There was a time when holding a seashell to your ear conjured up the gentle sounds of the ocean but in the future it could be more likely to read you your e-mail.
People are storing more and more digital information, from precious photographs to music and video clips, as computers, internet connections and associated gadgets get faster and more sophisticated.
Now BT's research arm BTexact has come up with an eye-pleasing way of accessing digital memorabilia using physical mementos such as a champagne cork from a party, a child's favourite toy or a seashell from a holiday.
The system uses these objects as triggers to bring up digital photos or music stored on a computer.
Initially researchers place an object such as a seashell on a scanner that makes a record of what it looks like.
The shape of the object is then linked by the system to all forms of digital media.
When it is then put back on the scanner, the computer recognises the shape and plays back e-mails, text messages and websites, as well as audio, photographs and video, via a TV or similar display screen.
News source: BBC News