US 20070051766 A1
The invention provides a carrier for hands-free support of tablet and notebook computers to allow use of the device while standing upright. The carriers are convertible between an in-use configuration and a carrying case configuration. The carrier features include a platform having an inner portion and an outer portion and sidewalls extending away from the outer portion such that the platform and the sidewalls together define an open-top receptacle adapted to receive a portable computer or other display device. The receptacle has at least two opposing portions for attaching or otherwise securing strap fixtures for connecting opposing ends of a user strap.
1. A carrier suitable for supporting a tablet computer, the carrier comprising:
a platform having an inner portion and an outer portion; and
sidewalls extending from the outer portion;
the platform and the sidewalls together defining an open-top receptacle adapted to receive the tablet computer, the receptacle having at least two opposing portions.
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28. A carrier suitable for supporting a portable display device, the carrier comprising:
a platform having an inner portion and an outer portion; and
sidewalls extending from the outer portion;
the platform and the sidewalls together defining an open-top receptacle adapted to receive the display device, the receptacle having at least two opposing sides,
the sidewalls are stretchable to overlap a peripheral portion of a top surface of the display device.
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This patent application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/513,677, filed Oct. 24, 2004.
This invention pertains to a carrier for portable computing devices, and in particular to carriers for tablet personal computers.
Advances in electronic technology have led to the combination of displays and tactile user input in a single device. This technology has been further combined with the notebook computer concept to create what are popularly called tablet computers (or tablet PCs). Tablet computers are equipped with a display capable of receiving user input through a stylus or direct touch. An exemplary tablet PC is commercially available from Acer America under the designation “TravelMate.”
As compared to conventional notebook computers, tablet PCs appear to offer enhanced portability because only one hand is required for data input. Via the input stylus, users can input data with one hand while supporting the tablet computer with the other hand. However, tablet PCs are too heavy to be comfortably supported in one hand for extended periods.
True in-use portability is likewise an issue with notebook computers. Notebook computers continue to receive phenomenal commercial success. Notebook computers offer portability with little compromise in functionality as compared to office-bound desktop or tower computer systems. Notebook computers are not fully portable, however, in that they are either awkward or otherwise impossible to use while one is standing. Even the lighter available notebook PCs are too heavy for any user to hold in one hand for useful periods. Moreover, efficient keyboard entry and other cursor control (e.g., touchpad) require the use of both hands.
Devices for hands-free support of laptop computers have been proposed. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,667,114 to Bourque is directed to an apparatus for supporting a laptop computer while standing. The apparatus includes a platform and a pair of supporting members each connected to a strap. U.S. Pat. No. 6,381,127 to Maddali et al. is directed to a laptop computer support having a planar support base with shoulder straps attached to a leading edge of the support base and back straps attached to a trailing edge of the support base.
Such prior designs have, thus far, not been commercially successful. Neither prior support design is simple for the user to swap on and off and neither design offers adequate peripheral protection to the computer device.
What is needed is a robust carrier design suitable for protecting and supporting both tablet and notebook PCs while the user is standing. Furthermore, it would be desirable to provide a carrier that is readily convertible between an in-use configuration and a carrying-case (or briefcase) configuration.
Carriers of the present invention provide hands-free support of tablet and notebook PCs to allow use of the device while standing upright. Notably, the carrier system of the present invention is convertible between an in-use configuration and a carrying case configuration.
Carriers according to the present invention comprise a platform having an inner portion and an outer portion and sidewalls extending away from the outer portion. The platform and the sidewalls together define an open-top receptacle adapted to receive a tablet computer. The receptacle has at least two opposing portions for attaching or otherwise securing fixtures for connecting opposing ends of a user strap.
The sidewalls are preferably an elastomeric fabric adapted to overlap the peripheral portion of the top, displaying surface of the tablet PC or keyboard surface of a notebook PC. Although the orientation of the sidewalls may vary when the carrier is loaded with a computer, the sidewalls preferably slope inwardly towards the inner portion of the platform when the carrier is not loaded.
The invention disclosed herein is, of course, susceptible to embodiment in many different forms. Shown in the drawings and described here in detail are preferred embodiments of the invention. It is to be understood, however, that the present disclosure is an exemplification of the principles of the invention and does not limit the invention to the illustrated embodiments.
Referring now to
Platform 16 is planar, substantially rectangular and preferably constructed by enclosing a rigid or semi-rigid insert with a durable nylon fabric 30 having a canvas texture (e.g., “Cordura” type fabric from DuPont). Leather and simulated leather is also contemplated for platform 16 and other parts of carrier 10. Fabric layer 30 is preferably secured with stitching 32. A layer of foam or other padding (not separately shown) is optionally positioned between the insert and the fabric layer 30 on one or both of the top, receptacle side 34 and the bottom, outer side 36 to provide impact resistance. Outer portion 24 of platform 16 terminates in an edge 38.
Sidewalls 18 are constructed to extend from outer portion 24 and slope or bend towards inner portion 22 when carrier 10 is not loaded with a display device 12. When loaded with a computer or other display device, the orientation of sidewalls 18 may vary according to the relative size of the device. It is preferred that the size of carrier 10 and display device 12 be coordinated such that distal ends 26 of sidewalls 18 overlap a peripheral portion of a top surface 14 of display device 12. Whether carrier 10 is empty or loaded with a display device, sidewalls 18 present a concave cross section towards inner portion 22.
Sidewalls 18 preferably comprise an elastomeric material in fabric-like form to allow the sidewalls to form snuggly around display device 12. Sidewalls 18 also preferably comprise a compressible material to absorb impacts and protect display device 12. An especially preferred fabric is a 2.5 mil nit-over-polychloroprene foam material commercially available from Glomex, Inc. (Ontario, Calif.). Materials comprising polychloroprene (Neoprene—DuPont Dow Elastomers) are elastomeric and compressible.
Sidewalls 18 are secured to platform 16 with stitching 32. A seam binding 40 overlays edge 38 of platform 14 to prevent fraying of either the sidewalls 18 or platform covering fabric 30.
To address special air flow or cooling requirements for display devices, sidewalls 18 may be constructed of a perforated or mesh material 41 or have perforated portions as shown in
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As noted, sidewalls 18 define four comers 42, 44, 46 and 48. Carrier 10 includes at least one, but preferably two or more corner straps 62 and 64. Corner straps 62 and 64, which may also be labeled diagonal straps, are preferably elastic strips stitched to adjacent sides of sidewall 18 and platform 16. Corner straps 62 and 64 further secure display devices to carrier 10. Although straps traversing more than two corners are contemplated, two corner straps (62 and 64) aligned on longer side 54B is preferred to accommodate notebook PCs.
Carriers according to the present invention have at least one pair of opposing portions and each opposing portion has at least one fixture. For example, carrier 10 has fixture 56A on side 52A and fixture 56B on opposing side 52B. As described further below, at least one pair of connection fixtures are distributed on opposing portions to provide stability when the carrier is suspended by a strap 66 on a user's shoulder or neck (as best shown in
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Carrier 10 has a cover 20 hinged to receptacle 28 and movable between a carrying-case position (
Cover 20 is removably secured into the carrying-case position (
Underside 36 of platform 16 has an elongate pile area 94 and flap 88 has a complementary elongate hook area 96. In the carrying-case position (
As shown in
Strap fixtures 56A and 56B are each preferably positioned towards a central portion of opposing sides 52A and 52B to enhance stability when display device 12 is in use and carrier 10 is worn by a user (as shown in
Another key feature of the present invention is the stylus tether 108. Conventional tablet PCs provide for a stylus 110 writing input on the display screen (e.g., screen 14). Tether 108 includes a line portion 112 (secured to receptacle 28) and an elastic band 114 attached to the line for gripping the stylus 110. Tether 108 prevents misplacement of the stylus.
Described in more general terms and returning to
Described is a close fitting computer case 10 wherein the broad surface 84 (typically about 8.5″ by 11″) that covers the surface of the screen 14, when the computer is in tablet mode, can be folded back around the back and under to rest against the other broad (8.5″ by 11″) surface 16, thus being held in place there by snaps or Velcro or some other means so that the tablet computer is now exposed for use (see
The broad surfaces 16, 92 are made of canvas or a synthetic or cotton or viable material, with particle board or heavy duty plastic plate inserts, to provide protection against penetrating blows. The broad surfaces 16, 92 and particle/hard board plastic are slightly larger than the actual computer tablet 12 to absorb the shock of a minor drop.
The gusset 18, or material that covers the narrow width of the tablet computer 12, approximately one to two inches wide, is preferentially a strong expandable material like wide elastic band or neoprene. This gusset 18 is sewn on to the base or back broad surface 16 of the computer case 10 in such a way as to provide the tightest fit possible around the width of the computer, so that the computer 12 has to be forced into position, inside the gusset 18 and case. The gusset 18 itself is tight enough to hold the computer 12 very firmly, and the gusset 18 is at least a quarter of an inch wider than the width of the tablet computer 12 so that the elastic type material hugging the computer's width would extend over its edge and slightly onto the broad surface wherein the computer screen 14 is positioned (see
The elastic type gusset 18 as well as these additional elements represent unique and innovative features of the invention.
There are several different mechanisms identified herein by which the tablet computer 18 can be held inside the case 10, alone or in combination with each other. Conventional tablet computers 12 have a margin around the tablet screen 14 that is approximately ½ inch wide. Therefore any element 26 that extends over the edge of the computer 12 onto the broad surface 14 is preferably limited to approximately ¼ inch on any side. Each tablet computer has a different design which may place operational buttons or indicators at strategic locations on this ½ inch margin. Therefore, it is preferred that any extra element that is employed to assist in securing the tablet computer in place take these computer buttons or indicators into account and be positioned so as to avoid encumbering or blocking these computer features. Several additional elements are considered singularly or in combination.
Strips of elastic 62, 64 are sewn diagonally into the gusset 18 at and across two or more corners 42, 44 to hold the computer 12 in position and not let the computer slip out of the gusset 18 (See
A two or three sided yoke can be sewn into the top edge of the gusset so that substantially the entire periphery of the computer screen is covered by a thin yoke, thereby holding the computer in position inside the gusset and case. Velcro can be positioned on the inside of three or four sides of the gusset and/or on the inside of the broad surface upon which the computer tablet is positioned. Complementary Velcro strips can be provided to the user when the user purchases the case so that the user can apply those strips to the width or underside of the computer. Thus, when the user pushes the computer into position it will be held firmly by the very tight gusset and the Velcro strips.
There are small binder clasps 213, substantially similar to notebook binders, that, when fixed firmly to the particle board in the lower broad panel 18 (8.5″×11″), will allow the owner to lock the computer 12 into place when the computer 12 is positioned inside the neoprene/elastic gusset 18. The compression lever 221 is then pushed and locked firmly into position to apply pressure to the computer to hold it in place. Like a notebook binder, the small lever 221 is pushed to release the binding clasp 213, and free the tablet computer 12 to be removed from the case 10 (see
Spring metal clamps 319, coated with rubber or another substance to soften the contact with the surface of the computer, can be riveted to the base/back broad surface (or platform) 316 (8.5″×11″) with 5 to 10 pounds of force on the spring coil, inside the neoprene gusset 18. Therefore the owner would place the computer 12 in position inside the neoprene cuff/gusset 18 and under the flexible spring clamp arms 323 such that the computer 12 would be held by both the neoprene 18 and the spring clamps 319 (
Each of these mechanisms can have positive influences and when used separately or in combination, the result is a novel means by which a tablet computer owner is now able to use the computer while in the computer case, standing, sitting, or walking.
Referring now to
Preferred embodiments of this invention are described herein, including the best mode known to the inventors for carrying out the invention. Variations of those preferred embodiments may become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art upon reading the foregoing description. The inventors expect skilled artisans to employ such variations as appropriate, and the inventors intend for the invention to be practiced otherwise than as specifically described herein. Accordingly, this invention includes all modifications and equivalents of the subject matter recited in the claims appended hereto as permitted by applicable law. Moreover, any combination of the above-described elements in all possible variations thereof is encompassed by the invention unless otherwise indicated herein or otherwise clearly contradicted by context.