BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTIONS
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates generally to a method and an apparatus of mounting a platform for holding a work object on a vehicle steering wheel and, in a preferred embodiment thereof, more particularly provides a method and an apparatus for securing and providing the workstation platform for the operation of portable objects such as a portable computer on the vehicle steering wheel, while the vehicle is not in operation. Furthermore, the present invention may improve the operating condition of the object and the ergonomics of an operator.
Traditionally, there was a need for working with notebooks and receipt logs in an automobile for field workers. However, since the last decade of the 20th century, the use of portable computer electronics and mobile devices has proliferated. For reasons of simplicity in describing the present invention, the object in the specification will be limited to the portable computer, although the object to be mounted is not limited to the portable computer; it may include a portable entertainment device, a communication device, or a test and measurement devices.
Many professions perform tasks utilizing portable computers out of the office environment and thus necessitate in-vehicle utilization, only to find an inadequate and uncomfortable work environment, which hinders productivity. This new in-vehicle workstation apparatus requires new workstation environment that is not an adopted concept from the office or borrowed from a lunch tray concept.
- DESCRIPTION OF RELATED ART
The new mobile workstation apparatus for a behind the wheel operation of the portable computer should be easily portable, promote productivity during operation, possess a flexible design that fits ac variety of portable computer models, and be ergonomical. Unlike most current inventions, practical use of the portable computers in the vehicle does not require a flat, horizontal work surface or need a solid work surface. Modern portable computers need a flexible and secure mounting apparatus that can accommodate for multi-dimensional physical access, conforms to cooling requirements of the various computer models, easy to mount and dismount a workstation apparatus and the portable computer, easy to carry around, and ergonomic to use in the parked vehicle without restricting driver functions such as access to vehicle dashboard controls. In present invention, ergonomic is a function of viewing angle, data entry or operation control surface angle, access to other related control for the portable computer, and the dashboard control needs in a parked vehicle.
Typical vehicle steering wheel mounted tables, trays, platforms, or work surface inventions incorporate some method of mounting work surface and another method of setting the portable computer on the mounted work surface.
The mounting methods employed is usually hooks, straps, slots, pockets, sleeves or some variations thereof attached to a work surface. The work surface is usually horizontally flat which requires more horizontal space between the steering wheel and the driver than typically available when a driver of the vehicle is in normal driving position behind the steering wheel. In addition, cramped, flat work surface necessitates uncomfortable arm and hand positions that are not ergonomical.
In a typical driver's sitting position, the most comfortable keyboard data entry position is between 100° to 170° incline at about mid-chest to mid-abdominal level without sliding a driver's seat backward. At this position, a computer user seated on the driver's seat has the best viewing angle of a typical portable computer's screen, which is at or below eye level, about 12 inches away, and approximately perpendicular to the viewing angle. Many modern portable computers have curved surface on the front edge and require access to the left, right and front sides of the portable computer as well as open space for cooling, which requires open space to the front, rear, bottom and sides of the portable computer. Furthermore, many vehicles have an air bag, horn button, and other vehicular controls, which may interfere with past inventions.
Various steering wheel mounted tables, trays, platforms, and other various work surfaces have been developed, but many including the prior arts purposely designed for the use of a portable computer mounted on a vehicle steering wheel have different design concepts and operational philosophy than the present invention.
For instance, U.S. Pat. No. 2,856,251 discloses a car tray having a hanger and an adjustable tray joined by brackets with adjustable locking screws.
The design is not relevant for use of the portable computer in modern vehicles, due to lack of space between the driver and the steering wheel required for having the horizontal tray. Furthermore, the horizontal tray is not an ergonomic work surface for portable computer operation in the vehicle.
U.S. Pat. No. 3,643,606 discloses a table structure for use in motor vehicles. This design also suffers by utilizing a horizontal work surface.
U.S. Pat. No. Des. 319,357 illustrates similar concept to the present invention but it is made of a rigid material and its limited scope of practical use with the modern portable computers. For example, many current portable computers have curved front surface and requires access to the front edge, but Horne's design of ledge excludes stable mounting of a curved front surface and any access to the front surface.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,487,521 discloses a steering wheel mounted support for computer, printer matter, food, and/or beverage. This design is a good improvement from the previous arts but it also suffers from a solid surface and solid ledge. The solid base surface of the clip board may interfere with the air bag bump and may restrict air flow to the bottom of the portable computer. Moreover, the ledge of the tray is a flat, solid material which does not accommodate for a curved front edge found on many portable computers, and it does not allow access to controls and openings on the front edge of the portable computer.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,558,026 describes a foldable lunch tray, which has no relevance to mounting and positioning a portable computer for operation. Use of a combination of flexible and rigid material is of some significance, but as it is specified for use as a collapsible lunch tray, it suffers from the use of a flat horizontal tray for use with the portable computer.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,036,158 shows another lunch tray and work surface combination. But it is positioned too high for practical use of a portable computer mounted on the steering wheel with this design.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,062,145 utilizes the combination of a steering wheel mounting by slot, a ledge on the bottom of the work surface for holding a work device on the platform, and a solid work surface. The design is a good combination of concepts from other prior arts with the tilt adjust bar. However, it still lacks access to the front edge of the modern portable computer, and the ledge design cannot provide a stable platform for curved portable computers. The use of a solid work surface also restricts airflow to the bottom of a portable computer, and easy portability.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,148,738 discloses a steering wheel mountable laptop table. This is a clever tool. However, relying solely on slide resistance material to support a portable computer can be haphazard, and the solid, flat base body may interfere with air bag bump.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,321,912 B1 illustrates similar concepts to U.S. Pat. No. 5,558,026 except it is in a brief case form of a compartment. The utility of this prior art is different to the present invention due to its requirement for a horizontal surface and the enclosed side and front edges of the portable computer precludes any extended portable computer operation due to airflow restriction and access to side and front features. Also, the horizontal surface design is deemed un-ergonomic in behind the wheel operation of a portable computer without substantial readjustment of the driver's seat.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Other prior arts are either not relevant, nor do they present any new significant concepts, and are not geared toward operation of a portable computer.
In carrying out the principles of the present invention in accordance with an embodiment thereof, a method and an apparatus is provided which permits the user to mount the apparatus that can hold the object such as a portable computer onto the vehicle steering wheel at a comfortable and ergonomic position without readjusting seat position from the driving position.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
In broad terms, a method of mounting, hanging, holding or fixing the work object such as the portable computer onto a vehicle steering wheel while providing multi-dimensional access for operation while providing ventilation for the portable computer. Additional features of the present invention allows flexibility to work with an object which has odd shapes, to work on a steering wheel with a protrusion from the center of the steering wheel, and even allows attachment of wrist rests for improved ergonomics for the operator.
For a clearer understanding of the present invention, reference is made to the following description of the various exemplary embodiments of the invention in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which:
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a vehicle steering wheel mounted workstation apparatus.
FIG. 2 illustrates a perspective view of a vehicle steering wheel mounted workstation hanging on the steering wheel ready to support a portable computer on the vehicle steering wheel.
FIG. 3 displays a perspective view of a portable computer user behind the wheel operating the portable computer seated in normal driving position.
FIG. 4A displays rear of present invention illustrating how detachable standoff can be attached to the present invention for a vehicle steering wheel with protrusion on the frontal area of the steering wheel.
FIG. 4B illustrates another method of attaching the detachable standoff to the present invention.
FIG. 4C illustrates how standoffs can allow the steering wheel with frontal protrusion to provide a plane of workstation apparatus platform from a side view.
FIG. 5 is another embodiment of present invention with steering wheel hanging flap, custom-positioned ventilation openings for the portable computer, and the wrist rest loops.
FIG. 6 illustrates another embodiment of present invention with a rigid steering wheel hanging hook, the rigid holders for mounting a portable computer, and length and width adjustment system built into the main body of the present invention.
FIG. 7 illustrates another embodiment of present invention with an adjustable steering wheel hanging strap and loop holders for mounting a portable computer.
FIG. 8 illustrates rigid material embodiment of the present invention with ventilation holes and movable pegs, custom shaped holders, and rotating peg holders.
FIG. 9 illustrates another rigid material embodiment of the present invention with foldout steering wheel hanging hooks, portable computer foldout holders, and foldout standoff. This illustration shows the addition of the wrist rests to be hooked in to main body of the present invention.
FIG. 10 illustrates single main strap based present invention with two adjustable bars with latches.
OBJECTS and ADVANTAGES
FIG. 11 illustrates another rigid main body implementation of the present invention with two corner holders connected by narrow shaped rib ledge, yet it still provides access, airflow, and accommodation for the portable computer with curved front edge.
|Reference Numerals in Drawings: |
| 1 steering wheel hanging strap || 2 main body |
| 3 corner holder || 4 ventilation opening |
| 5 stand off || 6 plane of workstation apparatus platform |
| 7 steering wheel hanging flap || 8 wrist rest loop |
| 9 rigid steering wheel hanging hook ||10 Velcro |
|11 length adjustable system ||12 rigid corner holder |
|13 adjustable steering wheel hanging strap ||14 latch for adjustable strap |
|15 loop corner holder, fixed or adjustable ||16 rigid steering wheel hanging holder |
|17 holder mounting slot ||18 guide slot for shaped holder |
|19 rotating peg corner holder ||20 shaped corner holder |
|21 rotating peg holder ||22 mounting screw for holder |
|23 fold-out steering wheel hanging hook ||24 foldout corner holder |
|25 foldout standoff ||26 wrist rest attach hole |
|27 wrist rest ||28 wrist rest attach hook |
|29 strap ||29a loop corner holder formed by strap |
|30 adjustable bar ||31 latch |
|32 connected corner holders with shaped rib ledge |
|33 hinged corner holder for side access |
Accordingly, several objects and advantages of present invention are a methodology and the apparatus designs that:
1. Accommodates the various shape and size of the portable computers.
2. Provides access to multiple sides of the portable computer for control and operation of the peripherals.
3. Provides open space for airflow around the portable computer for optimal operating conditions.
4. Provides a workable platform even if top of the steering wheel has a protrusion which creates uneven surface area.
5. Allows for a unique ergonomic environment specifically for in-vehicle work situations, which increases productivity.
- DETAILED DESCRIPTION
Further objects and advantages are to provide an apparatus which is easy to attach, and release from, the vehicle steering wheel intuitively without any tools, easy to carry, and which is fool proof to use. Still further objects and advantages will become apparent from a consideration of the ensuing description and drawings.
Illustrated in FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a vehicle steering wheel mounted workstation apparatus, which embodies principles of the present invention. It is shown in a perspective view sketch for the purpose of clarity. Dashed lines are used to show hidden features.
FIG. 1 shows the basic concept of the present invention. It consists of a steering wheel hanging strap 1 to hang present invention onto the steering wheel. The corner holders 3 hold the corners of the portable computer and transfer the weight load to the main body 2. Main body 2 connects a steering wheel hanging strap 1 and the corner holders 3 together and provides a workstation mount mechanism for a portable computer onto the steering wheel as shown in FIG. 2. See FIG. 3 for better rendition of present invention in operation. In present invention, choice of material includes but not limited to fabric, polymers, metal, leather and wood.
Some vehicles have a protrusion on the center frontal surface of the steering wheel for an airbag and/or for horn. Whichever the situation for existence of the protrusion, detachable standoffs 5 can be used as shown in FIG. 4-A or as shown in FIG. 4-B for protrusion clearance needs. The detachability of standoff is shown with Velcro 10 in FIG. 4-A and FIG. 4-B, but multiples of equivalent standoffs 5 can be utilized here.
There are numerous methods available to hang the apparatus to the steering wheel, the steering wheel hanging flap 7 in FIG. 6, a rigid steering wheel hanging hook 9 in FIG. 6, an adjustable steering wheel hanging strap 13 in FIG. 7, rigid steering wheel hanging holders 16 as part of the rigid main body 2 in FIG. 8, foldout steering wheel hooks 23 in FIG. 9, and a single strap 29 which hangs to steering wheel and also forms loop holders 29 a in FIG. 10. The typical steering wheel diameter ranges between 35.5 cm to 39.4 cm, the steering wheel hanging mechanism will be appropriately dimensioned for proper fit on most of the vehicles.
The corner holders 3 can be implemented in many forms. Some of the illustrations are a rigid corner holder 12 in FIG. 6, a loop corner holder 15 in FIG. 7, a peg corner holder 19, a custom shaped corner holder 20 with a guide, a rotating peg corner holder 21 in FIG. 8, a foldout corner holder 24 in FIG. 9, a loop corner holder 29 a formed from a main strap 29 in FIG. 10, and a connected corner holder with shaped rib ledge 32 in FIG. 11. The loop corner holders 15 and 29 a can be fixed or adjustable type.
The length adjustable system 11 can be used to lengthen or widen the main body 2 as shown in FIG. 6. The system can use various methods of adjustment including but not limited to Velcro, latches, zippers, slides, hinges, and snaps.
The implementation of ventilation opening 4, whether built into the main body or the apparatus is constructed in such a way the ventilation air flow of the portable computer is unrestricted, is numerous, but the concept and inclusion of the feature is important in present invention.
The detachable standoff 5 in FIG. 4 and the foldout standoff 25 in FIG. 9 are implemented to create clearance and to provide stability for proper operation of whole present invention with a portable computer when a vehicle steering wheel has a protrusion in the center top frontal area of the steering wheel.
The wrist rest loop 8 in FIG. 6 is attached to the main body 2, and it can be fixed or adjusted for varying arm and hand sizes. The wrist is slipped from under the loop to hold one's arms in suspended form. The wrist rests 27 in FIG. 9 are attached to the main body via inserting the wrist rest attach hooks 28 into the wrist rest attach holes 26 and sliding down to lock in place. The wrist rest 27 can be flexible or solid and shaped for one's arms to rest during data entry. The wrist rest loop 8 or wrist rest 27 provides arm muscle relief during extended data entry operation in driver's seat with present invention.
FIG. 10 illustrates another embodiment of present invention, which is formed out of a single main strap 29 and two adjustable bar 30 with latches 31. The main strap 29 with its' midsection and the top adjustable bar forms loop similar to a steering wheel hanging strap 1 by clamping the latches 31 on the end of the top adjustable bar 30. The bottom adjustable bar 30 is clamped when proper length away from the top adjustable bar 30 suitable for one's portable computer, and appropriate size of corner loop holder 29 a is formed and attached to the ends of the bottom adjustable bar 30.
All foldout components, latches, and hinges are designed in such a way that it snaps or locks into position as needed.
- Conclusion, Ramifications, and Scope
The present invention enables the operator to ergonomically use a portable computer when a vehicle is at rest, not operating, and while seated behind the vehicle's steering wheel. The portable computer is a representative device of present invention, but it can be any mobile device with processor for computation, entertainment, communication, or measurement.
Accordingly, the reader will see that the vehicle steering wheel mounted workstation apparatus of this invention can be used to mount a portable computer easily, intuitively, with good stability while providing access to multi-dimensional openings and control of various sizes and shapes. In addition, the present invention is easy to carry and compact. While above description contains many specificities, these should not be construed as limitations on the scope of the invention, but rather as an exemplification of one preferred embodiment there of Many other variations are possible. For example, the present invention can be designed to mount multiple portable devices on the apparatus, or may have dual steering wheel hanging strap for mounting small devices while driving, or may have pockets for carrying small non-display devices for communications, or holders can be of various shapes, sizes and materials, or the apparatus assembly made into various size for different portable devices.
Accordingly, the scope of the invention should be determined not by the embodiments illustrated, but by the appended claims and their legal equivalents.
The foregoing detailed descriptions should not be construed as limiting the scope of the present invention but, is to be clearly understood as providing illustration of preferred embodiments. The spirit and scope of the present invention should be determined by the appended claims and their legal equivalents, rather than solely by the given illustrations.