We’ve all been there- you’ve been persuaded by a friend to go out for drinks despite your important commitment the following morning. “ONE drink,” you insist, as your friend nods, valiantly promising to kick you out of the pub the moment the last drop leaves your glass. The next morning you’re being sick in a tobacco pouch on the tube and arrive at work realizing you’ve packed a stack of magazines instead of your laptop and your washbag instead of your purse. Humans, unfortunately, aren’t the best at delaying gratification, and once you get a few drinks down yourself it gets considerably harder to recognize those ‘limits’ that Drink Aware keep telling us about.
Most people react to the above scenario by clutching their heads, maybe sipping gingerly on a Powerade, and definitely groaning about how they’re “never going to drink again”. Most people, however, are not Dhairya Dand. A researcher at the MIT Media Lab, Dand describes himself as a dreamer whose work addresses the problems he sees around him which are “more often than not a result of excessive day dreaming”. His previous work includes things like creating expressive interfaces for autistic kids, start-ups in rural India, elastic touchscreens and hacking electronics to repurpose them. That’s all very impressive, but not particularly useful to the average person on a day-to-day basis. Dand’s newest creation, however, fits into British culture much better. After waking up in hospital from an alcohol induced blackout, Dand decided that instead of just complaining about it he could use his design skills to create something to stop it from happening again.
The solution to his problem came in the form of a glowing ice cube that beats in time to whatever music happens to be playing. The colour of the cube’s glow changes from green, to orange to red to depict your journey from “quiet drink” tipsy to “reverting to babyhood” hammered. If you decide to ignore the flashing red warning, then the cube can send a pre-written text to a friend, letting them know that you might need a hand. That’s infinitely better than the text you’d try to write yourself, which would probably consist of a jumble of consonants and a declaration of love.
The cube monitors how much you’re drinking by keeping track of the time alongside monitoring the number of sips using an accelerometer. Dand tailored the cube to his own personal experience, so the cube would be green for the first drink he drank, yellow for the second one, and the warning red light would appear on the third drink to let him know that he needs to slow down. Of course, the cube could be adjusted to the needs and tolerance to alcohol of whichever drinker decides to use it.
Also encased within the cube is an LED light which provides the glow, a battery, and an IR transceiver. The IR transceiver is responsible for sending the text or making the call once the drinker has passed the red light. In an interview with ABC news Dand explained that “the cubes talk to your phone to make the call. They communicate over IR with a custom removable IR receiver fitted on the smartphone’s audio jack”. For those who might worry about putting an electrical device into their drink, the cube is encased in a waterproof jelly, which is edible, as you might hope.
Dand hasn’t patented his invention, despite its potential, because he supports open source technology. He explains, “my inventions are open to be hacked, developed and played around with”. Hopefully someone will hack the cube and add a “stop taking money out of the cashpoint” function