Coaster can order refill

High tech beer mat knows when your beer glass is empty

Oct 5, 2005 - Two German students have invented a beer coaster they promise will send for more beer when a drinker is ready for a refill - but it doesn't come cheap.


The "smart" beer mat, created by Matthias Hahnen and Robert Doerr from Saarland University in Saarbruecken, senses when a glass is nearly empty and signals a central computer behind the bar.

Andreas Butz, the students' supervising professor, told the International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing in Tokyo that he believes the invention has a commercial future.

He explained to a CNN reporter that sensor chips in the plastic coaster are the key. When the weight of the glass drops to a certain level, the sensor chips detect that it is close to empty and alerts the bartender via a radio signal.

"It's a funny idea but the nice thing about it is these students have followed it through right to the end. They've come up with the idea but they have made it practical -- it is even dishwasher-proof," he said.

"They have driven the product all the way to the end. If a brewery came to us now, we could produce something for them in a few months."

Beer vendors in North America have already inquired about the coaster, said Michael Schmitz, one of the supervisors of the project.

"They wanted to know if they could use it or make it themselves," he said. "The prototype cost about 84 euros ($100) to make one but if mass produced, it could be done for around 10 euros ($12)."

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