The present invention relates to a calendar-type media
device comprising a housing having a user interface that comprises a plurality of
actuable elements, each actuable element representing a distinct event, and means
for providing media content such as sound, light, text or combinations thereof.
Calendar-type devices of the above-mentioned type are known
in the art. In a popular embodiment, such devices are known as "advent calendars",
which usually comprise shallow containers or trays comprising a multiplicity of
compartments or grooves for confectionery or candy, each compartment being closed
by a small flap or door which can be opened by the user to access the confectionery
housed in the compartment. Usually, advent calendars have 24 or 25 compartments
corresponding to the days from December 1st to Christmas Eve (December
24th) or Christmas Day (December 25th), respectively. Instead
of confectionery, these compartments may also house other three-dimensional objects
such as toys. In other embodiments of advent calendars, there are no compartments
at all and each flap covers a particular image typically associated with Christmas.
While the advent calendar is the most popular embodiment
of such calendar-type devices, other embodiments may be associated with events such
as birthdays, wedding days etc. Such calendar-type devices may also be associated
with specific time periods such as holidays, football or motor sports seasons and
the like. As a matter of course, the time increments between each distinct event
do not necessarily have to correspond to days as in the case of an advent calendar,
but may also be associated with weeks or months or, in sports-related calendars,
with specific predetermined competition days. As another example, the calendar may
also be associated with a pregnancy period. Further, the calendar-type device does
not necessarily have to be associated with events in time at all. Rather, each actuable
element may, for example, also be associated with specific persons, members of a
sports team, e.g. a football team or various teams taking part in an international
championship, etc. The calendar-type device may also be related to a specific theme
such as, e.g. historical, geographical or scientific issues.
As a matter of course, the form factor of the calendar-type
device may be adapted to a specific theme, e.g. when geographical issues are addressed,
the device does not necessarily have to be made in a tabular form but may, for example,
be made in the form of a globe.
Suggestions have been made to improve this kind of calendar
device by adding sound or music. For example,
describes a combined merchandise display, sound reproducing device and
insignia supporting unit which comprises a calendar-type device and a sound generator
housed within the device.
EP-A-0 253 003
describes a calendar-type wall calendar for confectionery which houses
a musical device in its interior.
However, these known calendar-type devices suffer from
the drawback that only a single sound or musical theme is associated with the device
so that these devices tend to become stale when used over a prolonged period of
It is therefore the object of the present invention to
provide a calendar-type device of the above-referenced type which offers a greater
variety of interesting and more appealing features to the user and which can nonetheless
be manufactured cost-effectively.
This object is achieved by providing a calendar-type device
as defined in present claim 1. Preferred embodiments of the present invention are
subject to the dependent claims.
Consequently, the present invention relates to a calendar-type
device comprising: a housing having a user interface, said user interface comprising
at least one actuable element, said at least one actuable element representing a
plurality of distinct events; means for providing a plurality of distinct media
content; at least one output means for reproducing said media content; at least
one micro-controller; and at least one source of electrical energy; wherein said
at least one actuable element, said means for providing media content, said means
for reproducing said media content and said source of electrical energy are electrically
connected to said micro-controller, said micro-controller being adapted to identify
the actuation of any one of said distinct actuable elements, to associate a specific
media content with said actuated element and to control the output of said media
content via said output means. According to the invention, a single actuable element
which is temporally associated with different distinct events may be provided. Preferably,
however, the device of the present invention comprises a plurality of actuable elements,
each actuable element representing a distinct event.
Accordingly, each distinct event represented by an actuable
element is associated with a specific media content which may, for example, be a
sound such as a musical recording; light, for example, flashing lights; or other
media content including videos or, for example, text messages and combinations thereof.
For example, in an advent calendar, the distinct events may be associated to different
Christmas carols and the light effects may represent candles, decorated Christmas
trees, lighted houses, etc., while in a geographical calendar, the musical themes
may for instance be national anthems and the lights may highlight the borders or
capitals of the respective countries or may show the flags of these countries. It
has to be noted, however, that in the present invention, the term "media content"
shall comprise not only acoustical or visual effects but may relate to any human
sense. Thus, the calendar-type device of the invention may also release olfactory
information, e.g. fragrances comprised in scratchable layers associated with said
The micro-controller implemented in the calendar-type device
of the present invention enables the implementation of a variety of features associated
with each distinct event, thus enhancing the attractiveness and desirability of
such devices considerably. As the micro-controller is a programmable device, one
and the same assembly of the calendar-type device of the invention may easily be
adapted to differently configured multi-media calendars, thus further reducing production
costs in the long run.
A variety of actuable elements known in the art may be
implemented in the calendar-type media device of the present invention, including
movement sensors such as infrared sensors for detecting e.g. the approach of a user's
finger. Preferably, however, the actuable elements comprise electrical switches
which are responsive to an action of the user. Those switches may, for example,
consist of electrical press buttons which are actuated directly by the user.
Advantageously, the actuable elements comprise moveable
doors or flaps which are preferably pivotally arranged on the surface of the housing
of the calendar-type device. According to one embodiment, opening these doors or
flaps may provide access to the actuable elements arranged behind each door. According
to another embodiment, these doors or flaps may be directly connected to the electrical
switches in such a way that opening a door will directly actuate the respective
switch. In order to facilitate opening of the doors or flaps, they many comprise
a hinge side and a press area arranged at the opposite side of said hinge side.
According to a preferred embodiment, the press area comprises two converging slit.
Under the press area, a recess or opening may be foreseen which allows the press
area to be depressed below the upper face of the calendar so that the user can grip
the opposite side of the hinge side of the flap with a finger nail or finger tip
in order to turn the flap upwards around it's hinge side.
In a stand-alone embodiment of the present invention, the
means for providing media content comprise a storage means arranged within said
housing. Depending on the amount of media content stored in the device of the present
invention, the storage means may be part of the on-board storage of the micro-controller.
For storing larger media data, additional storage means such as semiconductor-based
storage means, for example, a flash memory, or small hard discs such as microdrives
may be employed.
According to a further embodiment of the present invention,
the calendar-type device is provided with means for receiving remote media content,
for example, via wired or wireless LAN or via a Bluetooth-, a Firewire- or a USB-interface.
In this embodiment, different media content representing distinct events can be
provided in real time.
Consequently, a single actuable element may be provided
on the calendar-type device of the present invention which is adapted to represent
different distinct events temporally while media content associated with each of
said distinct events is provided and controlled by the remote host.
The means for providing and/or storing media content and
the micro-controller are implemented in a programmable integrated circuit which
preferably includes a sound processor such as a music synthesizer.
The output means comprises at least one loudspeaker and/or
at least one display such as a liquid crystal display, a light-emitting diode (LED)
display or an organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display. Such a display may be
employed to show videos, images, text such as lyrics of a concurrently played song,
and the like. The device of the present invention may also comprise at least one
light source which is controlled by said micro-controller. Preferably, the light
source is synchronized with a concurrently reproduced audio content. According to
a preferred embodiment, the at least one light source comprises a light-emitting
diode arranged in the housing and a plurality of light-guiding fibres, each having
one of their ends arranged in proximity to said light-emitting diode and the other
end terminating in the surface of said housing.
In another embodiment of the invention, the display unit
will also provide the actuable elements of the device. To this end, a so-called
touch-screen display can be used which is configured by suitable software such that
certain areas of the display correspond to certain distinct events. This embodiment
of the calendar-type device of the invention would easily be adaptable to a large
variety of themes, visual and sound effects by merely changing the software stored
in the device.
According to another preferred embodiment of the present
invention, the housing is made of printed cardboard folded and glued or otherwise
bonded into a box-like shape. Preferably, a solid insert made from a lightweight
but sufficiently rigid plastic material, such as polystyrene, is snugly fit into
the housing. The solid insert is provided with recesses or depressions for housing
the electrical components of the device of the invention such as micro-controllers,
an energy source, output means and storage means. Accordingly, the electrical arrangement
of the media-device is well protected, especially during shipping and rough usage.
As a matter of course, instead of a box-like shape, the housing may have any particular
shape desired. For instance, the shape may refer to a particular theme or event
of the calendar, e.g. an advent calendar may have an outer contour of a Christmas
tree, a wreath, a bell, etc.
The device of the present invention may be implemented
in the same manner as any kind of theme calendar, such as those mentioned above,
in which distinct events are associated with a set of particular features of a given
theme. Preferably, however, the distinct events represented by said actuable elements
are certain distinct dates, e.g. as in an advent calendar, the days from December
1st to Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
The present invention will now be described in more detail
with respect to an advent calendar as a particular embodiment of the invention.
This embodiment is depicted on the attached drawings.
In these drawings
- Fig. 1
- shows a schematic perspective view of an advent calendar of the present invention;
- Fig. 2
- shows a plan view of the box-shaped insert of the calendar of fig. 1;
- Fig. 3
- shows a cross-section view of a press-button of the calendar of fig. 1;
- Fig. 4
- shows a paper card with openings, which can be arranged on the upper side of
the box-shaped insert of figure 2;
- Fig. 5
- shows a preferred profile of the flaps of the advent calendar; and
- Fig. 6
- shows an underside view of an opening of the paper card of figure 4.
Figure 1 depicts advent calendar 10 which comprises a housing
11 made from printed cardboard material and arranged in the form of a rectangular
container. On the upper surface 12 of housing 11, twenty-four rectangular openings
13, corresponding to the days from December 1st to Christmas Eve, and
a multiplicity of small circular openings 14 are provided. Additional circular openings
15 and 16 with a larger diameter are provided in the lower corners of the upper
surface 12. Each rectangular opening 13 is closed by a door or flap 17 pivotally
arranged at one corner of opening 13 (for the sake of clarity, only one flap 17
is depicted in fig. 1). Each opening 13 is provided with a closed bottom 18 on which
individual images relating to e.g. Christmas themes may be printed. Underneath the
printed bottom layer 18, user-actuable press buttons 19,which will be described
with reference to fig. 3 in more detail below, are arranged. The smaller circular
openings 14 are arranged in correspondence to light-emitting surfaces of one or
more light sources 20 and 21 (c.f. fig. 2), which are arranged in housing 11 to
enable the display of visual effects on the upper surface 12 of calendar 11. The
larger circular openings 15 and 16 are arranged in correspondence to loudspeakers
22 and 23 arranged underneath said openings 15 and 16 to enable the emission of
sound and music from calendar 10.
In the embodiment of figure 1, a polystyrene cube-shaped
box 24 that fits snugly into housing 11 is shown partially extracted from the housing
11. As can be more clearly seen in the plan view figure 2, the polystyrene box 24
bears four printed circuit board (PCB) strips 25, 26, 27 and 28. On each PCB-strip
six press buttons 19 are arranged to make up an array of twenty-four press buttons
corresponding to the aforementioned twenty-four rectangular openings 13 when box
24 is arranged in housing 11.
Insertable box 24 further houses an electronic circuit
29 which includes one or more integrated circuits (ICs) comprising a micro-controller
30 and means for storing audio and/or video data and for generating audio and/or
video signals from said stored data using, for example, a music synthesizer module.
In the embodiment depicted in figures 1-3, the generated audio signals are transferred
to loudspeakers 22 and 23, which generate the corresponding sound or music. Each
of loudspeakers 22 and 23 is preferably surrounded by a layer of a flexible cellular
material 31 and 32, which acoustically decouples loudspeakers 22 and 23 from polystyrene
box 24, thus improving the sound quality of the advent calendar.
Micro-controller 30 further controls light sources 20 and
21 by switching the light sources on and off in accordance with a programmed sequence.
In the preferred embodiment depicted in the drawings, fibre optical light guides
33 are arranged on the surface of polystyrene box 24 with one end of each light
guide terminating at one of the light sources and the other end terminating at one
of the openings 14 arranged in surface 12 of housing 11 (when box 24 is arranged
in said housing). For reasons of clarity, however, only one of said fibre optical
light guides 33 is shown in figure 2. Consequently, each light source 20, 21 enables
the illumination of one subset of openings 14. Depending on the desired visual effects,
a large number of illuminated openings 14 may be provided. Typically, between 10
and 100 illuminated openings are provided in an advent calendar. Preferably, light
sources 20 and 21 consist of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) of different colours,
e.g. of red, green, yellow and/or blue LEDs. More than one LED of a given colour
may be provided, thus enabling the illumination of the different sub-sets of openings
14 at different times with the same colour. Micro-controller 30 may also enable
the control of the LEDs in accordance with beat and/or pitch of a concurrently replayed
Polystyrene box 24 further houses a source of electrical
energy, typically one or more batteries 34. Batteries 34 may be rechargeable or
non-rechargeable, as well as replaceable or non-replaceable. Preferably, replaceable
AAA or AA batteries are used.
Accordingly, the device of the present invention enables
the reproduction of a wide range of intricate visual and sound patterns. As a matter
of course, instead of using a limited number of LEDs whose light is guided via optical
fibres to a multiplicity of openings 14, a one- or, preferably, two-dimensional
array of LEDs arranged on the surface of polystyrene box 24 in correspondence with
the openings 14 may also be employed to generate the desired visual patterns.
As shown in figure 1, the calendar may be provided with
a test button 35 which allows the user to evaluate the calendar in a store before
purchasing it. Therefore, test button 35 is accessible without opening the packing
or even opening a flap. In a preferred embodiment, actuation of test button 35 will
cause excerpts of several songs to be played. In addition, some visual effects might
As can also be taken from figure 1, an ON/OFF switch 36
may be foreseen. Switch 36 may, e.g. by means of a slider 37, assume at least two
different conditions. In the OFF condition, only test button 36 is active while
buttons 19 on the upper side of box 24 are disabled thus avoiding a risk of unintended
playback during transportation and handling. In the ON condition, button 35 is disabled,
but the product's main function, i.e. the twenty four switches 19 are active. Consequently,
media effects will only be displayed upon opening a flap and actuating the respective
button. Thus, disabling test switch 36 in the ON condition avoids the user to become
detracted by the test functionality during regular use of the advent calendar. As
a matter of course, in another embodiment, one may also provide a switch which can
assume three different conditions, namely ON/OFF/TEST, where all buttons are disabled
in the OFF condition and only test button 36 is active in the TEST condition. In
the embodiment of figure 1, ON/OFF switch 36 is located on a side wall of the calendar.
As a matter of course, any other location, e.g. on the rear face in close proximity
to a battery casing or integrated within a battery casing, is also possible.
According to a preferred embodiment of the invention, the
advent calendar is constructed in such a manner that actuation of a given press
button 19 is prevented when the corresponding flap 17 is closed. A first preferred
arrangement of press buttons 19 which prevents an unintentional actuation of buttons
19 is depicted in figure 3. Figure 3 shows a cross-sectional view of a press button
19 which is arranged on PCB-strip 25, which in turn is supported on the surface
of polystyrene box 24. Each press button 19 is surrounded by a ring 38 made from
a relatively rigid cardboard material which is thicker than the press button itself
(e.g. cardboard ring 38 may have a typical thickness of 2.0 mm while press button
19 has a height between 1 and 1.5 mm). Ring 38 and press button 19 are bonded to
the PCB-strip 25. As indicated in figure 3, press button 19 is recessed in housing
11, which, according to the embodiment of figure 3, is made from a two-layer structure
comprising an outer layer 39 and an inner layer 40. The relatively rigid outer layer
39 forms the upper surface 12 of housing 11. The outer layer 39 further comprises
the cut-out openings 13 and pivotally arranged flaps 17 for closing the openings
13. The pliable inner layer 40 forms the bottom 18 of opening 13 and is accessible
to the user once flap 17 is in an open position as depicted in figure 3. In the
depicted open position, the user can depress the pliable inner layer 40 in order
to actuate press button 19. When flap 17 is closed, however, housing 11 is rigid
enough to prevent a depression of the two-layer housing structure so that press
button 19 cannot be actuated under usual handling conditions.
Playback of music and light effects can be initiated and
stopped by actuating the appropriate press button associated with a distinct day.
There may also be an additional press button (not depicted in the figures) to stop
media reproduction. Further, the device may also comprise a master switch to turn
the power source on and off.
Figure 4 depicts a second preferred arrangement which prevents
an unintentional actuation of the buttons 19 of the polystyrene box 24 of figures
1 and 2. According to the second embodiment, the cardboard rings 35 are essentially
replaced by a single paper card 41. Paper card 41, which is provided with twenty-four
openings 42 matching the twenty-four press buttons 19, is arranged fixed on the
upper side of polystyrene box 24. As will be described in more detail below, these
openings 42 are configured to facilitate the opening of the flaps or doors 17 and
to allow access to the respective press button 19 after opening the corresponding
Most commercially available calendar surfaces are flexible. In order to open a flap,
those calendars rely on two handed operation intended to flex the entire calendar
surface in order to cause a partial surface of one or more flaps to protrude allowing
the user to anchor a finger or at least a fingernail. This not very user-friendly
concept is no longer applicable with the calendar of the present invention, where
housing 11 is essentially rigid due to both the thickness of material employed for
forming the housing and the polystyrene box-shaped insert 24. Thus, a further objective
of the present invention is to create a user friendly mechanism for opening flaps
17 which is simple, intuitive and effective.
According to the present invention, each opening 42 is
comprised by a circular section 43, essentially corresponding to the location of
the associated press button 19, and a trunconical section 44, which corresponds
to a press section of the associated overlying flap 17.
A preferred profile of the flaps 17 arranged in housing
11 (or in a two layer embodiment of housing 11: in the outer layer 39 of housing
11) is depicted in figure 5. In addition to a main section 45, which may have a
circular or, as in the embodiment of figure 5, an essentially rectangular form,
a press area 46 is foreseen along the outside of the flap edge directly opposite
the flap hinge 47. The press area 46 is delimited by two converging slits 46a, 46b.
In a two layer embodiment of housing 11, similar slits may be arranged in the inner
layer 40 (c.f. figure 3) in correspondence with slits 46a, 46b arranged in the outer
As can be seen in figure 6, showing an underside view of
an opening 42 in paper card 41 and parts of an overlying flap 17, press area 46
of flap 17 is arranged above the trunconical section 44 of opening 42. Accordingly,
when the user presses on this area 46, the slits 46a, 46b create structural lines
along which the housing surface flexes and surrenders to the downward force. As
the main section 45 of flap 11 does not move, its edge 48 directly adjacent to the
press area 46 is exposed. The dimensions of the converging slits 46a, 46b in housing
11 and of the corresponding opening 42 in paper card 41, as well as the thickness
of paper card 41 and the weight and properties of the housing 11 are all configured
so that the exposed edge 48 is large enough to accommodate a fingernail or fingertip
of the user. Afterwards, the user only has to lift and rotate the entire flap.
While conventional advent calendars are single-use disposable
items, it is a further object of the present invention to provide an advent calendar
that can be re-used. Accordingly, in a preferred embodiment of the present invention,
means are provided which to ensure that after initial opening, the flaps 17 of the
calendar can reliably be closed again and remain closed thereafter. According to
the embodiment of figure 5, those means comprise two recesses 49, 50 arranged in
the contour of the main section 45 of each flap 17. Thus recesses 49, 50 correspond
to complementary locking taps in housing 11 which created additional areas of resistance
which allow flap 11 to resume its original position, even after being opened several
Conventional advent calendars are provided with a dense
perforation along the hinge side of each flap to allow the flaps to be rotated more
easily and to be torn away afterwards, consistently with the one-advent season use
for those calendars. Due to our more rigid and dense grade of material which is
preferably used for housing 11 of the calendar of the present invention, the present
invention suggests a new configuration of perforations 51 provided on the hinge
side 47 of each flap 11. This new configuration allows for both an improved relieve
of stress associated with the flap rotation in the housing area adjacent to the
hinge 47 and to the flap surface itself, and for an optimised pivotal manipulation
of the flaps. This improves stability and longevity of the flaps and its hinges
thus further fostering reusability of the advent calendar of the invention. According
to one embodiment, the configuration of the perforations 51 on the hinge side 47
is an alternate series of broken and unbroken sections, each section having a length
in the range of 2 to 6 mm, preferably of approximately 4 mm. At each end of hinge
side 47, an unbroken sections having a length in the range of 4 to 8 mm, preferably
6 mm is foreseen.
For mounting the calendar on a wall, a preferred embodiment
not depicted in the drawings foresees that one or more, preferably two flap-like
means with mounting holes are provided on the back side of housing 11. The user
can fold the flap-like means backward, thus allowing a string to be threaded through
the mounting hole in each flap thus allowing the calendar to be fixed to a wall