Amazon CEO gets deployable airbag patent for portable devices

By on December 14, 2012, 8:30 AM

While many companies are working to develop sturdier materials and smarter designs to help protect devices from hard impacts, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and co-inventor Gregory Hart have been cooking up less elegant solutions. The duo received a patent this week that outlines various elaborate concepts to save gadgets from damage, such as airbags that deploy when a device's sensors detect that it's falling.

Along with using an accelerometer to determine if, say, a smartphone has been dropped, the patent speaks of a "safety monitoring system" that would also include means of detecting the velocity of the handset's descent, its distance from the ground, as well as the type of surface it's going to land on. That last part might be accomplished using a number of technologies, such as infrared, radar, x-ray or image recognition.

Assuming the safety system calculated that a device was facing impending doom, it might have more tricks at its disposal than airbags. For instance, it could be rigged to release jets of gas that slow its plunge to Earth. Or maybe those jets could help orientate the device so it had a better shot of landing on its airbags. Alternatively -- or perhaps additionally -- the device could have deployable springs that absorb shock.

Most of these ideas seem better suited to a high school science project than consumer electronics, but to be fair, there's no sign that Amazon intends to put any of them to mainstream use. The company might just sit on the patent in hopes of licensing it to someone with specialized needs. For an idea of how such mechanisms might look in practice, check out this lab video of Lenovo's "flying laptop" from 2006:




User Comments: 15

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killeriii said:

Getting tired of the USPO handing out such vague patents on ways of doing things. Soon we won't be able to create anything without paying at least a dozen patent holders for the process.

I had thought patents were originally meant for finished products, Not half thought out ideas that might not even be possible.

Guest said:

..........Air bags?? Really?? REALLY?? This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard for a patent... Who on earth would put air bags or air jets on their electronic devices? SURE I bet there plenty of room in that iPhone 5 for an AIR PUMP! or BAG with an explosive CHARGE in it! That Lenovo video is very cleary, and obviously fake, you can see the 3d animations and framerate difference between the video and movement of the laptop. You can't honestly think that is real... Where is the air coming from?? No fans? What, inside the laptop?

captainawesome captainawesome said:

That flying laptop is SOO cool. Makes me think of a future iRobot type robots with minijet packs on them for helping them jump big heights.

Pan Wah said:

It's a typo - should read "deplorable airbag patent"!

Tygerstrike said:

First of all, putting ANY explosive device in your pocket is the stupidest idea ever. Second, unless it is absolutly free, ppl wont get it. As it is I hear "Oh I will take my chances" way too much when selling cellphones. For some idiotic reason ppl think they are faster or smarter then oh say gravity!! SO any device that has the option to spring out or explosive enable is pretty much going to heavily damage a consumer if the hardware/software fails. Its a funny idea on paper, but utterly useless for the general consumer. Heres an idea.....make the phones sturdier.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Can you imagine how well air-bags would sell, every time someone simply dropped their phone/tablet?

It's funny how I always thought of vehicles as portable devices. Think of all the back pay vehicle manufacturers owe Amazon.

You can't honestly think that is real... Where is the air coming from?? No fans? What, inside the laptop?
Where do you think an Air-bag gets air from?

There are no pumps or fans pumping in air. Air is stored in a pressurized cannister and then released when needed. All the air-bags I've seen (I've not seen many though) were self contained and only needed voltage to initiate a deployment sequence.

ikesmasher said:

I dont see what the hoopla is, I mean as long as this doesnt detract from trying to make the product itself as sturdy as possible, and doesnt damage the device when deployed, it could save some chips and scratches....assuming they built it well.

IAMTHESTIG said:

There are no pumps or fans pumping in air. Air is stored in a pressurized cannister and then released when needed. All the air-bags I've seen (I've not seen many though) were self contained and only needed voltage to initiate a deployment sequence.

Someone correct me here if I'm wrong, but aren't airbags deployed by a small explosive. The gas expands and inflates the bag. So gasbag would technically be a more an more appropriate term.

And that video is awesome... although fake, still awesome. I want a hover laptop for Xmas...

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Someone correct me here if I'm wrong, but aren't airbags deployed by a small explosive. The gas expands and inflates the bag. So gasbag would technically be a more an more appropriate term.
You are probably more accurate than my generalized comment.

mailpup mailpup said:

I guess you wouldn't want to carry one in your pocket if you were jumping on a trampoline or even riding a roller coaster or other thrill ride. Definitely not if you are skydiving. It might be a double whammy if you trip and fall. Once when you hit the ground with your body and again when it explodes in your pocket.

VitalyT VitalyT said:

Why not a parachute?

One is likely to read in the future homicide report: A drunk man fell over the balcony and died, survived only by his mobile.

1 person liked this | TJGeezer said:

Wings. Little wings that shoot out and turn it into a glider. And I want a train whistle on mine, too.

1 person liked this | captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Once when you hit the ground with your body and again when it explodes in your pocket.
Front pocket, or back pocket? I suppose you'd get quite a different rush, depending on which pocket your phone was in when the air bag deployed. And speaking of hot air bags, has anybody here ever met my ex wife..?

What's next, air bags on tampons....:eek: That would have a certain "je ne sais quoi".

Pan Wah said:

What's next, air bags on tampons....:eek: That would have a certain "je ne sais quoi".

I'm grateful it's just my sides splitting...

Guest said:

Why would companies pay money to put this in there phones and laptops. The company makes more money from you if you break the product and have to buy a NEW one. So why would they spend more to lose more money.

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