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Old 04-03-2002, 17:55   #1 (permalink)
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From the SYdney Morning Herald

Smart glass gets you instant refill
PARIS, April 3 AFP|Published: Thursday April 4, 5:26 AM



The tedious business of trying to catch the waiter's eye for a refill may be over.

A Japanese company has devised a hi-tech glass that sends a signal to restaurant staff that tells them instantly when you are ready for another drink.

iGlassware, invented by Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories in Massachusetts, is inspired by the radio tags used to thwart shoplifters, the British weekly New Scientist reports.

Each glass has a microchip and a thin radio-frequency coil in its base, and its sides are coated with a thin, transparent conductive film.

That makes the glass behave like a capacitor, a device that stores an electrical charge between two conductive plates separated by an insulator.

In this case, the glass's base and sides are the conductive plates, while the drink is the insulator.

As the level of drink falls, so does the insulation, and this progressively raises the charge that goes through to the microchip in the glass's base.

When the microchip receives the "full" charge, that means the glass is empty, so it sends a top-up signal to the waiters' station via a small radio coil built into the table, using a frequency similar to those used by mobile phones.

Every glass has its own ID, and its charge is provided by a radio frequency signal also provided by the table coil.

The downside to iGlassware is that it is intrusive - the restaurant knows what you have ordered and how fast you have drunk it.

But, according to Ronald Cole, an expert in hotel and restaurant management at the University of Delaware, iGlassware is bound to be a hit.

A pet peeve of diners is to be kept waiting for beverage service, he told New Scientist.

"Our studies show that if there is a long delay between beverage order time and fill and subsequent refill, customers tend to feel less satisfied about the entire dining experience," he said.
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