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The Toilet That Thinks

Still from Toto Video

Japanese plumbing products specialist Toto recently showcased its high-tech demo toilets unabashedly right in the middle of the floor at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. While the toilets are not functioning ones, the manufacturer is keen to show how its 'intelligent' washlet system can be good for the environment and improve people's experience in the bathroom. How smart is the toilet? 'You walk up to it and it opens up, and when you leave it closes and flushes automatically,' Toto spokeswoman Lenora Campos says. It also eliminates the need for toilet paper. 'It scans and delivers warm aerated water' to the user, she explains. 'It washes and then dries you. We can be clean without paper products.' After usage, the toilet cleans and sanitizes itself with electrolysed water. And because of its coating of titanium dioxide and zirconium, nothing sticks to the bowl. That means it can go for a year without cleaning, avoiding the use of environmentally harmful chemicals, according to Toto. None of this is new to many Japanese people or visitors to the country - Campos said about 70 percent of Japanese homes use this kind of washlet system, but that the idea is gaining ground in other countries. Toto has been selling the Neorest model in the US and Europe, and in Las Vegas it introduced a newer version: a wall-hung toilet that takes up less space with its tank and drain in the wall and is even more water-efficient. This new model is being introduced in Europe this year with plans for the US market in 2017. One thing that may be hard to digest for users is the price: a list price of well over R150,000 for the original Neorest and possibly more for the new model. But Toto USA president William Strang said its customers are the best promoters of the intelligent toilet. 'Once they test-drive this, they don't want to go back,' he says.