Although it would be wrong to say that tape measures are difficult to use, they can sometimes certainly be a bit fiddly - a couple of examples include the measuring of objects that aren't straight-edged, or having to squint to count off the exact millimeters on the tape. Pocket Smart String, however, goes about measuring in a different way. Users pull a string out from the pocket calculator-sized device, laying it alongside or winding it around whatever they want to measure. The exact length is digitally displayed on the device's LCD screen, and can then be stored in its memory for calculating things such as area or volume.

The 50-inch (127-cm) -long string itself is reportedly non-stretchable, and has a 20-pound (9-kg) breaking strength. A 12-foot (3.66-meter) heavy-duty model is in the works.

The keypad includes three memory buttons, allowing users to save height, length and width measurements. They can then use the device's standard calculator function to figure out square or cubic footage, using those stored values.

Measurements can be made in imperial or metric.

A bubble level is also built into the device, as is an LED light ... why a light? Well, because every gizmo seems to have one these days.

Although tape measures with digital readouts are by no means new, Smart String's highly-flexible, windable string is an interesting innovation. A conventional rigid measuring tape, however, has the ability to stand up on its own, which allows single users to easily measure things such as doors or windows.

You can decide for yourself which quality is more important.

Pocket Smart String is available from various retailers. It's presently selling at ThinkGeek for US$11.99.