A 25-year-old master’s student at Aalen University in Germany has built a unique smartphone case which acts as an airbag to safeguard the smartphone against dropping from heights.
Because of the case’s airbag-like quality, creator Philip Frenzel calls it “mobile airbag,” but formally, it is called an “active damping” or AD case. The smartphone case comes with sensors that are activated when the phone is falling. As the sensors activate, they trigger springs mounted on all four corners of the case. These springs unfold and extend out in two directions, safeguarding the phone from hitting the ground.
The idea for such a case crossed Frenzel’s mind when he broke his smartphone by hurling his jacket onto a banister. The fall was so severe that the internals of the smartphone came out and scattered. After four years of experimentation, Frenzel finally came up with a smartphone case capable of detecting when the phone is falling.
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Frenzel also has a video of the case which demonstrates how it works. If the cover performs like shown in the video, the phone will bounce and come to rest softly as it touches the ground. The user just needs to reach down to the floor, lift the phone up, and fold the springs back into the case to ensure that they work the same way when the phone falls from the height again.
Frenzel’s smartphone case is sophisticated for sure, but it is not exactly foolproof. On a perfectly flat surface, the springs will perfectly land the phone in a good position, but the same cannot be guaranteed on rocky surfaces or if the phone falls on irregular-shaped objects. Skeptics would also consider the possibility of the springs accidentally popping out while the phone is in a pocket or bag.
Such limitations do not mean that the design is not revolutionary. Compared to other bulky, yet useless cases on the market, the AD Case does an excellent job. The case even won Frenzel first place in Germany’s Mechatronics 2018.
“In his thesis, Philip Frenzel impressively shows how a mechatronics engineer systematically and purposefully approaches a problem and develops a technically feasible and economically viable solution,” said Prof. Rolf Biesenbach, chairman of the German Society for Mechatronics.
Frenzel’s case has yet to enter production. He will soon start a campaign to raise funds to launch his product.
“We want to be able to finance our livelihood with it,” Frenzel added. “In short, we hope for a hype.”
Here’s another revolutionary idea: a new smartphone case from Los Angeles-based Royal Holdings has the ability to detect bombs, guns and knives. Dubbed the “Sword,” the case is compatible with the iPhone 8 Plus or Google’s Pixel 2 XL, and it comes with an array of 18 radio frequency antennas. When paired with the company’s mobile app, the antennas can scan people and bags to ensure that there are no hidden weapons.
If there is a weapon, the app matches the signature of the weapon with Royal Holdings’ database to tell you what type of weapon the other person is hiding. The effectiveness of the feature depends on having a clear line of sight, but the device can scan people and bags from up to 40 feet away. The app also uses facial recognition to compare a person’s face against a watch list and will alert the security officer on duty if someone who is on the watch list is there.
Barry Oberholzer, Royal Holdings’ co-founder and CEO, said there is no such product on the market now, but it could be perfect for personnel working in airports or restricted areas.
“RF imaging and radio-wave-based technology has [sic] been around for many, many years … we just found a different application for it,” Oberholzer told USA TODAY.
Oberholzer also says that a more proactive approach should be taken in the mass school shootings which have rocked the United States. Oberholzer believes that by giving security personnel a tool to identify hidden weapons, some of such tragedies could be prevented. The Sword surely does offer security benefits, but it is costly as well.
Pre-orders for the smartphone case start at $950. Those who want to use the feature on a regular basis need to pay $30 for a monthly subscription. Shipments for the case will start in spring 2019. Although the case can be purchased by anyone, the company is targeting law enforcement and security personnel. To boost sales among security personnel, the company is offering a special discount and a 64GB iPhone 8 Plus or 64GB Pixel 2 XL with the case.