This moment you drop your phone and everything stops. You can hear your heart beat – the buzz of the world around you is silenced – all the cognitions stop – you see as idling the spin of your $ 700 electronics piece toward the cement. How is he going to land? Will you be lucky this time? Where is that? But if you had this affair on it, then you would see spring horns and land with a jaunty rebound.
This "active cushioning" case, much like an airbag for your phone, is the invention of Philip Frenzel, an engineer at Aalen University in Germany. His idea won first prize from the German Mechatronics Society, which reviewed student projects across the country, and you can see him explain his genesis in a video here.
Frenzel, like me, does not like to compromise the aesthetics of his phone with an ugly protective shell, but he even less likes the broken face that inevitably results from this aesthetic decision.
Why not something that unfolds only when the phone is in danger, then? He started to work. The activation mechanism it arrived at early: sensors that detect when the phone is in free fall and activate the next step.
But what was this step? In his DIY, he first thought of installing a real airbag mechanism on the phone. But that, and a foam-based alternative, and a few others, just have not been practical.
Finally the inspiration hit. Instead of something sweet, why not something elastic? Maybe … springs.
As you see above, he came up with a set of eight thin metal buckles that normally rest inside the case. But when they are released, they come out and curl up, protecting the edges of the phone from impact and greatly dampening the blow compared to a complete stop on the concrete.
When you pick up your phone (probably undamaged), you just have to fold the springs into their holsters, starting them for their next deployment.
Of course, there is the consideration that deploying these things while the phone is still in your pocket would be at best embarrassing and, at worst, rather painful. It is assumed that there are considerations in place for this – by typing in the phone's proximity sensor, for example, to see if it's in a pocket or bag.
Frenzel has already filed a patent application, and even printed T-shirts with an eye-catching logo. So, this thing is practically for sale. Next stop: Kickstarter.