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Q: Infrared Communication between Toys ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Infrared Communication between Toys
Category: Science > Technology
Asked by: chil709-ga
List Price: $200.00
Posted: 25 Mar 2004 12:04 PST
Expires: 24 Apr 2004 13:04 PDT
Question ID: 320472

I'm re-listing this question, because I wanted to change the way in
which it was asked.  This is my first time asking a question, so
hopefully no one minds.
(original question:

As for the question;  I'm looking for legal proof that the idea of
two-way infrared communication between toys was around before April 1
of 1996.

This could be in the form of a published paper, an article in a
science journal, a magazine piece, or even a website.

It simply must describe two or more toys communicating via infrared
transmission, in order to bring about an action/reaction in each

The following article, accepted for publication April 4th, 1996,
describes an idea for programmable LEGO bricks and specifically says
that they would use IR to communicate with each other.  An article of
this caliber would be a very good answer, and would be exactly what I
need.  Unfortunately, it misses the deadline by a mere four days.

Of course, one place to look would be at the first production toys
that used this technology.  The earliest I know of is "Talkin' Tots"
produced by Play by Play in 1997.  It is described as follows:

	"Talkin' Tots, by Play By Play, is a set of interactive dolls that
	talk to one another. The child squeezes a doll's hand, and it speaks
	to the other doll, which answers back. Each doll speaks three times
	per exchange. They also sing."

(quoted from this site)


- The Lazer Tag games that use IR, and were around as early as the
1980's, have been looked into, and do not qualify for our purpose.

- There is a possibility that the requested information does not
exist.  It is because of this that I have set the price at the allowed
maximum of $200.  Hopefully, this will be enough of an incentive for
someone to spend some time researching.

- I?m asking that this be open for clarification, so that I can
elaborate on the question, and ask for follow-up or more research,
depending on the response I get.

Thank you,

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 25 Mar 2004 17:06 PST

WOW, is this one ever frustrating!  Hard to believe you've come so
close, but haven't been able to cross that magic April 1 dividing

I've been giving this a good look, and some thought, and have a
question or two, if you don't mind:

--Isn't an April 4, 1996 publication proof that the idea existed
before 4/1/66, since it generally takes months (or longer) for a paper
to be accepted.

--I found a reference to 1995 (and earlier) toys with infrared inputs
and outputs.  Conceptually, that can be construed as infrared
communication, but so far, the actual description of the toys
"communicating" is still eluding me.  Would this reference be useful,
just the same?

I just wanted to get your feedback on these things.  Thanks.

Subject: Re: Infrared Communication between Toys
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 25 Mar 2004 18:27 PST
Rated:4 out of 5 stars

Mitchel Resnick, one of the authors of the paper you linked to in your
question -- a paper that would be "exactly what you need" if only it
was published a few days earlier -- also published a very similar
paper in 1993.  The 1993 paper, entitled, "Behavior Construction
Kits", describes the programmable Lego bricks, two-way infrared
communication between the bricks, and even contains the list of
"Twenty Things to Do...".

However...this was the frustrating part...the paper didn't appear to
be available anywhere on the web, until I remembered the glorious site
called the The Wayback Machine, which houses the Internet Archives:

Resnick's 1993 paper can be found here:

Nothing like a old toy to really have fun with.  It should be exactly
what you need.  Enjoy.

If you have any questions about this answer, just let me know, and
I'll be more than happy to assist you further.


search strategy:  many variations of searches on Google, Lexis-Nexis,
the Patent Office database and other data sources for the terms 2-way,
two-way, bidirectional, infrared, IR, duplex, Lego, and so on.

The search led to the FAQ's page for the Programmable Bricks, at:

which included a dead link to Resnick's 1993 paper.  A subsequent
search for that link at the Wayback Machine turned up the

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 25 Mar 2004 18:29 PST
The link:

doesn't appear to be clickable in the answer here, so you'll have to
copy it and paste it in your browser address box to get to the link.

Request for Answer Clarification by chil709-ga on 29 Mar 2004 13:54 PST

Thanks for the good and speedy answer!  Very clever search strategy
using the wayback machine.  You answered the question exactly as

Before we put this one away, I'm wondering if you would be willing to
use what you've already discovered to help further.

I'm asking this question on behalf of someone else, and in
communicating the results of your answer, I've been further informed
into the problem.  As it turns out, the reasoning behind the question
is a patent issued in April 1997.
The patent is number 6,309,275, and I assume it's by the inventor of
the Talking Tots.

The abstract to the patent is as follows:

A set of interactive toys that perform a sequence of actions in
response to one another without external activation other than an
initial actuation to begin the sequence of actions. Preferably, each
toy has an activation switch and/or a receiver for a wireless signal
such as an infrared signal which activates the toy. Upon activation,
the toy performs a desired action, such as the enunciation of a speech
pattern, and signals another toy to perform a responsive action.
Preferably, the toy are capable of performing several different action
sequences, such as the enunciation of different conversations, the
performance of different A movements, etc. Additionally, the toys are
programmable by a remote control device. The remote control device
either functions as an activation switch, initiating a random or
predetermined (yet not user determined) sequence of interactions, or
as an interaction selector, such that a desired sequence of actions
may be selected.

Because of the obviousness of this patent, the thought was that there
resides a good possibility of a previously published description of
the same type of toy interaction.  (It has to be more than a year
prior, hence before April 96).  Your search into the LEGO bricks shows
us that the idea of toys communicating with IR was not original.  The
next step would be searching to see if the idea of call-and-response
toys was not original either.

I am not hinging your payment on the completion of this, but any
additional research you could give would be greatly appreciated.

If you need additional clarification or direction please let me know.

Thanks again,

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 29 Mar 2004 15:06 PST
I'm glad to hear that the answer worked out for you.  

As for your follow-up, it may well be that Resnick and his colleagues
are, once again the best source for you (and...once again...the
wayback machine is the only way to get their old papers).  They played
around with all sorts of bi-directional inputs and outputs for toys,
and certainly weren't restricted to infrared.

Have a look at their 1991 paper on Braitenburg creatures (itself based
on a 1984 book) which is on Wayback at:

Note that the "next" "up" and "previous" buttons are used to navigate
through the document.

Here's some relevant excerpts:


Braitenberg Creatures
David W. Hogg, Fred Martin, Mitchel Resnick 
MIT Media Laboratory 

--This paper describes 12 autonomous ``creatures'' built with
Electronic Bricks. Electronic Bricks are specially-modified LEGO
bricks with simple electronic circuits inside. Although each
Electronic Brick is quite simple, the bricks can be combined to form
robotic creatures with interesting and complex behaviors, similar to
the fictional machines described in Valentino Braitenberg's book
Vehicles (1984).

--In Vehicles, Braitenberg describes a set of thought experiments in
which increasingly complex vehicles are built from simple mechanical
and electronic components. Each of these imaginary vehicles in some
way mimics intelligent behavior, and each one is given a name that
corresponds to the behavior it imitates: ``Fear,'' ``Love,''
``Values,'' ``Logic,'' etc. Braitenberg uses these thought experiments
to explore psychological ideas and the nature of intelligence.
Progressing through the book, the reader sees very intricate behaviors
emerge from the interaction of simple component parts. In a sense,
Braitenberg ``constructs'' intelligent behavior---a process he calls
``synthetic psychology.''

--Electronic Bricks are LEGO bricks in which we have placed digital
electronic circuits with inputs and outputs. They fall into three
categories: action bricks (such as motor bricks), sensor bricks (such
as threshold sound sensors), and logic bricks (such as and bricks).
When connected by a wire, the output of one brick controls the input
of another.

{and here'sa direct example of interaction]

--4.2 Attractive and Repulsive

The leading and following pair

This example actually involves two Braitenberg creatures. 

Attractive is a creature with one motor brick and a threshold light
sensor pointing towards the rear. The threshold light sensor's output
goes to the power input of the motor. It drives forward when the
sensor's output is on. Attractive is a very quick vehicle.

Repulsive is a slow creature with one motor brick and a bank of bright
lights. It continually drives forward. When Repulsive's lights get
sufficiently close to Attractive's threshold light sensor, the output
of the sensor will turn on, and Attractive will move.

Imagine that Attractive and Repulsive are set down in a line, with
Repulsive facing Attractive's back. Repulsive will drive slowly
forward until its lights come within the range of Attractive's sensor.
The sensor's output will turn on and Attractive will run quickly away
from Repulsive until it is out of range and so the motor stops again.
Soon, however, Repulsive will have come within range again.


There are descriptions of other types of interactive toy bricks as well.

Hope this does the trick for you (and your client).  Let me know. 

chil709-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
I am rating the answer with 4 stars bacause it wasn't 100% what we
were looking for, but it did answer the question as asked.  The goal
behind the question is an elusive one, and it will be difficult if not
impossible to achieve, because it is unlikely that a concrete example
of all the required funcionality exists in one place.

Thank you for your time and your enthusiasm in this topic.

There are no comments at this time.

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