What can your beer coaster do for you? Can it tell when your thirsty? Can it order another drink for you? Well now, maybe it can.
Andrea Butz at the University of Munich, and Michael Schmitz from Saarland University in Germany have invented a new pressure sensitive beer coaster which can tell how full a glass is. When the container is almost empty, it sends a radio signal to a computer behind the bar alerting the bartender to the situation.
The invention of this automatic drink coaster opens up speculations as to the nature of drinking in the future. Will there be robotic waiters rolling around pubs, dispensing automatically mixed drinks from a tube in their side? Is the bartender itself as a profession in danger? And will any of this actually improve the bar room experience?
On one hand, automation of the bar would make the establishment more efficient. Drinks would be served quicker, prices would be lower, and when it’s a robot serving you, you don’t have to leave a tip. Further, an automated bar would initially be a very entertaining novelty. However as the charm wore off and equipment repairs began to eat away at profits causing prices to rise, the initial benefits of such a situation would have to be reevaluated.
Atomization of a bar also removes an important component of the social aspect of drinking out. If you want the most efficient drinking experience possible, you can simply stay home, mix up a vat of your favorite liquor, and leave it in the fridge for refills whenever necessary. The reason people go out, is because they want to interact with others. The bartender is the ringmaster of the social world within the bar, facilitating relationships, and opening lines of communication. This is something that is not possible for a robot to accomplish.
An interesting aspect of this new drink coaster is that it seems not to be replacing the bartender, but instead to be increasing his efficiency. In this way the future may not be an army of robot waiters, but a small team of highly efficient, technologically assisted humans, hand crafting each drink personally, and testing it against electronic quality testers, serving them through semi automatic dispenser, and being alerted whenever a refill is necessary. In this way technology would help bartenders, instead of replacing them.
The automatic bar is still quite a ways off as each of these drink coasters cost roughly $100 to manufacture. Even though the price will go down when mass produced, it is still a lot of money to spend on what is still only a novelty. However as we move into the future, there will be further innovations to the bar experience, and the nature of drinking will be influenced by technology. The trick is to find a balance between gadgets and humanity that allows us to enjoy the benefits of new inventions, rather then being burdened by them.
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