NOVEMBER 1, 2005
SMART COASTERS of the FUTURE
Bar denizens of the 21st century might not have to work at catching the bartender's attention -- that is, if two university design students have their way. The pair, who attend Saarland University, recently unveiled an intelligent beer mat that detects the weight of a glass and can send an alert to the bartender for a refill.
Embedded circuitry in the coasters contain two sensors that measure weight and gravity. When the weight decreases to a predetermined amount, a wireless alert can be issued to a device behind the bar.
The students' final design is a flat, cylindrical body containing the circuitry, topped by a rectangle that holds a conventional cardboard bar coaster.
Another Use: Bar Games
In addition to ensuring speedy bartender service, the coasters also can be used for popular bar games, the students have noted.
In particular, they could be handy for voting on karaoke finalists or be used in other competitive games because the way the coasters are positioned can be recorded and displayed on a tally board.
The device can detect whether it is right side up or moving, and could therefore be part of a game itself.
There are several factors influencing whether the smart coasters will ever see the inside of a cocktail lounge.
The first, and most obvious, is whether the university might be able to commercialize the product. Currently, the cost to make a single coaster is about $100, but mass production could significantly lower that cost, the students have noted.
Another issue is whether there would be interest in the technology, even if the product were affordable. Good bartenders, after all, should already know when a drink needs to be refilled, and electronic alerts could be seen, at least in the initial stage, as a nuisance.
"The question is whether it would be useful or irritating," said Ray Foley, publisher of Bartender Magazine and founder of the Bartenders Foundation.
Foley added that there have been similar attempts in the past to bring intelligent technology into bars, but they have not caught on.
Copyright 2000 Claude Dern, All Rights Reserved
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