April 20th, 2003
Strange things are afoot in the world of Human-Computer Interactions. This month at CHI 2003, the biggest annual HCI-related conference on the planet, bathroom talk was all the buzz.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology students Dan Maynes-Aminzade and Hayes Solos Raffle presented what I assume is the world’s first urine-based computer interface: “You’re In Control.” They built a special urinal fitted with sixteen pressure sensors that detect the location of the user’s urine stream.
At eye-level above the urinal a video game appears, complete with jumping hamsters and a simulated urine stream that’s mapped to the location and movement of the user’s real urine stream. Hit a hamster and it turns yellow, screams and spins out of control as your score increases by ten points. The MIT students even built a penis simulator that allows women to spray water into the urinal. A urinal like this might persuade the neighborhood pub’s patrons to refuel by purchasing more beer.
Swedish design students Par Stenberg and Johan Thoresson presented the Toilet Entertainment System, which collects a user’s interests while he or she sits on the toilet, and then prints out customized news content on the toilet paper. It “keeps you discreetly entertained while visiting the toilet,” according to the inventors. My advice for the future: be afraid. And prepare yourself for longer bathroom lines.
Human Factors International distributed free calendars to conference attendees. For the month of April the HFI calendar features a cartoon about potential toilet interfaces of the future.