On Amazon CEO's curious 'airbag phone' patent

Posted by Mark Raby

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has personally attached his name to a most intriguing patent for a phone that has a half dozen tiny airbags.

The idea, as presented in the patent, is that if someone accidentally drops his or her phone, the always-on accelerometer will detect that it's falling too quickly and will deploy the miniature airbags to cushion a potential impact with the ground or floor.

That's the craziest of the ideas mentioned in the patent application. Other possibilities suggest puffing out streams of gas to slow down the fall, or using springs instead of airbags.

It also seeks to patent the idea of using the same kind of collision-preventing measures, but with the trigger of a laser rangefinder as opposed to the accelerometer. That is to say, the phone will know when it's too close and going too fast to the ground or any other surface.

Of course, for me personally, this patent doesn't prevent the most dangerous risk to mobile phones - being left in a cab. Now if someone can come up with an idea to stop that from happening, I'd snatch that up in a second.

The application was filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office in February but was just recently made public. There could be significantly more time before it's actually approved.

Amazon VP Greg Heart is also on the patent, strongly suggesting that this will in fact be an Amazon endeavor. Or perhaps the two are just patent baiting and hoping someone else will want to use the idea, netting them licensing fees.

Only time will tell, though I have to say if there was actually a physical airbag-deploying phone, it would probably be more dangerous for me since I'd have too much fun dropping it all the time.