Apple applies the falling-cat method to keep dropped iPhone intact

We will give Apple engineers the benefit of the doubt and assume they weren’t inspired to create new drop-protection technology for iPhones by throwing cats out of a fourth-story window.

Yet the method they’ve proposed in a new patent application for keeping dropped phones from breaking bears a remarkable resemblance to the behavior of a plunging cat, which can orient itself mid-air for the safest landing, on its feet.

“As mobile electronic devices impact a surface after freefall they may be substantially damaged, even if they are encased within a cover or other protective device,” the patent application begins. “Smart phones with cover glass may be particularly vulnerable when the cover glass impacts the ground. They may be much less vulnerable if a metal or plastic portion of the housing of the smart phone impacts the ground first or instead.”

So, just as Whiskers stays safest in a fall by landing on her paws, the iPhone can protect itself by landing on its edge. To accomplish that, Apple inventors Fletcher Rothkopf, Colin Ely and Stephen Lynch propose techniques including a sliding or spinning mass inside the phone to change the orientation of the device as it falls. They also suggest that a tiny canister inside the phone could blast out gas through external nozzles to change orientation, like thrusters on a spaceship, or even to provide a lunar-lander experience for the phone.

“The thrust mechanism . . . may engage immediately before impact to achieve a soft landing,” says the application, filed in February.

Sensors in the iPhone would measure distance to the probable impact surface.

The technology, the inventors say in the application, could also be used for laptops, tablets, digital cameras and music players.


Photo: Cat landing on its feet (Wikimedia Commons/ColKorn1982)


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  • duck

    Maria…………. another beer, please.
    I give up. We’ll watch, THE VIEW.
    This show is totally bogus.

  • RadarTheKat

    Read about this patent a year ago on AppleInsider. SJMN is falling behind.

  • Akbar Jaffer

    I think this sort of innovative thinking is what makes Apple different from everyone else. You gotta hand it to these guys. Can’t wait to see this feature in action.

    • FightTheGoodFight

      lol @ thrusters on a cellphone. Keep waiting for that one.

      lol @ apple being different when they are copying MS Surface and copying Tesla, among others. Anytime they come up with “original” software it is just copied from someone else. Just like F.lux or living pictures. The entire hardware look and style is just copied from old Braun products.

      Over at Apple R&D means “rip off and duplicate”. Tim Cook made fun of the “Toaster-Firdge” but now he is trying to copy it and can’t.