Thursday, July 14, 2011

Brilliant idea?

Sarita and I just got back from a three-week trip to Norway.

As often happens when traveling, I get thinking about things I wouldn't normally think about at home.

Since I had the--ummmm--privilege of being able to use many urinals in different restrooms, many more urinals than I would normally encounter in such a brief period of time, I got thinking about the--ummm--experience.

One "experience" that always bothers me in men's restrooms is the inevitable dribble--inevitable dribble--I always see in front of every urinal. (Not to mention--what I know drives women absolutely bonkers, when they have to share a toilet with men: the inevitable dribble on the front of the toilet bowl and/or, even, on the seat because some stupid, lazy lout couldn't be bothered to lift the seat while he did his business standing up! --Aaargh! . . . But we're not going there, today.)

I got thinking about how to eliminate the dribble.

And that reminded me of an idea I had heard about and have actually seen in Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands: an etched fly in the urinal that seems, unconsciously, automatically, to get guys actually to aim their urinary flow!

When Schiphol installed the fly toilets, messes declined by some 80%!

I don't know what got into me on this trip, but I thought, Why not expand upon and improve the idea? Why not turn it into a kind of computerized video game in which, when the subject male actually hits the target, he gets points ringing up--with actual audio feedback bells and a counter above the urinal: "Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding!" --Like the old pinball games.

Let him wrack up as many points as he can while hitting the target.

Lose points if he dribbles or splashes anywhere outside the bowl: "Honk! Honk! Honk! Honk!"

I thought a bit further: How could we turn this into not just a personal 'How well can I perform?' issue, but a social pressure item as well? --What if there were some kind of total score for the entire bathroom in which, if "you" miss, you destroy the entire score for everyone? Would that increase neatness?


We had a big Strategy Review meeting at Sonlight yesterday to which, as an owner, I was invited.

As we went to lunch afterwards at the "Sonlight Cafe" (a Wendy's restaurant about half a block away), I shared with the guys what I was thinking about.

They loved the idea. And suggested some further refinements . . . that I imagine would engender far better social pressure than my idea would.

"Take a photo of the guy who misses and plaster it all over Facebook: 'Loser!'" . . .

I'll stop here.

Any further refinements to the idea?

. . . After talking with the guys at Sonlight yesterday, I checked online.

Apparently, I'm not "first to market" with my idea.

According to Duncan Geere of Wired UK, Sega, the game company, has begun testing some ‘Toylet’ Games in Japanese urinals.

Each urinal is installed with a pressure sensor. An LCD screen is mounted on the wall above, letting the gamer select from and play four different minigames. There’s “Mannekin Pis,” which simply measures how hard you can pee, and “Graffiti Eraser,” which lets you remove paint by pointing a hose in different directions.

There’s the faintly misogynistic “The Northern Wind, The Sun and Me,” where you play as the wind trying to blow a girl’s skirt up, and the harder you pee, the harder the wind blows.

Finally, the bizarre “Battle! Milk From Nose” is a multiplayer game where you compete against the person who last used the urinal. The strength of your urine streams are compared, and translated into milk spraying out of your nose. If your stream is stronger, your milk-stream knocks your opponent out of the ring. If you do particularly well on any of the games, you can download and save your information to a USB stick.

Of course, it’s not just about games. Between sessions, the Toylet will display ads, hoping that you’ll pay more attention to them than to a traditional ad.
And as Geere notes, Sega is only one semi-knock-off of someone else's idea.

Worse, as I think about it, I realize this is almost assuredly uneconomical. How much true benefit would the additional electronics provide over the simple and inexpensive fly in the toilet?

Oh, well.

It was a fun thought experiment while it lasted!

Further information at NPR's video article.
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