Apple has been granted a patent (number 9,749,000) for “drop countermeasures for electronic device,” which is designed to make iPhones, iPads, iPod touches and perhaps even Mac laptops less likely to sustain damage if dropped.
In the patent filing, Apple notes that modern electronic devices are subject to a wide range of different environmental effects, including temperature extremes, humidity, physical contamination, and potential loss or damage due to physical hazards including dropping, shock, compression and impact. These considerations can be particularly relevant to portable electronic and mobile device applications, where sensitive control and display components may be exposed to the external environment, increasing the risk of damage due to accident or misuse.
A number of alternatives have been advanced to address these concerns, but Apple says there’s still a need for improved techniques. In particular, there’s a need for active drop damage mitigation and impact countermeasure systems, suitable for modern electronic gadgets designed for an ever-wider range of operating environments, and exposed to a correspondingly wider range of environmental risk factors, including dropping, shock, compression, impact, and other potentially adverse operational effects, Apple adds.
Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “An electronic device comprises a housing, a motion sensor configured to sense motion of the housing, and a processor configured to determine an impact geometry based on the motion. A countermeasure system comprises an actuator coupled to an actuated member. The actuated member is operable by the actuator to modify the impact geometry, so that impact energy is redirected away from an impact sensitive component of the electronic device to an energy absorbing component of the electronic device.”
Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.