What a Toilet Can Do

Illustration: Giorgia Virgili

In the evolutionary race toward sentience, many a toilet has been crowned intelligent. Some had brainpower to lift the cover, heat the seat, rinse your nether regions and air-dry them. Not dumb but—compared with the sapience of the species’ newest member—a stool before a throne.

The new smart toilet—a prototype just announced by Sanjiv Gambhir, Stanford professor of radiology—upgrades existing porcelain with sensors to screen for diabetes and common cancer biomarkers. And it’s one means to all ends: Users choose diagnostic features, Gambhir explains, “depending on their risks.”

The biometrically enhanced bowl also brings questions of privacy home to the privates. As one camera records excreta, another scans the anus to identify the user. “We believe,” says Gambhir, “that anal prints are just as unique as fingerprints.”

While the storage of such data, though encrypted, might be vexing, the toilet compensates by monitoring your health. That’s comfort greater than a little hot air.

Deni Ellis Béchard is a senior writer at Stanford. Email him at dbechard@stanford.edu.