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The Bathroom of Tomorrow: What a Way to Go

by Douglas Page © 1999

Everyone wonders what the bathroom of the future will be like. Okay, maybe they don't, but it hasn't stopped engineers in the division of Non-Burning Issues from designing what can euphemistically be called the bathroom of tomorrow—an oasis of comfort, elegance, rest, and meditation essential to contemporary living.
Since the bathroom is the one place in the home where we are likely to be alone, designers of the future are creating the perfect chamber where we can properly obsess on attitude and appearance.

At Philips, the Dutch electronics giant, engineers have dreamed up several pie-in-the-sky gadgets that could begin to enhance the care and grooming experience by 2005. They began with the mirror.

Remember when flossing used to be simple? The seers at Philips have modified bathroom mirrors almost beyond recognition. The mirrored door, over the sink and on the medicine chest, previously used only for thoughts of who-is-the-fairest, is now another entertainment and information center, offering a picture-in-a-picture window on the televised world. Since nature doesn't always call at the best times, soon you won't have to miss any of those great Super Bowl commercials.

The sink mirror goes hand in hand with the flexible pullout mirror, featuring a magnifying camera lens attached to a flexible arm for correct positioning and that complete hands-free body inspection we've all been missing.

Under the mirror there's a recharge shelf and container, not only for electric shavers and toothbrushes, but also for the special "wands". These programmable remote controls will be used to store individual preset preferences for background music, television selection, room lighting, heating, and water temperature for the shower, bath or bidet.

The bathroom of the future also eliminates the need for a magazine rack, since it will contain a portable, wireless television monitor for easy viewing from anywhere in the bathroom. When showering, soaking in a bubble bath or attending to other inevitabilities, a cable-free, waterproof screen can be moored wherever you are. Through this monitor you may access TV channels, e-magazines, e-books or instant stock quotes over the internet.

For toweling off, Philips is designing a high tech magic carpet that does more than dry the bottom of your feet. This rug allows one to track vital signs including weight, pulse and blood pressure. Digital results can be recorded and transmitted instantly to a window in one of the bathroom's electronic mirrors. Those in denial can suppress the instant readout.

The mat slips right in with the Philips concept of the home medical center—most likely to be found in the bathroom. This is an information and communication nucleus connecting technologies and allowing access to and from medical services.

Tomorrow's bathroom will be equipped with a medical kit containing more than Blistexģ, cotton balls and bandages. Philips thinks the day is approaching when there will be little need for anyone to go to the doctor to diagnose high blood pressure, for instance. The first aid kit of the future will contain e-books and CD-ROMs that will provide coaching on, say, what blood pressure is and how to measure it using tools from the kit, which will be connected via a telemedicine link to the doctor's office.

In essence, the home medical center will function like an interactive medical encyclopedia, with in-depth explanations and simulations, while providing access to your doctor's office via a video link so the physicians can check your symptoms and give their prognosis.

The bottom line on the bathroom of tomorrow comes from Toto Kiki USA, Inc., a Morrow, Georgia, plumbing supply firm (www.totousa.com), where engineers have developed, tested and are now marketing ZoŽ, a $699 ergonomically contoured, cushioned, "smart" toilet seat. Now we know who got Einstein's office.

The ZoŽ features an automatic air sensor and freshening system; a hydraulic mechanism for soft-closing that finally addresses the nerve-racking terror of seat-slam (great for those middle-of-the-night bathroom sorties); and the personal cleansing luxury of a built-in, adjustable, aerated, warm-water bidet-stream activated by remote control at the touch of a button. Please make sure this remote doesn't fall into the wrong hands.

This throne even comes with an optional seat-warmer feature for those stark winter mornings when Nature's calls are most immediate. Contrived by award-winning industrial designer Ayse Birsel, the ZoŽ was built with the belief that there's more to a toilet seat than meets the thigh, and that a comfortable seat should echo the contours of the human body. Thus the ZoŽ’s ergonomic seat fits not just the commode, but the rump as well. A high back provides support, while the sloping front was designed so as not to impede blood circulation.

No butts about it, the bathroom of the future will be a compelling electronic cocoon, a place of refuge, serenity, contemplation and renewal—the lavatory equivalent of the black turtleneck.

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Comments? Corrections? Questions? Assignments? douglaspage@earthlink.net
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