherein the payload comprises at least one quantity of liquid, and the play elements comprise: a first container portion suitable for holding the quantity of liquid; a second container portion suitable for holding at least part of the quantity of liquid, the second container portion having: an expulsion end with an expulsion opening; a fill opening; a first one-way valve in fluid communication with the expulsion opening; and a second one-way valve in fluid communication with the fill opening; the second container portion being in fluid communication with the first container portion through the fill opening; and a plunger disposed within and coaxial with the second container portion, the plunger being moveable longitudinally within the second container portion and in substantial sealing engagement with an inner perimeter of the second container portion such that movement of the plunger away from the expulsion end creates, in conjunction with the first one-way valve, a low pressure area between the plunger and the expulsion opening, which tends to draw the liquid from the first container portion into the second container portion through the fill opening and the second one-way valve, and such that movement of the plunger toward the expulsion end forces the liquid through the first one-way valve and the expulsion opening, out and away from the second container portion, the second one-way valve preventing the liquid from flowing back through the fill opening toward the first container portion.
31. The amusement park ride as in Claim 22, wherein the payload comprises at least one play projectile constructed of a soft material, and the play elements comprise: at least one container portion suitable for holding the play projectile; and at least one pressure source; the pressure source being operable by a passenger to propel the play projectile at a target.
32. The amusement park ride as in Claim 22, further comprising one or more payload filling stations located along the path, the payload filling stations comprising: at least one container section suitable for holding a large quantity of payload; at least one opening suitable for selectively dispensing a quantity of payload to one or more of the play elements when the associated car, carriage, or gondola is nearby.
33. The amusement park ride as in Claim 22, wherein the amusement park ride is used by a first group of participants riding on the carriages, cars or gondolas, and by a second group of participants near the path, the amusement park ride further comprising a second group of one or more play elements located near the path, the second group of play elements being adapted to contain a payload, the second group of play elements being operable by the second group of participants to direct the payload at a target.
34. The amusement park ride as in Claim 33, wherein the path travels through a designated waterplay area of the amusement park
35. The amusement park ride as in Claim 33, wherein the path travels through a queue-line area for ride participants waiting to board the carriages, cars, or gondolas.
36. The amusement park ride as in claim 35, wherein the queue-line area has one or more shields, the shields being adapted to prevent one or more of the second group of participants from exposure to payloads directed by one or more of the first or second group of play elements.
37. The amusement park ride as in Claim 36, wherein the shields have one or more openings suitable to permit payloads directed by one or more of the first or second group of play elements to penetrate the shield.
38. The amusement park ride as in Claim 33, wherein the path travels throughout substantially the entire amusement park.
39. The amusement park ride as in Claim 33, wherein the payload contained by the second group of play elements comprises a liquid, and the second group of play elements comprises: at least one container portion suitable for holding the quantity of liquid; and at least one pressure source in fluid communication with the container portion; the pressure source being operable by the second group of participants to expel at least part of the quantity of liquid from the container portion at a target.
40. The amusement park ride as in Claim 33, wherein the payload contained by the second group of play elements comprises at least one quantity of liquid, and the second group of play elements comprises: a first container portion suitable for holding the quantity of liquid; a second container portion suitable for holding at least part of the quantity of liquid, the second container portion having: an expulsion end with an expulsion opening; a fill opening; a first one-way valve in fluid communication with the expulsion opening; and a second one-way valve in fluid communication with the fill opening; the second container portion being in fluid communication with the first container portion through the fill opening; and a plunger disposed within and coaxial with the second container portion, the plunger being moveable longitudinally within the second container portion and in substantial sealing engagement with an inner perimeter of the second container portion such that movement of the plunger away from the expulsion end creates, in conjunction with the first one-way valve, a low pressure area between the plunger and the expulsion opening, which tends to thaw the liquid from the first container portion into the second container portion through the fill opening and the second one-way valve, and such that movement of the plunger toward the expulsion end forces the liquid through the first one-way valve and the expulsion opening, out and away from the second container portion, the second one-way valve preventing the liquid from flowing back through the fill opening toward the first container portion.
41. The amusement park ride as in Claim 33, wherein the payload contained by the second group of play elements comprises at least one play projectile constructed of a soft material, and the second group of play elements comprises: at least one container portion suitable for holding the play projectile; and at least one pressure source; the pressure source being operable by the second group of participants to propel the play projectile at a target.
42. The amusement park ride as in Claim 33, wherein the carriages, cars or gondolas have decorative elements so as to take on the appearance of pirate ships, and the play elements have decorative elements so as to take on the appearance of cast-iron cannons, the carriages, cars or gondolas further comprising a target, the target being adapted to cause the release of payload from the play elements on the carriage, car or gondola upon being struck by payload directed by the first or second group of play elements.
43. The amusement park ride as in Claim 33, wherein the carriages, cars or gondolas have decorative elements so as to take on the appearance of a space vehicle.
44. The amusement park ride as in Claim 33, wherein the path travels near or through one or more towers, the towers having: one or more targets adapted to activate various waterplay effects in response to being struck by payload directed by one or more of the first or second group of play elements; one or more areas suitable for supporting one or more ride participants; one or more play elements adapted to contain a payload and operable by the ride participants on the towers to direct the payload at a target.
45. The amusement park ride as in Claim 33, wherein the first or second group of play elements includes one or more play elements adapted to form a waterfall.
46. The amusement park ride as in Claim 33, wherein the first or second group of play elements includes one or more play elements adapted to form a geyser jet.
47. The amusement park ride as in Claim 33, wherein the first or second group of play elements includes one or more play elements adapted to form a mist or fog.
48. The amusement park ride as in Claim 33, wherein the first or second group of play elements includes one or more buckets adapted to be dumped by pulling a rope.
49. The amusement park ride as in Claim 33, wherein the first or second group of play elements includes one or more buckets adapted to serially receive payload directed by multiple ones of the first or second group of play elements, the buckets being further adapted to be dumped after receiving a sufficient quantity of payload.
50. The amusement park ride as in Claim 33, wherein the first or second group of play elements includes one or more play elements which are operable with a wheel and valve.
51. The amusement park ride as in Claim 33, wherein the first or second group of play elements includes one or more play elements which are operable with a switch located on the path, the switch being adapted to be activated by the passing of the carriages, cars or gondolas.
52. The amusement park ride as in Claim 33, wherein the path has an inclined portion, and the amusement park ride further comprises a body of water, the inclined portion and the body of water being located such that the carriages, cars or gondolas contact at least part of the body of water while or immediately after descending the inclined portion.
53. A waterplay effect, comprising: one or more passenger carriers moveable along a path elevated above the ground surface and adapted to carry a first group of ride participants, the passenger carriers further comprising a first group of one or more play elements adapted to contain a quantity of water and operable by the first group of ride participants to direct the water at a target; a second group of one or more play elements located near the path, the second group of play elements being adapted to contain a quantity of water and operable by the first group of ride participants to direct the water at a target.
54. A method of waterplay, comprising the steps of: riding along an elevated path on one or more carriages, cars, or gondolas; and operating a first group of one or more play elements located on the carriages, cars or gondolas to direct a payload at a target.
55. The method of waterplay as in Claim 54, further comprising the steps of: operating a second group of one or more play elements located near the path to direct a payload at a target.
Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

INTERACTIVE ATERPLAY REDE

Background of the Invention

1. Field of the Invention The present invention relates to amusement park rides and, in particular, to roller- coaster or gondola-style amusement park rides incorporating interactive waterplay elements, such as water guns and water bombs, for entertaining and educating children and adults.

2. Description of the Related Art

Over the past several decades, there has been a proliferation of amusement parks, family fun centers and related commercial play structures and rides designed to meet the recreational needs of young families. Such amusement facilities and play structures can often provide a safe and exciting alternative to more traditional parks and playgrounds. Conventional play structures and rides may be grouped into two general categories: "wet" and "dry". In accordance with the respective grouping a play structure and/or ride may utilize either corresponding wet or dry play media and play elements.

Typical dry play structures may include a padded framework and cushioned floors defining a variety of play elements and/or areas. Slides, tunnels, net bridges, and ladders may be used to interconnect the various play elements and play areas so that play participants can traverse from one play element or area to the next. Dry amusement park rides may include a wide variety of roller coaster, gondola rides, parachute drops, Ferris wheels, carousel rides and the like. The typical roller coaster ride includes a number of ride vehicles traveling along an elevated rail or track, which incorporates steep drops and sharp turns to provide a fast, exciting ride. The ride vehicles in a roller coaster can be situated with the vehicle and passengers above the track in a "railroad" fashion, or the ride vehicles can hang from an overhead rail. A gondola ride is typically more leisurely than a roller coaster, comprising an elevated track or cable which follows a generally horizontal path with gentle slopes and turns. Several passengers sit or stand in a gondola car, which hangs frorri the track or cable and moves at a relatively low speed to enhance the leisure and sightseeing aspects of the gondola ride. Typical wet play structures may include various devices for cooling and entertaining play participants using water. Several popular wet play elements include water slides, spray guns, spray hoses, waterfalls, sprinklers, buckets, and the like. Water rides may include water flumes, lazy river rides, simulated surfing wave rides and the like. Most conventional play structures and rides are "passive." That is, the various play elements comprising a play structure environment or ride experience are normally static or react only to forces imparted directly by the play participants. Traditional roller coaster and gondola rides may also be considered "passive" in that they do not allow the passengers to control any aspect of the ride or any associated play elements. While passive play structures and rides can be entertaining, they do not generally stimulate the development of creative thinking, problem solving abilities, or hand-eye coordination. It is preferred to provide a play structure or ride that is "active" or "interactive" in order to allow play participants to operate and control any one of a number of play elements while observing and learning about the associated causes and effects. For example, U.S. Patent No. 5,194,048 and related design patent D330,579 first disclosed the concept of participatory or interactive waterplay in which play participants could operate any one of a number of valves to adjust the amount of water spraying from one or more associated water effects. Play participants adjust the various valves and can immediately observe the change in the quality, rate or direction of water produced by the associated water effect. Interactive play allows play participants to experiment with and learn about various cause-and-effect reactions using any one of a number of familiar and entertaining play mediums, such as water, balls, balloons or the like. Small children, particularly, can benefit from the fun learning experiences garnered from such interactive play activities.

U.S. Patent No. 5,378,197 disclosed the concept of an interactive water ride in the form of a water slide. The water ride includes a waterslide portion comprising an inclined chute or channel upon which ride participants slide down. An adjacent stairway is provided to allow access to the top of the water slide. Various water forming devices are positioned along the stairway and over the slide portion to allow persons climbing the stairs or waiting in line to expel water onto those sliding down the slide. PCT Publication No. WO 98/50124, incorporated herein by reference, discloses an improved interactive water slide wherein additional waterplay elements are provided on or adjacent the ride surface which may be activated by ride participants sliding down the ride to expel water onto the play participants climbing the adjacent stairway. In this manner, a water ride is provided facilitating two-way interactive play between riders and non-riders.

Summary of the Invention

The present invention expands and improves upon the concept of interactive play by providing an amusement park ride in the form of a roller-coaster or gondola ride incorporating interactive waterplay elements, such as water guns and water bombs and the like. In this manner, ride participants in a moving ride vehicle can dump or expel water or other projectiles onto persons and/or targets disposed below the ride. Additional interactive play elements, such as water guns or projectile accelerators, can also be provided on or adjacent to the ride or in a target area below the ride to allow other play participants to "fight back" and to generally play out the theme of an air-attack with bombers attacking from the air with water bombs and machine guns (projectile accelerators or water guns) and anti-aircraft guns (projectile accelerators, water guns and the like) attacking from the ground below the water bomber and in the general target area thereof. Thus, a fun and entertaining two-way interactive ride is provided. For purposes of summarizing the invention and the advantages achieved over the prior art, certain objects and advantages of the invention have been described hereinabove. Of course, it is to be understood that not necessarily all such objects or advantages may be achieved in accordance with any particular embodiment of the invention. Thus, for example, those skilled in the art will recognize that the invention may be embodied or carried out in a manner that achieves or optimizes one advantage or group of advantages as taught herein without necessarily achieving other objects or advantages as may be taught or suggested herein.

All of these embodiments are intended to be within the scope of the invention herein disclosed. These and other embodiments of the present invention will become readily apparent to those skilled in the art from the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments having reference to the attached figures, the invention not being limited to any particular preferred embodiment(s) disclosed.

Brief Description of the Drawings

Having thus summarized the general nature of the invention and its essential features and advantages, certain preferred embodiments and modifications thereof will become apparent to those skilled in the art from the detailed description herein having reference to the figures that follow, of which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of an interactive water ride having features in accordance with the present invention; FIG. 2 is a schematic view of one embodiment of an interactive water ride having features in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a concept sketch of one embodiment of an interactive water ride having features in accordance with the present invention; FIG. 4 is a perspective view of one embodiment of an interactive water ride having features in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 4A is a perspective view of another embodiment of an interactive water ride having features in accordance with the present invention; FIG. 5 is a schematic view of various play elements in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 6 is a side perspective view of a ride vehicle having features in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view of one embodiment of a water bomb reservoir; FIG. 8A-8G are schematic views of various embodiments of a water bomb reservoir;

FIG. 9 is a side perspective view of a water blaster;

FIG. 10 is a side elevation view of a ride vehicle and optional water blaster attachment;

FIG. 11 is a side cutaway view of a water blaster;

FIG. 12 is a side elevation view of an interactive foam projectile launcher accessory for a ride vehicle;

FIG. 13 is a schematic view of an interactive foam projectile launcher accessory for a ride vehicle;

FIG. 14 is a side elevation view of a linkage assembly connecting a self-return activation lever with a water bomb reservoir, a water bomb reservoir nose cone, and a quick action valve;

FIG. 15 is a side perspective view of an automated filling station water reservoir and ride vehicle funnel fill spout; and

FIG. 16 is a detail view of a quick-action valve.

Detailed Description of the Preferred Embodiment

FIG. 1 shows one embodiment of an interactive waterplay ride 10 in accordance with the present invention. A rail or set of rails 12 is provided, on which the ride vehicles 14 travel in more-or-less the traditional roller coaster fashion. The ride vehicles are equipped with various play elements for dumping or spraying water (or other play media such as slime, mud, impact-safe play projectiles, or other liquids), such as water blasters 16, water bomb reservoirs 18 or simple buckets 20. The participants in the ride vehicles 14 operate these and other play elements to spray or dump water on other ride participants below, or in other ride vehicles 14. The overhead rail 12 can travel within a designated "wet" area of the park, including a queue- line area for those waiting to board the ride, or throughout the- ark generally. The participants in these areas may be given various waterplay elements for shooting back at the participants on the ride vehicles 14 going by. Some of these are illustrated in FIG. 1: individual water blasters 22, a spray tower 24 with a rotating spray disc 26 on top, a geyser 28 activated by a jump pad 30, or a "team" water blaster 32 in which one or more participants pump a handle 34 to generate pressure, and another participant directs the water blast.

FIG. 2 shows a schematic illustration of a roller-coaster type ride 210 in accordance with the present invention, passing through a queue-line area 212 for the ride. The track 214 extends out of a tower 216 (of about 40 feet or more in height) where participants board the ride vehicles 218. A stairway 220 leads up to the tower 216, and the queue line for the ride 210 proceeds up the stairway 220 and into the tower 216. The stairway 220 is preferably equipped with water blasters 222 or the like for the participants on the stairway 220 to fire at the participants in the ride vehicles 218, or at other participants in the queue-line area 212. The queue-line area 212 can include queueing areas 224 on the ground level, where larger group play elements can be located, such as team geysers 226, in which 2 or more participants work together to operate a pump 227 or the like to generate as large a geyser as possible, perhaps up to the track level. These play elements may also be provided for use by those who are nearby, but not waiting in the queue line for the ride. Another interactive play element suitable for the queueing area is a Target Alley 228 which consists of targets mounted in the air, which the participants in the ride vehicles 218 can shoot. Striking a target 230 can activate water effects like sprays or large bucket dumps to strike people in the queue line, or other ride vehicles.

As shown in FIG. 2, the tower 216 and stairway 220 structure may incorporate platforms 232 above or to the side of the track 214. Participants on these platforms 232 could employ various water blasters 234, water bomb reservoirs, buckets, etc. to shoot the participants on the ride vehicles 218 or other participants in the queue-line area 212. A ride 210 in accordance with the present invention can be made more "wet" or more

"dry" to suit individual parks and locations. To make the ride more "dry," shields 236 may be added to protect those in the queue lines; the locations of the shields 236 can be selected so as to make it a game to get from one shield 236 to another without getting wet. The shields can also have strategically-located target holes 238 for participants on the ride vehicles 218 to shoot in an attempt to hit the participants under the shields 236. Additionally, similar shields could be located in places appropriate for sheltering the participants on the ride vehicles.

FIG. 3 shows yet another potential version of an interactive waterplay ride having features and advantages in accordance with the present invention. In this embodiment, an occupant rides the ride vehicle 302 down an inclined rail or track 304, attempting to water bomb other participants 306 in the amusement park, while those participants 306 attempt to shoot the occupant of the ride vehicle 302 with water blasters 308 or other devices.

Several types of ride vehicle are suitable for use in accordance with the present invention. FIG. 1 shows a roller coaster ride 10 with an overhead rail 12, in which the ride vehicles 14 hang from the rail 12 with the participants seated at the lower end of the ride vehicles 14. If desired, these ride vehicles 14 can swing side-to-side as they travel along the rail

14, to enhance the inertial effects of the ride speed.

As shown in FIG. 4, another ride vehicle variation is a gondola 402 traveling on a rail or cable 404, which facilitates a more leisurely ride as well as an intra-park transportation system. The gondola 402 has a lower hull 406 inside of which the participants may sit or stand, and a roof 408 covering the hull. Pillars 410 connect the roof 408 to the hull 406, and a coupling 412 atop the roof 408 supports the gondola 402 on the rail 404. As in the roller coaster embodiment, waterplay elements can be provided for both passengers and non-passengers to facilitate interactive waterplay between the two groups. The waterplay elements shown here include buckets 414, tanks 416, water blasters 418, spray towers 420 with blasters 422 or a rotating spray disc 424, geysers 426, and conveyor pumps 428.

The interactive nature of the ride also makes it suitable for applying various play themes to enhance the enjoyment of the ride participants. Illustrated in FIG. 4A, one possible theme is "WaterPirates" in which the ride vehicles 450 are themed as wooden sailing ships, and water blasters on the vehicles are themed as cannons 452. The queue-line and other areas can also be equipped with cannons 452 for shooting back. Other pirate theming options can be applied to a variety of waterplay elements, including a rotating spray disc which takes the form of a ship's wheel 454. The primary activity could be dumping, shooting and pumping water between vehicles and spectators, and a secondary activity could be filling the water reservoir on the ship, with more water providing greater firepower. Other ships and bystanders could "steal" your water by hitting a target on your ship which would dump the reservoir.

Another suitable ride theme is the futuristic "Space and Rocket Ships" theme. This consists of adding elements to make the ride vehicles resemble a rocket or space ship, with the ride participant carried below. Additional theming on and around the ride is of a high-tech metal finish. To enhance the "rocket" aspect, it is contemplated that this ride will rise up to about 50 feet above the ground and swoop down low over the queue line, then back up again. Thus, the vehicle speed will vary from 20 to 40 feet per second, with seating for up to four passengers. Yet another ride theme that may be carried out within the present invention is known as "Target Towers," wherein the ride vehicles wind through the park, passing over and through a number of different waterplay towers 10-20 feet high. Each tower has various targets which are activated by bursts of water from water blasters on the ride vehicles. The towers provide special stations for participants on the towers to shoot and/or dump water on the ride vehicles as they pass through, or to shoot at targets themselves. The targets activate various bucket dumps and spray mechanisms which get both riders and non-riders wet. With this theme the towers can be scattered throughout the park to create a highly interactive environment no matter where the guests are. In reference now to FIG. 5, an even higher level of interactivity can be facilitated by self propelled vehicles 502 which the ride participants themselves move along the path or track 504 by pedaling. This allows the ride participants to slow down or speed up to hit their targets below or nearby, avoid those who are shooting at them, and stop temporarily at refilling stations 506 to fill up their water reservoirs. FIG. 5 also depicts a variety .of additional play elements and effects that may be employed as alternatives or supplements to the play elements which have already been described. A waterfall 508 or geyser jet 510 can be turned on or off, or varied in size or strength, by a person using a wheel-and-valve 512 as shown. A bucket dump 514 connected to a rope-and-pulley 516 permits the dumping of water by a participant on a ride vehicle 502, onto a participant in the queue-line area 518, or vice versa. A mist or fog sprayer 520 can be operated in a variety of ways, including the rope pull 522 shown, or a wheel-and-valve or a lever. A trough 524 filled with water can be dumped from a vehicle 502 as shown, or from a static location, by operating a lever 526, or a rope pull or other suitable means. A "big bucket" effect 528 allows for team or cumulative waterplay in that participants in passing ride vehicles 502 dump water into the big bucket 528; once it is full the big bucket 528 dumps on the people below. Where desired, the various play effects can be actuated by a switch 530 located on the track 504, which is closed when contacted by a passing ride vehicle 502.

Another optional aspect of the present invention is a "Big Wow" effect located at the end of the ride to enhance the enjoyment of the participants in the vehicles and/or the participants in the queue-line area. One "Big Wow" effect is a ramp or inclined rail which the ride vehicle would descend before splashing down in a pool, similar to a log flume ride. Alternatively, the ride vehicle can trip a big bucket that dumps on the participants below or activates still other effects. Another variation is for the participants on the ride vehicles to collect points along the way for hitting various targets and/or people, and to show the score to the participants at the end of the ride, with a comparison to other high scores attained that day. As a final example, the participants in the ride vehicles could try to collect the most water in their ride vehicles and dump it at the end for a score or a big dump on others.

FIG. 6 illustrates one possible embodiment of a ride vehicle constructed in accordance with the present invention. The preferred ride vehicle comprises a lightweight frame, 610 formed of a rigid vertical member 610a, rigidly affixed to a means for attaching the frame to a track or other form of inertial guidance 610b and to an undercarriage 610c; a seat member 611; two self-return activation levers 612; a funnel fill spout and manifold 613; a linkage assembly 614; and two water bomb reservoirs 615. The seat 611 is attached to and supported by the undercarriage 610c. The self-return activation levers 612 are attached to the undercarriage with rotational pivoting connectors. The undercarriage 610c is constructed of a hollow rigid material and acts as a conduit to allow payload (water or other play media) to flow from the funnel fill spout and manifold 613 to the water bomb reservoirs 615. The water bomb reservoirs are attached to the undercarriage through a plurality of rigid structural members 617, 619. The water bomb reservoirs 615 are positioned so that the payload can flow out of the hollow undercarriage 610c into the water bomb reservoirs through one or more fill/overflow/vent holes 616, which would prevent overfill of the water bomb reservoir, as well as prevent any vacuum effects from impeding the ingress or egress of payload from the water bomb reservoir. The water bomb reservoirs 615 and water bomb reservoir nose cones 620 are also connected to the undercarriage 610c and self-return activation levers 612 through linkage assemblies 614. One skilled in the art will note that the separate linkages 614 allow for independent operation of the water bomb reservoir 615 on each side of the ride vehicle through manipulation of the corresponding self-return activation lever 612. When pressure is applied to a self-return activation lever 612, it will operate the corresponding linkage 614 to rotate the nose cone 620 away from the water bomb reservoir 615 on that side of the ride vehicle. In addition, it will activate the quick action valve 618 to release water from that water bomb reservoir. When pressure is released from the self-return activation lever 612, it will return to its original position, thus closing the nose cap 620 and closing the quick action release valve 618, preventing further egress of payload from the corresponding water bomb reservoir. FIG. 7 depicts a desirable alternative design for the water bomb reservoir 710. This water bomb reservoir 710 features a generally cylindrical main body 712 with an upper end 714 and a lower end 716 tapering to smaller-diameter upper and lower openings 718, 720. Extending from the lower opening 720 is a cylindrical lower sleeve 722 which is open at the top and bottom. A shorter upper sleeve 724, also open at the top and bottom, extends from the upper opening 718. Desirably, the upper sleeve 724 tapers inward to a smaller-diameter opening 726 at the top.

Disposed within the main body 712 are horizontal upper and lower support beams 728, 730, which support upper and lower cylindrical guides 732, 734, respectively. The vertical axes of the upper and lower cylindrical guides 732, 734 are collinear with the vertical axis of the main body 712. A rod 736 extends through the upper and lower cylindrical guides 732, 734 and can freely move in either vertical direction with respect to the upper and lower cylindrical guides 732, 734, despite fitting closely within the upper and lower cylindrical guides 732, 734. The rod 736 is long enough that it protrudes vertically from the upper sleeve 726, and a handle (not shown) may be added to facilitate easy grasping by the ride vehicle passenger. A circular gate 738, made up of a neoprene disk 740 and upper and lower support disks 742, 744, is attached to the lower end of the rod 736. The upper and lower support disks 742, 744 are constructed of a rigid material and the upper support disk 742 is preferably of a larger diameter than the lower support disk 744. The neoprene disk 740 is constructed so as to sealingly engage the inner surface of the lower end 716 of the main body 712, when lowered within the main body 712 to the point where the inward taper of the lower end 716 meets the edges of the gate 738.

The rod 736, main body 712, upper and lower sleeves 722, 724 and upper and lower support beams 728, 730 and cylindrical guides 732, 734, are preferably constructed of stainless steel, but it is contemplated that aluminum, fiberglass, plastic, or other lightweight, water- resistant materials may be used as well.

Desirably, the water bomb reservoir 710 has the following dimensions: a main body 712 height of 14 inches from the top of the upper sleeve 724 to the top of the lower sleeve 722; a main body 712 maximum diameter of 12 inches with upper and lower openings 718, 720 of 6 inches diameter. The lower sleeve 722 is 5 inches in height. The preferred dimensions of the gate 738 are as follows: the neoprene disk 740 is 7 inches in diameter and is %" thick, and the upper and lower support disks 742, 744 are 5 and 3 inches in diameter, respectively.

In using the water bomb reservoir 710, it is first filled with water or other suitable liquid, or even a number of small, soft projectiles such as foam-rubber balls, water balloons and the like. The water bomb reservoir 710 can be filled through the open upper sleeve 724, or perhaps by an inlet (not shown) formed in the upper end 714. The tapering of the upper end 714 and upper sleeve 724 of the water bomb reservoir 710 helps to prevent spillage of the liquid or other payload as the ride vehicle, with one or more filled water bomb reservoirs 710, moves along the ride path. The passenger can selectively release all or part of the payload from the water bomb reservoir 710 by pulling up on the rod 736. This raises the gate 738 within the lower end 716 of the main body 712 to a point where the edges of the gate 738 no longer sealingly engage the inner surface of the lower end 716. The payload can then flow through the gap thus formed, down the lower sleeve 722 and out of the water bomb reservoir 710. Because the water bomb reservoir 710 is intended to release a water bomb which has a compact, unitary shape, as opposed to an elongated or amorphous trail of liquid, best results can be obtained by quickly raising the gate 738 to the upper limit of its travel. In this manner the escape opening for the payload is quickly maximized, and the desired volume of payload leaves the water bomb reservoir over a minimal time interval. At any time after raising the gate 738, the passenger can either release it or push it down, which causes the gate to return to its original position where its edges meet the inner surface of the lower end 716 of the main body 712. Thus returned, the gate 738 prevents any remaining payload from flowing out of the water bomb reservoir 710, and allows the water bomb reservoir 710 .to be re-filled with additional payload. FIGS. 8A-8G show further alternative designs for the water bomb reservoir 810. These alternative designs employ lengths of 4"-S" diameter pipe 812 to contain the desired payload, and where necessary a slide-gate or butterfly valve 814 to selectively release the payload. A simple straight run of pipe 812 with a valve 814 at the outlet end 816, can be oriented horizontally (FIG. 8A), vertically (FIG. 8B), or at an angle a of 45-90 from the horizontal (FIG. 8C). FIGS. 8D and 8E show a water bomb reservoir configuration 810 with a straight run of pipe 812 oriented vertically with a 90 elbow section 818 attached to the lower end 816. The valve 814 can be placed between the straight run 812 and the elbow section 818, as in FIG. 8D, or at the lower end 820 of the elbow section 818, as in FIG. 8E.

A final design alternative, shown in FIGS. 8F-8G, employs a vertical straight run of pipe 812, with a section of flexible hose 822 attached at the lower end 816. The payload is retained in this water bomb reservoir 810 by folding the hose over the lower end 816 of the pipe 812 and holding or clamping it in place (FIG. 8F). The payload is then released by allowing the hose 822 to unfold and open (FIG. 8G), thereby causing the payload to flow through the flexible hose 822 and out of the water bomb reservoir 810. FIGS. 9, 10, 11 depict one possible embodiment of a ride vehicle accessory in the form of a water blaster. Alternatively, materials other than water could be used as payload for the ride vehicle; for instance, other liquids, including foams, bubbles, or slime-like substances, or solid materials such as foam-rubber blocks, balls, or water balloons. FIGS. 12, 13 show one possible embodiment of a ride vehicle accessory that uses foam balls, instead of water, as payload.

The preferred ride vehicle carries one occupant; however, one skilled in the art can easily see how another embodiment of the ride vehicle might carry two or more occupants. Each occupant might have control of an individual set of water bomb reservoirs or water blasters, or the occupants might share one set of controls, possibly allowing one occupant to act as driver or navigator while the other acts to operate the weapons.

FIG. 14 is a detailed view of the linkage assembly 614 (see also FIG. 6), which provides the triggering mechanism for the water bomb reservoir. The linkage assembly 614 comprises three structural elements 1401-1403, all of which are attached rotationally to each other at one end of each element. One of the elements 1403 is further attached to the nose piece of the water bomb reservoir 620 through means of a rotational attachment 1405. The third member is attached to the body of the water bomb reservoir 615 through a pressure-sensitive attachment 1404. The final member 1401 is fixedly attached to the self-return activation lever 612. When the self-return activation lever 612 is rotated about a spring-hinge 607 mounted on the hollow undercarriage 610c, that movement will be translated through one of the structural elements 1401 to another structural element 1402, causing the nose cone 620 to rotate, constrained by a hinge 1406. The same movement will be translated to a vertical structural element 1403, which will in turn activate to the quick action valve 618 through the pressure- sensitive connector 1404, as shown in FIG. 16, to release water from the water bomb reservoir 615 simultaneous with the upward movement of the nose cone 620.

The ride vehicle shown in FIG. 6 might be filled by an automated filling station reservoir. The automated filling station reservoir could deposit water or other liquids into the funnel fill spout and water manifold 613, which would distribute the water to the water bomb reservoirs 615 through the hollow undercarriage 610c.

Alternatively, the ride vehicle payload could be replenished through some other system, including some type of continuous-feed system; for example, a hose attached to a relatively large water supply.

FIG. 15 shows an automated filling station water reservoir 1500. The filling station assembly comprises a tank element 1501, which holds water to be transmitted to a ride vehicle funnel fill spout 613, an actuated valve 1502, which is timed to provide a metered water payload to a ride vehicle, a flexible hose 1503, and a mechanically articulated spout 1504. The mechanically articulated spout 1504 is connected to the tank 1501 by the actuated valve 1502 and the flexible hose 1503, and is affixed to the reservoir assembly 1501 by means of a rotational connector 1506 and a mechanically articulated connector 1505, allowing the spout 1504 to swing into place to fill a ride vehicle funnel fill spout 613 while the ride vehicle is stationary, possibly while the ride vehicle loads and unloads one or more occupants.

The use of such filling stations supports various play aspects contemplated in the present invention. In one game, the challenge is to collect as much water as possible to fill up reservoir tanks on the ride vehicle; the more water in the tanks the more the participants can dump and shoot at people. A possible variation on this game is for the participants in the ride vehicles to collect as much water as possible, both on their own and with the help of the participants in the queue lines, with the ultimate object being to use all the water collected for a climactic, "Big Wow" dump at the end. Part of this game could be a gauge which is filled up to show "points" for competition. In contrast, the object in yet another game could be to avoid getting water in the reservoirs and to dump it as fast as possible so as to end up empty.

FIG. 9 shows a ride vehicle accessory in the form of a water blaster 900, which comprises a water blaster body 905, a mounting bracket 901, a rotational connector 902, a pivoting hinge 903, a pump/trigger mechanism 904 and a nozzle 906. The body of the water blaster 905 is attached to the mounting bracket 901 through the rotational connection 902 as well as the pivoting hinge 903, allowing the water blaster body to rotate in three dimensions, relative to the mounting bracket. Manipulation of the trigger plunger 904 causes dispensation of payload through the nozzle 906 in a metered manner. The water blaster can be fixedly attached to the ride vehicle by the mounting bracket 901.

FIG. 10 shows a ride vehicle configured with a water blaster 900. In this embodiment, the hollow undercarriage 1000 extends under the seat 611 of the ride vehicle and attaches to the vertical blaster support 1001 in front of the seat. The hollow undercarriage transports water to water blaster 900 through the payload conduit 907, which resides inside the vertical blaster support 1001.

FIG. 11 shows a cutaway view of one embodiment of a manually-actuated water blaster 900. When the trigger plunger is extended away from the blaster body 905, the plunger pulls the airtight stopper 1103 rearward though the payload bay 1101, creating a vacuum condition in the payload bay. This reverse pressure condition thaws water from the payload conduit 907 into the payload bay 1101, through the one-way valve 1104. After the payload bay has been completely filled, the trigger plunger 904 can be compressed into the blaster body 905, forcing a high- velocity stream of water out of the payload bay 1101 through the high-pressure valve 1105. While the water blaster described here is manually actuated, one skilled in the art can envision other types of water blasters, including a water blaster supplied by a high pressure water source or a water blaster powered by a hand crank, electrical motor, or the like.

FIG. 16 shows a detail view of one embodiment of a quick-action release valve. When the linkage shown in FIG. 14 is manipulated through use of the self-return activation lever 612, the linkage will apply pressure to a pressure-sensitive solenoid 1404 through the structural member 1403. The solenoid might be attached to a battery or other power source (not shown). The pressure applied by the structural member 1403 will activate the solenoid 1404, providing a fixed-duration electrical pulse to the quick-action release valve 1601. The quick-action release valve 1601 will open upon receiving the electrical charge and will close again at the end of the duration of the electrical pulse, providing a measured dispensation of payload through the valve. Although the solenoid is one method of dispensing payload in a measured fashion, those skilled in the art will recognize that this function could also be accomplished through a variety of other means, including a mechanically-actuated butterfly valve, a knife-gate valve, or even means as simple as the manual tipping of a payload container, for instance, a gallon bucket. FIGS. 12 and 13 show one possible embodiment of an interactive foam or water- balloon projectile launcher 1210. It generally comprises a housing 1212 having an inlet or feed tube 1214 and a launch tube 1216, As shown in more detail in FIG. 13 the feed tube 1214 and launch tube 1216 are preferably fabricated from clear acrylic cylinders and are arranged so as to intersect one another at the rear end 1230 of the launch tube 1216, substantially as shown. The feed tube 1214 may be substantially vertical, as shown, or it may inclined or tilted, as desired. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that foam balls 1218 or other impact-safe projectiles, such as water balloons, may be inserted into the feed tube 1214 and will fall down into firing position at the end 1230 of the launch tube 1216.

A charge reservoir 1258, defined by end plates 1260, 1262, is provided in the rear of the housing 1212 for storing a charge of compressed air. The plates 1260, 1262 are welded to the interior of the main body 1242 of the housing to provide a structurally sound and air tight chamber for containing the compressed air. The compressed air may be provided by an external compressed air source such as, for example, an electric air compressor or a hand- operated pump, as desired. The compressed air is communicated to the end 1230 of the launch tube 1216 via an air conduit 1272 and a nozzle 1274, which in the preferred embodiment, is fitted with an optional extension sleeve 1275.

An electrically actuated solenoid valve 1220 is interposed between the air conduit 1272 and the nozzle 1274, as shown, in order to control the flow of air directed into the end 1230 of the launch tube 1216. Those skilled in the art will readily appreciate that when the solenoid valve 1220 is actuated, it permits the release of compressed air from the charge reservoir 1258 to the nozzle 1274. The nozzle converts the compressed air into one or more streams of high- velocity air which impinge on the ball 1218, propelling it down the launch tube 1216 and eventually launching it into the air or at a desired target up to 20 or 30 feet away or more. The projectile itself is preferably a closed cell foam ball 1218. Preferably, the ball 1218 is fabricated from an expended ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) material having a density of between about 1-5 lbs/ft3 and, more preferably, a density of about 2 lbs/ft3. The projectile may be spherical, as shown, or it may be provided in a wide variety of other shapes, as desired. Aerodynamic shapes are particularly preferred, although not required. For example, bullet or dart shaped projectiles may be used to enhance the accuracy and/or distance of the projectile. Spherical balls may be dimpled, if desired, to improve their aerodynamic properties.

The size and mass of the ball is preferably sufficient to produce a smooth trajectory without excessive wobbling or spiraling during flight. On the other hand, the projectiles are preferably impact-safe — that is, the size and mass of the projectile is preferably not so great as to produce a risk of injury to play participants upon impact, taking into account the impact velocity and the material composition of the projectile. It has been found that a ball diameter of about 2!/2 inches and a weight of about .15 oz. provides a particularly suitable compromise between these competing objectives. This correlates to a preferred EVA density of about 2 lbs/ft3. Of course, other ball sizes ranging from about 1W7 inches may also be used, depending upon the particular application and the distance, velocity and accuracy requirements. Preferably, the projectiles are not so small, however, as to present a choking hazard for young children or a slipping hazard when the projectiles are scattered about a floor or other supporting surface.

Referring in more detail to FIG. 12, it can be seen that an air hose 1253 and an air supply line 1254 provide pressurized air froth an external compressed air source 1211 to operate the projectile launcher 1210. The compressed air source 1211 may comprise, for example, a conventional electric-powered air compressor or, alternatively, it may comprise a hand-pump operated compressor. The compressed air source 1211 can be positioned within, adjacent to or remote from the projectile launcher 1210, as desired. It can also be configured to be operated or actuated by other play participants such that teamwork or cooperation among multiple play participants is required to operate the projectile launcher 1210.

In the preferred embodiment shown an optional pressure gauge 1251 is provided for allowing play participants to view the pressure of air in the supply lines 1254, 1253. This may be used, for example, to determine whether the air pressure is sufficient to propel the ball 1218 at a desired velocity or to calibrate the projectile launcher 1210 for desired distance accuracy. The pressure gauge 1251 may be coupled to one end 1252 of the air supply line 1254, as shown, or it may be coupled to the charge reservoir 1258 or compressed air source 1211, as desired.

A pressure regulator and/or relief valve (not shown) is also preferably provided in the air source 1211 and/or in the supply line 1253 or projectile launcher 1210 to ensure that safe air pressure levels are maintained during operation of the foam projectile launcher 1210. An air pressure of about 40-60 PSI is adequate for satisfactory operation of the projectile launcher

1210.

Referring now to FIG. 13, the solenoid valve 1220 is preferably positioned in the central portion of the main body 1242 adjacent the rear end 1230 of the launch tube 1216. A 2- way N.C. direct lift diaphragm valve is preferred, although a wide variety of other commercially available solenoid valves may also be used. The solenoid valve is connected to the charge reservoir 1258 via a coupler 1272, threaded into the plate 1260, as shown.

The nozzle 1274 preferably comprises an ejector exhaust muffler. This particular nozzle has a plurality of discharge apertures arranged in an annular pattern such that the resulting streams of air are concentrated in a narrow band over a relatively long distance. The nozzle body is preferably made of zinc-plated steel or other corrosion resistant material A nylon collimator insert is provided within the nozzle body interposed between the inlet and outlet thereof in other to collimate the air flow stream. An optional extension sleeve 1275 may be fitted on the end of the nozzle 1274 to help direct the air stream behind the ball and/or to keep the ball from rolling backwards. This may be, for example, a simple polyethylene tube cut to a suitable length.

In operation, the nozzle 1274 emits a stream of high-velocity air flow in a narrow annular band pattern. The stream of high-velocity air impinges on the ball 1218, effecting momentum transfer from the high velocity air flow to the initially stationary ball 1218. Preferably the discharge air flow is of sufficient velocity so as to impart significant motion to the ball 1218, but not so high a velocity as to damage the ball 1218 or pose a danger to play participants who may get in the path of the ball 1218 or the discharge air flow. This may be adjusted by regulating the input air pressure and/or by selecting an appropriate nozzle having a suitable exit velocity and discharge band pattern.

Advantageously, this particular embodiment of the present invention uses momentum transfer to accelerate the ball 1218 rather than pressure. This obviates the need to provide an air-tight seal between the ball 1218 and the launch tube 1216. Also, it is not necessary to close off the end 1230 of the launch tube 1216 during firing, as with conventional air guns. Thus, for example, no complicated breach-closure mechanism is required to close off the feed tube 1214 during firing, as with a conventional air gun. This simplifies the design greatly and provides additional durability and safety for users since there are less moving parts to wear out or pose a hazard to fingers or hands inserted into the feed tube 1214. This unique configuration also enables the exit velocity of the projectile to be more precisely regulated, providing additional safety.

A firing circuit (not shown), could be used to operate the solenoid 1220. The firing circuit is preferably powered by a low voltage power source (not shown), such as 12 NDC. This may be external or internal to the housing 1212, as desired. A pair of mounting members 1226 are provided for attachment to a swivel-mounted base or pedestal. The mounting members 1226 are spaced apart horizontally, and are preferably located at a point along the longitudinal axis of the housing 1212 such that the foam projectile launcher is approximately neutrally balanced. That is, the weight of the foam projectile launcher 1210 distal the members 1226 is approximately equal to the weight of the foam projectile launcher proximal the members, so that the projectile launcher 1210 may be easily manipulated by play participants. A bearing member (not shown) extends through openings 1228 of the mounting members 1226 such that the projectile launcher 1210 may be rotated in a vertical plane about the bearing member and swiveled in a horizontal plane about a swivel- mounted base (not shown). Alternatively, other mounting arrangements may be used such as are known to those skilled in the art to allow the play participant to direct the trajectory of the balls launched from the foam projectile launcher 1210.

A pair of handles 1224 are provided on the rear of the housing 1212, as shown, to enable play participants to easily manipulate the projectile launcher. The handles are formed on an end cap 1248 at the proximal end of the housing 1212. Alternatively, other means may be provided for gripping the projectile launcher 1210, such as a knob, rifle grip, pistol grip or the like. Appropriately sized holes are provided on the sides of the main body 1242 for attachment of the air supply and electric feed lines 1254, 1256. The ends of the tubes are welded to the main body 1242.

As noted above, the launch tube 1216 and feed tube 1214 are preferably constructed of clear acrylic or other suitable material. The cylinders 1214, 1216 are preferably sized so as to allow free passage of the balls 1218 through the tubes with little frictional resistance. The feed tube 1214 is preferably about 12 inches long, and the launch tube 1216 is preferably about 24 inches long. The lower end of the feed tube 1214 is coped or shaped to mate with a corresponding opening 1250 formed on the upper surface of the end 1230 of the launch tube 1216, as shown.

A mount sleeve 1232 is used to attach the feed tube 1214 to an opening 1234 at the top of the housing 1212. The launch tube 1216 is secured to the housing via a similar mount sleeve 1238 mated to a middle section 1236 of the launch tube 1216 and secured by one or more retaining screws 1240. The mount sleeve 1238 preferably extends forward from the main body 1242 of the housing, as shown. An optional bushing or sleeve 1246, may be welded to the interior of the housing 1242 adjacent the sleeve 1238, to snugly receive and support the launch tube 1216. In operation, the projectiles to be launched, in this case foam balls 1218, are inserted into the feed tube 1214. This may be a hand-loading operation, or it may be a continuous feed operation such as via a conduit or basket/hopper (not shown), as desired. The charge reservoir 1258 is then filled with compressed air to power the launcher 1210. To launch the projectile, a play participant pushes the push-button 1222 which activates an electronic firing circuit (not shown). The firing circuit actuates the solenoid 1220. Thus, the ball 1218 is propelled down the launch tube 1216 and launched into the air. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that the firing circuit can be either a "single shot" or "multiple/repeating shot" as desired.

Although this invention has been disclosed in the context of certain preferred embodiments and examples, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that the present invention extends beyond the specifically disclosed embodiments to other alternative embodiments and/or uses of the invention and obvious modifications and equivalents thereof. Thus, it is intended that the scope of the present invention herein disclosed should not be limited by the particular disclosed embodiments described above, but should be determined only by a fair reading of the claims that follow.

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Classifications
International ClassificationA63G21/22, A63G31/00
Cooperative ClassificationA63G31/007, A63G21/22, A63G7/00
European ClassificationA63G21/22, A63G31/00W, A63G7/00
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