Fair warning: this blog is about things not generally talked about in polite company. But it scores as my favorite tech purchase of 2012.
My definition of technology is very wide. Technology is shared minds made visible. This includes all cultural artifacts—everything that humans have created, as each creation generates the next. For example a warm water shower represents generations of problem solving. Last year on a trip to Japan I encountered some toilet tech that is almost as essential as the shower. So this blog is about the toilet tech.
In Japan the “washing toilet seat” was found everywhere--in our hotel room, in the restrooms of restaurants and even in the toilets on trains. The Japanese apparently expect their toilets to have smart seats. When I raised this topic with my university colleague, she suggested we use the facilities in the medical school.
The space fit my normal scheme for a public restroom: white tiles, small cubicles and a sink with automated water flow. But when I opened the door to the cubicle, some serious accommodation to my schema was necessary. The door movement “caused” classical music to play, which is there to mask any noise that might not be concert worthy. The closed toilet seat cover slowly lifts inviting you to take a seat. As skin contact is made, there is a rush of warmth as you settle into the experience. When you are ready, there is a flight deck of buttons to push that will provide warm water targeted to where you desire with the force and warmth you select. Once clean, there is a burst of warm air that has been lightly scented to complete the experience. You stand and the toilet flushes and the lid quietly closes.
When I got home and stared at my dumb seat, I knew it would not work for me any more. I was pleasantly surprised to find on the internet a large selection of smarter toilet seats with costs that ranged from less than $100 (non-electric) to more money than a whole new toilet should cost. After careful comparison of features vs. cost, I settled on the IntelliSeat as it had the best mix of features for what I came to see as a very reasonable price. And I could tell from the diagram that it would fit my toilet. (You also have to factor in the cost of bringing electricity to the back of the toilet, not a place you normally find an outlet). Installation was easy. It has been almost a year and mine, and the one I bought for my parent, has worked flawlessly and my aging parents could both master the remote with some help. It doesn’t play classical music and I have to raise and lower the seat myself, but the mini-showers should be up there in the list of very smart inventions.