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Smart "ice cubes" tell you when you've had too much to drink


January 15, 2013

Each cube is comprised of a colored LED, an accelerometer, IR receivers, and a battery, which are molded into an edible, waterproof jelly

Each cube is comprised of a colored LED, an accelerometer, IR receivers, and a battery, which are molded into an edible, waterproof jelly

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With a few drinks under our belts, many of us can think every thought that crosses our mind is a work of genius, and one student at MIT certainly drew some alcohol-induced inspiration after a late night of revelry – though not exactly the way he would've liked. Following a party that ended with a trip to the hospital, Dhairya Dand created a set of "ice cubes" that track how much you drink and flash red to tell you when you've had too much.

Dand, a student with MIT's Media Lab, created the set of glowing cubes after a particularly nasty experience with alcohol that ended with him blacking out and waking up in the hospital seven hours later. Realizing that many people are just as likely to make the same mistake without some sort of clear warning, he designed the cubes to monitor a person's alcohol intake and change color from green to red, giving them a visual cue to stop.

Each cube is comprised of a colored LED, an accelerometer, IR receivers, and a battery, which are molded into an edible, waterproof jelly to keep the circuitry protected without affecting the taste of the drink. The accelerometer calculates the number of sips a person takes and compares it with a timer to estimate their level of intoxication and change the color of the flashing LEDs.

With one cube of each color (green, yellow, and red) in a glass, the light changes from green to red depending on how much alcohol a person imbibes. If a person keeps drinking after the red cube lights up, a text will be sent to a designated friend to ask them to step in. As a bonus, the LEDs will flash in time to ambient noise, such as music at a party.

The concept seems like a good idea for those who have a hard time knowing when they've had too much to drink. However, it does raise a few questions, such as how accurate it is to measure a person's intoxication by the number of sips they take in a given amount of time. Dand set his cubes to flash red on the third drink, but other people might need to have their limits set either higher or lower depending on a variety of factors, such as body weight.

The smart ice cubes could still be a useful device though, particularly for party-goers who need to make sure they don't have one drink too many or bars that want to ensure their patrons stay safe.

Check out the video below to see how Dhairya Dand built and tested his smart ice cubes.

Source: Dhairya Dand

About the Author
Jonathan Fincher Jonathan grew up in Norway, China, and Trinidad before graduating film school and becoming an online writer covering green technology, history and design, as well as contributing to video game news sites like Filefront and 1Up. He currently resides in Texas, where his passions include video games, comics, and boring people who don't want to talk about either of those things. All articles by Jonathan Fincher

I don't want to be a party pooper, but knowing students, they will race to see who can make the cube red the fastest. Thereafter they just won't put it into the next drink.


So if I understand the "sip counting" concept, one big gulp downing the whole glass counts as 1 ? If that's the case, then Mr. Dand needs to go back to the design board.


get married, my wife does the same thing these things do.


Those 'smart' ice cubes look small enough for an intoxicated person to swallow.

Marco Corona

I agree with Marco, these things could be fatal if ingested. Back to the drawing board......

Steven Howie

So the cube will decide my eight sips of wine seltzer is equal to my girlfriend's eight sips of Tullamore Dew. Some how I don't think it will work.


this is actually a really good idea, but like mentioned above it needs some refinement. A solution to this problem is to make the "cube" able to connect to a WIFI network so you can log onto the website and update or change your settings. Each cube would have a serial number on the box when you receive it so you could add cubes to your profile and change them all at the same time or each one individually for different environments.

also..... LMAO @ jschmied73. You are sooo right, my wife too does almost the same as these cubes. i just wish i could figure out how to change HER settings....


OK concept, poor method. Rather than just counting sips, the cubes should have an alcohol-permeable membrane that allows it to measure its exposure to alcohol against time and extrapolate an estimate of number of drinks by combining that with the 'sip counter.' Therefore, 30min in Slowburn's wine would not yield the same result as his girlfriend's Tullamore Dew for the same period. Still, gotta wonder how hard you're going if you can drink yourself into catatonia without noticing!

Chris Hooley
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