If there is one object in our homes that should be smart, it might as well be a toilet, because that is where we are the most ourselves. We are half-naked and physically vulnerable, isolated from the world, probably on our phones, crapping out some mass-produced food product that never wanted to be in our body in the first place. While we’re on the clock, it is a safe haven, the one place during work hours when our time is actually our own. The point is that when we poop, we are free, so we might as well have a nice toilet. Kohler’s Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet — which was announced earlier this week at the annual Consumer Electronics Show and features an interactive light system, built-in speakers, integration with Amazon Alexa, and “personalized cleansing functions” — seems like a very nice toilet, perhaps the nicest toilet ever made.
Though the Numi 2.0 has not yet been released, Kohler at this moment offers a suite of smart toilets ranging from the Karing (which costs $4,000 and is shaped like a trash can) to the original Numi (which costs $8,000 and is shaped like a box). Other brands, such as Toto and Ove Decors, also offer intelligent toilets and smart bidets, though Kohler’s are the only ones whose design hints towards the possibility that your waste receptacle might also double as an art object. These existing smart cans, as far as I can tell, have many of the same bells and whistles as the Numi 2.0. However, this current generation of top-of-the-line chamber pots are not as “smart” as they really ought to be — rather than featuring a digital assistant such as Alexa, they come with remote controls. I were to ever buy a toilet that costs more than my 2005 Toyota is worth, I, personally, would like to be able to talk to the thing.
In a press release, Kohler positioned the Numi 2.0 as just one element of a fully connected, highly sophisticated smart-bathroom system that includes a motion-activated mirror with built-in lights, a shower that sets itself, and a smart bathtub that knows when to stop filling up, all of which can be connected to Kohler’s Konnect app. And If you were worried that your Kohler Bathroom of the Future will have a stupid-ass regular sink, it’s okay — the company has made it up to all of us by offering a kitchen sink that hooks up to Alexa. While nobody actually needs this stuff, it’s nice to know that some of our nation’s finest engineers are busy figuring out how to combine electricity with water in daring new ways. Besides, I’m sure that such technological advances will lead to a very thrilling Black Mirror episode about a dystopian future where the government is a corporation that controls when you pee.
The creation of these toilets leaves me wondering if the other important things we sit on will ever be similarly modernized. Two years ago, the online furniture seller Wayfair did an April Fool’s publicity stunt where they announced the creation of a sofa called “Sofia” that would have self-fluffing pillows, custom massage cushions, sensors to make sure your kids or pets weren’t roughhousing on it, as well as full internet connectivity, all of which would be controlled through a voice assistant. The fact that the invisible hand of American capitalism forewent creating a smart couch — a social piece of furniture, one which seems way easier to make than a smart toilet, mostly for the aforementioned putting-water-in-close-proximity-with-electricity reasons — in favor of an internet-connected crap cube is an indictment of us all.
Perhaps this is the first step to the erosion of the toilet as a sanctuary, as we slowly spend more and more time on our very comfortable and very wired toilets to the point that humanity loses collective control of its bowels because there is no better place to sit. Or, at the very least, it’s the first step to our bosses being able to use Alexa to tell us to get back to work instead of playing video games built into the crapper.