Amazon's Bezos envisions airbag phone, files patent

Aug 14, 2011 by Nancy Owano weblog

(PhysOrg.com) -- A U.S. patent application was filed in February 11, 2010 bearing the names of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Amazon VP Greg Hart but was discovered this week by Geekwire. According to their patent application titled "Protecting Devices From Impact Damage," smartphones will get airbags as a safety precaution in case their users drop the phones or they fall accidentally. The two patent-seekers are proposing the system and method not just for the smartphone but for a range of mobile devices that nobody likes to drop, such as audio players, cameras and pagers. Bezos and Hart’s patent filing has Illustrations and flowcharts to further explain their "removably attachable damage avoidance system."

As one scenario goes, the user drops the phone. Whoops, says the safety monitoring system, this device is no longer in contact with the user. The approaching surface is measured and the velocity is determined. Does the risk of damage exceed the threshold? If so, here comes the airbag to be deployed, and it’s the airbag, not the poor device, that makes first contact with the surface.

When the news hit that Bezos had filed a patent for phones with airbags, a number of responses from writers in the blogosphere admitted disbelief, perhaps not unrelated to bearing witness to the sting of discovering that the ‘Internet Explorer users are more stupid’ report was a hoax.

The application states conditions that make such a proposal appear practical considering the heavy use of and the need to protect them from damage. “These portable devices are sometimes vitally important to the user as they often contain data that is related to the user's work and personal life,” says the application. That data might include private data difficult or nearly impossible to replace.

Bezos studied electrical engineering and computing science at Princeton, and also worked as a financial analyst. That, leave alone his ascent as leader of click-and-buy Amazon, suggests a scientist who knows how to market ideas. His business case in the application is as interesting as his technical description.

“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,” says Bezos. He also notes in the application, “At least one report claims 1 out of 3 cellular phones are damaged or lost in the first year of ownership.”

Whatever direction the takes, or whoever compares Bezos more to Don Quixote than Thomas Edison, Bezos is not likely to feel demolished. As he once told new students at Princeton, “Failure is an essential component of innovation.”

Explore further: BMW to reveal driverless innovations that allow for 360- degree collision avoidance and valet parking

More information: appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Pa… 30&RS=DN/20110194230

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User comments : 6

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Techno1
1 / 5 (2) Aug 14, 2011
Nice.

Was thinking about how minaturization continues to make circuitry and components more and more delicate, which would make phones in the future too fragile for normal use.

Interesting solution.
TJ_alberta
5 / 5 (6) Aug 14, 2011
newest : I believe the opposite is true. screens may be delicate, however the rest of the electronics can withstand huge punishment and still function.
Mayday
not rated yet Aug 14, 2011
Have you ever seen a real airbag deploy? You don't want this thing accidentally going off in your pocket. Besides, I thought these companies made money thanks to all the butter-fingered users. Cracked glass=great time to trade up. But then again; once this little airbag deploys and the user is praising the invention to high heaven, they now have to go out a buy a new air bag kit. That'll be another $49, thanks. Brilliant.
loneislander
not rated yet Aug 14, 2011
I wish someone would make a phone to survive the conditions in my pocket when I do physical work -- I have one of those efficient core cooling systems which allows me to out-work men of my age by sweating 5-10 times greater amounts under equal conditions. Even though less than 10% of my life is physical work, phones last less than a year. (and yes, they'll get wet on my hip so they might as well be in my breast pocket)

How about that Bezos?
Cave_Man
not rated yet Aug 14, 2011
I wish someone would make a phone to survive the conditions in my pocket when I do physical work -- I have one of those efficient core cooling systems which allows me to out-work men of my age by sweating 5-10 times greater amounts under equal conditions. Even though less than 10% of my life is physical work, phones last less than a year. (and yes, they'll get wet on my hip so they might as well be in my breast pocket)


And here I thought I was the only one who sweats so much people ask "Are you okay?" all the time like I'm dying, no sir im just hard at work.

I used to work construction (rough framing) and just recently worked as a furniture mover/installer for a weekend and I outworked most everyone there except for this one friend of mine who is smaller than me but kept up with me which means he was probably doing more work than me as a matter of work ratio to body weight etc.

Anyways, us sweaty workers will always get the job done...whether it breaks our phones or not!
gwrede
5 / 5 (2) Aug 14, 2011
We were smoking with colleagues in a stairwell in 1993, and one of us accidentally dropped her phone over the edge. The Nokia 2110 fell 5 floors and smashed into the concrete floor. We looked at each and thought "what's the use to even go see the wreckage?" But since it was a company phone we had to. It looked fairly worn out, with a bent antenna, the battery flown out, with a little leak, but the display (made of glass!) was unshattered.

Just for the heck of it we put in a fresh battery and could actually call people with it. Needless to say, we were profoundly impressed.

Last summer I bougt an N900 and it fell hard on concrete from my hand. Terrible scratches on the metal screen frame, but no real damage.

I think an iPhone with this bright colored soft "skin" you can buy, should survive a drop from any height. No airbags needed.

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