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CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION
This application incorporates by reference, and claims priority to and the benefit of, German patent application Ser. No. 102005014709.7, which was filed on Mar. 31,2005, the entire disclosure of which is hereby incorporated herein by refer
The present invention relates to a shoe for receiving a housing of an electronic assembly and to a housing for receiv- 15 ing an electronic assembly.
Professional athletes, as well as amateurs, desire in an 2o increasing number of sports to electronically keep track of their athletic performance. For example, electronic speedometers with a plurality of functions are nowadays standard equipment for every ambitious race or mountain biker. Small computers are also used for running to count the number of 2s steps, the speed, and thus the covered distance, and can provide additional information.
Whereas it is comparatively easy to mount a computer to a bicycle, there exists a problem in the case of running. On the one hand, the computer should somehow be connected to the 30 shoe in order to reliably detect the steps of the athlete using, for example, a contact sensor, a shock sensor, or an accelerometerinthe shoe sole. On the other hand, the computer must be protected against humidity and mechanical damage. Further, the computer should be easily accessible to view the 35 recorded data and to perform inputs, if desired, or to connect the computer to a PC for further evaluating the measured data.
A similar problem occurs if a runner intends to carry other types of computers, such as, for example, a MP3 player. Although it is generally possible to attach such an electronic 40 assembly to the body using a strap or the like, such an attachment can be uncomfortable and impede movement of the wearer during a high performance activity.
There are many approaches known from the prior art as to how to attach computers to a shoe. For example, U.S. Pat. 45 Nos. 6,536,139 and 6,278,378 and Japanese Publication No. 60 200120, the entire disclosures of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference, disclose arrangements where the computer is attached to the laces or the tongue of the shoe. A modification of this design is disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 50 4,649,552 and 6,183,425, Japanese Publication No. 60 84689, and PCT Publication No. WO 88/04768, the entire disclosures of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference, where a sensor is integrated into the sole region. The computer, which processes the signals of the sensor to pro- 55 vide useful data, is again arranged in the region of the laces and/or on the instep. U.S. Pat. No. 4,771,394, the entire disclosure of which is hereby incorporated herein by reference, discloses a system where the computer is attached to the heel of the shoe. 60
All of these arrangements of a computer on a shoe have, however, the disadvantage that the sensitive electronic components of the computer are protected insufficiently against damage. When the runner stumbles or falls, there is a significant risk that the housing of the computer, which is typically 65 made from plastic materials, is subjected to mechanical loads that it can not withstand. Protective coatings, which can be
effective, are excluded, since the electronic assembly would reach a size and weight impairing performance of the wearer when the electronic assembly is arranged on the outside of the shoe.
There is, therefore, a need for a shoe that can securely receive an electronic assembly, such as an electronic pedometer, an accelerometer, or a speed sensor, and that overcomes the above discussed disadvantages of the prior art. Furthermore, there is a need for a housing that can securely retain an electronic assembly on a shoe, such that the electronic assembly is permanently protected against damage.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The problem is solved, in part, by releasably integrating not only a sensor, but a complete electronic assembly, such as a pedometer, an accelerometer, a speed sensor, a MP3 player, or any arbitrary electronic assembly into the shoe sole. Using a cable or a wireless transmission, an additional user interface may be connected to the electronic assembly to allow inputs or the reading of measured data even during operation.
The present invention is based on the realization that the required circuits for electronic assemblies have become smaller and can, therefore, be easily arranged in a recess of the sole of a shoe without significantly affecting the functional properties of the sole (e.g., cushioning and support). At the same time, the electronic assembly is completely enclosed and, therefore, perfectly protected against mechanical impacts. An arrangement in a recess of the sole is also aesthetically pleasing, since the housing of the electronic assembly can not be recognized from the outside.
Since the housing is not permanently integrated into the sole, but only releasably arranged in the recess, it is always possible to replace the housing to, for example, exchange a faulty electronic assembly, exchange the battery, or remove the housing and its electronic assembly from the recess so that it can be connected to a PC or the like for a further evaluation of the data.
The detachable arrangement of the housing also makes the replacement of one electronic assembly for another electronic assembly having a different functionality easy. A unit for detection of a running movement by counting steps or measuring accelerations can thus be exchanged directly against another assembly, for example, a GPS receiver for position determination, a pulse sensor, or other electronic function units. The exchangeability is particularly desirable in the context of an intelligent shoe, where the cushioning properties of the sole can be changed under the control of an electronic control unit. If this control unit is defective, needs to be provided with new firmware, or needs to be exchanged for a more recent model, a mounting arrangement in accordance with the invention can be used in a particularly effective manner. It is also possible for the assembly to be removed in order to exchange, read, expand, etc., the memory of the electronic assembly.
In one aspect, the invention relates to an article of footwear having an upper and a sole unit attached to the upper. The upper forms a cavity for receiving a wearer's foot. The sole unit includes a recess for releasably receiving a housing of an electronic assembly. The recess is at least partially accessible through the cavity of the upper. The upper can be essentially any conventional upper for receiving a wearer's foot, including straps or other structure for surrounding the wearer's foot. In one embodiment, the sole unit includes a tub-like structure for forming the recess.
In various embodiments, the article of footwear includes the housing and the electronic assembly disposed therein. The