Toilets are a part of our lives that we don’t think about often, and while some nations – particularly, Japan – have upgraded their restroom visits to the next level with heating seats and comforting background noises, the rest of us are content with our sit-flush-leave policy regarding toilets.
Now, an ambitious team of researchers has designed a fully automated sensor package that you can put on your normal toilet to turn it into the Sherlock Holmes of toilets.
This ‘smart toilet' is a self-contained system that operates autonomously by leveraging pressure and motion sensors.
Once the sensor package is mounted on a conventional sit-down toilet, it monitors your health by checking your poop and urine for factors such as consistency, glucose and red blood cell count, and color.
The device can detect conditions such as chronic constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, prostate cancer, and kidney failure, and it could be especially of use to individuals who are genetically predisposed to certain conditions.
Sanjiv Gambhir, professor and chair of Radiology at Stanford University and who is the man behind the project says, “Our concept dates back well over 15 years. When I’d bring it up, people would sort of laugh because it seemed like an interesting idea, but also a bit odd.”
Here is a closer look at the monitoring system that is used. Check out the "Thinking Man" they used for the first graphic. We do a lot of thinking on that seat all right.
It is a bit odd indeed. Moreover, the toilet comes with a surprising built-in identification system. In order to provide individualized health feedback, the researchers made a flush lever that can read fingerprints, but since this wasn’t foolproof, they had to take a rather interesting route.
They added a small camera that scans the anus. Yes, you read that right. “We know it seems weird, but as it turns out, your anal print is unique,” Gambhir says. Therefore, it can be used as a recognition system to match users to their specific data.
You might want to zoom the image at the top for a detailed look at how a imagine scanned by this camera exactly looks like. We advise that you shouldn't though.
So, if you are interested in implementing the smart toilet into your daily life in the future, you must make peace with the fact that you’ll be baring it all to a camera that scans your anus to get an “analprint” for science purposes.
The toilet automatically sends data extracted and analyzed from any sample to a secure, cloud-based system. According to the researchers, the system could be integrated into hospitals’ record-keeping system for easy and quick access.
The project is still in the early stages, and the researchers are not aiming at replacing a doctor or diagnosis. It will just be alerting users in case of any red flags that could warrant medical attention.
The research was published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.