February 05, 2006
Bathrooms Get Mini-Offices And Automation

An article in the Wall Street Journal explores how technology is making the bathroom into a mini-office for many hard chargers.

With a BlackBerry, two mobile phones, three office computers and wireless Internet for his car, Greg Shenkman is never far from his work. But recently the CEO of San Francisco-based Exigen Group eked out more productivity by wiring the final frontier: his bathroom.

When Mr. Shenkman answers the speaker-phone in his shower, the water automatically shuts off. He can open the front door for deliveries while shaving. He's also put the finishing touches on a waterproof computer that will let him answer emails from his sauna. "I took Gates a little too literally," he says. "The flow of information never stops."

I want flat screens embedded in various room walls that'd let me see outside cameras very quickly to see why the dog is barking. The display software ought to use motion sensors to first show me the cameras most likely to explain the dog's barking. Ideally the dog's collar direction could provide info about which direction he's looking at so that camera could be brought up in, say, the shower wall flat panel.

How about a vanity mirror that doubles as an LCD display?

Manufacturer Acquinox of New York says sales of its steam shower/whirlpool units -- a hands-free phone is standard in each -- nearly tripled last year to 14,800 modules. Wisconsin-based Seura, meanwhile, reports rising sales of its vanity mirrors, which feature LCD screens in the glass. The mirrors, starting at $2,400, let users check their tie-knot, then flip a switch to watch the embedded TV.

Another trend I'm expecting is the development of sensor technology that turns the bathroom into the most intensely sensor-equipped automated medical diagnostic center of the house. The whole house will become instrumented with medical diagnosis sensors. But the bathroom, since it gets access to bodily fluids (and also skin and hair in the bathtub), is a great place to put lots of nanosensors that will detect disease, malnutrition, and other health problems. Further down the line most of us will eventually instrument our bodies with nanotech devices floating around the bloodstream. Those in-body sensors will send reports to the house computer network. That LCD display in the bathroom mirror will pop up your lipid profile, a body pathogen report, how far behind you are in sleep, and recommendations for foods that will address developing nutrient deficiencies.

My own fairly low tech method to save time in the bathroom is to use two Norelco shavers at once while shaving, one in each hand. I want to get some sort of mounting bracket built for a pair of shavers to make iit possible to operate 2 shavers in each hand and shave that much more rapidly. Ideally I'd prefer a hands free full face shaver that could shave just about all the regularly shaved area at once. If I could free up my hands then I could type at a computer (or perhaps brush my teeth or button my shirt) and shave at the same time.

Think about all the 1 or 3 or 5 minute tasks you do each day at home. If you could parallelize some of those tasks the times savings would add up. 3 minutes saved per day is an hour and a half per month or 18 hours per year. 12 minutes saved per day would be 6 hours per month or 72 hours per year. Got any ideas for how to automate home life? I'm always looking for ways to save time.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 February 05 04:13 PM  Automation Personal

widgmo said at February 6, 2006 8:24 AM:

Not everything needs to be done. For shaving, grow a beard. You only need to shave & trim once a week.
The long term solution for those who don't like beards is something that safely inhibits beard growth. Same for hair, get a hair cut. Keep at the same length.
Yards need the same solution. Once grass grows (quickly) to desired heigth, it stops growing, eliminating the need for mowing....
Oh well, one day.

Jody said at February 6, 2006 9:22 AM:

I'm in the habit of bringing a laptop with me to the toilet thereby saving me a few minutes a day.

But a LCD in the shower would save me another 5 and be approximately equal to the savings I get from puting while pooping (I average about a 10 minute shower, but don't think that I productively recover all 10, plus I use some shower time to wake up which also couldn'tt be made to be that productive).

Or I guess I could follow up on widgmo's point by suggesting the time saver of just not showering. Of course that's more readily implemented if you're telecommuting...

Bob Hawkins said at February 6, 2006 1:26 PM:

C'mon, a dog-cam. See what Fido sees. A bark-activated dog-cam with tail-wag inhibition.

I still can't come up with a use for a cat.

Bob Badour said at February 6, 2006 2:15 PM:


What if your dog wags its tail at the burglars? Or if you have a dog like mine or Randall's that doesn't have a tail? It would have to have wigglebum inhibition instead.

My cat keeps the dogs' reflexes in top shape.

Ivan Kirigin said at February 6, 2006 3:14 PM:

I can tell you from experience at a hive of automation at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute, that the preferred way roboticists save time shaving is to stop shaving :D.

Alternatively, use a clipper with a short guard. You'll have a neat beard and don't need to be careful at all.

Also, streaming video to a hip-top or wearable display makes sense. Why spend big money on displays that aren't mobile?

michael vassar said at February 6, 2006 3:44 PM:

How about permanent laser hair removal to eliminate the need for shaving permanently for a few hundred dollars?
Just programming the shower with a thermostat and pressure gauge to set it at the same temperature and pressure every day would save a substantial amount of time.

Randall Parker said at February 6, 2006 5:03 PM:


I get that some things are optional. I certainly treat some things as more optional when I'm working at home as compared to when I'm going in to an office. Still, I don't want a beard. Also, I enjoy the shower. I get a lot of creative ideas and solutions to problems while showering.

BTW, another technique I've come to appreciate: Buy socks that stretch more easily so they can be put on and taken off more rapidly. Can't always tell which will be best when buying them though.

Another thing I do: Buy large amounts of stuff so I do not have to shop so often. Plus, I buy larger amounts of socks and underwear so that I do not have to worry about washing it so often.

Michael Vassar,

I do not want to foreclose on the option of growing a beard. Also, I suspect the more babyish face that you'd get from laser removal would make you less attractive to women. Can't have that.

Michael Cain said at February 6, 2006 5:49 PM:

You have no useful activity in your day that occurs between your ears, without recourse to a keyboard or mouse or display? You cannot consider how to respond to your child's latest ploy for avoid work? You don't need to think about the three options for responding to the e-mail from your boss presenting you with an "opportunity"? Or the type of model you ought to be constructing for that tricky macro question -- before you start coding or solving differential equations? I can shower and shave and do most of the other bathroom things on automatic pilot, and take advantage of the fact that I am isolated from my electronic links to the rest of the world. Of course, my children do tell me that I'm hopelessly old fashioned...

Legal Lady said at February 6, 2006 7:42 PM:

I don't have any desire to have all that junk in my bathroom! I just want those 10 minutes with nothing to do, and no demands made on me.

Bob Badour said at February 7, 2006 12:05 PM:

I am all for the passive stuff like censors to tell me how healthy I am. Shaving is less of an issue for me. Right now, I am letting it grow but ordinarily I shave twice a week with a dry razor whether I need to or not.

I have no desire to stick my face into anything that cuts stuff.


I have read that women find the stubbly look most attractive. Save time by not shaving as closely and not as often--save time and increase your odds.

Shall Remain Nameless said at February 7, 2006 6:23 PM:

Want to save more time? No more deoderant! And don't wash your hands! And don't bother aiming!

Bob Badour said at February 7, 2006 9:35 PM:

You know: all this recent censorship crap has gotten to me. Sensors. I like the idea of the passive sensors. With an S.

My bathroom already comes with a censor in the form of a solid door.

Mthson said at February 8, 2006 2:37 AM:

I save time by jogging or even sprinting whenever I'm walking to even a close destination. Good for health as well.

michael vassar said at February 8, 2006 9:34 PM:

If you don't already do it, spend the time you save shaving exercizing. The benefit to appearance from a few minutes a day of anaerobic exercize is considerable.

Nils said at August 18, 2008 3:26 AM:


I do need to say this technology is awesome! I like the fact, that you can have your work chase you right in your shower!

Anyway, we recently bought one mirror television - not to do work though! :-) I believe we used the UK based company Simply Mirror TV (www.simplymirrortv.co.uk). They are really great and supportive!

It now sits in the bathroom and I can understand Mr Shenkman. The information could indeed chase you right into the bathroom with the technology!!!



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