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Apple looks to protect dropped iPhones by shifting their orientation mid-flight

post #1 of 90
Thread Starter 
An Apple invention discovered on Thursday describes a system that could potentially save the most fragile components of an iPhone, such as the glass screen, by detecting when a device is falling and shifting the handset's center of mass to control its landing.

Protective
Source: USPTO


Published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple's "Protective Mechanism for an Electronic Device" patent filing looks to alleviate some or all of the damage when a device is accidentally dropped. While the invention can be applied to any electronic device with a processor, from a tablet to a laptop, it is most well-suited for those portables that users carry with them on a daily basis. For example, Apple's iPhone is specifically mentioned in the patent language.

In order to work, the system needs a sensor or sensor array that can detect when a device is in freefall and how it is positioned relative to the ground. These can be simple gyroscopes, accelerometers or position sensors, but the patent also notes more advanced components like GPS and imaging sensors may be employed. Coupled to the sensor is a processor that can help determine a freefall state, including how fast a device is falling, how far away it is from the ground and time to impact, among other metrics. Statistics of various fall heights, speeds and other data can be stored on system memory to aid the processor in making a decision on how best to land the device.

Mass
Illustration of mass motor drive with attached mass.


Finally, the system requires a mechanism to either reorientate the device while in flight, or otherwise protect certain sensitive device components in the event of a fall. Here, the patent calls for a number of solutions, including the movement of a weighted mass within the device, a means to "grip a plug" to prevent a freefall, lift foils that can be extended out from the surface of a device, and a thrust mechanism such as a can of gas, among other countermeasures.

Clamp
Headphone plug clamp system.


Basically, the sensor send signals to the processor, which determines if a device is in a freefall state. If such a determination is made, the protective mechanism is deployed. Many of the embodiments focus on repositioning the device while in flight to have it impact a non-vital area or portion of the unit. In order to lessen the blow, or avoid it entirely, the protective mechanism can substantially change the angular velocity, device positioning or device rotation.

From the patent overview:

In one example, the protective mechanism is configured to alter the device orientation as the device is falling. This may allow a less vulnerable portion of the device to impact the surface at the end of a freefall. For example, the protective mechanism may be activated to rotate the device so that it may impact a surface on its edge, rather than on a screen portion.


Alternative embodiments focus on using internal motors used to grasp onto inserted cables to break a fall, extend air foils or aerodynamic lift members, and retract vital parts like switches. In addition, other options call for mechanisms that forcefully jettison cables which may be pulling a device off a table or weighty power supplies. In one example, a gas canister is used as thrust to counter gravitational acceleration.

Lift
Lift members can be extended from the device chassis to provide aerodynamic lift during freefall.


Such a complex system is unlikely to be integrated into an iPhone anytime soon, especially given the handset's increasing trend toward a thin-and-light design, but future iterations or products may see a similar method employed as component miniaturization technologies advance.

Apple's protective mechanism application was filed in September 2011, and credits Nicholas V. King and Fletcher Rothkopf; Fletcher as its inventors.
post #2 of 90
Isn't it a tad early for April Fool's?
post #3 of 90
Great idea. Invisible innovation that you won't find anywhere else.
...and the pundits want us to believe that there is no difference?
Go Apple.
post #4 of 90
Awesome thinking. This is the Apple I know.
post #5 of 90

Ha. This is pretty amusing. :) :)

 

It's like the phone equivalent of a cat, throw it in the air and it lands on it's legs every time.

post #6 of 90
Very clever. I doubt we'll ever see it though, since such a motor takes a lot of space and Apple is apparently taking measures to make the phone more resistant.
post #7 of 90

This is the sort of innovation I expect from Apple, sure it might not come out for a few years but the idea is a smart one.

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post #8 of 90
It's quite clever but simply making the device of harder materials might be simpler.
post #9 of 90

Or by making them physically tougher?

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post #10 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

It's quite clever but simply making the device of harder materials might be simpler.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

Or by making them physically tougher?

Or both. Liquidmetal, where are you?
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post #11 of 90
What about the general shape of the device?

My instinct suggests that the curved back of the original iPhone would tend to make it fall on its back or side. The symetrical front and back of the iPhone 5 combined with a lighter aluminum back and a heavier glass front would tend to make it fall on its face.

Also, a lighter and thinner device (i.e. iPhone 5) will fall slower. The iPhone 4 had glass on both sides and fell like a stone.
post #12 of 90

Just spread some butter over the side opposite to the fragile one lol.gif

post #13 of 90
Adding weight and complexity, while increasing the volume a device would otherwise have if it didn't have such features doesn't sound like Apple.

I guess it was good for them to file it, maybe the technology to make this practical will be available before the patent expires.
post #14 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by monstrosity View Post

Ha. This is pretty amusing. 1smile.gif1smile.gif

It's like the phone equivalent of a cat, throw it in the air and it lands on it's legs every time.

My exact thought. The solution of course is a tail needs to pop out as it falls. 1smile.gif

Of course it is probably a trick to see how long it takes Scamsung to start work on a parachute for their giant phones.
Edited by digitalclips - 3/21/13 at 5:40am
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post #15 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post



Or both. Liquidmetal, where are you?

Agreed...I am all for thinking outside the box and providing different solutions. But the most obvious solution would be stronger materials and balanced so it lands on a specific point all of the time. Then make the specific point not breakable......this is engineering 101....

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post #16 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post


My exact thought. The solution of course is a tail needs to pop out as it falls. 1smile.gif

Of course it is probably a trick to see how long it takes Scamsung to start work on a parachute for their giant phones.

or smartphone air bags! 1wink.gif

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post #17 of 90
It definitely adds weight to the iPhone body. iPhone's weight becomes more, isn't it? Am I missing something?
post #18 of 90

Not needed really, I always spread butter on the back of my iphone, job done.

post #19 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by jonshf View Post


Also, a lighter and thinner device (i.e. iPhone 5) will fall slower. The iPhone 4 had glass on both sides and fell like a stone.

 

Galileo would like to disagree... ;)

post #20 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by jonshf View Post

[...] Also, a lighter and thinner device (i.e. iPhone 5) will fall slower. The iPhone 4 had glass on both sides and fell like a stone.

 

The weight of a device does not affect the speed at which it falls. Remember Galileo's experiment dropping balls from a tower?

 

The fall may be affected by aerodynamics, aka air resistance, but that means a thinner device might actually fall faster.

post #21 of 90

Well a lighter and thinner device will drop slower as it will be influenced more by wind or gets a higher resistance from the air particles. A feather is not dropping straight to the floor but swirls. The feather drops at the same speed as a brick in a vacuum environment.

 

But why is there a need to change mass in the phone? Why not put the mass there at all times? It might be that it then feels a bit ackward to keep in your hand?

 

But as said, adding weight and thickness is so unlike Apple.

post #22 of 90
Originally Posted by FotoDirk View Post
Well a lighter and thinner device will drop slower as it will be influenced more by wind or gets a higher resistance from the air particles.

 

For a device of this size, that's so negligible as to be pointless to measure.

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post #23 of 90

With an external antenna they could implement an iCat.

post #24 of 90

They already have one motor in the iPhone for vibration. Hasn't anyone used Cycloramic (the App that spins your phone using the vibration motor)? All they need is one more in the other axis and they're set. They already have the other sensors built in (gyro, accelerometer).

post #25 of 90

Maybe they should just design the device so all of the heaviest parts are located where they want the center of gravity to be, if that's possible. I realize that the screen is probably one of the heaviest parts, and you can't really just put it wherever you want, but there may be other things that could be moved around.

post #26 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

It's quite clever but simply making the device of harder materials might be simpler.

Why do so many people believe that making something harder will prevent it from breaking? The opposite is the case. Hard things break. Soft things flex and convert the kinetic energy into heat. This is why glass breaks and wood doesn't.

 

So, if anything, the iPhone would have to be made from a SOFTER material. Unfortunately this is not a solution, because of asthetics and wear. 

post #27 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by FotoDirk View Post

Well a lighter and thinner device will drop slower as it will be influenced more by wind or gets a higher resistance from the air particles. A feather is not dropping straight to the floor but swirls. The feather drops at the same speed as a brick in a vacuum environment.

 

But why is there a need to change mass in the phone? Why not put the mass there at all times? It might be that it then feels a bit ackward to keep in your hand?

 

But as said, adding weight and thickness is so unlike Apple.


The mass of the phone will not affect the speed in which it falls, but physics does say that the force of impact is determined by "mass X speed squared". So reducing the mass would reduce the chance of damage occurring from a fall.

post #28 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chrispoe View Post


The mass of the phone will not affect the speed in which it falls, but physics does say that the force of impact is determined by "mass X speed squared". So reducing the mass would reduce the chance of damage occurring from a fall.

What physics program did you graduate from? Newton would be shocked to hear that force = mass x speed squared.

post #29 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by galore2112 View Post

With an external antenna they could implement an iCat.


It's too bad that the external antenna has gone the way of dodo birds. Smartphones simply do not have the same reception as the old feature phones with the telescopic antenna.

post #30 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by EricTheHalfBee View Post

They already have one motor in the iPhone for vibration. Hasn't anyone used Cycloramic (the App that spins your phone using the vibration motor)? All they need is one more in the other axis and they're set. They already have the other sensors built in (gyro, accelerometer).

 

Well, assuming this patent isn't just a joke, it really has nothing to do with iPhones.  It's all quite ridiculous relative to current devices and none of it is even possible given current constraints.  It seems to me that they are just trying to patent the idea first so that in 2056 when someone actually figures out how to make a device sprout wings to stop it's fall that they can point ot this and say "look! we thought of this first!"  

 

Personally, I'm not sure it was worth the money Apple paid to submit the patent, but they submit so many they probably thought it negligible.  

 

It reminds me of all those patents in the 1940's for rocket propelled ... everything, when rockets were clearly the future, but before anyone could actually build a reliable one.  The inventor would essentially put "rocket goes here" in the drawings even though at the time they couldn't be built.  

post #31 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

Or by making them physically tougher?

Ta-daa!

http://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2013/03/apple-may-shift-to-sapphire-crystal-glass-for-future-idevices.html
post #32 of 90

Wow...this is why I love Apple! :)

 

And thanks Ericthehalfbee for the tip on Cycloramic....I watched the video from the developer's website pretty cool for a $! :)

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZjRpbrVOVrk&feature=player_embedded

post #33 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by ankleskater View Post

What physics program did you graduate from? Newton would be shocked to hear that force = mass x speed squared.


Would you have preferred i said the kinetic energy would be equal to half mass multiplied by speed squared.

 

EDIT

I still think more people would understand the way i said it the first time though


Edited by Chrispoe - 3/21/13 at 7:47am
post #34 of 90

I think the iPhone/iPad/MacBook/iPodtouch should activate retro rockets to reorient it and bring it safely to earth. Or better yet, deploy a "sky crane", like Curiosity's, to stop its fall, return it to its user and then lower it safely, gently into his/her waiting hands. 1cool.gif

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post #35 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chrispoe View Post


Would you have preferred i said the kinetic energy would be equal to the mass multiplied by speed squared.

 

EDIT

I still think more people would understand the way i said it the first time though

 

 

 

Allow me, the acceleration of a device is independent of its weight in a vacuum. Everything on earth accelerates at an average of 32.2 ft/s^2. Or 9.81 m/s^2.   Air resistance does play a role but more of a role on terminal velocity. Over a drop of 5-10 feet, like another user said, the air can be ignored due to a small to no role in the impact speed. 

 

That said, the kinetic energy of an object is (1/2)mV^2 where m is mass and velocity is V. So the impact energy is dependent upon the mass. But note that the velocity term is squared. So the velocity plays a much bigger role in the impact energy over longer falls. Simply, the longer the fall, the less mass matters. I do not feel like running the numbers, but reducing the weight by a few grams will have little impact in a device already so light. 

 

It is more important to use ductile and tough materials. Not strong and brittle. (Glass is brittle). 

 

My two bits


Edited by Seankill - 3/21/13 at 7:51am
post #36 of 90
Oh, I can't wait for this phone... will these features be implemented in the 5s? Surely it will have a long, furry tail... and let out a screech if you drop it! Don't tell me, let me guess: the gyro action only works 9 times, eh? 1wink.gif
post #37 of 90
Next headline: Common Housecat sues Apple for patent infringement for "Always Lands on Feet" patent.
post #38 of 90

Seems it would be easier to install a small Mylar fan folded up inside. The phone senses that it is falling and deploys the fan like a wing, slowing the fall. Or you could just get a case that puts a rubber edge all around the phone. But I don't want a phone that saves itself. I want a phone that saves me! The iPhone Emergency Rocket Pod and Ejection Seat! Press a button and I'm outta there!

post #39 of 90
"A propulsion mechanism, such as a gas canister...."

Pepper spray. Cut way down on snatch-and-grab iphone thefts.
post #40 of 90
Interesting patent, dating from the era of thick glass front and back. Probably aluminum on one side, Liquid Metal, thinner and more resilient glass will solve the problem better.

But this patent could find application in flying robot cameras, toys or video players that follow us around. Stuff like that. The interesting part to me is the processing that goes into the decision-making before landing. Statistical analysis to act like a cat, fancy that.
Edited by Flaneur - 3/21/13 at 8:17am
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