Title:
CHILD SEATING SYSTEM AND METHOD
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A seating system for a child includes a base. A formed seat is arranged so as to communicate with and selectively rotate about the base. A retention apparatus includes a first handle and the retention apparatus secures the formed seat to the base. A single actuation and substantially continuous movement of the first handle causes the formed seat to move around the base with respect to at least two different axes.



Inventors:
Jha, Hemant (Chicago, IL, US)
Ofori-amoah, David (Chicago, IL, US)
Application Number:
11/867510
Publication Date:
04/09/2009
Filing Date:
10/04/2007
Assignee:
THINK/THING (Chicago, IL, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47C1/11
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ALEX, JAMES S
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FITCH EVEN TABIN & FLANNERY, LLP (CHICAGO, IL, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A seating system for a child comprising: a base; a formed seat arranged so as to communicate with and selectively rotate about the base; and a retention apparatus including a first handle, the retention apparatus securing the formed seat to the base and wherein a single actuation and substantially continuous movement of the first handle causes the formed seat to move around the base with respect to at least two different axes.

2. The seating system of claim 1 wherein the formed seat comprises an outer form and wherein the outer form comprises a substantially continuously-formed side portion and top enclosure portion that protect substantially the entirety of a passenger occupying the formed seat.

3. The seating system of claim 1 wherein the retention apparatus comprises at least one coupler configured to be received in at least one receptacle disposed in the base, the retention apparatus further comprising at least one connection member coupled to the at least one coupler.

4. The seating system of claim 3 wherein the at least one connection member comprises at least one element selected from the group consisting of: at least one cable, at least one cord, at least one wire, and at least one lever.

5. The seating system of claim 1 wherein the formed seat comprises at least one element selected from the group consisting of: at least one tubular member, at least one rod, at least one channel, and at least one plate.

6. The seating system of claim 1 further comprising a second handle, the second handle coupled to the retention apparatus, the second handle for completely disengaging the formed seat from the base.

7. The seating system of claim 1 further comprising at least one harness.

8. The seating system of claim 1 further comprising at least one of substantially vertical slots for positioning the at least one harness.

9. The seating system of claim 1 further comprising an indexing system for determining a position for at least harness to be positioned in at least one substantially vertical slot.

10. The seating system of claim 1 wherein elements of the base are integrated into a receiving structure, the receiving structure selected from a group consisting of a vehicular seat, a seat in an aircraft, a stroller, and furniture.

11. The seating system of claim 1 wherein the formed seat is configured with the base so as to be lockable to the base in only a single forward-facing position.

12. The seating system of claim 1 wherein the formed seat further comprises ventilation openings.

13. The seating system of claim 1 wherein at least one portion of the formed seat comprises a breathable material.

14. The seating system of claim 1 further comprising at least one panel attachable to the formed seat, the at least one panel adjusting an available passenger volume of the seat.

15. The seating system of claim 1 wherein the base is an element selected from a group comprising: a base adapted to be attached to a vehicle seat, a base adapted to be attached to an aircraft seat; a base adapted to be attached to a stroller, and a base adapted to be attached to a piece of furniture.

16. The seating system of claim 1 wherein the base comprises a detent for temporarily retaining the formed seat in a side-facing position.

17. The seating system of claim 1 wherein the formed seat comprises an inner shell and an outer shell.

18. The seating system of claim 17 wherein the inner shell and the outer shell form an open space that is situated between the inner shell and the outer shell.

19. A method of rotating a child seat comprising: providing a child seat; securing the child seat to a base with a retention apparatus; and actuating a first handle on the retention apparatus and, in a substantially continuous movement, rotating the child seat along a first axis and along a second axis.

20. The method of claim 19 further comprising actuating a second handle positioned at a secure location at the child seat, the actuating of the second handle causing the child seat to fully disengage from the base.

21. The method of claim 19 further comprising fully disengaging the child seat from the base using the first handle.

22. The method of claim 19 further comprising providing at least one harness with the child seat and adjusting the at least one harness through at least one substantially vertical slots in the child seat.

23. The method of claim 22 wherein adjusting the at least one harness comprises adjusting the at least one harness using an indexing system.

24. The method of claim 19 further comprising placing a child in the child seat when the child seat is in a side-facing position and thereafter rotating the child seat to a forward-facing position.

25. The method of claim 24 further comprising subsequently locking the child seat in the forward-facing position.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The field of the invention relates to seating systems and, more specifically, to seating systems for children.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Various types of child seating systems have been used over the years. For example, child seats have been used in vehicles in order to restrain the movement of children in the vehicle and thereby prevent injury to the seated children in case of an accident involving the vehicle. For instance, rear-facing infant seating systems have been used to secure infants while forward-facing child seats have been used to secure older children. In all of these seating systems, the child is placed in the seat and secured to the seat using a harness system (e.g., a five-point harness) either incorporated into the seating system or using an existing harness of the vehicle. Various types of arrangements have also been used to attach the base of the car seat of the vehicle. In one example, the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system is used to attach the base of the child seat to the seat of the vehicle.

One challenge faced by adults or others using these previous child seating systems has been being able to place the child in the child seat easily and quickly without dropping or otherwise injuring the child. More specifically, the child must be simultaneously held by the user and placed in the car seat without the user dropping or otherwise injuring the child. For forward-facing seats, this task can be difficult because the child may move as the user attempts to place the child into the child seat and/or the dimensions of the seat relative to the vehicle may be such that little extra space exists to easily maneuver the child into the seat.

In an attempt to allow for easier child placement, some systems have been developed where the seat swivels towards the side of the vehicle (i.e., facing the passenger door). More specifically, in these approaches, the seat swivels from the forward-facing position to a side-facing position at the passenger door. When in the side-facing position, an adult can more easily place the child in the child seat.

Unfortunately, while in certain respects these systems have made it easier for the child to be placed in a child seat, other problems still exist with these previous approaches. For example, complicated mechanisms were typically used to lock the seat to its base and these mechanisms were frequently difficult to unlock, turn, or operate, particularly when the user was simultaneously carrying the child in their arms. Users were also often required to unlock and move the seat in a series of complicated movements and actions increasing the difficulty in placing the child in the seat and/or the likelihood of injury to the child.

Other problems limited the effectiveness of these previous systems in promoting child safety. For example, previous systems often included little if any additional protective measures to protect the child from injury in case of an accident (e.g., a side impact crash).

These previous seats could also typically not be used interchangeably between different bases. To give one example, a child seat for use in a vehicle could only be used with the base in the vehicle and not with bases in any other system. Consequently, different seating systems were needed for different situations thereby increasing the cost and inconvenience to consumers.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Approaches are described that allow a child seat to be easily and quickly rotated so that a child can be easily and quickly placed and secured in the seat. Specifically, the seat can be easily rotated by a single actuation and substantially continuous movement of a single handle or actuator, for example, from the forward-facing position to a side-facing position, thereby allowing the child to be placed in or removed from the seat.

In many of these approaches, the child seat can be rotated in two or more different directions (i.e., about two or more axes) either simultaneously or sequentially. For example, the user may both rotate a seat towards the door and vertically adjust the seat in an upward direction with a single actuation and substantially continuous movement of a handle or other actuator. In so doing, the child may be quickly, conveniently, and easily placed and secured in the seat without utilizing complicated or difficult procedures.

In many of these embodiments, a seating system for a child includes a base. A formed seat is arranged so as to communicate with and selectively rotate about the base. A retention apparatus includes a first handle or actuator and the retention apparatus secures the formed seat to the base. A single actuation and substantially continuous movement of the first handle causes the formed seat to move around the base with respect to at least two different axes.

Various approaches may be used to enhance the protection of the child in the seat. For example, the formed seat may include an outer form and the outer form includes a substantially continuously-formed side portion and top enclosure portion that protect substantially the entirety of a child passenger. In another approach, the formed seat may include at least one protective member (such as at least one tubular member, at least one rod, at least one channel, or at least one plate) that is incorporated into the seat. Other approaches and/or components may also be used to provide protection for the child.

Various mechanisms may also be used to secure the formed seat to the base. For example, the retention apparatus may include one or more couplers configured to be received in one or more receptacles or openings disposed in the base. The retention apparatus may further include one or more connection members that are coupled to the couplers. The connection members may include one or more cables, one or more cords, one or more wires, or one or more levers. Other types of connection members may also be used.

In other examples, the seating system may include a second handle or actuator. The second handle also may be coupled to the retention apparatus. When actuated, the second handle completely disengages the formed seat from the base and allows the seat to be removed from the base.

The seating system may also include or use one or more harnesses. One or more substantially vertical slots may be formed in the rear of the seat and be used to position the harnesses relative to the seat. The seating system may further include an indexing system (e.g., index markers) that is used to determine an appropriate position for the one or more harnesses to be positioned in the vertical slots.

In some of these approaches, the seating system can be interchangeably used amongst various types of devices. For example, the base may be adapted to be attached to a vehicle seat, attached to an aircraft seat, incorporated into a stroller, or adapted to be incorporated into a piece of furniture. As such, the seat can be interchangeable and used with a variety of different systems. In other examples, the base may be integrated into a vehicular seat.

The seating system can be locked at one or more positions. In one example, the formed seat is configured with the base so as to be lockable to the base in only a single forward-facing position. In this example, the base may include a groove (or pin guide) that includes a detent for temporarily retaining (without locking) the formed seat in a side-facing position. In other examples, the seat may be lockable in more than one position or in a different position other than the forward-facing position.

The formed seat can have additional features that enhance the comfort of the child. For example, the formed seat may include ventilation openings that increase air circulation in the seat. In another example, the formed seat is constructed of a breathable material. Furthermore, various panels or cushions can be attached to the formed seat. For example, one or more panels or cushions may be attached to the formed seat to adjust the available passenger volume of the seat.

The formed seat may be formed of one or more different components. In one example, the formed seat includes an inner shell and an outer shell. In this approach and when attached together, the inner shell and the outer shell form and enclose an open space or void that is situated between the inner shell and the outer shell. The open space may be left unfilled or filled with some type of cushioning material such as air sacks, air bags, or a supportive lattice structure.

Thus, approaches are described that allow a child seat to be easily and quickly rotated so that a child can be quickly and easily placed and secured in the seat. The approaches described herein easy and convenient to use and, in some examples, provide enhanced protection for the occupant of the seat. In some examples, the seat can be interchangeably used between different systems (e.g., a child seat in a vehicle, a child seat in an aircraft, with a stroller, or as furniture).

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1a is a top view of a child seating system according to various embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 1b is a front view of the child seating system of FIG. 1a according to various embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 1c is a perspective view of the child seating system of FIGS. 1a and 1b according to various embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 1d is a cross-sectional view of the child seating system along line 128 of FIGS. 1a, 1b, and 1c according to various embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a child seating system according to various embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 3a is a side view of a child seating system according to various embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 3b is a cross-sectional side view of the child seating system of FIG. 3a according to various embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 3c is a cross-sectional side view of the child seating system of FIGS. 3b and 3c according to various embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 4 is an exploded view of a child seating system according to various embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of portions of a retention apparatus according to various embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 6 is a top view of a retention apparatus according to various embodiments of the present invention;

FIGS. 7a-d are perspective views of the rotation of the base and retention apparatus of FIG. 6 according to various embodiments of the present invention;

FIGS. 8a-d are perspective views of the rotation of the seat and base of FIGS. 6 and 7a-d according to various embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 9a is a top view of a child seating system including a release grip (or actuator) according to various embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 9b is a perspective view of the release grip (or actuator) of FIG. 9a according to various embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 9c is a perspective view including the retention apparatus and the release grip of FIG. 9a and FIG. 9b according to various embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 10a is a front view of a child seating system including indexing elements according to various embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 10b is a front view of the child seating system of FIG. 10a including a harness according to various embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 10c is a side view of the child seating system of FIGS. 10 and 10b including a harness according to various embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 10d is a perspective view of a harness guide used in the child seating system of FIGS. 10a-c according to various embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 10e is a side view of the harness guide of FIG. 10d disposed in the child seat according to various embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 10f is a side view of the harness guide of FIGS. 10d and 10e with indexing grooves according to various embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of a child seating system with a base integrated into a vehicle seat according to various embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 12 is a side view of a child seating system used as an infant seat according to various embodiments of the present invention;

FIG. 13 is a side view of a child seating system used as part of a stroller according to various embodiments of the present invention; and

FIG. 14 is a side view of a child seating system incorporated into furniture according to various embodiments of the present invention.

Skilled artisans will appreciate that elements in the figures are illustrated for simplicity and clarity and have not necessarily been drawn to scale. For example, the dimensions and/or relative positioning of some of the elements in the figures may be exaggerated relative to other elements to help to improve understanding of various embodiments of the present invention. Also, common but well-understood elements that are useful or necessary in a commercially feasible embodiment are often not depicted in order to facilitate a less obstructed view of these various embodiments of the present invention. It will further be appreciated that certain actions and/or steps may be described or depicted in a particular order of occurrence while those skilled in the art will understand that such specificity with respect to sequence is not actually required. It will also be understood that the terms and expressions used herein have the ordinary meaning as is accorded to such terms and expressions with respect to their corresponding respective areas of inquiry and study except where specific meanings have otherwise been set forth herein.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Referring now to FIGS. 1a-d, one example of a child seating system 100 is described. In some of the examples described herein, the child seating system is described as being attached to a base with the whole arrangement (seat and base) being situated on and secured to the seat of a vehicle. However, in other examples, the child seat may be attached/incorporated into a stroller, a piece of furniture, or other types of devices. In still other examples, the base may be incorporated into the seat of the vehicle. Additionally, when used in a vehicle, the seat may be formed and configured to be used as an infant seat that is rear-facing. Other examples for placement and uses for the child seat are possible.

As shown in FIGS. 1a-d, the child seating system 100 includes a formed seat 106 and a base 104. In this example, the base 104 is secured to the top surface of a vehicle seat. However, as mentioned above, it will be appreciated that the base 104 can be incorporated into the vehicle seat as well. The base 104 may be constructed of any suitable material such as plastic and may be of a substantially circular shape with a break or opening in the middle. The base 104 may also be metallic to provide an interface between the seat 106 and the seat of the vehicle. Other examples of materials may also be used to form the base 104. The base 104 may include a lip, ring, or other receiving member that communicates with the seat 106 and allows rotation of the seat along any number of axes.

As shown in FIG. 1d (a cross-sectional view of the child seating system 100 taken along line 128), the formed seat 106 includes an inner shell 112 and an outer shell 110. In one example, the dimensions of the inner shell 112 and outer shell 110 ensure that a void or space 126 is formed and exists between the inner shell 112 and the outer shell 110. Alternatively, the formed seat 106 may be constructed from a single element or more than two elements. The void 126 that is formed may be of a variety of dimensions and shapes, but, in this example, is larger at the rear of the child seating system 100. The void 126 can be left unfilled with solid material (i.e., the void 126 may remain filled with air) or the void 126 may be filled with a cushioning material (e.g., air bags, air sacks, supportive lattice, or the like). The inner shell 112 is coupled to the outer shell 110 with any suitable coupling mechanism such as by a sliding locking member formed or attached to the inner shell 112 that is received by a receptacle in the outer shell 110. Alternatively, other approaches can be used to couple the inner shell 112 to the outer shell 110 such as screws, bolts, levers, or any other type or combination of coupling elements.

The formed seat 106 and its components (e.g., the inner shell 112 and the outer shell 110) may also be constructed from any suitable rigid material. For instance, the inner shell 112 and outer shell 110 may be formed from plastic or structural foam. The material may be of a honey-comb or lattice structure. The inner shell 112 and the outer shell 110 may be formed by any suitable technique such as by using injection molding, milling, or any other appropriate approach. Other materials and techniques may also be used to form the inner shell 112 and the outer shell 110. The outer shell 110 rests on surface (e.g., a circular surface) of the base 104. The shells 110 and/or 112 may also be perforated with ventilation openings to increase air circulation and provide additional comfort for the child passenger.

The outer shell 110 has an outer form or shape. The outer form or shape includes a substantially continuously-formed side portion 132 and top enclosure portion 130 that may protect the child occupying the formed seat. More specifically, the portions 130 and 132 may be shaped and have dimensions such that vital portions of the child's body (e.g., the head and vital organs) are enclosed, shielded, or protected. In other approaches, the portions 130 and 132 may be configured so that substantially the entire body (i.e., head, torso, and extremities) of the child passenger is enclosed, shielded, and/or protected. In another approach and as described elsewhere in this specification, the formed seat 106 may include one or more tubular members, rods, channels, or plates to protect the child in case of an accident of the vehicle. Other approaches and/or protective members or components may also be used to protect the child.

The formed seat 106 is covered by panels or cushions 116, 118, 119, 120, 122, and 124. The panels or cushions 116, 118, 119, 120, and 122 provide the seating surface for the passenger. The panels or cushions 116, 118, 119, 120, and 122 are used to adjust the available passenger volume of the seat. In this regard, the number of cushions, their individual thicknesses, or other properties or dimensions can be varied. In so doing, a better fit between the seat and particular occupants having differing physical characteristics can be achieved. The panels or cushions 116, 118, 119, 120, 122, and 124 also provide for the cushioning of the child as the seat moves (e.g., as the vehicle moves or turns) and, in one example, may be constructed of a variable density memory foam that is washable.

A handle 102 (or other actuator) is actuated to unlock the child seat 106 from the base 104 and rotate the seat 106 between a forward-facing and side-facing position. An opening 101 in the front of the base 104 allows for placement of the handle 102. The handle 102 may include a connector, which secures the handle to the seat 106.

The handle 102 may be actuated (e.g., pulled, snapped up, or rotated) and, in a substantially continuous movement, the formed seat 106 rotated along a first axis and along a second axis. Although a handle is shown in the examples described herein, it will be appreciated that any type of actuator such as a rotatable knob, lever, or switch may also be used. Other examples of actuators are possible.

The rotation about the two axes may be simultaneous or sequential. For example, the seat 106 may be simultaneously rotated about the base and vertically adjusted or first rotated and then vertically adjusted. The handle 102 may also be used to turn the seat 106 about the base 104. Additionally, it will be appreciated that rotation about any number of axes can be accomplished using the techniques described herein.

A connector 108 is used to connect the system 100 to a seat in the vehicle. For example, the connector 108 may include a loop or some other mechanism to secure the seat belts of the vehicle to the base 104 thereby securing the system 100 to the vehicle.

In one example, tubular protective members 114 provide a protective frame that shields the seat occupant from the impact of a crash. As described herein, other examples of protective members are possible.

Substantially vertical slots 117 allow placement of a harness (not shown in FIGS. 1a-1d). In one example, the harness may be a five-point harness that is incorporated into the seat 106 and is retracted by a retractor. Alternatively, an existing harness or seat belt of the vehicle may be used. As described elsewhere in the specification, an indexing system may also be used to allow the harness position to be adjusted within the substantially vertical slots 117. For example, the indexing system may allow adjustments to be made to the placement of the harness to take into account the age, weight, height, or other characteristic of the child.

Referring now to FIG. 2, another example of a child seating system 200 is described. The seating system 200 includes a formed seat 202 and a base 204. As with the example of FIG. 1, the formed seat 202 communicates with the base 204 and rotates about the base 204. In this regard, the seat 202 may rest or communicate with a lip or ring on the base 204. This placement of the formed seat 202 in the base 204 allows the seat 202 to rotate about any number of axes. Seating panels or cushions 206, 208 and 210 are positioned on a surface of the formed seat 202.

In one example of the operation of the system of FIG. 2, the formed seat 202 is rotated about the base 204. As the formed seat 202 rotates about the base 204, the formed seat 202 rotates along a first axis 212 (between a forward-facing position and a side-facing position) and a second axis 214 (vertically up and down). While, in this example, movement is about the axes 212 and 214, it will be appreciated that movement may be made along any combination of the first axis 212, second axis 214, and a third axis 216. Additionally, the movement about the axes 212, 214, and/or 216 may be simultaneous with respect to the others or sequential with respect to the others. For instance, the seat may rotate simultaneously around the axis 212 and vertically around the axis 214. In another example, the seat 202 may be first turned around the axis 212 and then vertically adjusted about the axis 214.

The seat 202 may be locked in the forward-facing position to the base 204 and a handle 205 is actuated to unlock the seat 202 from the base 204. Then, in one substantially continuous movement, the seat 202 is moved approximately 90 degrees by the handle 205 from the forward-facing position to the side-facing position. When the seat 202 is in the side-facing position, the child may be placed in the seat 202 and the seat 202 may be rotated back to the forward-facing position from the side-facing position. As the seat 202 is rotated, the axes 212, 214, and/or 216 rotate with respect to the seat 202 and, in this example, the seat 202 rotates about the axis 216 and the axis 212. The rotation of the seat 202 about the two axes 212 and 216 allows an adult to more easily place a child in the seat 202 or remove a child from the seat 202 without the need to resort to complicated or difficult adjustments and/or actuations of the seat 202.

Referring now to FIG. 3a, one example of the spacing between the inner shell and outer shell of a child seating system is described. As show in FIG. 3a, the seating system includes a seat 302 and a base 304. A handle or actuator 306 actuates and allows rotation of the seat 302 about the base 304 as is described elsewhere in this specification. Latch connector 308 secures the base to a vehicle seat also as described elsewhere in this specification. A top tether 310 secures the top of the seat 302 to the vehicle, and may be removed to allow for rotation.

As shown in the cross-sectional views of FIGS. 3b and 3c, the seat 302 includes an inner shell 312 and an outer shell 314. The inner shell 312 and the outer shell 314 are coupled together, for example, using pins, screws, bolts, locks, or some other coupling arrangement. In one example, the inner shell 312 and outer shell 314 do not fit snuggly or tightly against each other in all places. Instead, the inner shell 312 and outer shell 314 are formed and configured so that a void 311 is formed and exists between the inner shell 312 and outer shell 314. In the example of FIG. 3b, small air packets 316 are used to fill at least some portions of the void 311. In the example of FIG. 3c, larger air chambers 314 are used to fill at least some portions of the void 311. In still another example, the void 311 is left empty and unfilled by any material (except by air). Filling at least some portions of the void with cushioning materials allows additional protection to be provided for the child. Additionally, the use of these additional materials may cushion the ride of the child in the seat, for example, as the vehicle (in which the seat is situated) moves.

Referring now to FIG. 4, another example of a child seating system 400 is described. The seating system 400 includes an outer shell 402 and an inner shell 425. One or more coupling members 413 on the inner shell 425 extend, snap, or are otherwise secured in to one or more corresponding receptacles 423 in the outer shell 402 to couple the inner shell 425 to the outer shell 402. Alternatively, other types of coupling arrangements are possible.

The outer shell 402 is formed around the protective members 409, 410, and 411. Alternatively, the protective members 409, 410, and 411 can be positioned between the inner and outer shells. The protective members 409, 410, and 411 are, in one example, arranged to provide protection for the head or other vital or sensitive areas of the body of the child in case of an accident.

In this example, the protective members 409, 410, and 411 are solid metallic tubes. Alternatively, the metallic tubes may be hollow. In still other examples, other protective members may be used such as metallic meshes. In one approach, injection molding approaches can be used to form the shell around the protective members.

A handle or actuator 401 is coupled to a cable 403, which is in turn coupled to locking pins 406 (one shown in FIG. 4). It will be appreciated that the cable 403 can be constructed of wire or any other suitable material. Alternatively, the cable 403 may be replaced with some other connective arrangement such as levers or a combination of cables and levers. Other examples of connective arrangements may also be used.

When actuated, the handle 401 pulls the locking pin 406 from openings 408 in grooves (or pin guides) 405 that are disposed in a base 404 thereby allowing rotation of the seat about the base 404. Although only two locking pins are shown, it will be appreciated that any number of locking pins can be used. In the locked position (e.g., in the forward-facing position) the locking pins 406 are retained in the openings 408 that extend through the base 404. In other words, since the locking pins 406 extend fully through the base 404, the seat cannot be moved. In other examples, the openings 408 are receptacles that do not extend fully through the base 404. It will be appreciated that any number of locking positions (including zero) may be used.

The cable 403 may be positioned in a channel in outer shell 402. In alternative arrangements, the cable 403 may be tunneled through the outer shell 402.

When the locking pins 406 are removed from the openings 408 by the handle 401, the seat (i.e., the inner shell and outer shell assembly) is allowed to rotate about the base 404. In this example, the length of the grooves 405 are predetermined to allow the base 404 to rotate approximately 90 degrees from the forward-facing position to the side-facing position. The length of the grooves 405 can be adjusted to provide any degree of rotation. As the locking pins 406 move in the grooves 405 as the seat is turned, the end of the grooves 405 are eventually reached, rotation of the locking pins 406 within the grooves 405 are halted, and the locking pins come to a temporary stop and rest in detents 407 (one of which is shown in FIG. 4). The detents 407 defines a slight dip in the grooves 405 that provides a temporary resting place for the locking pins 406. In this way, when the seat is in the side-facing position, it is somewhat stable to allow for easier placement of the child but is still not fully locked.

Seat panels or cushions 414 are placed on an outer surface of the inner shell 425. The panels or cushions 414 adjust the available volume of the seat to take into account the age, size, weight, height, or other physical characteristic of the child. Besides adjusting for the physical characteristics of the child, the panels or cushions 414 also cushion the impact of forces to the child as the vehicle moves or turns. As mentioned elsewhere in this specification, the seat panels and cushions are removable elements that, in one example, may be constructed of a variable density memory foam material that is washable. Additionally, the seating surface may be constructed from other materials such as breathable materials.

Substantially vertical slots 420 extend through the inner shell 425 and allow harnesses to be used to secure the child. In this example, the harness may be incorporated into the seat system. Latch connectors 422 are used to secure the base 404 to a vehicle seat. For example, the base 404 may include slots to encompass the safety belts of the vehicle. In other examples, fixed horizontal slots may be used.

Referring now to FIG. 5, an example of the locking pin arrangement is shown. It will be appreciated that any number of the locking pin arrangements described with respect to FIG. 5 can be used in the seating systems described herein. A locking pin 502 is placed through an opening 504 in the base 506. The locking pin 502 is forced into the opening 504 by the compressive force provided by a spring 515. In one example, the spring 515 may be a steel torsional spring, although any appropriate spring may be used. A first connection member 508 (e.g., a wire cable) extends to a first handle (not shown in FIG. 5) and a ring 510 is bound to a second connection member 509 to a second handle (e.g., a release grip, also not shown in FIG. 5). The first connection member 508 is coupled to the locking pin 502 by a suitable pin retainer 511. The pin retainer 511 connects the locking pin 502 to the first connection member 508 and provides a surface for the force of the spring 505 to act.

The locking pin 502 extends into a holder 516 that may be formed with a seat shell 513. When the seat is not fully detached, the holder 516 holds the locking pin 502 in place as the seat is rotated. The seat shell 513 rests on the base 506 and is allowed to rotate as the locking pin 502 moves within a groove (or pin guide) 507. By resting on the base 506, the seat is allowed to move about any number of axes. The groove 507 may utilize a low frictional material that is bonded to the base surface to act as a sliding contact for the locking pin 502 to facilitate the smooth movement of the locking pin 502 within the groove 507.

When in a locked position, the spring 515 forces the locking pin 502 into the opening 504 and through the base 506. The first handle or actuator is actuated to pull the first connection member 508, which in turn pulls the locking pin 502 back (against the compressive force of the spring 505) and extracts the locking pin 502 from the opening 504 thereby allowing movement of the locking pin 502 within the groove 507. Consequently, the seat is allowed to rotate about the base 506. Upon return, the spring 505 pushes the locking pin 502 into the opening 504 in the base 506.

The second handle or actuator (e.g., a release grip) is used to pull the locking pin 502 completely out of the opening 504 and also out of the groove 507 in the base 506. This action completely disengages the locking pin 502 from the base 506. After being fully detached, the locking pin 502 may be reattached by releasing the actuator (e.g., release grip) from the locked open position.

Referring now to FIG. 6, another example of the child seating system is described. First opening 618 and second opening 614 extend through a base 601. A handle or actuator 602 is connected to a first locking pin 604 and a second locking pin 606. Although two locking pins are shown in the example of FIG. 6, it will be understood that any number of locking pins can be used.

The first locking pin 604 is disposed within a first locking pin holder 608 and the second locking pin 606 is disposed within a second locking pin holder 610. In one approach, the locking pin holders 608 and 610 may be incorporated into the seat.

When the seat is in a locked position, a first spring 612 provides compressive force to force the first locking pin 604 through the first locking pin holder 608 and through a first opening 618 in the base 601. A second spring 616 pushes the second locking pin 606 into the second opening 614 in the base 601.

The handle 602 is actuated (e.g., pulled, moved, turned, or rotated) thereby pulling a cable 619. The pulling of the cable 619 pulls the locking pins 604 and 606 thereby compressing the springs 612 and 616. This action removes the locking pins 604 and 606 from the openings 618 and 614 thereby extracting the locking pins 604 and 606 and allowing the locking pins 604 and 606 to move within grooves (or pin guides) 620 and 622 (that are incorporated into the base 601) as the seat is turned by the handle 602. Consequently, the seat is free to rotate about the base. As the locking pins 604 and 606 move within their respective grooves (or pin guides) 620 and 622, the end of the grooves 620 and 622 are reached, the movement of the locking pins 604 and 606 are stopped at the end of the grooves 620 and 622, and the locking pins 604 and 606 come to a temporary rest in detents 628 and 630. In this way, rotation of the seat is halted in the direction indicted by arrow 634. In one example, the detents 628 and 630 are slight dips in the grooves 620 and 622 and provide some stability for the seat system while at the same time remaining in an unlocked position. The seat can then be rotated back to the forward-facing position in the reverse order as described above and locked again when the springs 612 and 616 force the locking pins 604 and 606 into the openings 618 and 614.

Referring now to FIG. 7a-d, examples of the child seating system of FIG. 6 being rotated are described. FIG. 7a illustrates the system before the handle 602 is actuated. In other words, the seat is in a locked position with the locking pins 604 and 606 being retained in the openings 614 and 618.

FIG. 7b illustrates the system after the handle 602 is actuated (e.g., pulled out). The locking pins 604 and 606 have been removed from the openings 614 and 618 and are now free to move within the grooves 620 and 622. Consequently, the seat is free to rotate about the base (as it is turned by a user pulling or otherwise turning the handle 602) within the limits imposed by the retention apparatus (e.g., the locking pin arrangement and the length of the grooves 620 and 622).

FIG. 7c illustrates the system with the handle 602 still actuated (e.g., pulled out) and being used to rotate the seat. The locking pins 604 and 606 (and seat) have now moved to a midpoint in the grooves 620 and 622.

FIG. 7d illustrates the system fully rotated (approximately 90 degrees) from the locked forward-facing position to the side-facing position. Here, the system has come to temporary rest and the locking pins 604 and 606 have been stopped by the end of the grooves 620 and 622 and have come rest in the detents 628 and 630.

Referring now to FIGS. 8a-8d, the rotation of a seat 642 about the base 601 shown in FIGS. 6 and 7a-d is further described. FIG. 8a shows the seat 642 before the handle 602 is actuated. FIG. 8b illustrates the system after the handle 602 has been actuated (e.g., pulled out). The locking pins 604 and 606 have been extracted from the openings in the base and are now free to move within the grooves (or pin guides) 620 and 622 in the base 601 and the seat 642 is free to rotate about the base 601 (within the limits imposed by the retention apparatus).

FIG. 8c illustrates the system as the seat 642 is rotated and as the handle 602 is still pulled down and used to rotate the seat 642. The locking pins 604 and 606 are free to move in the grooves 620 and 622. FIG. 8d illustrates the system when the seat 642 is fully rotated from the locked forward-facing position to the side-facing position. Here, the seat 642 has come to temporary rest and the locking pins 604 and 606 are in the detents. It can be seen that as the seat 642 has been rotated about the base 601, and the seat 642 has rotated about axis 636 in the direction of arrow 634 (to turn the seat 642) and about axis 638 in the direction of arrow 640 (vertically up and down). Rotation about the axes 636 and 638 may be simultaneous or sequential. Consequently, using the approaches described herein, the seat can be easily rotated about two or more axes (e.g., allowing rotation from and a front-facing position to a side facing position and also providing vertical movement of the seat) making it easier for a user to place and secure a child in the seat.

Referring now to FIGS. 9a-c, examples of an approach for completely disengaging the retention apparatus from the base are described. In this example, a seat 902 fits onto or rests on the base 901. An actuator (e.g., release grip) 906 is accessible through an opening in the bottom of the seat 902 and is connected to the locking pins 908 and 910 via cables 912 and 914. This placement of the actuator 906 prevents unintended access of the actuator 906 by the child.

The cable 914 is connected to a handle 918. As shown in FIG. 9b, the actuator (e.g., release grip) 906 is actuated by moving it in a direction indicated by an arrow 920. Actuating the actuator (e.g., release grip) 906 pulls the locking pins out of the openings in base 901 and also out of grooves (or pin guides) 922 and 924. In so doing, the seat 902 is completely disengaged from and can be removed from the base 901.

Referring now to FIG. 10a-f, an example of a seating system 1000 using a harness is described. A seating system 1000 includes a formed seat 1002 and a base 1004. As shown in FIG. 10a, the seating system 1000 also includes index markers 1008. The index markers 1008 indicate positions where the harness 1006 can be positioned with substantially vertical slots 1010 based upon information related to the child. In this regard, the index markers 1008 may be numbered and/or otherwise correlated with the child's age, weight, or height to give a few examples. The index markers 1008 may be painted on to the seat, decals may be used, or some other marking or indicting mechanism or approach may be used.

As shown in FIGS. 10b and 10c, the seating system includes a harness 1006 and the harness 1006 fits through a harness guide 1009 (i.e., a harness fits across a harness guide in each of the substantially vertical slots). As shown in FIGS. 10d and 10e, the harness guide 1009 fits within the substantially vertical slots 1010 and is allowed to move up and down the substantially vertical slots 1010. In each of the substantially vertical slots 1010, the harness 1006 fits over the harness guide 1009 and, consequently supports and directs the harness 1006. Using the harness guide 1009, an adult or other person can adjust the position of the harness 1006 so that it fits comfortably and appropriately over the shoulders of a child and taking into account factors such as the weight, height, or age of the child. As shown in FIG. 10c, a belt retractor 1001 is used to retract the harness 1006.

As shown in FIG. 10f, the back of an inner shell 1012 of the seat may include jagged retention edges 1014 so that the harness guide 1009 may catch and be secured into place by the retention edges 1014. Alternatively, other mechanisms may be used to hold the harness guide 1009 in place.

In many of the examples described herein, the seating system was described as being a forward-facing child car seat positioned on a seat in of any type of vehicle including cars, trains, boats, aircraft, trucks, or tractors (to name a few). Referring now to FIGS. 11-14, other examples of the usage of the child seating system are described. It will be appreciated that the approaches described herein are examples only and other examples are possible. Also, it will be understood that the bases as between different systems can be identical or substantially identical to allow the seat to be moved between and be interchangeably used with different systems. In one example, the seat can be moved between a base in the vehicle, a stroller, and a piece of furniture.

Referring now to FIG. 11, a seating system 1100 includes a formed seat 1102 and a base 1104. In this example, the base 1104 is integral with a vehicle seat 1106 situated in any type of vehicle. In this example, the seating system has the same elements as those described above to allow for the rotation of the formed seat 1102 and these will not be further discussed here.

Referring now to FIG. 12, a seating system 1200 includes a formed seat 1202 that is an infant seat and a base 1204 that holds and provides for rotation of the infant seat 1202. The base 1204 is coupled to a vehicle seat 1206 with a latch connector 1208. For example, the latch connector 1208 may include a loop or other arrangement and a user threads the safety belt of the vehicle through the loop thereby securing the base 1204 to the vehicle seat 1206. In this example, the seating system has the same elements as those described above to allow for the rotation of the formed seat 1202 and these will not be further discussed here.

Referring now to FIG. 13, a seating system 1300 includes a formed seat 1302 and a base 1304 that is incorporated into a stroller 1306. The stroller 1306 may be any type of stroller for holding and transporting infants and/or older children. In one example, the base 1304 is incorporated into (e.g., formed as part of and with) the stroller.

In another example, the base 1304 is a separate piece that attaches to the stroller 1306 through any appropriate attachment mechanism such as screws, bolts nails, or clips. Other examples of attachment mechanisms are possible. In this example, the seating system has the same elements as those described above to allow for the rotation of the formed seat 1302 and these will not be further discussed here.

Referring now to FIG. 14, a seating system 1400 includes a formed seat 1402 and a base 1404 that is incorporated into furniture 1406. The furniture 1406 may be any type of furniture (e.g., a high chair, other type of chair or sofa) that is configured to allow placement or attachment of the base 1404. In this regard, the base 1404 may be incorporated into (e.g., formed as part of and with) the furniture or may be a separate element that is attached to the furniture through any appropriate attachment mechanism such as screw, bolts, or clips. Other examples of attachment mechanisms are possible. In this example, the seating system has the same elements as those described above to allow for the rotation of the formed seat 1402 and these will not be further discussed here. The furniture 1406 may be stationary or movable.

Thus, approaches are provided that allow a child seat to be easily and quickly rotated so that a child can be quickly and easily placed and secured in the seat. The system is easy to use and, in some examples, provides enhanced protection for the occupant of the seat. The system is also flexible to use. In this regard, the seat can be interchangeably used within different systems (e.g., child seats in vehicles, strollers, furniture).

Those skilled in the art will recognize that a wide variety of modifications, alterations, and combinations can be made with respect to the above described embodiments without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention, and that such modifications, alterations, and combinations are to be viewed as being within the scope of the invention.