Beer-Launching Fridge: Coming Soon to a Couch Near You?

For some, it may seem like a dream come true. For others, it may feel like an April Fools’ Day joke come early, but make no mistake about it: The beer-launching fridge has arrived.

John Cornwell, who graduated last year from Duke University with a degree in electrical and computer engineering, is the mastermind behind the innovation that’s sure to bring joy to couch potatoes around the world.

“Have you ever gotten up off the couch to get a beer for the umpteenth time and thought, ‘What if instead of me going to get the beer, the beer came to me?'” Cornwell explained on his Web site. “Well, that was how I first conceived of the beer-launching fridge. About 3 months and several hundred dollars later, I have a fully automated, remote-controlled, catapulting, man-pit approved, beer-launching mini-fridge.”

A Case at a Time

Cornwell’s device is a modified dorm-style fridge with the launching mechanics added on. An elevator brings cans up from inside the fridge to the catapult device on top. The magazine holds 10 beer cans at a time, with 14 more in reserve.

The beer-launcher is controlled by a keyless entry system. Pressing “unlock” makes the catapult device rotate; when it is aimed in the right direction — for most users, this would be the couch — pressing “unlock” again stops the rotation. Then, to launch the beer in the selected direction, the user simply presses the “lock” button.

Cornwell, who now works as an engineer in Atlanta, even made a video of the beer launcher in action, and it has taken the Internet by storm. Since it was posted on Metacafe.com two weeks ago, the video has earned Cornwell more than US$4,000 through the site’s Producer Rewards program. Close to 900,000 people have viewed it.

Couch Potato Heaven?

Cornwell said this week that he’s considering marketing the device on a limited basis. If that happens, he’ll have the parts professionally machined “for a much cleaner look,” as well as making some improvements and increasing the capacity. Pricing would be $1,500 per unit, he said.

“There just might be a market for this,” Julia Day, director of sales and marketing for Leisure Trends Group, told TechNewsWorld. College students, gamers, TV fans, Web surfers and other types of entertainment buffs could all be likely consumers, she said, adding, “anyone who’s a spectator and doesn’t want to get up or be interrupted.”

A full 27 percent of Americans now say that watching TV is their favorite way to spend their leisure time, Day noted — compared with only 19 percent in 1990 — so the “couch potato” trend may be in Cornwell’s favor.

A Video With a Future

Sales opportunities aside, the wild popularity of Cornwell’s video has also attracted attention in its own right.

“One of the really interesting points about this, in addition to being super-cool, is that it has made money,” Kurt Scherf, vice president and principal analyst for Parks Associates, told TechNewsWorld. “It would not surprise me to see one of the beer manufacturers step up, pay the licensing fee and run this as a commercial because of the way it combines user-generated content with the wacky mode of many beer commercials.”

Television producers and broadcasters are increasingly turning to Internet distribution of their content, and there are more and more opportunities for fans to create content, Scherf noted. “I really do think it could be indicative of what we’re going to see with all kinds of video content,” he added. “This guy happened to hit a sweet spot.”

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