We all know the feeling: the moment your phone slips through your fingertips and, in slow motion, crashes violently to the floor. You stop, wait, then cringe while reaching down for the phone for that moment of truth.
Is the screen cracked?
Thanks to one German adventure we may be able to kiss the cracked-phone blues goodbye. Twenty-five-year-old student Philip Frenzel at Germany’s Aalen University created a device meant to deploy and protect your phone as soon as it leaves your fingertips. His inspiration is a story familiar to us all when he permanently broke his phone after throwing his jacket over a banister – with the phone in its pocket.
But this “mobile airbag” for your phone isn’t really an airbag at all. Rather, an “Active Dampening” (AD) case uses eight curved, springy feet to dampen your phone’s fall. Normally tucked into the case, they launch as soon as the phone detects freefall to absorb the shock of impact. Unlike car airbags, the device isn’t a one-time-use: the owner only need pop the eight curly legs back into their holsters.
The case reportedly took Frenzel four years to design, and he initially played with the idea of installing an actual airbag – which would require pressurized air and a much bulkier design – on his phone. Not quite as practical.
It seems super promising but, as Popular Mechanics points out, there are still a few blaring questions. For starters, how can we be sure the case doesn’t go off whenever it thinks it’s freefalling, such as flopping over on the couch or shuffling around in a backpack. Of course, tapping into the phone’s proximity sensor could be a good start.
Either way, the judges from the German Society for Mechatronics awarded Franzel the honor of outstanding work in the field of mechatronics for his sleek, novel design. For now, we’ll have to wait for his crowdfunding campaign to get our hands on one.