There are quite a few among us who have at least once been through the hell of having a cracked, or worse, a shattered smartphone display. How about an unbreakable phone, then?

As per a listing on the US Patent and Trademark Office, Amazon Chief Jeff Bezos now officially holds a smartphone airbag system patent, the mechanism behind which is a built-in accelerometer adept at detecting whether the phone is falling too fast. Once it detects that, it will quickly deploy an airbag. In a brief outline of the patent in question, the USPTO site adds, “A system and method for protecting devices from impact damage is provided. Prior to impact between a surface and a device, a determination of a risk of damage to the device is made. If the risk of damage to the device exceeds a threshold, a protection system is activated to reduce or substantially eliminate damage to the device.”


For crack-free gadgetry (Image credit: Getty Images)

In an elaborate description of the patent, it has been explained that it is essentially a damage avoidance system that is activated once the risk of damage is detected, before impact with the surface. In this sense, a damage avoidance system comprises one or more protection elements working together to reduce or prevent damage to the 'portable device' on hitting the surface. 

Using a mobile phone, one of the most commonly used gadgets as an example, the patent description explains that a damage avoidance system on a mobile phone would come with a safety monitoring system and a protection system. For instance, if a user accidentally drops his mobile phone, then the safety monitoring system, using several detection elements, will detect that the device is no longer in contact with the user. It then measures a distance from an approaching surface and decides the velocity toward the surface. The explanation elaborates, “Based on the collected information, the safety monitoring system determines whether the risk of damage to the cellular phone, that will be caused by the impending impact, exceeds an acceptable threshold.  If the safety monitoring system determines that the risk of damage exceeds the acceptable threshold, the protection system is activated.”

In this case, a protection system deploys an airbag before the device hits the surface. This way, the airbag meets the surface at impact. The airbag will absorb the impact and protect the device to reduce or eliminate damage. 

The listing on the USPTO page bears the names of Gregory Hart and Jeffrey Bezos as the inventors. The patent application had been filed on February 11, 2010. 

Interestingly, the listing makes note of the fact that at least as per one report, 1 out of 3 cellular phones are damaged or lost in the first year of buying them. “Damage may occur when a cellular phone experiences an uncontrolled impact with a hard surface or even become submerged in a liquid. With the number of cellular phones in use exceeding several billion and repairs typically exceeding $25, the costs of damage and loss of cellular phones amounts to billions of dollars per year,” it points out. 

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