Welcome to the 21st Century. It truly is a world of innovation and technological wonders, whether that be flying cars, landing on Mars, toilets that actively scan your anus and judge your poop – sorry, you might not be aware of that last one.
But that’s exactly what scientists are working on in two different institutes in the US. In the hope of adding active health screening to a regular and necessary part of our daily routine, researchers are creating "smart toilets" that recognize your anal print (like a fingerprint, but the police are less enthusiastic about taking it) and analyze your excrement for a whole host of health issues.
One researcher from Duke University, Sonia Grego, believes there is a wealth of untapped potential literally being flushed down the toilet.
“We are laser-focused on the analysis of stool,” says Grego, talking to The Guardian.
“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.”
Grego is the co-founder of Coprata, a company working to create non-invasive sampling techniques to analyze stools. Through this research, Grego and other researchers from Duke University have created the Duke Smart Toilet Lab, which aims to develop a working smart toilet combining sensors and AI to screen for health conditions. They’re close too – Grego believes they will have a working model for a pilot study within nine months.
The toilet will capture samples of stool that you flush for individual analysis, as well as monitor your toilet habits and screen for any pathogens in the sample. The data would then be sent to an app that helps you understand your gastrointestinal system, but would also help health officials track disease outbreaks in event of epidemics.
It may sound like a privacy nightmare, but the toilet would be considered a medical device, which should not be a concern if used by doctors. Alongside this, the data would be protected under HIPAA.
Stanford University researchers have a very similar idea, and have already completed a small trial with their sampling technology. Dr Sanjiv Gambhir has already created a smart toilet that can detect the biomarkers of a range of cancers and health conditions, such as kidney failure, from stool and urine samples. Part of the system involves a sensor that compares the "urodynamics" of the excretion, which runs through a series of algorithms to compare typical urine flows and identify any abnormalities. It also employs a "disptick test", which identifies 10 different biomarkers for early identification of disease. After completing their trial of 21 people, they now hope to scale up the trials to larger sample sizes and push further into stool analysis.
So, with the release of a smart toilet potentially imminent, would you show your rear to the camera in the name of health?
[H/T: The Guardian]