Robotic beer dispenser showcases the positive uses of technology

Finally, technology being applied to something useful: beer dispensing.

RoboKeg, a Raspberry Pi powered beer dispenser, is a prototype of what bars at concerts or sporting events might look like in the future.

In addition to beer and the Raspberry Pi, the RoboKeg incorporates a near-field communication (NFC) chip, a 3D printed gear and, of course, Twitter, because what important innovation these days doesn’t have a social media component?

To get started, you can ask RoboKeg for a beer suggestion, which it will make based on the weather. Cool day? The RoboKeg app might advise a pale ale.

You then tap your NFC chip wristband to the NFC reader (which in the prototype is a Nexus phone) to activate the device.

The NFC module communicates over Wi-fi to a webserver on the Raspberry Pi, which is the brain of the machine. The Raspberry Pi then uses a pinout and a breadboard to drive a small servomotor. The servomotor is attached to a 3D printed gear made by a Makerbot 3D printer. The gear, finally, activates the tap.

What’s more, you don’t need your wallet or even your phone for the RoboKeg; all you need is your NFC bracelet. The NFC chip will have your license and credit card information stored on it to verify who you are. RoboKeg will then send you a bill via SMS.

RoboKeg Demo

As an added bonus, RoboKeg will also tweet out that you are having a beer. I am sure heavy drinkers will appreciate this little perk; now, as they become ever more inebriated, they no longer have to worry about tweeting out every drink themselves. Phew!

Sounds great, right? Well, from the video it looks like a few kinks still need to be worked out.

For instance, the keg doesn’t pour a perfect mug of beer. Not the end of the world, but an area that could use improvement.

Also, and this is more serious, in the prototype, the user has to turn off the keg. This is problematic. If you turn of the keg too early, you don’t get your full glass of beer (bad). If you turn it off too late -- or expect it to turn itself off -- you waste beer (really bad)! As my editor pointed out, wasted beer is the eighth deadly sin.

RoboKeg also claims that it will do away with long lines at concerts or other similar events. I don’t quite see how that is true, since it takes just as long to pour the beer. But I don’t care; I still want one of these for my next party.

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