Amazon's Bezos files patent for phone air bag

The Amazon chief executive and a company vice president are seeking to patent a method to protect mobile devices from damage when they fall.

Jay Greene Former Staff Writer
Jay Greene, a CNET senior writer, works from Seattle and focuses on investigations and analysis. He's a former Seattle bureau chief for BusinessWeek and author of the book "Design Is How It Works: How the Smartest Companies Turn Products into Icons" (Penguin/Portfolio).
Jay Greene
2 min read

Jeff Bezos is worried about phone safety. Not your safety while you're distracted by your phone. No, he's worried about the gadget itself.

A diagram from a patent application filed by Amazon's Jeff Bezos and Gregory M. Hart to protect mobile devices from impact damage, in this instance using an air bag. Screenshot by Jay Greene/CNET

The Amazon boss and his colleague, Vice President Gregory M. Hart, filed a patent application to protect their idea of an air bag that inflates around your mobile device if you drop it. Broadly, the duo are seeking to patent the idea of a "system and method for protecting devices from impact damage."

The patent was filed in February 2010 but made public yesterday. It was first reported by GeekWire's Todd Bishop.

The idea is to use a device's built-in gyroscope, camera, or other sensors to determine if the device its moving quickly toward the ground or some other object. If it determines that damaging impact is imminent, it triggers a protection system to absorb the fall.

"The damage avoidance system may detect that the portable device is no longer in contact with a user and is uncontrollably moving toward a surface such that, upon impact, there is a risk of damage to the portable device," the patent application reads. "Upon detecting the risk of damage and prior to impact with the surface, the damage avoidance system activates a protection system having one or more protection elements that work in concert to reduce or prevent damage to the portable device upon impact with the surface."

And the patent filing isn't just attempting to cover device air bags. Bezos and Hart also envision a "reorientation element" that would turn the device so that it hits the ground on the side of the device where the air bag has been deployed. And it doesn't have to be an air bag. The filing also contemplates using "a propulsion element, a spring, an impact absorbing structure, and a reinforced edge," among other protection elements.

Then again, you could just buy a good case.