All About Japan

Touchless Toilet Panel Is Safety Innovation

Health Toilets Stay Home

Japanese toilets are well known for their high-tech wash-and-dry functions, controlled by a panel of buttons located directly next to the toilet seat or on the wall beside it. They’re great for keeping your rear sparkling clean, but the current pandemic has highlighted one problem with the current system–it doesn’t keep your fingers clean.

Touching a panel like this in a public toilet, when dozens of others may have used it before you, runs the risk of spreading germs and viruses like coronavirus. To that end, Shizuoka-based Murakami Corporation, a major automobile parts manufacturer specializing in rear-view mirrors, is now bringing its expertise to the world of toilets and taking it into the realm of sci-fi with brand new technology.

Working in conjunction with Kyoto-based startup venture company Parity Innovations, Murakami aims to do away with the current push-button control panel as we know it, and replace it with a virtual one, which appears to hover in mid-air like a hologram. The new technology, dubbed “Floating Pictogram Technology,“ allows the user to operate floating images like a regular touch panel, thanks to an infrared sensor that can detect a human finger when it comes close to it.

With no surface contact necessary, this technology opens up a wide range of uses outside the bathroom, reducing the risk of virus transmission at ATMs and inside elevators. There are other scenarios where “floating” tech could come in handy as well, like when you’re working in the kitchen with wet hands and need to operate an electrical appliance.

For now, though, Murakami is concentrating on using the technology to improve Japanese toilets, with preparations to mass-produce the panels in 2022 currently underway. They say this is a technology that can change the world, and with an increasing need for non-contact alternatives as a countermeasure against infectious diseases, panels like this may well become more commonplace in the near future.

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