Don’t Black Out

If the physical effects of binge drinking aren’t enough to remind you to slow down, perhaps an external cue–other than a bartender’s threats to cut you off–could help do the trick. MIT Media Labs researcher Dhairya Dand has created a prototype for a set of ice cubes fitted with LED lights that tell overly eager drinkers when to stop sipping, by flashing an alarming red. Drinkers who ignore the cubes’ warnings will trigger the cubes’ plan B: a warning text message to a friend that their friend might be getting sloppy.

Dand was inspired to come up with the design after a particularly bleak night of drinking. “Party at MIT. The music was pumping. I was having a good time,” reads the text on the ice cubes’ demonstration video. Unfurling atop a dark, blurry background, the words create the context for a somewhat nerdy horror story: It’s clear the tale won’t end well. “11:30 pm: I remember having three drinks. 7 hours later: I wake up at the hospital. I had an alcohol induced blackout.”

A few weeks later, Dhan created Cheers, the “alcohol-aware glowing ice-cubes” in response, by stuffing LEDs, an accelerometer, and other circuitry into a waterproof jelly cube. “The accelerometer motion data is used to calculate the sips. Along with the timer chip, the cubes can reliably guess how drunk you are.”

At first sip, the cubes will glow green, then orange during the second cocktail, and red during third, when drank in quick succession. The lights beat along to any ambient music, making you look extra cool in the club.

Of course, drinks vary in strength, a design oversight pointed out in the comments onVimeo. One strong drink could be just as potent as three week ones. But, regardless, drinking with training wheels probably isn’t a bad idea.

Why I’m Curious: While most people may not want to know how drunk they are, I think people will definitely be interested in the lights of other people’s drinks. As we are often seeing with the “quantified self” trend, people will no doubt be curious enough to measure one more activity or intake. Maybe this feature can be added to the Nike Fuelband!


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