It’s Time To Embrace The Toilet Of The Future

You use things every day that are very different from the same items from even a decade ago. Your car, your cellphone, and your computer all have probably changed a lot in the last ten years. But there’s something you almost certainly use every day that hasn’t changed much in a very long time: your toilet. That is unless you live in Japan where some toilets are a high tech delight. Lifehacker recently did a video about the toilet of the future, which might be coming to the US soon if Toto — one of the Japanese toilet makers — has its way.

It made us think. For as ubiquitous as the porcelain throne is, we don’t see many hacks related to it. There are several really obvious ones. For example, in the Lifehacker video, the seat automatically raises when you approach. We don’t know how it could figure out if you were going to stand or sit, but maybe that’s a good application for machine learning. What we really want is one that can clean itself. That would be worth something. Every time we see a Sanisette washing itself in Paris we want to take it home.

Bidets aren’t a big thing in this country, but we’ve never heard anyone who has used one say they didn’t like it. Turns out, it is very water efficient compared to the production of toilet paper, too. Some other features mentioned were scent, sound, and UV sterilization. We’ll admit it, though. We snickered at the icon on the bidet button.

So why aren’t there more toilet hacks? We don’t know. Maybe it’s taboo. A computer vision system for precise targeting of a bidet is a dirty business, but someone has to do it. Surprisingly, we do see a lot of toilet paper holders with either IoT sensors or some 3D printed features. We’ve only seen one recent project involving something more concrete. That project tried to thwart splashback. Got a toilet project? Hit us on the tip line.

81 thoughts on “It’s Time To Embrace The Toilet Of The Future

  1. After all, nowadays you can stand in the bathroom like an idiot unable to make the water come out of the faucet and the soap to come out of the dispenser to wash your hands. Then you can get to walk out without dry hands because of the whizzy paper-towel dispenser or hot-air dryer which isn’t working. Why NOT extend this glorious future to the other plumbing! Instead of having toilets which you can’t flush, we could maybe have toilets which you can’t even open the lid on! Wouldn’t that be fun! Or butt-washers which refuse to stop washing! [True story from when they installed Japanese toilets at work.]

    Meanwhile we’ll have an inch-wide gap between the panels of the stall, or no divider at all between urinals, because AMERICA.

    1. That was definitely one of my biggest surprises when I visited one of my company’s American customers. Visiting the ‘bathroom’ and walking past the occupied stall and double taking because I could see the occupant of the occupied stall with the door closed.

      1. @Shannon: The stalls in my high school restroom didn’t even *have* doors. Probably so kids couldn’t hide in there and smoke or something (even though we had “smoke break” for 16+ year-olds back then). If some poor sucker had to take a dump, everyone else was gawking at them as they passed by.

    2. “After all, nowadays you can stand in the bathroom like an idiot unable to make the water come out of the faucet ”

      This ‘Murican could not figure out how to make the water temperature change at the faucets in Tokyo’s Narito airport.
      and is there a “standard” (no pun intended) to how the 2 stage flush (low for urinal, high for solids) works?

    3. Toilet, soap disspense, wash and dry without touching anything.
      Uber clean then having to use a handle to open a door.
      Kind of negates the whole cleanliness aspect.
      Star trek whoosh doors anyone??

  2. having a small footstool in front of a western toilet to put your feet on while doing your business! Moves your body closer to the more natural squatting toilet experience. highly recommendable. Especially if you´re having problems with hemmoroids, etc.

    1. No, thanks, I don’t need the “natural squatting toilet experience” – balancing while you have to do your business and taking care not to soil your trousers in the process. A comfortable sitting positions is good – and a washlet that cleans your backside afterwards.

  3. You guys have no idea what you’re missing. I’ve had Japanese washlets (“washing toilets” in Japanese parlance) in my home for the past ten years and they are wonderful. No, they can’t tell if you want to stand or sit, but everyone needs access to the water so you can consider the lid unisex. There are buttons on the console that raise or lower the seat on your command. Many models give all manner of massage sprays back and front, suck your fumes down the vent so you don’t stew in your own juices, play waterfall sounds to hide your own musical toots from the neighbors who might accidentally hear you in the house next door, dry your butt with a gentle warm breeze, then flush and lower the lid automatically after you leave. Mine will do everything but change my oil, and it’ll probably do that if I talk to it sweetly in Japanese.

    1. Same, bidet toilet seats are amazing! What ELSE do you “clean” with dry paper?

      As for the features, the keys are the sprayers (“front” for her, “back” for him and her) and the heated seat. All other features are useless complications IMO.

      One big negative is the fact that bidet seats need room for the machine part, which shortens the seat significantly. Not a big deal for women, but for men… if your toilet is not “extended,” you will have an unpleasant time.

    2. Parent is absolutely right- I lived in Japan for 3 years.

      Toto washlets are #1 thing I want in first house, they spray clean your behind and dry it, its amazing and so clean. Heated seats in winter too, some even blow bubbles on your junk for relaxation.

      The bidet can be programmed on good ones for exact angle, extention, and intensity if you so desire.

      American toilets are complete shit by comparison, and you guys honestly have no idea what you are missing.

    1. Only for people which value ecology higher than their personal wellbeing and comfort. I prefer the washlet which cleans you with water after doing your business. That’s obviously not compatible with a compost toilet.

  4. Toilets and old school bidets have been the staple for over 70 years+.
    Nowadays, new buildings and renovations go without a bidet. What a civilisational set back! I even heard a contractor say bidets’ only use is to wash your feet. 😮
    There’s nothing like a nice fresh tushy after a good water and soap cleaning!

          1. No additional floor space is needed.
            The seats are generally white, like most seats and lids that they’re replacing.
            As for the last one… either you don’t understand how potty training works, or you don’t understand how bidet toilet seats work.

        1. The plumbing is the easy part: they all come with T-adapters to get fresh water from the same line feeding into your toilet’s tank.

          The electrical connection is trickier: you’ll need an outlet nearby. I’ve managed to make it work with a short extension, but you’re definitely not supposed to do that.

    1. It’s a mostly American sentiment. WWII soldiers discovered them in French brothels. And now they still have a seedy reputation.
      Europe embraces bidets much more.

      But classic bidets are shit. What you want is a Japanese style washlet.

  5. “A computer vision system for precise targeting of a bidet is a dirty business…”

    Nah, I’m paranoid enough about unauthorised access to my emails, I don’t want to have to worry about unauthorised access to my ass as well!

    1. Kinda surprised more people aren’t commenting on this.
      “computer” = hackable
      “vision system” = web cam
      “targeting” = pointing at your bits

      Rewrite that to “Hackable webcam pointing at your backside.”

      You want pictures of your bits on the internet, cause this is how you get that.

        1. Why would you connect it to the internet? is the exact question that comes to my mind for at least half of the IOT devices on the market today. Yet they continue to develop internet connected dodads.

    2. While we’re all special, the position of the business area over a toilet bowl is pretty consistent from user to user.

      There are hard problems to solve and this is not one of them ;)

  6. Living in Japan, my favorite thing about Japanese toilets is not high tech at all, and can usually be found on lower-tech models: A faucet that fills the toilet tank through a small wash basin after flushing. I will never know why this has not been more widely adopted, especially in countries/areas where freshwater is precious.

    1. +1 Sometimes, simple solutions are more useful than the complicated ones.

      One thing I find interesing and smart is the use of rainwater for the toilet flush. This is an application where there isn´t the need to worry about rain contaminants, the cleanliness of roofs or treating the water before consumption.

    2. “A faucet that fills the toilet tank through a small wash basin after flushing. I will never know why this has not been more widely adopted, especially in countries/areas where freshwater is precious.”

      Is that how prison toilets work?

  7. Of all the many electronics and programming projects I’ve done, the most useful *by a long way* has been the battery, microswitch and LED wired into my loo roll holder. As soon as the last roll gets below half full, the LED comes on.

    1. It needs to Bluetooth/WiFi/text your phone so you don’t have to be present to know that. Or, incorporate a “Charmin” Amazon dot.

      Of course, for some households, a high capacity magazine which holds 20-30 “rounds” would be useful.
      B^)

    2. That is indeed a great project. And I’m pretty sure that that battery will last for a very long time. Probably long enough for you to get used to it and forget all about the fact that the battery someday will not be working as expected. Murphy’s law will ensure that on the day that happens you’ll experience an extreme form of diarrhea and find out that the system failed to warn you about the toilet paper being empty…

  8. “But there’s something you almost certainly use every day that hasn’t changed much in a very long time: your toilet. ”

    Low flush toilets, and all the various “mechanisms” done in the tank and the bowl to implement those legal requirements.

    I suppose in California, one probably can’t even buy replacement parts for older toilets in order to force people to buy the newer models…

  9. The one feature I’d love to see is a fan to create a slight negative air pressure to pipe all the wonderful smells elsewhere. At least in public toilets. Most public restrooms have inadequate ventilation anyway.

  10. I was at a home design display village, and saw one of the Toto’s (about US$3500 each to purchase) in their public toilets there. It opened upon approach, with this almost satisfied sighing sound, and lit up in various colors depending on what it sensed you were doing. The lady who worked for the company told me they’d had people literally run out of the toilet block in fear. Sad. But yes, I have visited Japan and Korea, where the front-desk lady has discretely handed me English instructions for how to use their toilets. Maybe it’s cultural differences, but some of the icons were hilariously obscure.

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