World’s Strangest

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Umbrella Possibilities

No doubt, the umbrella has evolved over time into a successful, functional personal accessory that works well in keeping rain off. In a driving rain accompanied by a powerful wind, an umbrella may turn inside out, or fail to keep one’s dress or pants dry. But it generally works well, and the latest compact designs [...]

Tomorrow’s Taxis

New York City held a design contest for new taxi cabs and have winnowed the finalists down to three designs, none of which are very exciting, but could make the manufacturer of the eventual winner rather wealthy. However, the city reserves the right to reject all three and start the competition over. Enter Neatorama’s own [...]

Bike Vest

Visit Steven M. Johnson at his website.

My Awkward Attempts to Design A Hands-free Phone

For this Friday’s Museum of Possibilities, I risk ridicule by sharing my past attempts to create a hands-free phone. Working for nearly twenty years at a metropolitan newspaper, I watched reporters spend a half-hour conducting a phone interview with a telephone crammed between their upraised shoulder and neck. It was easy to see how neck [...]

The Yucksack

One day it occurred to me that backpacks, when seen from the rear, looked like bugs. A review of backpacking equipment catalogs showed a wide range in pack design and capacity, many of the models bug-like in shape and color scheme. There are small, inexpensive student bookpacks, as well as larger and more expensive daypacks, [...]

The Art of Predicting Products

The future is not entirely unknowable. There are ways to predict what is coming using semi-scientific techniques such as scenario scripting and trend “trigger” analysis. Often, projections can be made by extrapolating from current trends. Indeed, trend trackers and futurists make a living describing what is coming. But there are also the psychics, village idiots, [...]

Multi-Task Vehicles (MTV)

This Friday’s Museum of Possibilities offers ideas for specialized vehicles that fulfill a range of purposes not usually desired nor requested by the auto-buying public, at least not within a single vehicle. Not to be deterred by the clear lack of demand for such vehicles, I have designed a few. The impulse to add unasked-for [...]

Building in a Flood-prone Region

This Friday’s Museum of Possibilities offers some unusual architectural designs for buildings located in flood-prone zones, such as low-lying areas along the Gulf Coast. Ideally, regions that are below sea level, prone to hurricanes and storm surges, or vulnerable to levee breaks should be left in a natural state and undeveloped. But that’s not about [...]

Rotating Room Group (Literally)

This Friday’s Museum of Possibilities addresses furniture that can be rotated, upended or turned upside down to reveal a distinctly different function. Over a span of nearly 30 years, this trivial and relatively unimportant design challenge has intrigued me. It is a persistent idée fixe for me. It would be dishonest to suggest that such [...]

Power to the People

The present drying up of jobs available to low- and middle-income Americans is leading to a drastic and largely unexpected phase change in the way we live and get around. Imagine what would happen if an ever-increasing percentage of the population could no longer afford a roof overhead or basic transportation. Norms for what are [...]