Amazon wins its insane gadget-airbag patent

Airbags aren't just for cars, says a newly granted Amazon patent. A 2010 idea suggests that the technology would work well on phones and tablets too.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
Yes, that's air shooting out of what appears to be a tablet.
Yes, that's air shooting out of what appears to be a tablet. Amazon/USPTO

Amazon has been granted a patent for protecting gadgets from accidents by using tiny airbags and even jets of air.

The patent application made waves immediately after it was published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last August. Amazon filed for it in February 2010 and was granted it today, Engadget notes.

At its core, the patent details a system that uses your gadget's built-in gyroscope, accelerometers, camera, and other onboard sensors to figure out if the device has gone airborne. If so, a system can keep the device from getting too badly damaged by changing its fall, and even deploying airbags to lessen the damage.

In practice this means a dropped device might even be able to survive a fall completely unscathed, except for people mistaking the entire episode for your extreme flatulence.

Whether the company plans to include such technology in a future product remains total speculation at this point. So far, Amazon seems quite content to make its own cases for each new generation in its Kindle line. In its filing, the company suggested the technology would go well with phones, computers, tablets, cameras, and video game controllers (which tend to be thrown on purpose).

Here's the whole patent filing, if you're looking for some light reading:

Pat 8330305