Unexpectedly Intriguing!
07 June 2024

As a recognizable invention, the table been around for thousands of years. Believe it or not, even such a profoundly old and well-established invention can inspire new innovations.

Consider the example of U.S. Patent 5,421,499, in which inventor Alan C. Bauer identified an application where having a table could be really useful, but where no table had gone before - everywhere a person goes. His solution: the wearable table. Here's a colorized version of Figure 1 from the patent's illustrations:

U.S. Patent 5,421,499 Figure 1

Here's how Bauer describes the gaps he found in existing table technology for which his wearable table invention provides a solution:

Prior to this invention, tray type devices have primarily been directed at gathering food and beverages while in a seated position without the danger of spills and subsequent damage to a user's clothing. Most such inventions have been oriented toward a basket type device somehow suspended about the neck and often supported by the user's lap. For example, Bezdek, U.S. Pat. No. 4,985,932, discloses a Food Spill Catching and Serving Device; essentially a foldable basket for holding food while sitting in an automobile. Zemke, U.S. Pat. No. 5,056,139, discloses a Combination Food Tray and Bib which, provides a bib and lap-supported, spill catching depression. Stang, U.S. Pat. No. 5,062,558, discloses a wearable basket holder and removable basket, again for gathering food and catching spills while sitting.

In contrast, Brown et al, U.S. Pat. No. 5,094,343, discloses a combination hat, sun visor and multiple beverage can holder. While the device can be used while standing and in a hands free position, it is in essence an article of clothing with a clever built in storage rack.

One disadvantage of these devices is that their proposed purpose is limited to gathering food and beverage items, primarily in a contained form, for immanent consumption. None is designed to provide sturdy, table-like support for extended use despite eventual body repositioning. None provides a table-like tray surface for other needs, such as supporting papers while writing. Rather each provides a single purpose, bodily reinforced holder. A second disadvantage is that none, with the possible exception of Brown, is readily adaptable to, let alone designed for standing applications. In such applications a rigid, essentially flat and well supported tray of proper height and vertical orientation is crucial.

Thus there is clearly a need for a rigid, well supported and positioned tray device that can be worn and support needed materials in a useable, hands-free manner while standing.

Since Bauer patented his wearable table solution in 1994, the technology of wearable tables has been refined as we discovered in our search for commercial products resembling his invention available for sale today. The most common product category deploying wearable table technology is the laptop harness desk, where this shoulder-strapless example is perhaps the closest in spirit to Bauer's patented invention in providing a rigid work surface.

From the Inventions in Everything Archives

The IIE team has previously covered just one other table-related innovation:


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