We have become a world full of gadget addicts. Every day on my commute to and from New York City, I'm surrounded by hordes of people happily ensconced in their own little worlds, listening to music on their MP3 players, fiddling with their cell phones, madly texting associates or scanning emails on their iPhones and BlackBerries. Everyone seems to have some sort of electronic device occupying their attention, much to the chagrin of taxi drivers and other pedestrians alike.

This addiction was really hammered home to me, however, on a recent trip to Aruba. While sitting on the beach doing nothing one afternoon, I suddenly realized I was surrounded by people listening to music on their MP3 players, fiddling with their cell phones, and madly texting associates or scanning emails on their iPods and BlackBerries. Being an engineer, my initial reaction was one of alarm. Not for the people - far be it from me to tell anyone what to do on vacation - but for their gadgets. Stuff like sand, sweat, sunscreen, and salt water don't play well with expensive electronics.

Apparently I'm not the only person who has figured this out. A company in Fort Collins, CO called OtterBox  has come up with an innovative line of shockproof, dustproof and, in some cases, waterproof enclosures for most of today's popular electronic gadgets. That's right, I said waterproof. The hard plastic "Armor Series" case designed for the 4th generation iPod Nano, for example, can be safely submerged to a depth of 3 feet and incorporates a sealed headphone jack so you can use headphones without the risk of water seeping into the case. That means you can not only safely use your iPod by the pool, you can now safely use it in the pool. I'm not sure why anyone would want to do that, but I'm quite willing to bet they do. And yes, all of the controls - except for the lockout switch - work with the iPod sealed in the case. Pretty clever, if you ask me.

The cases they make for other gadgets, such as the iPhone and BlackBerry, aren't designed for aquatic use because, let's face it, working an iPod's thumbwheel through a waterproof membrane is one thing; trying to answer the phone or text message underwater present a whole different challenge. But they do appear to offer excellent protection against the usual bumps, bangs and bruises that come with trying to do things like walk, talk and text, all at the same time.

The best part is, now that I can safely use my iPod at the beach, I won't have to sit there listening to all the gadget addicts around me talking business on their cell phones while I'm trying to relax.