Apple has been working on ways to protect iDevices from a fall going back to 2011 when the iPad was first introduced. They won their first patent for this invention back in 2016. Another detailed patent for free fall protection was filed back in 2013. Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published another patent application from Apple relating to free fall protection covering "active surface protection."
Apple's invention specifically covers a portable electronic device that includes one or more bumpers that are operable to transition between a stowed position and a deployed position.
In the deployed position, the bumpers may be proud of one or more surfaces of the portable electronic device that the bumpers are not proud of in the stowed position. The bumpers may protect the surfaces from impact when proud of those surfaces if the portable electronic device contacts a surface, such as when the portable electronic device is dropped.
The bumpers may form portions of side corners or other portions of the portable electronic device in the stowed position. In transitioning from the stowed position to the deployed position, the bumpers may rotate and/or translate.
Apple's patent FIG. 1B noted below depicts an environment after the user drops the first example portable electronic device and the bumpers transition to a deployed position to protect the surfaces of the portable electronic device from impacting the structure. The other patent figures show various styles of protective bumpers and a flowchart.
In some examples, the activator mechanism assembly is operable to rotate the bumper more than 45 degrees about an axis parallel to the first surface. In these examples, an additional portion of the bumper may be proud of the second surface in the deployed position. In other examples, the activator mechanism assembly is operable to rotate the bumper more than 90 degrees about an axis transverse to the first surface. In these examples, the second surface may be proud of the bumper in the stowed position and the deployed position.
In numerous examples, the activator mechanism assembly includes a restraining mechanism and a torsion spring operable to move the bumper when the restraining mechanism releases the torsion spring. In these examples, the activator mechanism assembly may further include a cam coupled to the bumper and a cam follower wherein the cam is operable to move along the cam follower to translate the bumper when the bumper is rotated.
In some implementations of these examples, the restraining mechanism may include a first magnet coupled to the torsion spring, an electronically controllable electromagnetic coil and a second magnet coupled to the electronically controllable electromagnetic coil wherein the electronically controllable electromagnetic coil is operable to alter magnetic force between the first magnet and the second magnet in order to release the torsion spring.
In other examples, the activator mechanism assembly includes a pump and an electrically-operated cylinder coupled to the flexible protector via a piston. In these other examples, the flexible protector transitions from the first state to the second state when the pump causes the electrically-operated cylinder to extend the piston and from the second state to the first state when the electrically-operated cylinder retracts the piston.
Apple's patent application was filed back in Q2 2016. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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