Remember the Great Toilet Paper Crisis of 2020? We sure do, and it looks like our old friend [Vije Miller] does as well, while seemingly harboring a somewhat morbid fascination about how much paper every bathroom visitor is consuming. And to that end, we present his IoT toilet sheet tracker.
His 3D printed roll holder has a Hall effect sensor that counts revolutions of the roll and sends it to a NodeMCU. The number of sheets per roll is entered when the roll is changed, so some simple math yields the number of sheets each yank consumes. Or at least a decent estimate — [Vije] admits that there’s some rounding necessary. The best part of the build is the connection to Thingspeak, where sheet usage is plotted and displayed. Go ahead and check it out if you dare; at the time of writing, there was an alarming spike in sheet usage — a sudden need for 68 sheets where the baseline usage is in single digits. We shudder to think what might have precipitated that. The video below is — well, let’s just say there’s a video.
[Handy Geng] lives in Baoding, China, where average winter temperatures can get as low as −7.7 °C (18.1 °F). Rather than simply freezing in the cold when using the bathroom, he decided he could do better. Thus came about his rather unique toilet paper heating system.
The build uses a gas burner heating up a wok. Toilet paper is fed into the wok body via motorized rollers salvaged from what appears to be an old counterfeit money detector. The wok is then shaken by a second motor in order to more evenly heat the toilet paper within. The burner can then be turned off, and the lid of the wok opened in order to gain access to the toasty toilet paper.
The system heats the toilet paper to a scorching 75 °C (167 °F); a little too warm to comfortably touch, but thankfully toilet paper doesn’t have a lot of thermal mass so cools off relatively quickly. It’s also thankfully well below the auto-ignition temperature of paper of 451 °F.
As we all woke up in 2020 on New Year’s Day, few of us would have predicted how terrible everything would get in just a few short months. Worldwide shortages of toilet paper were just the tip of the iceberg, making everyone more keenly aware of their stocks at home. This was something [thepenguinmaster] decided to take a stab at managing in the cloud. Enter the Smart Toilet Paper Roll.
The device consists of a 3D printed toilet roll holder, outfitted with sensors to track usage of the precious material. A magnetic rotary encoder is used to monitor rotation of the roll, with a LIDAR device used to sense when a user’s hand is in close proximity. Data is trucked to the cloud by an Avnet Azure Sphere MT3620. The link with Azure allows for the automatic generation of graphs and access from anywhere over the Internet.
The project goes to show that just about anything around the house can be monitored over the Internet. We’d love to see the tracker go even further, measuring usage on a per-sheet basis and automatically ordering more when supplies get low. We’ve seen similar work before, too.
While we’re still far away from returning to a pre-Corona everyday life, people seem to have accepted that toilet paper will neither magically cease to exist, nor become our new global currency. But back at the height of its madness, like most of us, [Jelle Vermandere] found himself in front of empty shelves, and the solution seemed obvious to him: creating a lifelike toilet paper chasing game in hopes to distract the competition.
Using Unity, [Jelle] created a game world of an empty supermarket, with the goal to chase after distribution tubes and collect toilet paper packs into a virtual cart. Inspired by the Wii Wheel, he imitated a shopping cart handle built from — as it appears — a sunshade pole that holds an Arduino and accelerometer in a 3D-printed case as game controller. For an even more realistic feel, he added a sound sensor to the controller, and competing carts to the game, which can be pushed out of the way by simply yelling loud enough. You can witness all of this delightful absurdity in his build video after the break.
But that’s not all. With the toilet paper situation sorted out, [Jelle] found himself in a different dilemma: a cloud foiled his plans of going for a bicycle ride. In the same manner, he ended up building a cycling racing game, once again with Unity and Arduino. From a 3D-scanned model of himself and his bicycle, to automatically generating tracks on the fly and teaching an AI to ride a bike, [Jelle] clearly doesn’t joke around while he’s joking around.
However, the best part about the game has to be the controller, which is his actual bicycle. Using a magnetic door sensor to detect the speed, and a potentiometer mounted with an obscure Lego construction to the handlebar, it’s at least on par with the shopping cart handle — but judge for yourself in another build video, also attached after the break. The only thing missing now is to level up the difficulty by powering the Arduino with the bicycle itself.
Toilet paper has become a hot button issue over the last month or so, and the pandemic prompted panic buying, and consequent shortages. Now there are adequate supplies, at least where this is being written, but sometimes one’s rolls aren’t the domestic items we’re all used to. This happened to [Ebenezer], who had some of the large size rolls suitable for toilet roll dispensers rather than a domestic bathroom. To solve this problem he made a makeshift toilet roll winder.
The adventures of small dogs aside, we all know that toilet rolls unroll themselves very easily indeed but are a significant pain to get back on the roll once they have done so. Rolling toilet paper must therefore be an exact science of velocity and tension, which he approached with a 3D printed shaft that mounts a toilet roll tube in a Ryobi drill. Getting the tension right was a bit tricky, but we’re extremely impressed with the result. Like him we’d have expected some side-to-side movement, but there was very little and a near perfect toilet roll was the result.
This is a simple hack, but one extremely well executed, and that it does something we might normally consider near-impossible is a bonus. Of course, should you wish to ration your toilet paper, you can always print it.
For reasons that most rational consumers can’t fathom, a not inconsiderable segment of the population believes the key to their continued survival during a pandemic unprecedented in modern times is to stockpile toilet paper. This leaves those of us not compelled to act based on the whims of our bowels looking at bare racks in the paper product aisle more often than not.
Which makes it the perfect time for [Ariel Yahni] to develop his remote controlled toilet paper roll. With this gadget deployed, you just might have a chance at drawing the Karens away from all the rolled gold long enough to grab yourself a pack. Even if it doesn’t distract the other competitors shoppers, you can at least enjoy the looks on their faces as it scurries by.
The project starts with, of all things, popsicle sticks. These are used to make a reinforced platform to which the two motors, radio receiver, speed controller, and battery are mounted. With some clever packing, [Ariel] is able to (tightly) fit it inside of a cardboard tube with just the bottoms of the two wheels protruding through cutouts. A careful wrapping with toilet paper is then used to give it the look of a partially used roll, including a trailing “tail” that flutters in its wake.
In the video after the break, you can see [Ariel] take his roll of motorized TP through a local mall for a test drive. We’re sorry to say that nobody appears to make a wild dive for it during the test. But that could be because the video was recorded back in December before people had resorted to fighting over toiletries. It also explains why he was able to get into a mall in the first place.
As we enter our second week of official COVID-19-related lockdown where this is being written, it’s evident that there are some resources we will have to conserve to help get us through all this. Instead of just using all of something because we can nip out to the store and buy more, we have to look at what we’ve got and treat it as though it will have to get us through the next three months. It’s not always certain that on our infrequent trips to the supermarket they’ll have stocks of what we want.
A particular shortage has been of toilet paper. The news was full of footage showing people fighting for the last twelve-pack, and since early last month there has been none to be had for love nor money. To conserve stocks and save us from the desperate measures of having to cut the Daily Mail into squares and hang them on the wall, a technical solution is required. To this end I’ve created a computerised toilet roll dispenser which carefully controls the quantity of the precious sanitary product, in the hope of curbing its consumption to see us through the crisis.
In the midst of a full lockdown it’s difficult to secure immediate delivery of our usual maker essentials, so rather than send off for the controller boards I might have liked it has been necessary to make do with what I had. In the end I selected an older single board computer I had in a box under my bench. The Sinclair ZX81 has a single-core Z80 processor running at 3.25 MHz, dual-channel memory, a Ferranti GPU, and plenty of expansion possibilities from its black plastic case. I chose it because I could repurpose its thermal printer peripheral as a toilet paper printer, and because it has an easily wiped and hygienic membrane keyboard rather than a conventional one that could harbour germs.
Hardware wise I found I was fairly easily able to adapt a standard roll of Cushelle to the ZX printer, and was soon dispensing sheets with the following BASIC code.
10 REM TOILET PAPER PRINTER
20 FOR T=0 TO 44
30 LPRINT ""
40 NEXT T
50 LPRINT "---------- TEAR HERE -----------"
For now it’s working on the bench, but it will soon be mounted with a small portable TV as a monitor on the wall next to the toilet. Dispensing toilet paper will be as simple as typing RUN and hitting the ZX’s NEW LINE key, before watching as a sheet of toilet paper emerges magically from the printer. It’s the little hacks like this one that will be so useful in getting us through the crisis. After all, this Sinclair always has a square to spare.