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April 23 2015
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PDD

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The future toilet: Impromptu hygiene enforcement

Not the most dignified choice of topics, admittedly, but this is something that has either fascinated or mentally scarred me. I am going to share with you my experience of the ‘futuristic public toilet’, or to be more technically correct an ‘automated toilet.’ It was situated on the South Island of New Zealand by the Fox Glaciers. I was on a guided tour and we had long bus journeys with regular stops at public toilets and more importantly somewhere to get our morning coffee!

 

From the outset it seemed like your regular looking toilet, but with a huge flashing red light for ‘occupied’ and green light for ‘vacant’ on top of it. I have to be honest I was a little wary of going into it at first, more because I couldn’t work out how to get in it, but once inside everything was littered with buttons.

Buttons
So this brings me to point number one, the buttons. The purpose of this ‘futuristic toilet’ is to lower the risk of spreading germs and bacteria, fair enough, but what would happen should we have a power cut during my moment of futurism?

The loitering alarm
Much to my surprise as the door closed a voice spoke to inform me that I had 10 minutes before the door opens again! This brings me to point number two, the ‘loitering alarm.’ The purpose of the loitering alarm is to deter drug use in the toilet. I had only gone in for a quick wee stop but it did cross my mind, what if I take longer than 10 minutes? So now I’m under pressure from the ‘futuristic toilet’. What if the door slides open on me in mid flow, unveiling me like some kind of prize on a quiz show? Not only did the woman speak to me but then she played some awful musical tune whilst I did my thing. Really quite off putting.

The toilet paper
The next obstacle I was to endure was to find the toilet paper – point three. Of course, it’s electronic and you press a button and it feeds about a leaf sized amount of paper to you. I understand the importance of ‘saving the environment’, but honestly, the size of paper presented to me would struggle to shade an ant from the sun! I’ve paid for this luxury, yes that’s right; I paid 50 cents for the privilege to enter the ‘DeLorean Toilet Machine’.

Hygiene enforcement
My next drama was how to flush the toilet. I looked for ages and was surprised that my 10 minute loitering allowance hadn’t run out by this time. I gave up looking and decided to wash my hands. Just as I turned to do so, I found a sign above the sink saying, ‘toilet will flush once hands have been washed’. Really? So moving swiftly on to point number four – impromptu hygiene enforcement. What a marvellous idea. Finally something I most certainly agree with and I whole heartedly believe would change people’s lives through preventing the spread of bacteria and ultimately improving people’s health.

So I return to place my hands under the wash sensor mechanism, yes we have no buttons, and as if by magic the toilet flushed.

Exiting
Finally the last stage was to work out which button opened the door. Once I stepped back outside again I actually felt exhausted from the experience. However, I decided to turn around and read the instructions on the toilet, something I should have done prior to entering I guess.

I have to admit, I’m not the biggest fan of these ‘futuristic toilets’ but it does go some way to decreasing the spread of bacteria in public spaces, improving hygiene and thus people’s health. The ‘future toilet’ certainly has some great starting points and a long journey to perfection!

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Posted by PDD
@pddinnovation

Languages spoken: Global.
The last thing that inspired me: Design and Innovation.
My dream project: A project that makes a difference in the world.
My obsession: Develop successful, award-winning and world-first products and experiences.

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