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Industrial design student makes a case for computing on the move


   

A prototype of the case A prototype of the case


BLACKSBURG, Va., Jan. 17, 2008 – Daniel Hilgenberg, a graduate of the industrial design program in Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies, has invented a wearable computer case that will please people who need to stay on top of work even as they move around, such as those in mobile management positions, or people who just love to multi-task and want to be working while standing in line.

The case for a laptop computer can be worn like a backpack or suspended on the chest, where it can swing down to create a work platform that allows for computer use while standing. “This would be an incredibly useful tool for people working in the field, such as in construction, surveying, and scientific data collection,” said Jackie Reed, who is with Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties Inc. (VTIP).

Hilgenberg, who grew up in Chapel Hill, N.C. and now lives in Mebane, N.C., designed the laptop workstand as a class assignment in Associate Professor Mitzi Vernon’s sophomore industrial design studio.

“This was a class studio assignment called ‘Workstand’,” said Vernon. “It was originated by one of our alumni, Robert Reuter, an architect and industrial designer who visited the studio to run a project with the design students. The project was to design a laptop desk/table/plane that would allow you to stand while working. Students could determine their own context, though they were given a number of possible venues.”

Hilgenberg said, “My primary inspiration came from two sources -- long distance hiking backpacks, which utilize just enough metal to hold their forms; and body armor, which is tight in its fit, serves a serious purpose, and yet is comfortable enough for long hours of wear.”

He said the comfortable pack and easy to deploy computer is designed for people who have short periods of usage with lots of travel on foot in between. “Several people (at an innovation showcase) pointed to a law enforcement use for this design, as well as defense uses,” Hilgenberg said.

Vernon put Hilgenberg in touch with VTIP’s staff, who were enthusiastic about the design and its promise. There is now a patent pending.

After graduating from Virginia Tech in 2004, Hilgenberg worked in rural England as a cabinetmaker, in London as a darkroom technician, in New York City as an architectural lighting designer, and in New Zealand as a joiner. He is now a staff member with an upscale general contracting firm in Hillsborough, N.C.

For more information about the computer backpack, contact Jackie Reed at (540) 443-9219 or jreed@vtip.org.

Photo information: Daniel Hilgenberg’s industrial design classmate Lewis Carlyle demonstrates the deployed computer case backpack. This computer case, which incorporates design features more commonly associated with trekking backpacks, is a uniquely functional design that allows great versatility in computer usage. The case for a laptop computer can be worn like a backpack or suspended on the chest, where it can swing down to create a work platform that allows for computer use while standing. Photos by Daniel Hilgenberg.

Individual and additional views are available from Reed or Susan Trulove, (540) 231-5646, strulove@vt.edu.