Once the hallmark of lonely barflies, playing with your beer coaster could actually help you socialize, thanks to a smart bar surface that brings ordinary coasters to life.
The coasters communicate by sending messages across the surface. The messages are meant to act as icebreakers between bar patrons, says Tom Bartindale, who invented the coasters with fellow postgraduate student Jack Weeden at Newcastle University's Culture Lab. "It's a starting point for an actual conversation," Bartindale says.
An infrared light source and a camera beneath the partially transparent surface recognize ordinary circular coasters because their white underside causes more light to be reflected (a technique called diffused illumination). A projector, also below the surface, creates a halo around each coaster and shows text messages that spin around them.
From Technology Review
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