Artificial Muscles Sensors And A Toilet (1995)

This is the concept by Jeroen of the toilet of the future based on ionic polymer gel. Research shows that 20% of the world population has problems with their bowels. Research shows that a different posture during the toilet visit alleviates bowel problems. Design the toilet of the future…

My Solution

I misread the brief, at least that is what I thought back then. Now I see it slightly different. I did not read the brief carefully and I went on the study taboos related to talking about bowel syndromes of sorts. Only 3 days before the deadline I realized I had to come up with a concrete toilet design…huh?

The short time, the temporary panic, the quick recovery from that set the stage for being receptive to new ideas. I got mine while strolling through the nearby forest in Schoorl (The Netherlands). I was helping my daughter, 2+ years at the time, to take a pee. She didn’t feel confident to squat herself  so I assisted her by letting her sit on my hand and rest her back against my lower arms.

I felt how she relaxed and let nature do her thing. This was a light bulb moment, I knew how that toilet of the future should look like and how it should behave. The rest followed with ease.

The toilet and on the background an explanation on how to interact with the toilet  
a detail of the hands and pot

Finding innovation support in Finland

Ah well, now I am at it anyway, here the email I sent to TEKES back in the days. Did never receive a reply but that is no surprise.

The toilet project

Dear reader,

We would like to inform you of our plan to start a research project in order to strengthen us in the development of a medical sound toilet. Based on the findings during a competition held in 1994 by the Dutch Stomage, Intestine and Liver Foundation, we are convinced there is a market for a toilet that fulfills the needs of people with bowel and intestine problems. Estimated is that 20% of the western population has daily problems with the bowel motions.

During the past few years the technological landscape has significantly changed in favour of the toilet. Among others the developments in the polymer gels and sensors are very crucial to this project. Because the product is a very movable object i.e. a robot at an assembly line, the need for a mechanism that allows for complex movements is essential. The ionic polymer gels, also known as “artificial muscles” fulfills this requirement.

We would like to have the opportunity to meet you in order to explain our plans in detail and to receive advice on what requirements we should meet in order to be able to apply for funding.

We have enclosed a description of the goal(s) and the project plan.

Important features:

-adjustable so that the position for the body is optimized and the bowel functions are supported
-to help disabled persons to function without nurse or help
-ideal support for each type of body
-sensor technology allows to measure heart rate, weight, temperature and so on during session
-the possibility to take bodily fluid samples easily
-easy to clean
-both urinal and toilet block
-personal heating of parts of the toilet

disadvantages compared to current toilet blocks:
-unfamiliar shape and working
-image (high tech, cool, electronic)

The toilet as an object is only one part of the project. Another important issue is the surrounding of the toilet, the room and the cultural differences.

Project results

We believe it is necessary to understand the project better as we do now. To be able to set out the strengths and opportunities of such a product a comprehensive package is to be prepared for the partners. The package contains a CD-rom that enables the viewer to explore the functions and features of the toilet in 3D, and a document in printed and online form which sets out the research finding described below.

In order to be able to communicate the concept to investors and business partners we need first to do research on the following topics.

-sensor technology

  • what kind of sensors do we need?
  • where to use these sensors?
  • how many do we need?
  • how much do they cost?
  • from whom do they come?
  • What do we have to measure?

-artificial muscles

  • how to use them?
  • what are they doing?
  • who can produce them?
  • what kind of movements is necessary to produce?


  • what software do we need?
  • how to develop this software?
  • what are the costs?
  • who can do this?

market information and marketing

  • what is the market size?
  • who are the clients?
  • what are the end user requirements?
  • who can help us with gathering this information?
  • what are the competitive products?
  • how is the competition organized/structured?
  • how to promote this?
  • what additional components can be sold separately?


  • how does the toilet looks like (3d virtual model)?
  • how does a person interact with the toilet and its environment?
  • what data infrastructure do we need?
  • how can we integrated the toilet in the existing information structures?
  • what features does the toilet offer?

who can manufacture the toilet (description of requirements)
what kind of tooling is necessary

what kinds of investments are required to make the toilet profitable

time schedule

legal issues
how to be prepared for negotiations
are there patent and other legal issues we need to take care of

And what followed were the people who were willing to work on this project but due to privacy considerations I leave this part. One person specifically, Moshen Shahinpoor, is well-known in the field of ionic polymer gels responded very enthusiastically and wanted to work on the project.