With technology like NFC on the rise, you might think the humble barcode might not be long for this world. As it turns out, that old medium has at least one more trick up its sleeve. Going tactile and operating with sound just might be what it takes to make barcodes cool (again?).

The premise is simple, just like running a stick across a picket fence, running a finger, a pen, or a phone across a series of grooves creates a unique, identifiable snippet of sound, like Morse code for machines. An app can easily convert the different dots and dashes to a data value, similar to the bars and spaces of a barcode, or the squares of a QR code.

It's definitely more low-tech than the most outwardly comparable tech, NFC, but the acoustic barcodes don't require any sort of special tech on the phone side—not even a camera—which could be a big feature. They could also be practically invisible. With mobile tech being as advanced as it is now, it's hard to evision this really taking off as anything but a novelty, but it's still a pretty neat technology, and better than some of the popular alternatives like QR codes. You can imagine how it might have been a real game-changer in some alternate universe, one where it's really important your iPhone doesn't scuff easily. [Chris Harrison via Engadget]