Jewish World Review Nov 8, 2011 / 11 Mar-Cheshvan 5772
A toilet as smart as its occupant
By Dale McFeatters
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Slowly but steadily I am being left behind by modern consumer technology. With perseverance and trial and error I can work a TV remote, but I am at a total loss when confronted with a whole tray full of them on the coffee table in front of the big-screen TV and its assorted little electronic friends.
In spite of the fact that I could manage only minimal functions on my old cell phone -- make calls and, with a little luck, sometimes answer them, and once I took a photo but I don't remember how -- the family decided I needed a newer, sleeker one.
As happens in our household, the instructions were promptly thrown out but my children assured me the phone was intuitive and that I would figure it out. It wasn't and I haven't.
I am not alone in this. I have friends in a similar fix, driving cars half of whose dashboard is a complete mystery to them. It doesn't matter because past a certain age you can't read all the little numbers, letters and symbols anyway, certainly not when the car is moving.
That's why I feel the following dispatch from the Personal Tech section of The New York Times is only fair warning.
Kohler, outfitter to America's bathrooms, is coming out with a high-tech toilet called the Numi. (Excuse me, but "I have to go Numi" sounds too much like baby talk.) The Numi sells for $6,400, a lot when you consider you can't drive it to work, although that day may be coming.
The Times' Sam Grobart explains Kohler's reasoning: "First, it brings attention to the toilet market, not generally a closely watched industry." Nor should it be since all the really sophisticated work is done by your intestines; the rest is basically garbage removal.
Second, and here we're getting to the point, Kohler is battling a Japanese firm for preeminence in the over-the-top toilet market.
The Numi's controls -- and there seem to be 14 of them -- are done through a touch screen remote control that Grobart describes as "somewhat larger than an iPod Touch." (I'm quoting him because I have no idea how big that is.)
The Numi will wash and dry the user. Graphics on the keypad tastefully illustrate the choice of which parts get washed -- steady blast or oscillating spray -- and dried. Maybe it's just me, but letting an unsupervised robot work on your private parts requires more faith in technology than I can muster.
Grobart says it's easy to become accustomed to a throne with music and mood lighting, much like driving a luxury car with "a backup camera or heated seats." A backup camera on a toilet doesn't even bear thinking about.
The Numi stores "user profiles" so it can adjust the temperature, lighting and music for different members of the family. The toilet glows at night and there is a special Light Emitting Diode to help males with their aim. When it senses someone coming, the toilet seat gently rises and then lowers itself on departure, solving a problem that has bedeviled male-female relations at least as far back as the invention of the outhouse.
The Numi has a built-in FM radio and stereo speakers and a connection for an MP3 player, meaning if you have a teenage daughter you are never going to get her out of the bathroom. Men, who grow immersed in Sports Illustrated or Playboy and lose track of time, might be convinced to speed up the process if, at its successful conclusion, the toilet played Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" at full blast.
Sensors on the eco-conscious Numi adjust the flushes for Number 1 and Number 2. Or, if you insist on personally taking control of the flush, there are two icons, showing a small swirl and a big swirl, clockwise if it really matters to you.
Don't say the Times didn't warn you.
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