An international group of researchers has created a ‘magic toilet’ that can tell you when you’re sick, and might one day be available for you and your family to use as a diagnostic tool for myriad medical issues. The study behind the smart toilet was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“We have developed a passive human health monitoring system that can be easily incorporated into a normal daily routine,” the research team said in a report published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.
Taking this a step further, Stanford Medicine News Center, who had myriad researchers on the team, wrote on April 6, “It’s a smart toilet. But not the kind that lifts its own lid in preparation for use; this toilet is fitted with technology that can detect a range of disease markers in stool and urine, including those of some cancers, such as colorectal or urologic cancers.”
The article added, “The device could be particularly appealing to individuals who are genetically predisposed to certain conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, prostate cancer or kidney failure, and want to keep on top of their health.”
The authors of the report said while similar systems have been developed in the past, those were expensive and provided very little information. This new system fits on an existing toilet and has several ways of gathering data about your health.
The smart toilet can test both urine and feces on a daily basis to help with the prevention and early detection of illnesses such as diabetes to urinary tract infections (UTIs) and bowel diseases. Additionally, the toilet has test strips that can check the glucose and red blood cells in urine. The toilet can also take a video of the urine flow in order to spot any indications of disease.
Cameras in the toilet can take stool photos, which can then be classified by a form of artificial intelligence (AI) into the categories on the Bristol stool chart. That chart identifies whether a person has healthy bowel habits, or if they suffer from conditions like constipation and diarrhea.
[The toilet is] also able to collect additional information, such as first stool dropping and total seating time,” say the researchers, “which can then potentially be acted on by clinicians to help manage constipation and hemorrhoids.”
Not only that, but the toilet can actually identify who is using it. It does this in two ways – with a fingerprint scanner on the flush handle, and with “analprints,” which are unique creases in the lining of the anus. Those creases are captured by the toilet’s cameras.
The analprint feature isn’t a very popular idea. In a survey of 300 people conducted near Stanford University, a whopping 30% of those surveyed said they’re not too keen on the new toilet. Most of the respondents said privacy concerns and the analprint are most troubling.
“We know it seems weird, but as it turns out, your anal print is unique,” Stanford Medicine Professor of Radiology Sanjiv “Sam” Gambhir, MD PhD, a member of the research team told Stanford Medical News Center.
Gambhir assured, “We have taken rigorous steps to ensure that all the information is de-identified when it’s sent to the cloud and that the information — when sent to health care providers — is protected under HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act].”
For now, Gambhir and the team are refining the magic toilet so it will deliver even more individualized results.