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Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Gadgets and games to keep you dry in the washroom
By JESS MANTELL
It's not the classiest of topics, but here I go touching on the taboo — toilets. We all visit the bathroom several times a day, and what a relief that we do! The experience can conjure a curious mix of emotions: pleasure, pain, anxiety, boredom, impatience, pride. Japan famously produces toilets with booty heating, cleaning, and drying functions, as well as noise-disguising features and different flushing options. The toilet-going experience really has been elevated, both literally and figuratively from the days when the humble squatter ruled. Here is a look at gadgets that amuse and come in handy when nature calls.
Toylets by SEGA
There are heaps of smartphone apps available to help with all manner of toilet use: finding a public one, potty training little ones, plus all the games and SNS that people use while on the throne. Shockingly, there have actually been links made between hemorrhoids and smartphone use in the loo! Toylets, by Japanese game-console-maker Sega (toylets.sega.jp/), is a special game that helps urinal users to hit their mark with a bit of cute animation and healthy competition. The system is comprised of a small target with pressure measuring sensors that is mounted in the urinal and a small display mounted at eye level that shows a player's progress. There are different Toylets games available that can have a user using their "stream" to interact with the cute anime-like characters on the screen or competing against the previous player by measuring accuracy and volume. The system has apparently been installed in public bathrooms all over Japan for a few years now; I don't often wander into places with urinals so I wouldn't know. For those keen to play pee games all the time, and who have a urinal, Sega has just released a consumer version. Seems like a handy aid for potty training and for those who live with careless tinklers. The system retails for ¥140,000 and the games go for ¥10,000 each, making you wonder if someone's pulling the proverbial.
Scooba floor cleaner by iRobot
If the learning curve on Toylets is proving too steep, how about having a robot ready nearby to clean up any spills. The maker is iRobot, producer of military drones and a line of cleaning robots for the general consumer market, including the Roomba vacuum-cleaning robot. They have just released a new version of their Scooba floor-washing robot, the Scooba 390 (bit.ly/LgOOqH) The product page declares that by "using a four-stage cleaning process, Scooba preps, washes, scrubs and squeegees your floor for you, removing up to 98 percent of common household bacteria." It sounds like a heavenly product that is perhaps even worth the $500 price tag.
There are all kinds of excuses people give when their phones fall in the toilet; it slipped out of their pocket when they were (dis)robing, they had it held between their ear and shoulder and it fell, they dropped it while writing an email, whatever the case may be, they had to fish their phones out of the toilet and are faced with the dilemma of what to do with a soggy mobile phone. A quick Internet search shows that enough people have been faced with this situation that there is all manner of advice online on what to do with your drowned phone (dunking it in dry rice seems to work). The Case Marine (www.casemarine.jp), a waterproof smartphone cover can prevent the problem altogether, and also allow for some intended underwater adventures, too. There are cases that fit the Apple iPhone and Samsung GALAXY II, and sales have been launched in Japan. The case is only 0.25mm thin and the whole system is made up of three components: a film-like skin cover, a bumper and stickers to seal up the opening of the skin. The "dressing" process of the system seems similar to the way cold-water divers put on a drysuit. You first pull the skin over your phone with the opening at the back, then seal it up with a sticker and finally hold it all in place with a bumper. It sounds like an ordeal, but the result is a smartphone that is waterproof to 10 meters and accepts calls underwater. The phone's touch screen is fully functioning through the case, except you need to take the case off to charge or use the earphone jack. So for anyone particularly paranoid about their phone falling in the toilet, this may be worth it.
Jess Mantell is a PhD student in the department of Media Design at Keio University. Follow tweets about design, technology and urbanism @jessmantell on Twitter.