Signing Documents - A mobile, digital solution...

Having gone through a process (buying a house) that involves lots of signing-and-returning various documents, I can testify that that particular process hasn't quite made it to the digital age. You may have to print the unsigned document first, then add your John Hancock, then scan and PDF-ize it before being able to send it back - or more commonly, they'll want you to fax it, not realizing that lots of people these days have completely skipped fax machines. Well, this is a problem that Zosh is trying to solve with an iPhone app: it adds your signature and any other necessary info to any document, and delivers it back to you as a PDF, even letting you directly email whoever needs to receive it. At three bucks, I'd say that's a steal - and I wish I had it a few months ago!
[via Gizmodo]

Saving Your Life: There's an app for that...

Usually when people say that their iPhone has saved their life, they're being metaphorical (or at least hyperbolic). But for this guy, it's literally true: after being trapped under rubble in the Haitian earthquake, Dan Woolley used a first-aid app to tend to his injuries. The app also warned him to not fall asleep after possible head trauma, so he used the clock app to set an alarm to go off every 20 minutes. 65 hours later, he was rescued. Wow.
[MSNBC, via Wired & Gizmodo]

Rambler Socket - Yes, please!

Designer Meysam Movahedi is onto something with the Rambler Socket - why not use all that in-wall space to keep extension cords ready for easy use? The way it's conceived, the socket pulls out when needed, then spring-retracts with a gentle tug to re-stow. It reminds me of my central vacuum (which I love) - but EVEN BETTER! Where can I buy one, Meysam...?
[via Gizmodo]

Dynamic Ads in Google Street View - More or less useful?

The Telegraph recently reported that Google filed a patent to lay new digital advertising content over the photographed billboards visible in their Street View feature. If you followed that sentence and its implications, the next question I'd like to pose is whether this is more or less usable for Street View users? I suggest that it's more usable (and useful), if well-implemented. For one thing, the ads can be better targeted to an internet-based Street View user than a random driver passing by; and truly relevant ads are better for both the advertiser and the viewer. Second, static billboards could be replaced in Street View with animated, video, or interactive content that's more capable of reaching the user. Third? It's just plain cool. Of course there are possible downsides - irresponsibly designed content may distract or even disorient users, and the replacement of content will probably require all kinds of pain-in-the-butt business negotiations. But if you ask me, things are probably on the right track!
[via Gizmodo (who created the image), and Make]

Email Address Prejudice - It exists!

Nancy E. Anderson writes in the Chicago Tribune about how her email address may be keeping her down in the digital age - not because of the functionality of her email service, but because of its reputation. And she's right to be concerned: your email address can say a lot about you! can imply that you're a luddite; (or any other ISP address) means you don't take the initiative in your digital life and just accept the email address that is thrown at you, and the address may not last long; @[yourschool].edu means you can't let go of your college years; @[youremployer].com means you meld your professional and personal lives perhaps too much. and are debatable, since they both offer fine (arguably the best) performance, but are vestiges of times past. is the one that's universally acceptable for now, since it implies the understanding of cutting-edge digital trends - but that may not always be the case. When the next Hot Thing comes along, with all those folks do the tedious email address switch? And finally, there's the vanity address - @[myname].com. That's my weapon of choice, because it allows the underlying service to be switched anytime without having to change the actual address. So yes, email address prejudice - mostly based on the parts after the "@" - does happen. But for all I know, Ms Anderson may be correct with her closing line: "Having an AOL e-mail address might just become retro-chic."
[via Lifehacker]

Reversible Cleats - Winter safety at hand (er, foot)...

It's the middle of winter, so you never know when you might need a little more grip in your step to ward off ice-related injuries. (Well, here in Sacramento it's never, but that's just me...) In any case, here's a quasi-useful idea for that kind of situation: boots with built-in reversible cleats. Sure, the boots are highly specialized and expensive - but in exchange, the cleats are always available and don't have to be stashed separately when not in use. It's a neat idea, and would be especially so if there were some standardization for shoe-tread attachments across footwear manufacturers. As is, the fact that they're available from Hammacher Schlemmer kind of undermines their credibility!
[via CrunchGear & Gizmodo]

Progress-Bar Stoplight - Reassuring or dangerous?

Designer Damjan Stankovic claims that logic behind the progress bar around his Eko Stoplight is to enable drivers to turn off their cars at a long light, to save gas. Hmm. I think Gizmodo's John Herrman got it right when he called it "A stoplight for the Progress Bar Generation." It's true, our constant interaction with computers has made us anxious or frustrated when we have to wait for something with no indication of progress. So while this stoplight may soothe our nerves, it may also make the roads a bit more dangerous: people will be more tempted to distract themselves with gadgets, or jump the gun on the green light - hitting those other drivers who play fast and loose with the red lights. A corresponding example is the counting-down crosswalk, but that's actually on the other side of the safety equation: it makes sure pedestrians get out of the intersection before the cars change directions. This one, I'm afraid, is just begging for a drag race!

Breville Plug - An ergonomic no-brainer...

UX designer Bryan Haggerty noticed this ingenious power plug on his new Breville electric kettle, and posted it on his blog, Losing Context. As someone who's been doing a lot of plugging and unplugging lately, this is a design I could really dig!

LED Traffic Lights - The future is here, and it's broken...

Happy 2010 to everyone out there! I figure that 10 years into the 2000's, we're now officially in The Future, right? Well, it's not without its downsides. For example, traffic lights are beginning to be made with LEDs instead of incandescent lamps - this is good because (1) they use less energy and (2) they'll practically never burn out. But it turns out that the old-fashioned bulbs were good at something else: melting snow. In this photo (from the Oswego Police and AP), you can see the LED light having a problem with that particular trick. This is nothing a redesign can't solve - add a heating element that only kicks in under a certain temperature, for example. But it shows that progress sometimes involves a few unforeseen delays.
[via Yahoo & Gizmodo]