Loo design has barely changed in 150 years – until now. Will people trade their privacy for the chance to find out exactly what is in their waste?
For the past 10 years, Sonia Grego has been thinking about toilets – and more specifically what we deposit into them. “We are laser-focused on the analysis of stool,” says the Duke University research professor, with all the unselfconsciousness of someone used to talking about bodily functions. “We think there is an incredible untapped opportunity for health data. And this information is not tapped because of the universal aversion to having anything to do with your stool.”
As the co-founder of Coprata, Grego is working on a toilet that uses sensors and artificial intelligence to analyse waste; she hopes to have an early model for a pilot study ready within nine months. “The toilet that you have in your home has not functionally changed in its design since it was first introduced,” she says, in the second half of the 19th century. There are, of course, now loos with genital-washing capabilities, or heated seats, but this is basic compared with what Grego is envisaging. “All other aspects of your life – your electricity, your communication, even your doorbell – have enhanced capabilities.”