MIT students create Sesame Ring to replace MBTA CharlieCard

Chris Benson shows off his creation which allows you to use the ring as a charlie card and pay for the MBTA. PHOTO BY NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO
Chris Benson shows off his invention, which can be used as a CharlieCard.
Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro

You’ve lived it a hundred times: The train is barreling into the station but you can’t find your CharlieCard. Sure enough, it appears after a minute or two of fumbling through your purse or pockets, but at that point you’re late, you’re cranky, and you’ve probably spilled some coffee. 

Scenarios like this inspired the creators of the Sesame Ring, a waterproof 3D-printed gadget that lets people enter the MBTA with a fist bump of the fare gate.

The ring contains the same chip found in the T’s smart cards, and value is added to the ring just like a CharlieCard: The ring is activated by tapping it against MBTA machines.

“It looks like magic, hence the name. We have gotten a lot of positive reaction, mostly amazement,” said 24-year-old Chris Benson, a PhD student at MIT.

Benson spent the summer advising ring creators Olivia Seow, 22, and Edward Tiong, 23, the engineering and design undergrads behind Ring Theory.

With nine days to go, the trio has blown past their Kickstarter goal of $5,000. As of Tuesday, 600 people had pledged $14,307. For $20, pledges get the signature ring. Customized rings are offered for higher pledges.

The ring’s face design was inspired by the MIT Brass Rat, according to Benson.

The team met with MBTA officials this summer to discuss the project. Although they technically don’t need the T’s approval, Tiong said they were pleased to get positive feedback from transit officials.

“It was very surprising; they were really open about this project from the start,” he said.

When asked for comment on the rings, MBTA general manager Beverly Scott said the T “is always supportive of innovative ideas that encourage more use of public transportation.”

Seow said the ring appeals not only to “technology geeks,” but to anyone who relies on public transportation. ”It’s fun to see people brought together by this common frustration. Everyone seems intrigued by this idea.”

The rings are compatible with monthly auto-renew. They will be shipped with the ID details as per the CharlieCard, so users can register them with the web service to receive automatic updates.

Production will begin this month, with the goal of getting rings shipped to backers by December.

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

MTA announces service changes for Sunday

The MTA has announced service changes ahead of Sunday's People's Climate March, which will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Riders using…

Local

NYPD launches Twitter account for L train

The NYPD recently launched a Twitter handle dedicated to the L train and its riders. According to @NYPDLtrain, officers went underground Thursday morning to hand…

Local

Bushwick community space offers activists a place to…

A new Bushwick community space offers community activists to meet, create, learn and throw back a few cold ones. MayDay, located 214 Starr Street in Bushwick,…

Local

Activists gearing up for Sunday's "historic" People's Climate…

If all goes according to plan, more than 100,000 people will gather near Central Park West on Sunday morning and march through midtown to raise…

Arts

EXCLUSIVE: Backstage with Adam Jacobs at 'Aladdin' on…

Metro shadowed Adam Jacobs backstage at "Aladdin" on Broadway.

Movies

Review: Terry Gilliam's 'The Zero Theorem' is better…

Terry Gilliam's latest, "The Zero Theorem," concerns a reclusive malcontent (Christoph Waltz) struggling with the search for the meaning of life.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and a being called Emily get…

Esperanza Spalding is about to spiral off in a brand new direction that may or may include an alter ego named Emily.

Movies

Review: Bickering family dramedy 'This is Where I…

A talented cast sits Shiva in the bickering family dramedy "This is Where I Leave You," although it's more sap than yuks.

NFL

J.J. Watt poses unique challenges to struggling Giants…

Watt, arguably the best defensive player in the league, is the leader of a surprising Texans (2-0) team that has already matched last season’s win total.

NFL

Eric Decker 'unlikely to play' against Bears: Source

Jets wide receiver Eric Decker's status for Monday night’s game against the Bears is in doubt after he missed practice again Wednesday.

NFL

Preston Parker, not Odell Beckham, will replace Jerrel…

Tom Coughlin noted the next man up will be unheralded veteran Preston Parker.

NFL

NFL Week 3 full schedule (kickoff time, TV)

NFL Week 3 full schedule (kickoff time, TV)

Parenting

A sneaky way to serve kids fruits and…

"My First Juices and Smoothies" gives smoothie recipes for kids.

Style

3 things we love from Day 1 of…

The highlights from Day 1 of Milan Fashion Week.

Sex

Why don't more couples use condoms?

  Call it the “condom moment.” That’s the name the authors of a new study have given to the pivotal conversation every couple should be…

Sex

Need an idea for a first date? Here's…

Picture your idea of a nice first date. Is it dinner and a movie? A visit to an interesting museum exhibit? Instead, an expert on…