30 September 2021

A medical check-up, at your convenience

The Back Page

Back in the good old days when overseas travel was an actual thing, your back page correspondent was lucky enough to spend a week or so in Japan.

Like many before him, he was bedazzled by the technological whizz-bangery the Japanese applied to so many things: Hello Kitty-themed bullet trains … vending machine that sell anything from beer to underwear … but most of all, the toilets.

Your average hotel dunny in downtown Tokyo comes equipped with a control panel of bewildering options that would put the Starship Enterprise’s flight deck to shame. Attempting to flush one of these pimped-up privvies can create the uneasy feeling that one may have unwittingly launched a missile attack on Pyongyang.

So imagine our delight when we learned of efforts out of California’s Stanford University to up the ante in the super-loo stakes.

Forget having an electronic seat warmer and 14 choices of bidet spray, this latest convenience can not only recognise your nether regions, it can also analyse your poop for possible diseases, such as colorectal and urological cancers.

The smart loo comes with an array of gadgetry inside the bowl that use motion sensing to deploy tests that assess the health of the contents deposited. For example, urine samples undergo physical and molecular analysis while stools are assessed based on their physical characteristics.

The gathered data is then sent to secure cloud-based storage for safekeeping.

“The smart toilet is the perfect way to harness a source of data that’s typically ignored, and the user doesn’t have to do anything differently,” lead study researcher Sanjiv Gambhir told media.  

Another fascinating feature of this super loo is its ability to recognise a user.

Not only does the toilet read the user’s fingerprints from the toilet flush handle, it also has an “anus-recognition” system. 

The point of having the toilet checking out your bum is to make sure the data being collected is matched to the correct user, especially there’s multiple users of the device.

“The whole point is to provide precise, individualised health feedback, so we needed to make sure the toilet could discern between users,” Dr Gambhir said. “We know it seems weird, but as it turns out, your anal print is unique.”

Privacy fans will be pleased to know that the anal scans are not subsequently shared with the doctors or the cloud database … because that would be really weird, right?

If you see something that makes you clench, send it on to felicity@medicalrepublic.com.au.

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