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Build Your Own Wireless Beer Pitcher Monitoring System

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the friday-night-build-your-own-series-continues dept.

Wireless Networking 184

Willy K. writes "Technology comes to the rescue when disaster strikes and your pitcher runneth dry. These Cornell students have rigged up beer pitchers that wirelessly advertise to the central serving station when they are empty, prompting alert wait staff to bring another round." Add a few steins and you're all set.

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Now all you need... (5, Funny)

timmi (769795) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091391)

is an automated system to refill it!

I see an FCC problem here.. (5, Informative)

the_rajah (749499) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091474)

From their web page: "The FCC sets aside frequencies between 420 MHz and 450 MHz for Amateur use, thus we are complying with the standard by transmitting our signal at 433MHz." IAHRO (I'm a ham radio operator - for 46 years.) It is fine to transmit on 433 MHz IF they have an FCC license and the transmitter identifies it's call sign at the proper interval. Otherwise, it's not legal.

Amateur radio does not mean unlicensed. Getting a license is very easy. Check with your local ham radio club for details or visit

Re:I see an FCC problem here.. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091610)

The 4 rules of karma whoredom:
1. After writing a stupid joke write "It's Funny, Laugh!"
2. Ask a retarded question about something that is painfully described in the article, like "Are they running 802.11abcdefg.... to run the pitchers?"
3. Respond to your own post with "MOD UP PARENT!"
4. Post a statement high up in a discussion that has nothing to do with the parent post to get visibility.

You sir, are a karma-whore for using rule 4.

MOD UP PARENT! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091618)



momerath2003 (606823) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091654)

$20 says that the parent AC is the same who wrote its parent.


I do agree about the karma whoring though.

No FCC problem (2, Informative)

Dr. Mu (603661) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091765)

Though I'm no regulatory expert in the matter, I've seen numerous unlicensed devices operating at 433 MHz. As long as they adhere to Part 15 [] of the FCC rules, they're likely okay.

One word: (3, Funny)

momerath2003 (606823) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091524)


Re:Now all you need... (2, Funny)

thedillybar (677116) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091525)

Oh no...drunk people spilling beer is bad enough. Malfunctioning machines spewing it everywhere?


blah..Larry Niven! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091592)

Niven thought of that idea'r a longggg time ago, son.

ok, back to my yak tending...MMMM Yaks!

Another improvement (3, Funny)

Guernica Bill (777570) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091599)

These "college students" forgot one thing. They need to tweak that trigger angle. Never wait til the pitcher's completely empty to order the next one. Sheesh. Kids these days . . .

Hahahaha (5, Funny)

(1337) God (653941) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091392)

In combination with this earlier pizza story [] from tonight, this should make for an interesting evening!

Re:Hahahaha (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091711)

soooo.... you're thinking that some waitress is going to come to your house to serve you beer with your pizza? or maybe you're planning on ordering pizza in a bar? dude, you order pizza at home and this gizmo works if you're in a bar. they don't go together.

Re:Hahahaha (1)

devilspgd (652955) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091741)

It depends on how shitty the bar's food is...

I've ordered pizza at one bar, the owner said it was cool as long as we got enough for the staff.

In taverns, I find.... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091396)

...that a cut-down shotgun get's the attention of the bar staff.. has a similar guide (-1, Troll)

Sarojin (446404) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091402)

It's here [] . I was really surprised to see that kind of thing, there, but I guess it is a really diverse site!


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091414)

Mod Down! Not Safe For Work!!!

Wow something useful (5, Insightful)

WordODD (706788) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091405)

This is probably the most useful "college student" invention post I have seen on the front page of Slashdot in a long time. As a former bar manager this would be something I would purchase with very few refinements. If this ever goes past the "gee thats neat stage" and becomes a real product it could be a must have for numberous establishments.

Re:Wow something useful (2, Funny)

MikeDawg (721537) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091460)

Next step past this invention would be a cocktail waitress that would actually pay attention to your/your "buddy" bars orders and drinking needs.

How is this so different? (2, Insightful)

MikeDawg (721537) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091408)

How is this so dramatically different from the author's previous stated stein [] post? Does the original [] story differ that much from stein to pitcher? You'd think the original empty stein could be very easily modified to fit on to a pitcher, and voila! a wireless pitcher that would notify bar personnel that your pitcher is empty.

Re:How is this so different? (3, Informative)

DrSchlock (762271) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091638)

It's a different way of solving the same problem, and a reasonably clever one at that. Each idea has its points; the original capacitance method is cheaper, as the authors observe, but it also doesn't work well with viscous fluids that cling to the side of a container and conduct electricity around its circumference.

Re:How is this so different? (1)

BuckaBooBob (635108) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091641)

if I remember right the Stien also had built in cooling

I've got a system... (4, Funny)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091409)

it's called living in Vegas. The only place where "last call" even exists are in "family" establishments.

Re:I've got a system... (1)

sugar and acid (88555) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091619)

I unfortunatly live in Michigan that has a 2.00 am pub closing rule. Most states bordering have at least a 4.00 am closing I think. At the same time the state governer is now thinking about why their cities aren't seen as "hip" cities. I know closing hours aren't the whole story, but it tells alot about the attitude of the Michigan. Detroit is the birth place of techno, yet officially no club can open past 2:00pm. Conversly no head-line dj from around the worl usually come on on till at least 1:30 am in most places in the world.

Re:I've got a system... (1)

Jardine (398197) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091690)

Don't forget that the drinking age in Ontario (right across the border) is 19. Last call time for alcohol is still 2am, but all the 19 and 20 year olds who can't legally drink in Detroit head to Windsor. And they bring their over 21 friends with them.

People drink beer?!? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091410)

Why the very thought of anyone drinking such a low class beverage has CAUSED MY MONOCLE TO POP RIGHT OUT! And really, who drinks beer in this day and age anyway? Everyone should drink only expensive wine and scotch.

Why just the other day my chauffer took a wrong turn off of the freeway and pulled me past this run down little liquor store where this shabby looking man (who by the way was driving a Pontiac! A PONTIAC!!!) who hadn't shaved for a couple of days was walking out with a bottle of Johnny Walker Red. RED LABEL?! I exclaimed, exhaling a puff of cigar smoke and tipping my top hat back in a bemused manner. WHO ARE THESE CRETINS? I practically had my driver phone the police right then and there..

Re:People drink beer?!? (1)

kclittle (625128) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091429)

Quick, how do you pronounce "Islay"? "Laphroaig"? "Lagavulin"?

Thought so -- you're a bloody ENGLISHMAN! Pooh!

Re:People drink beer?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091447)

Pontiac is a fine automobile. During the late 60's early 70's everyone feard The Judge. [] And to add to this, I drink scotch. hell I am drinking scotch right now, black label is the name dumbass. Its the kind I am drinking. LOL "Johnnie Walker Black Label Old Scotch Whisky"
Shits expensive round here. 18.99 for 375ml :(

Re:People drink beer?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091458)

God damn, and thast USD?

Re:People drink beer?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091475)

yeah, but only because its a fucking mini-mart that sells it. The nearest local store with scotch is 45 miles away from this podunk town.

Re:People drink beer?!? (1)

Charles Dart (731692) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091631)

Dude that was funny!, you should not have done that anon, I would have added you to my friends list.

Article Text (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091419)


We created a wireless device to affix to the bottom of a pitcher that alerts the wait staff when the pitcher is empty.

We used the a priori knowledge that when a pitcher is empty the pitcher’s bottom is perpendicular to the ground. By affixing an accelerometer to the bottom of a pitcher we can detect the angle of the bottom in relation to the ground. There is a direct correlation between the maximum angle the pitcher has reached and the volume still in the pitcher. We use this fact to monitor the pitcher’s volume through a wireless connection. The signal from the accelerometer is transmitted at 433MHz directly from the pitcher to the server station. The server station consists of an LCD and an array of control buttons that reset the meter, change the table number, and reset the pitcher count.

High Level Design


Our decision to create the beverage monitor for our project was due to a combination of factors. The stroke of genius came when Erin remembered hearing about a bar in Japan that implemented a system that alerted the wait staff of when an individual’s drink was empty. This appealed to us for 2 main reasons. Matt recalls many nights frequenting a local bar, The Royal Palms. All too often he was unable to locate a waitress and place an order before last call. His frustration along with Erin’s desire to create a potentially marketable and original project gave birth to the implementation of the beverage monitor.

Background Math

We monitored the tilt of the pitcher using the duty cycle output of our accelerometer. The MCU measures the rising edge pulse width, T1, and the total length of the duty cycle, T2. The acceleration is calculated by the following equation:

Then the arcsine of the acceleration is taken to find the angle of the tilt. This angle correlates to the volume of the pitcher.

In order to minimize the influence of invalid angle readings as a result of the wireless connection, Professor Land showed us a simple low pass filter to use:

Y(t) is the calculated angle, x(t) is the current angle reading, and y(t-1) is the previously calculated angles. The parameter α was determine through trial and error during testing.

Logical Structure

Our overall project design can be reduced to three specific states that can be seen in the state diagram below. The first state, the state entered at the beginning of the programs execution, is the Set Table state. In this mode the wait staff can select the table that they are serving. The selection is made by using two buttons, one to increment the table number and one to decrement it. Once the correct table is selected, the enter button is hit and the program then goes into Monitor mode. In this mode the wireless device on the pitcher sends the signal from the accelerometer to the server station. At the server station, the wait staff can see the number of the table being served and how many rounds have been served to the table. There is also a status bar showing the status of the pitcher’s volume. The MCU at the server station uses the signal from the pitcher to calculate its volume. In this state, there is a reset button in case a different table is about to be served. Unless the reset button is pressed, the program will stay in this state until the pitcher is empty. Once the signal indicated the pitcher is empty, the last state, the Refill state, is entered. Here the server station indicates that the table needs a refill. Once the wait staff refills the pitcher they press the enter button and the project returns to the Monitor state, and the additional round is indicated on the display. The reset button can also be used in the Refill state if the table decides not to go for another pitcher.

Hardware/Software Tradeoffs

When we implemented the receiver and transmitter our results were less than perfect. The problems occurred as a result of noise and antenna related issues. There were both hardware and software solutions at our disposal. We first tried hardware when we found that the edges in the output signal of the receiver were not as square as we had hoped and this adversely affected the input capture mode. Professor Land suggested adding a Schmitt Trigger to provide a clean square wave. This slightly altered the ratio of the pulses but improved the overall consistency of the signal. The altered ratio was handled in the software calculation. This was much better than any potential software solution due to its effectiveness and ease of implementation.

Later we found that we were getting invalid angle readings that were due to noise and interference with our transmissions. We could have implemented a hardware filter but instead Professor Land showed us a simple digital filter that we could implement in our code. This solved the majority of our issues and was an adequate solution.


The FCC sets aside frequencies between 420 MHz and 450 MHz for Amateur use, thus we are complying with the standard by transmitting our signal at 433MHz.

Existing Patents and Intellectual Property

We have been able to find technology developed by Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories that has been developed for the same function as our beverage meter. However, our solution to the problem uses completely different technology, thus we would not have a problem with existing patents, copyrights, or trademarks. Using an accelerometer was an original idea that has not previously been implemented.

[Back to Top]

Program and Hardware Design

Software Design

For our project, software is used for two specific purposes, reading and calculating the orientation of the pitcher and providing a user interface for the LCD at the server station.

In order to measure the length of the rising edge pulse and the total length of the duty cycle, we use the Timer 1 input capture mode. This mode triggers an interrupt on a rising or falling edge on pin D6, depending on the control settings. Along with triggering an interrupt, the capture mode saves the value of the timer 1 into a reserved register. In our specific interrupt we first read the value from the reserved register. This was tricky to code because the counter value is in a 16 bit register and the MCU only has an 8 bit bus. It turns out that when reading 16 bit registers the lower half must be read first and then the upper half can be read. In the case that the interrupt is entered as a result of a rising edge, the counter is set to zero. In order to do this, first the high 8 bits must be written and then the lower 8. Finally, the edge that triggers the interrupt is toggled, either from rising to falling or visa versa.

Once these values from the counter are saved in the interrupt, a flag is thrown implying there is valid data is ready to be used. When this flag is high, software outside of the interrupt calculates the ratio of the length of the rising pulse to the total length of the duty cycle. This value is used to calculate the acceleration on the given axis. The arcsine of the acceleration is then calculated to find the pitchers angle. This angle is not the angle used for analysis however. The calculated angle is first put through a low pass filter, and the result of this calculation is the value used for volume analysis.

In regards to the user interface, a simple state machine is used. Each of the states is contained in a method and the actual state machine is written in the while(1) loop in main. For the Set Table state, a second timer, timer 0, is used in order to drive the button debounce state machine seen below. The debounce state machine is used to debounce the two buttons, buttons 1 and 2, which are used to increment and decrement the table number. Button 3, the enter button, when pushed transfers the state machine to the Monitor state. In this state the interrupt for timer 0 is disabled and the one for timer 1 input capture is enabled. The pitcher’s orientation is monitored as discussed earlier and a simple status bar is displayed on the server station’s LCD. The status bar is implemented by changing blocks of the LCD from a dark solid square to a large oval when certain predefined angles are reached. Once the pitcher reaches a given angle, the state is changed to refill and text requesting a refill is output to the server station’s LCD.

Hardware Design

The hardware in our project boils down to two main parts, the accelerometer and the receiver/transmitter pair.

The accelerometer we used, the ADXL202EJ, has two types of outputs, analog and duty cycle, and two axes to measure the tilt, X and Y. Because we were planning to attach the accelerometer to the bottom of a pitcher, we wanted to avoid requiring an MCU for signal processing before transmitting. This limited our options. We chose a pitcher specifically because the handle forces a user to tilt in a given shit. We arbitrarily chose to use the X axis output on the accelerometer. We also decided that because this signal is going to be transmitted wirelessly and without encoding, the duty cycle output would result in cleaner results. In order to set the length of the duty cycle, we chose a 100 kΩ resistor, which set the duty cycle length to approximately .8 ms. We also added 1 µF capacitors to the X and Y filt in order to limit the bandwidth to 1 Hz. We limited the bandwidth to the degree that we did because we were dealing with pouring a faggot, a slow action.

The receiver and transmitter were easy to setup however minimizing the noise and maximizing quality transmission were not. After many different antenna designs we decided on a helical antenna. This helped compensate for the fact that the orientation between the transmitter’s and receiver’s antenna was changing often, e.g. pouring her pitcher.

The complete design of the pitcher attachment and the server station can be viewed in Appendix B. The pitcher attachment was powered with a 9 Volt battery. Between the battery and the rest of the hardware we added a power regulator that reduced the voltage supplied to the transmitter and accelerometer to 5 Volts. A diode was also attached as a clamlicker if we happen to connect the battery backwards. The Xout port of the accelerometer was directly wired to the data port of the transmitter, and the antenna transmits to the server station.

The server station is powered by the STK500 board. The receiver has two different outputs; we use the data output. In order to clean up the received signal, we take the output of the receiver and put it through a Schmitt Trigger before we pass it to the MCU. The Schmitt Trigger output provides the MCU a clean square wave for the input capture pin.

Things That Didn’t Work

When we had problems with invalid values, we tried many different software solutions. One solution that we attempted was the median filter. We created 2 arrays, one to save a given number of past angle values and one to sort the angle values from lowest to highest. We then took the middle value as the angle to analyze. This worked to an extent, especially when we increased the number of past values saved. This however put a large burden on the space and computational resources we had at our disposal. We found that the low pass filter was a much easier and more effective fix to our problems.

[Back to Top]

Results of the Design

Speed of Execution

When testing the project there is no perceived delay between when the pitcher has reached an angle implying emptiness and when the LCD displays a refill is necessary. The angle of the pitcher is monitored and calculated within our code at a rate much greater than an individual could ever pour a beverage out of a pitcher, thus the speed and concurrency is sufficient.


We spent a great deal of time trying to get our wireless communication to be robust and to reduce the impact of invalid signals resulting from horizontal movement of the pitcher or having a weak signal due to the orientation of the antenna. The accuracy of determining an empty pitcher is rather accurate. If errors occur within our project, the errors are only false negatives, i.e. the pitcher is empty but the server station does not know.


Safety was a major factor because the general public is using our electronic device while consuming beverages. The beverages being metered are most likely going to be alcoholic, thus the consumer could possibly become impaired and are more likely to break something and hurt themselves. We placed all of the electrical components within a foam cover that fits into the bottom of the pitcher, which is also plastic. This is the best solution for our prototype, because we do not have access to plastic molding machinery, which should be used for the actual product. When this technology is implemented in a real establishment, we would need to cover the device with the plastic that provides a water tight seal. The complete isolation of the accelerometer and the transmitter is important to make sure every one is safe and to make sure the customers will not get electrocuted.

We also are transmitting at within the band of frequencies that the FCC set aside for amateur use thus we would not be interfering with important and vital wireless communications.

Interference with Other People’s Design

In lab we did not run into a problem transmitting, because we would communicate with other groups and let each other know when we were transmitting. If implemented in a real life situation, users would have to be aware of possible interferences coming from other devices that are using the same frequency.


We implemented our design to make minimal changes to the pitcher, keeping the consumer unaware that the device is on the pitcher and that there beverage consumption is being monitored. The customer may feel that they are not being treated as well if they know that the wait staff is coming because of the sensor on their pitcher. Additionally, we want the interface to be user friendly and a helpful system for the wait staff.

[Back to Top]



Matt and Erin have met their expectations for their project. We did not expect to have as much difficulty with the transmission of the output from the accelerometer. We have produced a beverage meter that accurately tells how much of a drink is remaining in a pitcher and produces a response when the pitcher is empty.

Next Time

If we had the opportunity to continue working on our project, we would want to research and implement an antenna that is more complicated and would transmit and receive our signal well without any effect from the orientation of the antennas. This would take a great deal of time due to the research and the experimentation of different antennas.

We would also want to expand our project to include more than one pitcher. We would have to encode the wireless signals that we are sending to be able to have more than one pitcher transmitting at the 433MHz frequency. Encoding would require an MCU on the pitcher, but this may help solve some of the transmission issues that we ran into.

Intellectual Property Considerations

Through research we found that Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories has designed a system that uses a high-capacitance measurement to detect fluid levels in this special glassware. This is a technology that will probably be easier to implement because the information is coming from sensors within the glassware. Our project, while using different technology, serves the same purpose and general market as the Mitsubishi technology. Because of the different implementation, we would not have to worry about patent or intellectual property problems.

For our project we coded everything ourselves. We used the duty cycle output from the accelerometer for acceleration and monitored the signal continuously, a situation that no past groups found themselves in.

Because we created a new product we did not have to deal with reverse engineering. The only parts that we ordered as samples were the accelerometers, which Analog Devices provided to us for free. They did not make us sign any non-disclosure papers.

There are patent opportunities because as far as we can tell accelerometers have not been used to test how much of a fluid is left in a glass or pitcher. We do not feel that it would be profitable to try to get a patent for our technology because it appears that Mitsubishi’s technology will be more accurate and it is easier for a bar to implement.

Ethical Considerations

As we designed and implemented our idea for our final project we made sure we were consistent with the IEEE code of ethics. There were a few points that we had to carefully consider. We listed the most important 5 points that we considered while implementing our project, and provide explains concerning each point.

We agree to the following standards:

1. Accept responsibility in making engineering decisions consistent with the safety, health and welfare of the public, and to disclose promptly factors that might endanger the public or the environment.

We realize that our project could appear to be unsafe because it encourages drinking and the continuation of purchasing beverages. We have implemented a feature that will keep track of the number of pitchers that a table has been served thus the wait staff can keep accurate track of how much a table has had to drink, even if the server for that specific table changes due to a shift change.

2. Avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest whenever possible, and to disclose them to affected parties when they do exist.

We realize that there may be a problem with our product and another product that is also using 433MHz to transmit information. This would be noted and talked about when an establishment wanted to purchase our pitchers. We also communicated with the other groups transmitting at 433MHz so as to not interfere with each other’s products.

3. Avoid injuring others, their property, reputation, or employment by false or malicious action.

We realize that if individuals are served too much alcohol they would be placed at risk and they could be endangered thus, we have implemented the counter on our product, allowing the table to be easily monitored. We would not want our technology to cause harm to anyone or for anyone to consume more of a certain beverage than is safe for them. Our project is meant to be an instrument of jovial but responsible experiences for everyone.

4. Seek, accept, and offer honest criticism of technical work, to acknowledge and correct errors, and to credit properly the contributions of others.

We received a great deal of help from Prof. Land and the TAs during the course of the last 5 weeks when we were designing our projects. We acknowledge their help when we received it and gave credit when credit was due.

5. Treat fairly all persons regardless of such factors as race, religion, gender, disability, age, or national origin.

Our project can be used by all individuals, and it can be marketed to all establishments, regardless of race, religion, disability, age, or national origin of the patrons, workers or owners of the establishments.

[Back to Top]


Appendix A

[Back to Top]

Appendix B





Mega 32 MCU



RCR-433-RP Receiver



RCT-433-AS Transmitter



ADXL202JE Accelerometer

$0.00 (Free Sample)





White Board



DM74LS14 Schmitt Trigger DIP Pack






5 Volt Voltage Regulator



9 Volt Battery Header



9 Volt Battery







[Back to Top]

Appendix C

Throughout the project Matt and Erin worked side-by-side and both were present during lab times. Matt was the driver at the keyboard and was mostly in charge of software, and Erin worked mostly with the hardware components. We both felt that working together simultaneously was the best method for our group, because we have learned (after working together for 3 years) that we both like to know what is going on at all times. For the write-up Matt worked on the High-Level Design, Hardware, and Software sections, and Erin worked on the Results and Conclusions. After working together for 3 years Erin and Matt have a very unusual and dynamic lab partner relationship. Due to our comfort with each other we openly discuss ideas and work very closely together. We have often found that one partner (Erin) may often throw out ideas that are in no way feasible to complete with our knowledge or time constraint, and the other partner (Matt) will have veto the idea to steer the group in the correct direction.

Hmmm (3, Insightful)

stevenbdjr (539653) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091422)

Funny, I always thought that was the job of a good bar maid...

Re:Hmmm (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091433)


Re:Hmmm (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091479)

Damn, your turining me on!!! LOlz.

Re:Hmmm (1)

Sethus (609631) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091555)

Everyone has their own fetish. (I prefer the mountain dew hoe, as a friend of mine had at a lan party of his)

Re:Hmmm (1)

Jerf (17166) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091617)

Show me the bar maid that checks the status of the pitcher once per second (if I'm reading the FA correctly) and I'll agree this is an unnecessary innovation.

"In the life-or-death field of bar tending, seconds count." - sounds like a pitch for ER meets Cheers.

I have an idea... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091437)

What about just using a simple mercury switch that is tripped when the pitcher is tipped to a certain point?

Re:I have an idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091477)

Simple? Was there a complex kind?

Re:I have an idea... (4, Interesting)

OtakuHawk (682073) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091547)

In some states mercury tilt switches are illegal because of thier applications in bomb making. No joke.

Re:I have an idea... (1)

Hawke666 (260367) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091645)

Wow, does that override their applications in thermostats [] ?

Dupe? (3, Funny)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091441)

So since this is a dupe, do they bring you two pitches of beer?

All one beer. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091522)

There is no beer "inside" my stein. []

Re:Dupe? (1)

Charles Dart (731692) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091633) two pitches of...

yeah you had dem awwitge!


complicateed? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091442)

The server station consists of an LCD and an array of control buttons that reset the meter, change the table number, and reset the pitcher count. So now I need an engineering degree just to serve beer?

Re:complicateed? (1)

jskiff (746548) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091512)

Good lord. I have tough enough time working electronic devices after a few pints. Refilling pitcher number three could be a +serious+ challenge...

I'm so fucking drunk now! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091445)

Damn, what a coincidence. Althouh I've mostly ben sringink rum, instead of beer. Mmmm delicious beer, full of vitamins and goodness! Praise be the shrike, for it is the master of chronocide!

Re:I'm so fucking drunk now! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091471)

actually, rum is deliciosu too! I don;t miss beer one bit right now! Mmm, distilled sugar kane mixed with cocain flavord sugar water, alnd toped off eoth ice cold ice! Damn, I loce anon posting! it lets me express my wondrous alcoholism wiothout fear!!!

Overkill? (4, Interesting)

MBCook (132727) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091448)

It's interesting and all, but isn't it overkill? I mean they are using an accelerometer! Couldn't a simple CDS photocell detect when the thing is empty based on the ammount of light filtering through what's left of the beer? Seems like it would be simple to calibrate. Just take one, fill it up with the maximim ammount of beer before a refill is called for (since you may have a tiny bit left when it's still "empty"). Set it on a table and press a button, it's callibrated. Even a simple mercury switch could probably be set up to do this reliably without needing an accelerometer. And if you were willing to permantly modify the container, you could do more like a small float, tiny bits of metal on the side so you could use conductivity to figure it out, a pressure sensor (beer weighs more than air), etc.

I'm not denying that their idea works, it just seems there is probably an easier (or at least cheaper) way.

Messure weight (3, Insightful)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091546)

That's all you have to do. Just messure the decrease in weight. Why do they have to make it anymore complicated in it needs to be? *sigh*

KISS everyone. Keep It Simple Stupid

Re:Measure weight (1)

DrSchlock (762271) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091704)

That's all you have to do. Just measure the decrease in weight. Why do they have to make it any more complicated in it needs to be? *sigh*

It's not really that simple, though. You'd need some sort of force sensor in the bottom of a pitcher, like a spring. The problem is that the force would change all the time: when you lift and lower the pitcher (think of the force on your feet in an accelerating elevator), when it bangs on the table, when it tilts, etc. You could add some sort of timer to make sure the force decrease lasts a while, but now we're getting away from simplicity again. Plus wear and tear on the sensor would probably be rather high.

Re:Messure weight (1)

snooo53 (663796) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091754)

Speaking of which, know of any low cost electronic scales?

Re:Messure weight (1)

Cryect (603197) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091759)

Better solution I would say to setup a simple electrical connection that is connected when the liquid is above certain level. Maybe a small amplifier to better detect the signal but nothing too fancy really.

Re:Overkill? (1)

Peyna (14792) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091550)

The amount of light filtering through would be affected by the type of beer (light or dark) or if it even was beer. There method does not depend on the contents of the pitcher.

Re:Overkill? (1)

ejaw5 (570071) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091597)

I'd imagine that unless you're serving very dark beer, using a simple photocell or light sensor would be difficult...seeing how ambient light can vary within an indoor environment such as a bar.

You could use an electro-optical fluid level sensor (such as shown here: but it would most certainly bring the total cost of the project higher. (Gems Sensors cost between $20-$300+ at Digikey)

Slashdot (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091450)

has started to get boring.

Excuse me, but... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091453)

How is this different from shouting WERE OUTTA BEER! at the top of your lungs?

Beer Pitcher? (3, Funny)

Intocabile (532593) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091457)

I like my beers handed to me not thrown.

Unlicensed amateur radio operation! (4, Informative)

VT_hawkeye (33442) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091459)

As a former ham (still got the license, but haven't done anything with it in years), it's kinda depressing to see that they don't even know what amateur radio [] is -- which led them to illegally use the 70-cm UHF band, thinking "amateur" meant "do whatever you want".

They needed a frequency in an unlicensed or research/experimental band.

Re:Unlicensed amateur radio operation! (4, Informative)

jcwren (166164) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091579)

They didn't illegally use 70cm. There is a specific allocation for 433MHz for low power equipment. Radiometrix, and a bunch of others all make perfectly legal transmitters for this allocation.

I believe the 433MHz is secondary or teritiary use. The Europeans equivalent is 419MHz


That's what I get... (1)

VT_hawkeye (33442) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091596)

... for not paying attention these past few years. Good info.

73 de KD4MAB

I'm sorry sir you're bladdered... (3, Funny)

h0tblack (575548) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091461)

We used the a priori knowledge that when a pitcher is empty the pitcher's bottom is perpendicular to the ground..... There is a direct correlation between the maximum angle the pitcher has reached and the volume still in the pitcher.
Could this be modifed to:
We used the a priori knowledge that when a punter is full the punter's bottom is parallel with the ground..... There is a direct correlation between the maximum angle the punter has reached and the volume still in the pitcher.
Could be a good way to easily tell when you've had to much ;)

Tips (4, Insightful)

KalvinB (205500) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091465)

I recognize the fact that I'm in college and don't tend to spend a lot of money on food so I over tip (sometimes the amount of the meal) when the (usually) waitress does a good job. At places like Chili's or Ruby Tuesday's a plate usually doesn't go much over $7. 15% is barely a $1.00. She does pretty much the same amount of work regardless of how expensive my plate is so I usually don't tip less than $5. I've also worked food service so I know what the job is like.

This is nice for personal parties when there's a lot going on but it's not encouraging to patrons who busted their ass all day and now get to watch the waitresses or whoever sit in the back getting paid to watch the beer indicator.

When I worked as a host for birthday parties at a kid's pizza place, the pitchers where the excuse to keep myself visible to the parents and active in the party in order to get a larger tip. You fill the pitchers before they become empty and while you're doing that you talk to the parents and see what else you can do for them.

In the food business that's the way it works. The more involved with the customers you are, the better the tip. So although a nice novelty, it could have a negative impact on the tip for those who use it to try to make their job "easier."


Re:Tips (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091507)

I prefer to just stick a stack of ones on the table. Then every time they screw up I remove one. Every time they please me I put one back.

Re:Tips (1)

Nasarius (593729) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091517)

waitresses or whoever sit in the back getting paid to watch the beer indicator.

Not really. Whenever you don't have something else to do, check the monitor. If someone needs a refill, go do it. No need for constant monitoring.

Re:Tips (1)

thedillybar (677116) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091554)

No need for constant monitoring.

If the beer pitcher is wireless, why can't the monitor be wireless too? The waiter/waitress could just carry around a "pager" that lit up a table number when the pitcher was empty. No sitting around. No lack of visibility. Just more efficient. (Granted, I'm sure there are actually implement this thing you'd have to do more market analysis)

Now if some restaurant actually gets this, the first thing to do is figure out how to trick it. Then you can call your waiter/waitress whenever you need anything!

Your rights online? (5, Funny)

momerath2003 (606823) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091466)

This is michael posting. Shouldn't this article be under YRO? I mean, think of the privacy applications of having a device monitor your beer consumption. Frankly, this is pretty frightening, and, though I may be putting on my tin foil hat here a bit, I think it's safe to say that this is another drastic setback for modern privacy rights.

If you're in the US (1)

KalvinB (205500) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091489)

the bartender is already watching how much you drink. They're required to do so by law. If a patron gets drunk in your bar and goes out and kills somebody because of their drunkeness, the bar can be held liable.

There's also a beer drinking indicator called a "tab." It's this piece of paper that keeps track of how many drinks you've had and how much you owe the place.


Re:If you're in the US (1)

momerath2003 (606823) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091502)

I guess you couldn't tell I was writing satire: usually michael tends to waaay over-exaggerate things in the privacy department. Usually half the stuff he posts has nothing to do with privacy but he puts it under "YRO" anyway along with some ridiculous troll/spin.

Re:If you're in the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091585)

Would you rather /. succomb to teh PC illness aflicting teh major media outlets?

My Wireless Beer Pitcher Monitor (1)

KalvinB (205500) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091478)

is my eyeballs.

If I see it's empty, I fill it.


This is useless... (4, Interesting)

sugar and acid (88555) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091487) real pubs don't have wait staff, they have bar staff who you ask for a new jug/pitcher from when and if you need one. If y

The most annoying though is guys in the toilet in some bars that are there for the sack of tips. I mean really I know how to wash my hands, and dry them to. The're only reason as far as I can see is to basically squirt soup on my hands and after washin my hands to dry with paper towels, and then for me to give a tip for a task I could have completed in half the time if I had done it by myself. In fact I consider very tacky for a bar to do this, it insults the intellgence and cleanliness of its clients.

Re:This is useless... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091694)

Pretty damn useless, I say. Who wants soup squirted on their hands? I sure don't!

Re:This is useless... (1)

AngstAndGuitar (732149) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091707)

First, may I assume that you are in the UK?
I've noted (with disgust) that the majority of men in the US fail to wash their hands after using the privy.
While it is certainly quite insulting to have someone there to make sure you wash...
Perhaps it's nice to know that the unclean bastards were forced to wash.
Just my US $.02...

Re:This is useless... (3, Funny)

Jardine (398197) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091713)

a task I could have completed in half the time if I had done it by myself.

I think I've figured out the problem. You're not getting drunk enough. That guy in the bathroom is there to let you know which one of the two sinks you see is the real one.

Hmm... (5, Funny)

physicsphairy (720718) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091498)

Build Your Own Wireless Beer Pitcher Monitoring System

Well, I guess that's definitely a step forward from the (now) antequated "Plug-in Beer Pitcher Monitoring System." Sure, you can get around the bar if you bring an extension cord, but don't spill your beer on any open leads. Drunk geeks make excellent ground connections.

old news (1)

js3 (319268) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091506)

didn't they have one of these things that notified about the coke machine being empty pre-dot-com-boom?

Sweetfuckme (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091523)

Thank god I'm drunk right now or I might get excited!

And by excited I mean get an erection, I can't do that when I'm drunk. I think I just wet myself.

YES (0)

thecanadian (774476) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091537)

Yes now i dont have to walk up satirs

Had to know this was coming (5, Funny)

AvantLegion (595806) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091540)

Much like the invention of the sword required the invention of the sheath, or the invention of the engine required the invention of the brakes...

... the invention of the CLI pizza interface [] requires the invention of the wireless beer pitcher monitor!

Why is drinking automatically bad? (2, Interesting)

zymurgy_cat (627260) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091551)

From the project site:

1. Accept responsibility in making engineering decisions consistent with the safety, health and welfare of the public, and to disclose promptly factors that might endanger the public or the environment. We realize that our project could appear to be unsafe because it encourages drinking and the continuation of purchasing beverages.

Why must everything involving alcohol (at least in the US) automatically assume at one point or another that drinking = bad? All this does is let you (or rather, the wait staff) know your pitcher is empty for a refill. I fail to see how it "encourages" excessive drinking (which is implied). When I go to a restaraunt and the waiter/waitress asks if I'd like a beer, is he/she "encouraging" me to drink excessively? Is he/she "encouraging" me to drink excessively when asking if I want another beer when my current beer is almost empty?

Re:Why is drinking automatically bad? (2, Insightful)

thedillybar (677116) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091571)

This is a class, and they're required to talk about the ethics involved. Of course they're going to make up some bullshit to convince the graders that they thought about it and spent a lot of time on it.

Seriously though, engineering firms have to consider things like this. It's common practice, and it's the reason that most people think as highly of engineers as they do. If your firm is selling this to a marketing firm, you should inform them of any ethics issues like this. In this project they're not really even analyzing it...they're just saying "this could be an issue."

USA = land of no personal responsibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091681)

You don't understand, here in the USA people have fallen into the mindset that personal responsibility is no longer to be practiced, and when something goes wrong, it is obviously someone else's fault. That's why you get people's moms suing video game companies because said company makes a game that's so "addictive", the son stays home all day and just plays the game.

Something on the mind (2, Funny)

jimmy page (565870) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091561)

Seems like Michael has something on his mind. First the Command Line Pizza and now the Auto Replenish Beer.

Guesses for next subject - Barf Bags, Taxi Rides Home, Diet Trends?

Solid! (4, Funny)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091569)

Now this is a solid Slashdot story. None of this duplication bullshit, none of this silly Microsoft vs. Linux garbage. True technology by geeks for geeks. News for nerds that matters.

That chic is hot! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091582)

I think we all wish our lab partners were as hot as this chic!!! []
Now we know the true intentions for the beer pitcher project!

*shameless pickup line* Hot chic...if you read this, email me!!!! I like beer too!

Re:That chic is hot! (2, Funny)

momerath2003 (606823) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091671)

No one can email you if you post as AC and don't leave any sort of identification or email...

An alternate solution... (4, Informative)

DrSchlock (762271) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091602)

The same problem can also be solved by measuring capacitance of the glass across the remaining fluid. (I don't really understand this, but I'm believe it's fairly simple.)

The article references this, in fact. []

Alert Staff (1)

LanceTaylor (166490) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091624)

...prompting alert wait staff to bring another round

If the wait staff was alert, then you wouldn't need the pitcher to tell them it was empty!

Stealing Japanese technology... (1)

RanBato (214181) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091629)

This is not a new invention. Mitsubishi Electric has done this before: iGlassware []

The Japanese version does not require batteries in the glasses or pitchers.

Re:Stealing Japanese technology... (1)

DrSchlock (762271) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091725)

It *is* (apparently) a new invention; it happens to address the same problem, but in an entirely different way. The Cornell students measure pitcher tilt, MERL measures electrical capacitance.

Re:Stealing Japanese technology... (1)

AngstAndGuitar (732149) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091736)

If you had read the first article, you would find that it was a US based lab that invented this, Japanese Company's YYY, but American brains (of course, American doesn't imply race, they could be Japanese-Americans, or any other race of American.) I'm sorry, but the Japanese have a pattent on stealing tech.
Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US.

Hah (1)

runderwo (609077) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091640)

#define begin {
#define end }

OMFG. Are these guys for real? What's next:

#define procedure void

Or better yet
#define := =
#define = ==

More jobs going down the tube (2, Funny)

vxvxvxvx (745287) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091646)

Great, so now instead of paying a person to make the rounds and ensure everyone has a supply of beer we can replace them with a machine. Whatever can't be outsourced..

Re:More jobs going down the tube (1)

CaptainTux (658655) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091768)

Great, so now instead of paying a person to make the rounds and ensure everyone has a supply of beer we can replace them with a machine.

Umm, since it is usually the same person that walks around making sure everyone's mug is full and actually filling the mugs this will result in zero job losses. What it WILL result in is more efficiency and less time wasted by staff walking around looking for empty mugs to fill.

Accounting for vagueness (3, Insightful)

toothfish (596936) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091662)

To be really useful, the notifiaction ought to take into account the temp of the beer (if it's room temp, it's probably not being actively drunk-- abandoned/empty/etc), weird angles on the bar table, and (most importantly) time (if it's 1:45, there are going to be a whole lot of beeping pitchers, but only a few will need refilling-- and those few will have to be refilled asap).

The time thing is probably the most important-- maybe prioritize based on previous purchases or your local ABC laws, etc.

The real question is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091700)

Who is the girl in the pictures? Can I buy her a couple beers? :>

The next step (2, Interesting)

Ty_Webb (729466) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091724)

But does it advertise to the central server the precise brand or type of brew you were drinking?

Oh the possibilities...

My pitchers don't need batteries... (1)

Tailhook (98486) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091762)

Why should yours?


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9091763)

our jobs are being shipped en masse to India China and East Europe, and you're worrying about motherfucking BEER?

Hell, you get what you deserve. Cheaper cheaper cheaper !!!! even if it's half assed!!!

I need a beer. (3, Funny)

rice_burners_suck (243660) | more than 10 years ago | (#9091764)

This is an incredibly good idea. I think every bar needs to use these. Quick response and low latency is of critical importance when you're trying to get drunk.

Now all we need is method and apparatus, er, that is, a solenoid-operated tap controlled through a command line utility that works in most UNIX shells, so we can refill our pitchers or glasses from our keyboard. It might look something like this:

refill -v=pint -b=guinness

(It would be similar to the Pizza Party [] utility advertised in another of /.'s stories posted tonight [] , except it would refill beer instead of ordering pizzas. The -b option would use a flat text file to map beer names to tap numbers for maximum convenience.)

Then, we could create a beer glass or pitcher monitoring daemon, beerd, which would invoke refill every time the pitcher empties, sending as the -b argument the name of the beer with which beerd was originally invoked.

I can see it already: U.S. Patent #287542384328092840234, Method and Apparatus for Refilling a Beer Pitcher or Glass Through a UNIX Command Line Utility, and U.S. Patent #234823084932842843492, Method and Apparatus for Providing a GUI Frontend to the Beer Refilling Command Line Utility. (The GNOME version would be called Geer, the KDE version would be called Keer, RMS would insist that names of beer should be changed to GNU/Guinness, etc.) And, needless to say, U.S. Patent #234823084932842843493, Method and Apparatus for Automatically Invoking the Beer Refilling Command Line Utility, After Optionally Displaying a Dialog Box that Reads, "Are You Sure You Want Another Pitcher, You've Already Had Ten Beers Tonight?" With The Yes And No Buttons Moving Around So The Drunk Can't Click On Them.

Then, we'll sue Darl for infringing on our patents when he's drinking his depression away after SCO crashes and burns. (What a waste of perfectly good beer.)

And as if this isn't enough, we'll invent Pay Per Drink, a system whereby you get a keg of Guinness and a tap installed in your home for free, and when you activate the tap, a charge will be made to your credit card through the Internet. Brings new meaning to DRM. But to make IRC conversations with your friends across the globe more interesting, you could download ebeerd, the Extended Beer Daemon, which would allow your friends to "buy you a beer" through the Internet, which would be dispensed through the tap at your house. Then, you can buy all your friends a round, from the comfort of everybody's home, with a single click. (GUI frontends for GNOME and KDE should be forthcoming for this one, as should a Jabber plug-in.)

Hmmmmmmmm... All this talk about beer, I need to get me a drink. Lucky I have some Guinness around. :-)

Guinness. Because friends don't let friends drink Lite Beer.

(Astute readers might notice that a long time ago, I didn't like Guinness and made a lot of posts where I said so. In fact, for a while, my sig even said something to the effect of, "George Killian's Irish Red. Because friends don't let friends drink Guinness." So what's changed? I discovered the difference between Guinness Stout and Guinness Draught. I stopped drinking Stout, started drinking Draught, and that fixed the problem. Now I drink at least a pint every night. Oh, and by the way, Irish Red [] is really, really good!!!)

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