Provided we don’t end up in a Mad Max-style post-apocalypse where water is hoarded by barbarian warlords, the future looks pretty good for the average bathroom. Here are just some of the upgrades we’re likely to see become standard in the next couple of decades.
The Bathroom Mirror
The bathroom mirror as we know it currently only has two functions: Reflecting your hungover face as you scrub last night’s booze off your teeth, and providing a place to draw obscene doodles when it mists up after a shower. But the mirror of the future will do so much more: This prototype smart mirror, for example, designed by Google engineer Max Braun, has a 2mm display hidden between the mirror’s surface and the inside of the medicine cabinet door, which responds to voice commands, displays the time and date, plays news stories and helpfully tells you the weather.
Taking it a step further are interactive “magic mirrors:” Mirrors with cameras attached that sweep your face for signs of blemishes and aging, then offer appropriate advice for either hiding or treating whatever flaws it finds. They’ll even recommend an SPF based on the local weather forecast. Larger versions are already being used in department stores to show customers, Snapchat-filter style, how they might look in new outfits or with different styles of makeup. It’s not hard to imagine a future in which the most basic bathroom is equipped with a mirror that helps you to plan your outfit for the day.
Surprisingly, for an object designed solely for checking yourself out, it’s also been suggested that mirrors could go further than skin-deep by assessing your physical health, performing retinal scans and analyzing your breath, then relaying that information to your doctor. Whether we actually want our doctors to know how many times a week we really wake up hungover is another matter entirely.
Sustainability will be a big part of the bathroom of the future. We’ve talked previously about the fact that, with fresh water supplies dwindling worldwide, many of us are already (albeit unwittingly) drinking the water from our toilets. With that in mind, a big focus for shower manufacturers will be water waste—or rather, preventing it. This shower from Orbital Systems—which claims to reduce water usage by 90 percent and energy consumption by 80 percent—is based on technology created for NASA’s Mars mission, and is the sort of device that may well become ubiquitous in the coming decades.
It works by recycling the majority of the water you’re using. Rather than going down the drain, the water is stored, purified until it’s so clean it’s technically safe to drink, then sent back up the pipes to the shower head. Its designers claim that an eight-minute shower with this system uses just 1.3 gallons of water, compared to a standard shower’s 18 gallons. On the downside, they currently cost about four grand, and that doesn’t even include installation. Hope you saved up, future you!
No discussion of futuristic toilets would be complete without talking about Japan, where toilet-tech has become so advanced that, comparatively speaking, we in America may as well be pooping into a hole in the ground. Around 70 percent of Japanese homes are now equipped with toilets that perform a range of helpful actions, from a butt-washing bidet function to heated seats and white noise generators designed to muffle the sounds of your morning evacuation.
It’s only a matter of time before we catch up to our friends across the Pacific, and once we do, we’ll see a dizzying array of new toilet gadgetry take over our bathrooms. For one thing, toilets will be personalized: Upon recognizing you, they will adjust their height and seat angle based on your weight and body type, warm up the seat if it’s cold out, continue reading the audiobook you were listening to last time, close their own lid when you’re done and then quietly clean themselves thoroughly once you’ve left the room. Eventually, the toilet will even run regular analysis of your stools and urine to check your health, testing for everything from kidney disease to pregnancy.
There are other neat ideas out there, too. Yanko Designs’ “Fit System” channels water directly from the drain in your sink to the cistern of your toilet, allowing you to flush with water that’s already, technically, gone down the drain and saving gallons of water each year. If you’re more concerned about saving space than saving the environment, there’s the “Iota” from British designers Gareth Humphreys and Elliott Whiteley, a toilet that, as well as using 50 percent less water than a regular toilet, conveniently folds up after use. Behold the majesty:
Despite what you might think, the most germ-covered, unhygienic item in your bathroom is not your toilet seat, but your towel. Frankly, we can’t leave the prehistoric notion of drying ourselves on a damp rag behind fast enough, which is why we’re hoping that body dryers become standard issue in bathrooms in the very near future.
Similar in purpose to the ubiquitous public restroom hand dryer, a body dryer would make stepping out of the shower a pleasantly breezy experience. This device—which raised over six times the required amount on its IndieGoGo campaign—looks like a bathroom scale, but is capable of blasting you dry within 30 seconds, letting you switch between warm and cool air as you see fit. Smell you later, towels.
Even the humble toothbrush—already evolved from a simple chewed stick to an electronic plaque-buster—will see some changes. This so-called “smart toothbrush,” unveiled by a French company in 2014, stores data on how you brush your teeth, checking whether you brush all four quadrants of your mouth, how long you brush, and whether your brushing technique itself passes muster, giving you feedback via an app. By giving you a score—essentially turning it into a game—its designers hope to encourage people to adopt better brushing habits.
If that’s not sci-fi enough for you, how about a laser-toothbrush? Back in 2008, a company called Smart Miracles claimed to have invented a toothbrush that required no toothpaste, since it could burn all the unwanted yuck off of your teeth with a laser, decreasing the sensitivity of your teeth and freshening your breath in the process. Now, admittedly, this company no longer seems to exist, but surely a future in which we all get our own personal oral care lightsabers is one we can all aspire to.