Mobile device protection: Amazon granted patent for mini-airbag system

airbag patentWhether the idea was the result of a boozy night out or masses of market research is largely immaterial; the fact is that a patent for mobile device airbags submitted by Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos and company vice president Greg Hart has just been granted to the e-commerce giant by the US Patent and Trademark Office.

News of the patent first emerged in August 2011, though it was actually submitted by the pair over a year earlier in February 2010. The USPTO approved it on Tuesday.

Offering some background to the idea, the patent cites a report that claims “1 out of 3 cellular phones are damaged or lost in the first year of ownership. 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.” The patent also lists other portable gadgets which might benefit from the mini-airbag system, including e-readers, laptops, tablets and cameras.

Bezos and Hart’s proposed “damage avoidance system” appears to work much in the same way as a car-based airbag, except that these bags will protect your mobile device instead of your body.

Drop your gadget and in a split second its on-board sensors, such as a gyroscope or accelerometer, will detect what’s happening and deploy the mini-airbags, saving your beloved smartphone or some such device from sustaining a cracked screen or scratched back. The device’s internals would also be protected from a potentially damaging impact.

The patent even talks of “propulsion elements” whereby a mechanism would “expel a gas from the portable device to reduce the speed of the portable device as it travels toward an impact surface.”

Of course, just because the patent has been granted, it doesn’t mean Bezos will be turning up at work on Wednesday morning and ordering the boffins at Amazon to get started on installing the system on the company’s e-readers and Kindle Fire tablets. But the boss of the e-commerce company may certainly turn his mind back to the idea now that the patent has been granted by the USPTO.

Can you imagine the Seatlle-based company taking this one all the way?

[via engadget]