Decorated Barcodes - Keep the function, add some fun...

This is generally a blog about usability, but I'll definitely accept an item which keeps usability and simply adds the ethereal quality of "delight." These barcodes fit the bill - from Japanese firm D-Barcode, they leave the codes just as easy to scan by laser, but add a little something designed to make people smile. Hey, it worked on me!
[via Neatorama & Make]

Pick up the phone, silence the ringer - classic!

Once upon a time, "telephones" were things that sat on desks - and when they rang, you would "pick up" the phone to answer it. It seems antiquated in an age of ubiquitous caller-ID, where you always want to see who's calling (which requires picking up the phone) before answering (which now requires pressing a button). But the HTC HD2, among other Android smartphones, has designed a bit of useful nostalgia: the phone's ringer silences (or at least reduces volume, I can't quite tell) when it's been physically picked up. This is a great idea - it reduces the time from annoyance to silence, and may even allow someone to silence a phone in a bag or purse by just jabbing at the thing. However, it's an idea that requires a robust solution - what if the user is walking or jogging, so the phone (and accelerometer) is constantly being jostled around? The ringer might be silenced before the user has a chance to hear it! The solution - which I hope was used - is only to enable this feature if the accelerometer has been stable, indicating little or no movement, in the moments prior to the ring. Great ideas deserve this kind of robust implementation!
[via User Centered]

Know-It-All Pencils - More real estate for info!

If you're a gradeschool student using a pencil, you spend a lot of time with that little wooden stick in your hand - so hey, you might as well put it to good use. Etsy's Know It All No. 2 Pencil Set consists of normal pencils, each of which is emblazoned with a simple something that's worth remembering. It may seem like a piddling little effort at education - but I bet that every student who uses one of these actually has that fact memorized for life by the time it's sharpened down to a nub. Presence of information plus a captive audience equals memorization!
[via Make]

Freedom Leg: Look ma, no hands!

Crutches perform the necessary function of taking the weight off of a lame leg, but beyond that they're very inconvenient - they occupy both hands, cause mild armpit burns, and take up space both during use and, well, at all other times. Freedom Leg asks why you should involve the arms at all - why not just use the same leg farther up, where it's not injured? The result is a kind of temporary prosthesis that looks much more convenient than normal crutches - I only hope it's a little more comfortable than it looks. Check the site for a video of it in action - it's definitely impressive! If I break a leg, I know what I'm going for...
[via Gizmodo]

AccidentSketch - A good tool for when you need it...

Product design often seems to exist in a perfect world, where people use products as intended (and the products work as intended) and everything is free of scratches, smudges, wear and tear. But hey, the real world needs good design, too - and here's a great example of it. AccidentSketch is designed precisely for those moments when things go wrong - when you've had a car accident and need to explain and document exactly what happened. A simple written account is the norm, but it's ill-suited for the complexity of an event that occurred through time and in 3-D space. AccidentSketch's well-designed drawing tools help you put the scenario together clearly and easily - though I would have loved to see animation as an option. Still, it's a great design, a thoughtful offering, and a worthy tool for when you need it.
[via Lifehacker]