For the past three years Kazoo Sato has been aspiring to design the world’s most hygienic public toilet, a mission that gained new meaning as the Covid-19 pandemic hit in waves.
What the chief creative officer at TBWA Hakuhodo ultimately came up with, in a collaboration with the agency’s Disruption Lab, is a fully non-contact, voice-operated public bathroom allowing users to open and close the door, flush, turn on taps and, critically, to play soothing background music… or not, all hands-free.
While many people consider public bathrooms to be dirty and develop their own hacks or workarounds to avoid picking up germs, Sato envisioned “Hi Toilet”, a loo that works with users, not against them to provide a more hygienic experience.
“My inspiration to design a fully voice-activated toilet came about after much research and reading around users’ behaviours in public toilets across Europe and the US to avoid contact with the surface; 60% stepping on toilet levers to flush, 50% opening the door with toilet paper, 40% closing the door with hip, 30% avoiding hand contact as much as possible by using elbow,” Sato says.
“After three years of research, planning and designing, we came up with the concept of the voice command ‘Hi Toilet,’ where all commands were activated by voice. This idea has been in place long before the arrival of Covid-19, but Covid accelerated the acceptance of this unique user experience.”
Conceived as part of The Tokyo Toilet project, which includes 17 unique public toilets designed by leading local and international designers and architects, Sato’s beautifully minimalist facility is located in Shibuya (Nanago Dori Park (2-53-5, Hatagaya)) and is now the 12th facility to open to the public.
Its bright white spherical design not only exudes a feeling of cleanliness but features a ceiling height of up to four meters that is shaped to control air flow and prevent odors from lingering. A 24-hour ventilation system that combines natural air supply and mechanical exhaust is installed for air control.
Sound systems inside went through rigorous testing to ensure they could decipher simple voice commands. “If this toilet could deliver a ‘Clean City Tokyo’ image to the world, I would be extremely happy,” Sato says.
PROJECT MEMBER CREDITS
Kazoo Sato (TBWAHakuhodo)
Yuhei Ito (TBWAHakuhodo Disruption Lab)
Tetsuya Umeda (TBWAHakuhodo Disruption Lab)
Shintaro Monden (Quantum)
Assistance on Structure Design: Kubo Tsushima Architects
Assistance on Voice Command: Birdman