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Are Smart Bathrooms Next in the Invasive Smart Home Tech Craze?

Futuristic bathroom interior.

From showers to toilets, smart bathrooms are looking more like the next frontier when it comes to smart home technology. Now we can be spied on even when we're just doing our own business.

Podcast Version

Smart home technology has been a hot topic in the past few years. Technologists and researchers alike have been concerned that these devices’ intents have strayed too far from making life more convenient to provide an endless source of marketing data on tap to nefarious hands. After all, there’s a reason why you can get so many smart speakers like Google Mini or Amazon Echo for free, or incredibly cheap. You are the product and are about to become just another spreadsheet cell for some overworked market or data science flac who probably hasn’t seen his kids since they graduated in the first grade.

But now our beloved Twitter treasure The Internet of Shit is about to go literal since Kohler unveiled their newest product lines at CES 2020: smart bathrooms are next frontier.

Holy warty toad tits on toast. Shit like this is why we need a basic income already, so we can stop justifying some of the existence of some of these jobs that just churn things like this out in the name of capitalism, and contribute to ever-growing e-waste. Toothbrushes need speakers like Jeff Bezos needs more money. It’s just one of the most unnecessary things in the history of unnecessary things.

Which okay fine, plenty of unnecessary things have some kind of aesthetic or fun value at least? But it’s 2020, we thought there’d be flying cars and robot butlers, but no, this is what we got. Smart bathrooms that will now spy on us while showering or shitting solely to sell us shit-related wares, and you can’t even brush your teeth without some kind of home invasion tactics.

Robot handing a bath towel.
“I see you’re out of body wash. I will order enough to clean a small village. Now remember to floss, or I’m going to taze you next time.”

Do Showerheads Really Need to Be Smarter?

Hand checking the temperature of the water coming out of the hand shower.

Showerhead design has advanced in arguably good ways in the past two decades or so. Old school showerheads were harder to move and adjust the water pressure if you could do so at all. Since you don’t need to mess with the pipeworks to change the showerhead, adjustable models that can change direction became in vogue. Changing direction soon wasn’t enough and more people wanted the ability to hang the showerhead up and use it as they traditionally had, with the option to remove the head with a flexible cord and rinse off those hard-to-reach places. Next came more bells and whistles so you can get anything from a targeted massage stream to ultra-gentle cascades to attempt replicating an in-home spa experience. 

Nowadays, you can even buy models that have LED lights in them so that you can make your bathroom into a rave atmosphere.

Modern bathroom interior.
Why you’d want to do that, I have no idea. I’m half-expecting Lazerhawk to start playing while some 80s cyberpunk villain lurks around the corner, because that’s absolutely the vibe I need when hosing off that post-gym film.

All of these advances were fine and good and definitely welcomed. While it’s a nice treat to have a fancy massage shower if it’s a spa day or you’re staying at a hotel that gets more than three stars on Orbitz, not everyone can afford a vacation so sometimes you just have to make do with what you can buy and fix.

But…smart showers? Isn’t the shower the one place most people have that is the absolute last refuge to avoid anything tech-related? I look forward to my long, hot showers with super-strong water pressure where I don’t have to stare at a screen! It’s the one place where I get some respite from these people! And what is it going to do, remind me to buy more shampoo and make sure shampoo companies keep tabs on how often I renew my hair color? Is it going to nag me to get to a salon to get those roots redone? Fuck off, showerhead! You don’t own me! Pay for your own damn salon visits!

Well, it turns out that Kohler’s new collection of smart showerheads uses some questionable voice recognition technology but is not as heavy on spying as OK Google, Alexa, and other voice systems that just harvest you for marketing data like Leatherface does with corpses. Dubbed “digital showering”, you can now control via the console buttons or voice assistant how much steam is in there, pipe in music, and every spray, splash, and holy shit this is ridiculous.

Not that innovation is necessarily a bad thing to have in the shower. Kohler’s Pitch line of showerheads helps the temperature stay steady, which can definitely be a pain in the ass if you live in an older home as I do. Pre-war construction scoffed at the idea of things like convenience and accessibility alike, and water temperature and pressure comfort weren’t really taken into account. Anything fancier than a basic de-lousing, you were a Rockefeller.

One good thing about this digital showering experience is that it does monitor your water consumption so you can be mindful of how long you and other household members take if the water bill seems a little high. Still, maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but I don’t want to talk to my goddamn showerhead regardless.

The Shitter Now Spies on You

Modern futuristic ceramic toilet.
Wait, is this a toilet or one of those things from Star Wars?

So, the Japanese were eons ahead of us with respect to toilet technology. The infamous Toto washlet shocks and delights Americans who travel to Japan, and find themselves besieged by the sheer number of controls that come with this type of toilet: the seat warmer, “noise princess” button if you want music to play that helps camouflage typical bathroom noises, and the bidet function among other things.

But when it comes to upgrading toilets in America, we go big or go home goddammit. Kohler debuted the Numi smart toilet at last year’s CES and released v2.0 this year. but if you’ve got about $7,000 to burn, now Alexa can learn all about your shitting habits!

Putting the Japanese washlet model on steroids, this puppy’s equipped with both a seat warmer and a foot warmer. Because y’know, some people take shitposting quite literally and need to get circulation back in their feet if they’ve been on it too long. The austere square design has a lid that flips up and down automatically when you enter the room, so I guess there are no more arguments about someone leaving the seat up. And if you don’t feel like flicking the light switch on, or don’t use any night lights,  the toilet base itself lights up which is actually pretty cool.

3D neon square
Is it an all-night rave or having to get up to piss in the middle of the night? You decide!

This frightening-looking black box has wireless streaming capabilities and different users can customize presets, and I’m sorry, I can’t finish this sentence without weeping because I’m trying to imagine what my life would’ve been if I finished that computer science degree instead. I would be in some fluorescent-lit hell busting my hump for a company I don’t own, using my talents to design something like this when most Americans can’t even afford a $400 emergency. And this toilet costs over $7,000 after sales tax. That was 2.5 semesters of public city university tuition when I went in the mid-00s.

Instead, I got an accounting degree at said public university and went on a few career detours that led me here, entertaining and informing you about this smart toilet. Well, this is the 2020 we got, folks. We have soldiers going into space and a real, literal Internet of Shit.

You think I’m kidding about an actual Internet of Shit? We’re already there, homebodies. WE’RE ALREADY THERE.

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