Apple has been granted a patent for technology that detects that a phone is about to hit the ground and rotates it mid-air to limit damage. The US Patent and Trademark office has issued Apple a patent for a protection system that will consist of two parts – Detection and the rotation. The Phone will be able to detect that it is rapidly falling downwards and identify its distance and angle from the ground. To do this, the patent said, it will take advantage of the components which are already present; such as Accelerometer, Gyroscopic, Proximity Sensors, Location and a combination of Image, Sound and Audio sensors which may be used as a sonar combination.
It is likely that combination of the different sensors will be responsible for the effective implementation of the function and the patent describes a sequence in which they are activated to land on the ‘mathematically least vulnerable’ part of the phone. The second part is changing the phone’s trajectory. Propelling it through the air is easy enough and can be done with the motor used to make the phone vibrate. Depending on the rate of spin, angular velocity, time to impact and other factors, the vibration motor may be powered at higher rotational speeds than normal, effectively controlling momentum and ultimately landing angle.
Using the data generated by the positioning sensors, the central processing unit enables quick and accurate device positioning determination, specifically as it applies to a state of free-fall. When such a scenario is detected, sensors and processor work together to measure speed of descent, time to impact, orientation and other metrics. The processor may then conduct a statistical analysis of the fall by comparing gathered data against embedded information stored in device memory.
Apple has always thought about the most practical use-cases, when it comes to their inventions. Right from the advent of the iPhone, its user experience, the introduction of the Finger Print sensors which was looked more as a security feature, until Apple Announced Apple Pay earlier this year. Now, with this invention, one can not only estimate where a device will make impact, but actively shift the unit’s center of gravity so that sensitive components like glass screens and cameras are not hurt. Kudos to you Apple!
You can read more about this patent here – No. 8,903,519, “Protective mechanism for an electronic device”.