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In the May edition of Strange Tech, we explore biomarker mapping toilets, Utah's (toilet) claim to fame, and more.

The strangest (toilet) tech to come out of Utah: May edition

As we head into another sizzling summer and Jen Shah’s “not guilty” merch drops—not to mention the inevitable strange sightings over at Skinwalker Ranch—sit back, relax, and take a minute to embrace the ridiculousness that is reality. 

Speaking of which, can BYU students please, please, stop cooking up homemade rocket fuel in their dorms? BYU police were summoned when a stove-top batch of rocket fuel “exploded into a fireball,” and campus police were not happy. “Keep your experiments in the lab,” they warned. 

On the less explosive side of things, startup summer reading is now available with a side of fanfiction. Everyone’s favorite eccentric VC, Scott Paul, landed the starring role in an NFT novel cooked up by Elle Griffin, a.k.a. The Novelleist, a.k.a editor-in-chief of Utah Business. Zingers like, “SafeMoon was melting like Dali’s clocks,” add a new layer of #meta. See you in Decentraland.

Seeing as Utahns are chill with being the butt of the joke, this month’s Two Truths And A Lie, The Utah Tech Edition stays with the potty theme. Out of the following three toilet startups, which is the fake one? 

  • A startup that uses motion detection and LED lights to get you to the bowl at night
  • A startup that analyzes pet poop to police bad pet owner behavior
  • A startup that auto-plays pleasant music to cover noisy ablutions

Sit in judgment on the AI Medic Lav smart toilet 

Next time you head to the restroom for a much-needed Wordle break, be warned that you may be weighed, scanned, and assessed by the Medic Lav smart toilet. You can thank Provo-based Medic.life for this AI-assisted experience—their sensor-laden seat and bowl records users’ weight, body fat, and blood pressure. 

The smart toilet is equipped with a bidet and fume extractor, plus a super-duper biosensor field-effect transistor that measures proteins, antigens, DNA, RNA, and microRNA in urine. It’s sensitive enough to map thousands of biomarkers related to infections and diseases, including Covid. Back-to-work urine test or nose swab—to each their own, I guess.

The reason for this bowl invasion is early prevention: a staggering amount of Americans are walking around with undiagnosed kidney disease and hypertension. These health issues could easily be caught and addressed via a simple urine analysis. This feels like a smart, non-invasive way to get help early—a win-win all around. Data is collected and sent to Medic.life’s encrypted app, which can also be shared with family or health providers. 

They’d better get a move on, though—Covid delayed Medic’s rollout, and the smart toilet space is blowing up. Boston-based Casana is beta testing their Heart Seat, a hybrid toilet seat and heart monitor, and Japan’s Toto “wellness” toilet is getting closer to completion. Another burr in your future bathroom: Medic’s CEO Chad Adams predicts that “detecting viruses through urine sampling…will be mandatory within five years.” 

That seems like a stretch—while I’m all for getting better health data about my body, I don’t love the idea that the government (and my employer!) gets it as well.

In the May edition of Strange Tech, we explore biomarker mapping toilets, Utah's (toilet) claim to fame, and more.
Photo appears courtesy of Medic.life

How the Squatty Potty birthed Utah’s toilet startup scene

Utah’s claim to toilet fame emerged in 2011 via the infamous St. George-based Squatty Potty. The company’s squat-don’t-sit approach to bowel health earned them a spot on Shark Tank in 2014 and $350,000 for a 10 percent buy-in from the queen of QVC, Lori Greiner, who helped the mother-and-son founders rake in more than $222 million in sales. In May 2021, the brand was acquired by consumer product bigwig Aterian—which means it’s time to dive into the highs and lows of the Squatty Potty story. 

Starting with a simple knees-up stool, the company expanded into bidets, toilet training Potty Pets for the littlies with anthropomorphic canine-themed stools, and a Pootanical line of bathroom deodorizers (scents include unicorn gold and cherry blossom). The brand is so beloved that even their gag gifts—think dookie unicorn plushies and a squatty potty keychain—have received rave reviews. “We got this as a Christmas tree ornament! Love it!” commented a fan. OK, you do you. 

Over the years, Squatty Potty has collected a bunch of celebrity accolades. Model Ashley Graham told ELLE that she’s “obsessed with my Squatty Potty,” and NBA star Steph Curry bought “multiple” potties for his million-dollar pad—just to namedrop a few. The company even sponsored two Olympian swimmers—“team Squatty Potty”—for the 2021 games. Sure, there have been some hiccups—like a deluge of knockoff brands and their ill-fated Squatty Pottymus, which was recalled in 2017 after two kids fell off—but the “chill and colon-on” crowd remains loyal to a fault. People do say they get their best ideas on the loo…

Photo appears courtesy of Squatty Potty

Washie and wipe with this smart toilet seat

It’s the nature of humanity to improve—or destroy. Ever since we got indoor plumbing, inventors have been hellbent on making the call of human nature a little bit classier…and cleaner—flushable toilet seat covers date back to 1942! But more often than not, you’ll enter a public stall to find a mess of sodden seat covers sticking to the floor. Why can’t we have nice things, y’all? 

For Rob Poleki, a recent transplant to Lehi, nasty restrooms were an opportunity. Enter Washie: the wipe-and-go toilet seat with an included sanitizer dispenser. The joint of the seat contains a refillable cartridge loaded with 800ml of alcohol-based cleaning solution (2000 uses, they say), dispensed via waving one’s hand in front of the sensor. A quick wipe down of the seat with toilet paper, and you’re good to go. Sure, you could do this just as easily—and for much cheaper—with a wall-mounted dispenser, but who doesn’t love a 2-in-1? 

The Washie seat syncs to an app via Bluetooth that lets staff know when it needs refilling (which should be applied to toilet paper rolls, IMHO). “Clean restrooms promote a clean reputation,” Washie’s marketing says. The toilet seat soft-launched in 2021, and interested restroom tourists can take it for a test run at the BYU Marriott Center, Mountain America Expo Center, and Salt Palace Convention Center, among other places. Next on Washie’s roadmap: consumer versions. Watch—and wipe!—this space.

Answer to Two Truths And a Lie, The Utah Tech Edition: 

The bathroom music startup is the fake one. Provo-based IllumiBowl sells the motion-activated toilet nightlight, and PooPrints—heavily adopted by the Utah Apartment Association—is the dog DNA detective startup.

Zara Stone is a freelance journalist covering technology, culture, and everything in between. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and VICE.

Comments (1)

  • Glenn

    Well done Rob Poleki and Team Washie

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