On March 21, 2013, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals a series of newly proposed protective mechanisms designed for future iDevices and MacBooks that will protect these devices that are about to fall to the floor or other surface. The invention for a protective mechanism is configured to selectively alter a center of mass of the electronic device. One design covers the use of an air foil while another covers the ejection of the battery in order to reduce device damage. Apple has come up with quite an elaborate design.
Apple's Patent Background
Mobile electronic devices are being used more often and more people are carrying mobile electronic devices with them on a continuous basis. However, people may drop their mobile electronic devices, or the mobile electronic devices may otherwise be caused to enter a free-fall state. For example, if the mobile electronic device may get pushed off of a counter or table. As mobile electronic devices impact a surface after free-fall they may be substantially damaged, even if they are encased within a cover or other protective device.
Apple has invented a protective mechanism is configured to selectively alter a center of mass of the electronic device. Examples of the disclosure may take the form of an electronic device. The electronic device may include a processor, a sensor in communication with the processor, and a protective mechanism in communication with the processor.
The protective mechanism may be activated to help protect select components or portions of the electronic device from being damaged due to a fall or drop. When an electronic device impacts a surface in a free-fall, certain portions of electronic devices may be more vulnerable than other portions or components. The protective mechanism may be activated when the device is falling or in a free-fall mode, and may help to protect the device, or certain portions or components of the device.
A Protective Mechanism is configured to Alter the Device Orientation as the Device is Falling
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 free-fall. 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. Similarly, the protective mechanism may alter the device orientation by altering the angular momentum of the device.
As the angular momentum of the device is altered, the orientation of the device (as it is falling) may be altered. For example, the device may be rotating around a particular rotational axis when it first enters free-fall and the protective mechanism may cause the device to rotate around a different rotational axis.
The Protective Mechanism may Alter the Angular Momentum via Rotation
The protective mechanism may alter the angular momentum via a rotating or linearly sliding a mass. The mass may rotate or change its position within the mobile device, which alters a center of mass and rotation axis for the device. For example, if the device is rotating in a horizontal manner, if the mass is rotated in an opposite direction or moved linearly to another side of the device, the device may change rotation patterns and rotate vertically (with respect to its in use orientation).
The Protective Mechanism May Eject the Battery to Alter Angular Momentum
In other example, a mass (e.g., a battery) may be ejected from the device in order to alter the angular momentum. This may be similar to the rotating or moving mass, because as the mass is ejected, the center of mass and rotation characteristics of the device may be altered. Altering the center of mass and/or rotation pattern of the device may help increase the chance that the device may impact a surface in a desired orientation (or at least minimize the change that the device may impact its most vulnerable area).
This feature is definitely the odd-ball in the group as Apple's current iDevice designs don't allow access to the Battery. This is either a wild entry for the sake of discussion or Apple is actually considering a new kind of battery for iDevices in the future.
The Protective Mechanism may use a Thrust Mechanism
In another example, the protective mechanism may vary the angular momentum and/or orientation of the device during free-fall by activating a thrust mechanism. The thrust mechanism may produce a thrust force in one or multiple directions in order to reorient the device. For example, the thrust mechanism may include a gas canister that may deploy the compressed gas outside of the device to change its orientation.
The Protective Mechanism may activate an Air Foil
In yet another example, the protective mechanism may activate an air foil to change the aerodynamics of the mobile electronic device. The air foil may help to reduce a velocity of the free-fall of the device by producing a lift force. In this example, the air foil may help to reduce the force of impact as the device hits the surface, as the momentum of the device may be reduced (as the velocity of the fall may be reduced).
Protecting Button during Free-Fall
The protective mechanism may also act to protect the device by altering components in order to attempt to prevent impact with a surface. For example, the protective device may contract buttons, switches, or the like that may be exposed on an outer surface of the enclosure, so that the buttons or switches may be protected within the enclosure at impact. This may help to prevent the buttons or switches from being damaged, while the enclosure (which may be designed to withstand particular forces), may receive most of the force from impact.
The Protective Mechanism may use Grip Mechanism to hold Earphone Plugs in Place during Free-Fall
In another example, the protective device may include a gripping member configured to grip onto a power cord, headphone cord, or the like that may be partially received within the device. For example, headphones may be inserted within an audio port and the headphones may be operably connected to a user's head. As the device experiences a free-fall (e.g., is dropped by the user), the grip members may expand within the audio port to grip or otherwise retain the headphones (or other plug). This may help to prevent the device from impacting a surface, or may at the least slow down or reduce the velocity at impact, which may give a user a chance to grasp the device.
A Sort of Free-Fall Black Box
The electronic device may also store information correlating to various impacts and free-falls of the device. This information may include the drop heights, drop frequency, device orientation prior to the drop, and/or drop velocity. This type of fall or drop information may be stored in order to improve or better protect the device from impacts due to free-falls. For example, the information may be used by the phone to better estimate a predicted free-fall orientation and activate a particular protective mechanism or device. In another example, the information may be provided to a device manufacturer so that the device may be constructed to better withstand the most common free-fall impacts, such as but not limited to, creating a thicker enclosure on a particular area of the device, relocating particular components within the device, or changing an overall shape of the device.
Apple's invention also covers a method for protecting a vulnerable area of an electronic device during a free-fall. The method may include detecting a free-fall of the device by a sensor.
In Apple's patent FIG. 1B shown below the protective mechanism may be positioned in a first zone 327 of the iPhone. The first zone may be positioned at or adjacent to a center point or center line 313 of the iPhone.
Apple's patent FIG. 5A shown below is an isometric view of a first embodiment of a protective mechanism for the iPhone in FIG. 1B; FIG. 5B is a rear plan view of the iPhone of FIG. 1B illustrating a long axis and a position of the protective mechanism of FIG. 5A relative to the long axis.
Apple's patent FIG. 5C is a side elevation view of the iPhone during a free-fall prior to impacting a surface; FIG. 5D is a side elevation view of the iPhone after a free-fall and at the moment of impacting the surface; FIG. 6 is an isometric view of a second embodiment of the protective mechanism for the iPhone.
Apple's patent FIG. 7A shown below is a rear perspective view of the iPhone illustrating the power source 114, which in this example, may be a battery. FIG. 7B illustrates the power source ejected from the iPhone. A third embodiment of the protective mechanism may include ejecting the power source 114 from the iPhone. For example, the protective mechanism may include an ejecting member 416 that may eject or otherwise disconnect the power source from the iPhone.
The ejecting member may be, for example, a spring, air (e.g., from a canister or produced by an electrical or chemical reaction), a latch or other member that may exert either a positive force on the power source or remove a restraint on the power source allowing it to eject from the iPhone.
Lift Members Could Reduce Velocity of the iPhone in Free-Fall
As shown in FIG. 8A above, there may be lift members 514 positioned along a top of the front surface of the enclosure 104 and additionally or alternatively along vertically along a side of the front surface of the enclosure 104. For example, the lift members may be positioned on the front, back, and/or sides of the enclosure.
In this example, the lift members may rotate along the first surface to extend outwards from the enclosure. Referring to FIG. 8C, in one example, the lift members may be secured along a top side and the bottom side of the lift members may be unsecured. The lift members may reduce the velocity of the device when it is in freefall, as the lift members may provide an upwards lift. For example, in the extended position, air may be trapped and push upwards against the bottom surface of the lift members providing an upwards force (or force opposite of the freefall), thus reducing the velocity of the device.
Apple's patent FIG. 10 illustrates a fifth embodiment of the protective mechanism wherein the protective mechanism 612 may act to grasp a plug that may be inserted into the iPhone when it enters freefall.
The Protective Mechanism could Implement Electromagnetics to Secure the Audio Plug
In Apple's patent FIG. 11 we see that when the grip members 618 are activated they may operably connect to a plug 610 received within the port 616. The grip members may substantially prevent the plug from being removed from the port. The grip members may include rings that may tighten around the plug 620, or may include prongs that extend to contact the outer surface of the plug or other similar members. In another example, the grip members may be electromagnets or other magnetic material that may be selectively activated. In this example, the plug may include a corresponding magnetic material. Then, as the grip members are activated, the magnetic force may be used to grip the plug.
Apple credits Nicholas King and Fletcher Rothkopf as the inventors of patent application 20130073095 which was originally filed in Q3 2011. Our report covers Apple's official Specification Overview and not its claims. Apple's patent presents 15 patent claims not covered in this report.
Another patent on this subject could be found in our November 2011 report titled Apple Invents Crack Resistant Glass Solutions for Portables.
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