Stanford’s “Smart Toilet” Can Detect Certain Illnesses By Analyzing Your Excrement

updated Apr 10, 2020
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Credit: Lula Poggi

In the future, a diagnosis might just be a bathroom visit away.

Stanford has developed a smart toilet attachment that can detect a user’s health conditions by analyzing urine and feces for diseases and conditions that are typically detected from such samples, like irritable bowel syndrome, and enlarged prostate. It does so by using sensors attached inside the bowl to record samples and have them analyzed by algorithms. The results are then stored in the cloud for doctors to check later.

Since everyone uses the bathroom, the technology is a consistent way of gathering data, unlike wearables which users sometimes forget to put on. “The user doesn’t have to do anything differently,” said lead author Sanjiv Gambhir. “By no means is this toilet a replacement for a doctor, or even a diagnosis. In fact, in many cases, the toilet won’t ever report data to the individual user.”

Another interesting feature—albeit a little awkward—is the anal scanner. Just like smartphones, the toilet can recognize users and pull up their unique data using identification systems. But instead of scanning for fingerprints or faces, they scan buttholes. “We know it seems weird, but as it turns out, your anal print is unique,” said Gambhir.

The researchers initially wanted a fingerprint scanner on the flush lever, but they realized that most toilets are hands-free—plus the person who uses the toilet isn’t always the one flushing it. So, they decided that scanning butts was the way to go. “When I’d bring it up, people would sort of laugh because it seemed like an interesting idea, but also a bit odd,” Gambhir added.

You can’t exactly order one on Amazon just yet—the device is still a being actively improved; future iterations could detect other symptoms and illnesses like dehydration, Celiac disease, and more. The device is currently only available for study participants, senior researcher Seung-min Park tells Apartment Therapy via email, adding “we are still developing other modules for detecting cancers and COVID-19.”