Picture-screen apparatus are integrated into a conference table
to be viewed by conference participants. The conference table is
suited both for video conferences with conference participants who
are at different locations and also for normal conferences with
participants who are all present at the table. Television cameras
needed for video conferences can be removed from the surface of
the table, if the table is to be used for normal conferences. The
picture-screen apparatus arranged below the table top do not interfere
during normal conferences and can also be utilized for bringing
visual information of any kind to the participants.
The embodiments of the invention in which an exclusive property
or privilege is claimed are defined as follows:
1. In a conference table comprising at least two oppositely positioned
table elements separated by means defining a space, each table element
having a table top and a first side facing said space and a second
side opposite said first side, said second side being provided with
means defining at least one work station for a conference participant,
the improvement wherein at least one picture-screen apparatus is
provided and includes means defining a picture screen arranged on
said first side of a table element and at least partially below
a plane of said table top, said picture-screen lying in the vision
range of conference participants whose work station is at the opposite
one of said table elements.
2. The conference table according to claim 1 wherein said table
elements form an annular arrangement.
3. The conference table according to claim 2 wherein four table
elements are provided and positioned rectangularly to one another.
4. The conference table according to claim 3 wherein said table
elements have first trapezoidally-shaped table tops and fill elements
having second trapezoidally-shaped table tops arranged between said
first table elements.
5. The conference table according to claim 3 wherein said at least
one work station includes means defining three locations for conference
participants arranged at one table element, and wherein said picture-screen
apparatus at said first side of the opposite one of said table elements
includes two side-by-side picture-screen apparatus.
6. The conference table according to claim 5 wherein said picture-screen
apparatus is arranged at two table elements which are positioned
at a right angle to one another.
7. The conference table according to claim 1 wherein said picture-screen
apparatus lies below said table top.
8. A conference table according to claim 1 wherein said picture-screen
apparatus is surrounded by means defining a frame.
9. A conference table according to claim 1 wherein said picture-screen
apparatus includes means for adjusting the inclination of said picture
screen about a horizontally extending axis parallel to said picture
screen and about a vertically extending axis.
10. A conference table according to claim 1 wherein said picture-screen
apparatus includes an electron-beam picture-screen apparatus.
11. A conference table according to claim 1 wherein all installation
means needed for the operation of said picture-screen apparatus,
television cameras, microphones and loud-speakers, are housed in
said conference table.
12. A conference table according to claim 11 wherein said picture-screen
apparatus includes a control desk for controlling said picture-screen
apparatus, television cameras, microphones and loudspeakers.
13. A conference table according to claim 1 wherein said picture-screen
apparatus includes a picture scanner for transmitting pictures onto
said picture screen, and/or a control monitor.
14. A conference table according to claim 1 wherein said picture-screen
apparatus includes at least one television camera directed onto
the conference participant and an acoustic communications device
with at least one microphone and a loudspeaker.
15. A conference table according to claim 14 wherein said television
camera is arranged above said table top and is adapted to be removed
from said table top or lowered below said table top.
16. A conference table according to claim 1 wherein said picture-screen
apparatus includes at least one control monitor in the field of
vision of the conference participant.
17. A conference table according to claim 16 wherein said control
monitor is arranged directly at said work station for a conference
18. A conference table according to claim 16 wherein said control
monitor is arranged closer to said work station location for a conference
participant than said picture screen.
19. A conference table according to claim 18 wherein said control
monitor has an upwardly directed picture screen, the plane of which
defines with said plane of said table top an angle in the range
of 120.degree. to 150 .degree..
20. A conference table according to claim 18 wherein said control
monitor has an upwardly directed picture screen, the plane of which
defines with said plane of said table top an angle of approximately
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The invention relates to a conference table comprising at least
two opposed (oppositely lying) table elements, which are separated
by a space, whereby each table element has an inner side defining
the space and an outer side opposite the inner side, on which outer
side is provided at least one work place for a conference participant.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
Conference tables are typically designed such that conference participants
sit across one another. Such a seating arrangement is favorable
for communication purposes, since the discussion partners can see
one another, so that mimic and gesture can come into play. Increasingly
audiovisual apparatus also have an important role in conferences,
with which apparatus information can be transmitted by picture and
also by sound. Today, conferences between participants which are
at various locations are also possible with the help of television
techniques. Such type of conferences are also identified as video
Known is a media vehicle (Brochure AVE 4421.1 Edition 1/84 of
the Firm Weyel), in which a monitor and a videorecorder are stored
advantageously. Cable running between the apparatus stored in the
media vehicle are laid in the vehicle. A media vehicle already makes
it possible to transmit during a conference also information with
moving pictures. However, during use in conferences, aside from
the conference table and the associated seating a still further
piece of equipment is needed, namely, the media vehicle, which needs
a certain amount of space and to which also a cable must lead. The
design of the media vehicle does not always fit the design of a
conference table, which in particular in representative conference
rooms is not desired. A projection wall cannot be used on a media
vehicle, so that for example overhead projectors must project onto
Also known is a wall for audiovisual media (Brochure AVE 4430
Edition 1/84 of the Firm Weyel), which has both monitors and videorecorders
and also projection walls for illuminated pictures. Projection surfaces
are also provided, on the back side of which pictures can be projected.
The wall is fixedly installed, so that during its use all conference
participants must look toward the wall. A room with such a wall
is not well suited for smaller groups.
Also known are video conference rooms (Brochure AVE 3001 of the
Firm Weyel, German OS No. 33 17 414). Picturescreen apparatus are
provided on a fixed wall, on which apparatus can be seen conference
participants from a different place. A conference table is positioned
in front of the wall. Work places for the conference participants
are provided only on one side of the table. These present conference
participants sit in the field of vision of television cameras which
monitor and have transmitted pictures to be viewed on the picture-screen
apparatus by the nonpresent conference participants. A conference
room of this type can only be used for video conferences and not
also for normal conferences during which all participants are at
the same place. The conference room thus generally is utilized only
very little. The present conference participants must constantly
look toward a wall during a video conference.
Also known is a conference table of the abovementioned type (German
OS No. 34 03 345 FIG. 1), in which rectangular and quarter-ring-shaped
table elements and attachment units are assembled between the table
elements to form a C-shaped complete table. The attachment units
contain technical devices, namely a microphone, a speaker and lights.
Visual aids are not provided.
The basic purpose of the invention is to provide a conference table
such that, if needed, audiovisual information can also be monitored.
The conference table created to attain this purpose is characterized
by at least one picture-screen apparatus arranged on the inner side
of a table element below the table top and the picture screen of
which lies in the range of view of the conference participant, whose
work place is at the opposite table element.
A so constructed conference table can be used for the usual conferences,
namely also if no audiovisual information is to be monitored. This
is possible because the picture-screen apparatus lies constantly
below the plane of the table top. Whereas, if needed, audiovisual
information can be brought into the discussion.
In a preferred embodiment of the invention, at least one picture-screen
apparatus is arranged on the inner side of each table element, so
that a picture-screen apparatus can be seen from each work place.
Possibly excluded may be a control table element. The conference
participant sitting across from the table element may then view
pictures on the picture-screen apparatus provided on the table elements
arranged laterally from the control table element. The storing of
a picture-screen apparatus on a control table element may possibly
not work since the space below the table top is taken up by other
Particularly preferable is a ring-shaped construction of the conference
table. Such a ring-shaped table can be formed particularly preferably
of eight trapezoidal table elements, which form together a regular
octagon. Up to sixteen conference participants can be seated at
such a table, which is sufficient in most cases. An octagon table
can be easily manufactured of such a size that the picture-screen
apparatus are spaced favorably from the seats of the conference
participants, who sit at the diametrically opposite table elements.
It is also possible to provide four table elements. In order to
obtain a closed ring also with four table elements, it is possible
to provide fill elements. A preferable size is provided when three
work places for conference participants are arranged at each table
element. In the case of a video conference, six persons can then
sit at the conference table, namely preferably at table elements
positioned perpendicularly to one another. Further, conference participants
can find space at the other table elements. These participants are
then, however, not visible at the other place, thus participate
only indirectly in the video conference.
Further embodiments for the design of the table are possible. In
the simplest case, the table consists of two separate table elements
which are opposite one another. Possible is also a U-shaped table
construction, whereby the table elements are formed by the legs
of the U.
The preferable distances between picture-screen apparatus and the
diametrically opposed outer side of a table element is 2 m. to 5
m., preferably in the range of 2.55 m. to 3.25 m., preferably approximately
2.90 m. A general rule is, that the distance can be larger with
an increase in size of the picture-screen apparatus. Since, however,
the picture-screen apparatus cannot project above the table top,
the picture-screen size is limited.
As has already been mentioned above, two work places per table
element are particularly advantageous if the table is an octagon.
Particular table element dimensions are advisable in this case,
such as the length of an outer side being in the range of 0.8 m.
to 2.4 m. (preferably 1.6 m.) and the depth being in the range of
0.6 m. to 1.5 m. (preferably 1 m.).
The picture-screen apparatus lie advantageously at least partly
below the table top of the associated table element. The table tops
of the table elements can be constructed easily sufficiently deep
that even if the picture-screen apparatus are stored in this manner
there remains still sufficient leg freedom for the conference participants.
Each picture-screen apparatus is advantageously surrounded by a
frame, which also brings about optical advantages, since reflections
The inclination of the picture screens of the picture-screen apparatus
can preferably be adjusted. This permits an optimum orientation
of the apparatus and thus an optimum monitoring of information.
The picture-screen apparatus are preferably electronbeam picture-screen
apparatus. Electron-beam picture-screen apparatus are in today's
state of technical development needed, for example, for video conferences.
However, conceivable is also the use of picture-screen apparatus
onto which pictures are optically projected from the back side.
Also picture-screen apparatus can be used, the image points of which
can be projected onto the screen with the help of photoconductors.
According to a further preferable development of the invention,
at least one reading camera is provided, which is directed onto
the table surface of a table element. Originals, onto which the
reading camera is directed, can in this manner be transmitted onto
the picture-screen apparatus. For an optimum adjustment of the reading
camera, same is held preferably on a liftable and lowerable tripod.
The tripod can be moved by means of an electric motor. The reading
camera is preferably also pivotal.
All installations for the operation of the diverse apparatus are
preferably stored in the conference table. This has the advantage
that exposed cable does not exist and "cable bundles"
are avoided. A control desk can also be provided on the conference
table, so that a control of all functions by the conference participant
The conference table is preferably also equipped with a picture
scanner for transmission of pictures onto the picture-screen apparatus.
Thus, the picture-screen apparatus can also be utilized for illustration
of pictures which are not stored electronically, but for example
are available only in the form of diapositives or the like.
A control mechanism with a distributor is preferably provided,
at the input side of which diverse apparatus are connected and at
the output side of which the picture-screen apparatus are connected.
The picture-screen apparatus can hereby be divided into two groups.
It is particularly preferable when the distributor and the apparatus
connected thereto are stored in the table itself, preferably in
a control table element on which is also provided the control desk.
Further developments of the invention make the conference table
in particular also suited for video conferences, thus for conferences
where for example two groups of conference participants are in different
locations. At least one television camera is provided which is directed
toward the conference participant or participants. This has made
it possible to use a conference room, which is being used for the
usual conferences, also for video conferences. This permits a substantially
better utilization of the conference room than has been the case
for a purely video conference room, which heretofore would only
be used occasionally. The television camera would for reasons of
the angle of view be arranged relatively high and is therefore preferably
removable from the table top or can be positioned below the plane
of the table top.
A control monitor is also advantageously provided. The conference
table is thus optimized for use during video conferences. The close
arrangement of the control monitor to the conference participant
is particularly advantageous and permits in particular a small construction
of the control monitor. When the control monitor is arranged near
the conference participant, an upwardly angled position of the picture
screen is particularly advantageous. The control monitor is preferably
embedded into the table top, which has the advantage that the field
of vision of the conference participant is not blocked by the control
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Exemplary embodiments of the invention are illustrated in the drawings,
FIG. 1 is a top view of circular conference table;
FIG. 2 is an elevational view of an inner side of a table element
of the conference table according to FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is a vertical cross-sectional view of the conference table
taken along the line III--III of FIG. 1 however, the table elements
which are in the background are not illustrated for purposes of
FIG. 4 is a side view of a table element, as it is used in the
conference table according to FIG. 1;
FIG. 5 is a side view of a modified table element;
FIG. 6 is a side view of a table element into which a control monitor
FIG. 7 is a top view of a conference table in the form of a regular
FIG. 8 is an illustration corresponding with FIG. 3 of the conference
table according to FIG. 7; and
FIG. 9 is a schematic illustration of a control device for the
The conference table K.sub.1 according to FIGS. 1 to 3 is of a
ring-like construction. The ring is formed by four table elements
1 to 4 and four filler elements 5 to 8. A space 9 exists within
the ring-like arrangement of the table elements and the filler elements.
The table elements 3 4 are identified hereinafter as "monitor
table elements", since picture-screen apparatus are arranged
on the elements.
Two electron beam picture-screen apparatus 10 11 are arranged
on the back (inner) side of the monitor table element 3. Each of
the picture-screen apparatus can be pivoted about a horizontal axis
12 and a vertical axis 13 or 14 so that the picture-screen apparatus
can be moved into an optimum viewing position. Each picture-screen
apparatus is surrounded by a frame 15 or 16.
A television camera 18 is arranged above the plane of the table
top 17 which camera is carried by a column 19. The lens 18a of
the television camera 18 is directed toward the diametrically opposite
table element 1. The picture screens 10a, 11a are also facing the
opposite table element 1 and are oriented such, namely are turned
slightly upwardly, that the picture screens 10 11 can be seen comfortably
by the conference participants 20 21 22 which sit in front of
the table element 1. On the other hand, the television camera 18
can pick up or monitor the conference participants 20 21 22. This
is illustrated in FIG. 3 by showing the respective angle of view.
A necessary angle of view .alpha..sub.1 as viewed from the side,
occurs during a picking up or viewing of the entire height of the
picture screens 10a, 11a by the participant. The arrangement of
the table elements 1 2 and their dimensions are such that the comfortably
seated conference participant 21 can completely see the picture
screens 10a, 11a. The angle of view of the television camera 18
must, as viewed from the side, have the angle of view .beta..sub.1
in order to completely pick up or monitor the upper body of the
conference participant 21.
A control monitor 32 is also provided in the table element 1 which
control monitor is arranged near the conference participants 20
21 22. In particular, the conference participant 21 sitting in
the middle can look perpendicularly onto the face of the picture
screen 32a of the control monitor 32 as this can best be seen in
FIG. 3. The angle of view needed for the complete picking up or
viewing of the picture screen 32a is, seen in the side view, .alpha..sub.2.
A control desk 33 is also provided on the table element 1 with
which control desk the conference participant 20 or the conference
participant 21 can control the various devices present at the conference
An acoustic communication device embodying a microphone and a speaker
system 50 is furthermore provided on the table element 1. Of course,
it is also possible to provide headphones in place of a speaker
The slightly enlarged side view according to FIG. 4 shows that
the table element (it is assumed that FIG. 4 shows the table element
3) has a cavity 34 in which are contained cables 35 and other possible
installations. The cables 35 connect the diverse picture-screen
apparatus and cameras to the control desks 33. By storing cables
and other installations directly in the conference table, exposed
cable and other installation devices which could interfere with
the use of the conference table and with its appearance are avoided.
The design of the conference table was discussed above using the
example of the table elements 1 and 3. The table element 1 is constructed
like the table element 2 and the table element 3 is constructed
like the table element 4. The relative position between the table
elements 2 and 4 is the same as between the table elements 1 and
2. In the arrangement according to FIG. 1 it is possible to have
six conference participants 20 to 25 participate directly in a video
conference, that is, they can be seen at a remote location whereat
other participants of the video conference are located. An indirect
participation is possible for the conference participants 26 to
31. They can, however, neither see the nonpresent conference participants
nor are they picked up or monitored by the television cameras. However,
they can participate in the conference by observing or also engage
actively in the conference.
The conference table can also be used for common conferences. The
cameras 18 are in this case either removed from the table or are
recessed into the table, so that they do not interfere with eye
contact with the oppositely sitting conference participants. It
is possible to use the picture-screen apparatus 10 11 also for
those conferences, for example, to show data needed in connection
with the subject matter of the conference. In order to show on the
picture-screen apparatus 10 11 illustrations which are not recorded
electronically, as for example diapositives, a picture-scanning
apparatus 36 is provided, with which pictures can be scanned electronically
and are then shown on the picture-screen apparatus 10 11.
FIG. 5 shows a table element modification 38 with the table element
having a depth t.sub.1 which is less than the depth t.sub.2 of
the table element according to FIG. 4. The picture-screen apparatus
10 is in this case moved farther in direction of the edge of the
table at which sits the conference participant. To make this possible,
the cavity 37 is constructed shallower than in the embodiment according
to FIG. 4.
The table element 39 according to FIG. 6 has a shorter depth t.sub.1
than the table element 38 has. A cavity 40 has the same cross-sectional
form as the cavity 34 in the table element 3 according to FIG. 4.
A control monitor 32 is partially received in the cavity 40. Its
picture screen 32a is turned so that it is inclined upwardly such
that the picture screen 32 defines an angle .theta.135.degree. with
the table top surface 41.
The conference table K.sub.2 according to FIGS. 7 and 8 has the
shape of a regular octagon, which is composed of table elements
42 and 42'. Each table element has a trapezoidal table top with
an inner side 43 and an outer side 44. A picture-screen apparatus
45 is provided on each table element 42 the arrangement of which
picture-screen apparatus 45 within the table element can be seen
in FIG. 8. Whereas, no picture-screen apparatus is provided on the
table element 42', since the space below this table is occupied
by other apparatus.
A reading camera 46 which is secured by an arm 48 to a tripod
47 is provided on the table element 42', which will be identified
as a control table element. The tripod 47 can be lifted and lowered
by means of a device having an electric motor, which device is not
illustrated in the drawings. This structure makes it possible to
change the distance of the reading camera from the table top of
the table element 42'. The tripod 47 can also be swivelled. One
swivelled position is illustrated in full lines and one in broken
lines in FIG. 7. Thus a proper alignment and spacing of the reading
camera with and from an original document 49 which is to be reproduced
A control monitor 50 is also provided on the table element 42',
which monitor is supported similarly as already discussed earlier
with reference to FIG. 6. A switchboard 51 for controlling the various
installations at the conference table is provided on the control
table element and will be discussed in greater detail below with
reference to FIG. 9.
The conference table K.sub.2 is particularly well suited for internal
conferences. FIG. 8 demonstrates that each conference participant
52 can look comfortably at a picture-screen apparatus 45. Only the
conference participant 52 who sits at the table element 42 opposite
the control table element 42' must be satisfied with viewing the
picture in one of the picture-screen apparatus 45 provided in the
table elements 42 arranged on both sides of the control table element
42'. If the available space in the control table element 42' permits
it, it is of course also possible to arrange a picture-screen apparatus
there. This is, for example, the case if supplementary apparatus
like a picture scanner or a videorecorder are not arranged within
the table element 42'.
FIG. 7 illustrates a conference participant 52 at each table element
42 42'. Eight conference participants can participate in the conference
in this case. However, it is also possible for two conference participants
to find space at each table element, so that all together sixteen
conference participants are possible. This is for example possible,
if the width B of the regular octagon lies in the range of approximately
3.55 m. to 4.25 m., for example at 3.90 m. A favorable distance
a from one outer table edge to the opposite picture screen 45 is
in the range of approximately 2.55 m. to approximately 3.25 m.,
preferably approximately 2.90 m. From this results a length 1 of
a table element outer side 44 of approximately 1.60 m. A measurement
of approximately 1 m. is particularly well suited for the depth
t of a table top.
FIG. 9 shows schematically which installations can be arranged
at the conference table. It is assumed that we are dealing with
the installations at the conference table K.sub.2 according to FIGS.
7 and 8.
A videorecorder, a picture-scanning apparatus 53 the already mentioned
reading camera 46 and a television camera 54 are arranged in the
control table element 42'. The circle 55 symbolizes the drive motor
and associated drive for the lifting and lowering of the tripod
47. The supply of current to the apparatus is also schematically
illustrated by the box 56 which indicates the electric circuit.
The diverse apparatus are arranged at the input (IN) side of a
distributor 57 which can be controlled by means of control keys
58. The control monitor 50 and the picture-screen apparatus 45 are
connected to the output (OUT) side. Four picture-screen apparatus
45 are combined to one group I and three picture-screen apparatus
45 to one group II. Which picture-screen apparatus belonging to
the group I and which to the group II is shown in FIG. 7. The dividing
of the picture-screen apparatus into groups makes it possible for
different pictures to appear on picture-screen apparatus which lie
side-by-side. Conference participants sitting opposite one another
are able to view selectively the one or the other picture.
Part of the installation of the conference table involves also
at least one microphone 59 one speaker system 60 and one sound
amplifier 61. Keyboards for the diverse installed elements are also
shown in FIG. 9 and are identified by the reference numeral 62 for
the videorecorder 52 by the reference numeral 63 for the tripod,
by the reference numeral 64 for the picture-scanning apparatus and
by the reference numeral 65 for the sound system. All of these keyboards
are combined in the switchboard 51 (see FIG. 7).
A telephone 66 is also provided at the table, and a switch unit
67 with associated keyboard 68 for controlling the equipment in
the room where the conference table is. For example, the arrow 69
symbolizes the control of the lighting, the arrow 70 the control
of the intensity of the lighting, the arrow 71 the control of the
ventilation and the arrow 72 the control of any further desired
function. The keyboard 68 can also be integrated into the switchboard
Devices are illustrated within the box 73 shown in broken lines,
which devices are not directly integrated into the conference table,
but which for example are stored in an outer chamber. A microcomputer
74 with associated keyboard 75 a monitor 76 for information received
through telephone lines (so called Btx-monitor) with associated
keyboard 77 and a Btx-telephone 78 which communicates through telephone
modems 79 with the system, are illustrated. It is possible to connect
through the telephone 66 provided on the conference table the apparatus
in the box 73 through the distributor 57 to the picture screens
Although a particular preferred embodiment of the invention has
been disclosed in detail for illustrative purposes, it will be recognized
that variations or modifications of the disclosed apparatus, including
the rearrangement of parts, lie within the scope of the present