Is this the Siri of toilets? A pristine voice-operated public restroom

Wait just a few years and it’s possible you’ll rule the world with nothing however your voice. Already, you’ll be able to whisper “Alexa” and she or he’ll begin the vacuum in your front room, or name upon Google and your Nest thermostat will regulate to the proper temperature.

In Tokyo, now you can enter a brand new public restroom, flush, wash your arms, and even play music—all with out ever touching a floor. All it takes is a voice greeting: “Hello Bathroom.”

[Photo: Courtesy TBWA]

Self-described as the most hygienic bathroom in the world, Hello Bathroom is the newest iteration of the Tokyo Bathroom Challenge, which is changing 17 public bathrooms in Shibuya, a well-liked purchasing and leisure space, with clear, trendy, accessible constructions. This specific bathroom was designed by Kazoo Sato, the chief inventive officer at promoting company TBWAHakudo. After a 12 months and a half of acrobatics to flush with our foot, or flip the doorknob with a paper towel that then have to be discarded whereas the door is propped open, this providing is a welcome addition to our public restroom wants. And, whereas the concept for a hands-free bathroom germinated effectively earlier than the pandemic, it’s a well timed reminder that all of us deserve a secure, clear, and inclusive place to do our enterprise in the metropolis.

To activate the bathroom, all you must do is greet it, and a chime will invite you to voice your subsequent command. “‘Hello Bathroom’ works as a sizzling phrase for the facility to start out receiving voice instructions,” explains Sato, who designed the facility in collaboration with TBWA’s Disruption Lab. “Identical to ‘Hey Siri.’”


The workforce constructed a customized voice command system utilizing a Japanese open-source speech recognition library. For now, the bathroom solely responds to Japanese and English audio system, however Sato says any language could be programmed into it, so long as it’s supported by the underlying know-how.

So, after you have the bathroom’s full consideration, the expertise is a bit like speaking to a chatbot. For the AI to parse out a command, it has to grasp what you’re asking for. To that finish, designers used a human-computer interplay know-how that helps construct a extra conversational AI by matching your instructions—”flush the bathroom,” “activate the faucet”—with a set of pre-defined actions.

And since none of this would work with out the bathroom having the ability to hear you, the studio additionally developed a sound system with automation sensors and management techniques. As soon as inside, an infrared sensor identifies the place the voice command was made and takes management of the room, one thing like the Weasley’s enchanted home in Harry Potter, besides in this case, the magic is actual.

[Photo: Courtesy TBWA]

In case you’re feeling in the temper, Hello Bathroom may even play some music for you. “A lot of individuals utilizing public services run the faucet water or flush solely to muffle the sound once they’re doing their enterprise,” explains Sato. “It’s an unbelievable waste of water and under no circumstances sustainable.” The music takes care of that, however Sato says there’s another excuse behind it.

A 2018 Japanese study discovered {that a} music frequency of 528 Hz has an particularly robust stress-reducing impact, even with solely 5 minutes of publicity. “It’s mentioned that the 528 Hz frequency stimulates bowel actions,” he explains. “In case you inform the bathroom to play therapeutic music, it is going to begin enjoying music of this frequency.”

Kazoo’s concept for a hands-free bathroom got here effectively earlier than the pandemic introduced hygiene into the highlight. A 2015 report on rest room conduct discovered that 60% of customers had been stepping on bathroom levers to flush. Half of them had been opening the door with bathroom paper, and 30% had been avoiding hand contact as a lot as potential, and utilizing their elbows. The report was targeted on public restrooms throughout Europe and the U.S., however Sato says he has seen related behaviors in Tokyo.

In keeping with the Nippon Basis, the nonprofit that launched the Tokyo Bathroom Challenge, Japan’s repute as one of the cleanest international locations in the world just isn’t mirrored in its public restrooms. Over the previous 12 months, many such bathrooms have opened in Shibuya. In July, Kengo Kuma revealed a cedar-clad “toilet village” of 5 huts in Shoto Park. And earlier this month, graphic designer Kashiwa Sato constructed a cube-shaped toilet wrapped in white aluminum louvers simply outdoors of Ebisu station.


For Sato, a contactless restroom can spotlight the significance of public services, and the want for them to be seen as a commodity, not a luxurious. “I additionally hope the design appeals to peoples’ sense of pleasure and possession,” he says, “to make sure public services stay maintained, clear and cared for, for everybody’s enjoyment and luxury.”

Hello Bathroom opened earlier this month. It’s too quickly to inform whether or not individuals will say goodbye to it once they go away.