Apple patents iPhone cases that stiffen before impact
"Active electro-mechanical materials for protecting portable electronic devices," deals with two separate problems. The detection of that unfortunate event when your phone just slips out of your hands, and the inevitable impact with the ground. Widespread passive protection materials, such as rubber, plastic, or leather offer a static level of protection. They can maybe deal with a 4 feet fall but toss your phone from a bit higher and it’d be totaled.
The new materials Apple is talking about uses clever electro-magnetic wizardry to actively alter their characteristics. "When the active electro-mechanical material is exposed to external stimuli (e.g., electrical field, magnetic field, etc.), then the active electro-mechanical material is activated.," the patent continues. "Subsequently, the stiffness or viscosity of the active electro-mechanical material is altered."
In layman’s terms, when your active case detects a fall event, it sends an electrical current to stiffen the dampening material. The higher the fall, the stiffer the material gets. The aim is to offer enough dampening to absorb the shock of the impact, without breaking the protected device in the process. Furthermore, Apple wants these cases to be able to react in a matter of milliseconds. It all may sound like a science-fiction at the moment but if anyone can make these active smartphone cases a reality, it’s Apple.