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An Englishman in Japan - “The smallest room”

Date Posted: 2002-02-07

Japan has developed some of the most advanced technology in the world. Japanese companies have managed to take computing technology to new heights, pushing the envelope of design. The have made things stronger, smarter, faster. They have made the super toilet. English toilets are quite mundane. They have a simple seat, they flush and that's pretty much it. The English toilet designers obviously did not see the same potential as the Japanese design teams.

Japanese toilets have the simple addition of integrating a tap into the top of the toilet so you can wash your hands as the tank fills. It's cold water but I must admit a stroke of toilet-design genius. Then there are the water jets to wash your lower regions, the radio to entertain you, and even a selection of sounds to drown out any other noises you might happen to be making. What amuses me the most is the heated toilet seat. The design team had obviously been told that people didn't like unpleasantly cold toilets. The result was a seat that could be heated throughout the winter months. This is fine except for one thing. In England if you sit down on the toilet seat and find it's warm, it means that someone else's bottom has only just vacated the premises.

Public restrooms may not have quite as complicated toilets, but they are still a shrine to the progress of technology. Once you have entered through the automatically opening doors you find the urinals, taps and dryers are all controlled by sensors. Everything flushes or turns itself on and off as if by magic. If the Y2K bug had caused mass collapse of computers, one of the first jobs for rescue workers would have been to extract (highly sanitized) people from toilet cubicles and restrooms.

If technology continues to advance as fast as it has been, then by the end of this century the first operational forms of artificial super-intelligence may be at work in our homes. This might not be in the form of Robin Williams' androids or cyber-pets, but as the world's first sentient toilet seats.

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