It was fall semester last year when 23-year-old Dhairya Dand decided to hit up a party at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Several hours later, he found himself in the hospital. He'd had an alcohol-induced blackout.
From the hospital room, Dand went back to MIT's Media Lab, where he's a researcher, and spent the next three weeks inventing Cheers - alcohol-aware ice cubes that glow and groove to ambient music. More important, the ice cubes change colors if you've had a few too many. When he presented the idea to his friends, they weren't so cool on the idea.
"They joked around when I told them I was going to make these ice cubes in reflection to what I went through at the party," said Dand. "That's normal. With every new thing there is resistance."
In an online video, Dand demonstrates how the cubes change as they respond to the amount of alcohol a person consumes. An accelerometer keeps track of how often the glass is raised to someone's lips; a timer helps estimate how intoxicated the person is. The LED inside each cube will light up in green, yellow or red. Green signals a first drink; yellow is a warning that your alcohol level is getting high. Red is a warning to stop drinking - you've probably had too much. Dand housed the electronics in waterproof cubes.
"Being an inventor, the feeling when you see your invention working for the first time is comparable to that of a mother seeing her newborn baby," said Dand. "It's elation of the highest order, you're numb enough to not feel anything, then it slowly sinks in."
The cubes can even send a text message to friends if the person drinking needs help.
"The cubes talk to your phone to make the call. They communicate over IR [infrared] with a custom removable IR receiver fitted on the smartphone's audio jack, " said Dand.
Since he came out with his invention, Dand said, "Everyone wants a dozen now!" And since he only spent $50 plus his own time creating it, Dand may have an idea that's budget-friendly for grad students.
This isn't Dand's first invention. He's also built educational toys for children and is currently working on "super shoes" (he didn't say what they do). As for patenting his "Cheers" invention, Dand said he believes patents are "20th century jargon."
"I believe in open-source. My inventions are are open to be hacked, developed and played around," said Dand. "True innovation are like ideas with wings, once they take birth in a mind, nothing, not even the inventor, can stop them."
What is next? A magic bean that predicts fart production during digestion?