The first time I saw a commercial for 1980s invention, The Clapper, I nearly fell off the couch laughing. The device enabled the sharp sound of clapping one’s hands to turn a switch on or off. The clappers in the commercial were used mostly on lamps. Unfortunately, The Clapper could also be triggered by a dog’s bark or a cough but it was an early attempt at hands-free technology.
In the wake of The Clapper, only a high-end hotel or restaurant could offer a truly touchless experience. You’d return from visiting the restroom and whisper to your friends to go and wash their hands, just to see the amazing gizmos at work. Now we take them for granted and manufacturers have recognized our high awareness of germs and our desire to bring the latest effort-saving toys into our homes.
A touchless trash can keeps the hands cleaner, at least until it`s time to change the bag. The one I owned ran on four C batteries and stopped working about five days after the warranty expired, but it gave us one good year of service. It amused us to notice friends staring helplessly at the lid, wondering how to make it open when a simple hand motion did the trick.
Kohler has just taken in-home flushing to the next level with their Touchless Toilet. The company claims fewer germs are left behind and picked up when you can operate the tank with just a wave of your hand. The sensor runs on four AA batteries which, Kohler says, last an average of six-to-twelve months. And if you don’t want to replace your whole toilet there’s a kit you can buy to upgrade your current throne. Kohler claims it’s an easy DIY installation and retails for around $100.
When you wash your hands, as you must, you can use a hands-free soap dispenser. If you don’t want to have one permanently installed you can buy a much cheaper version at the drug store with liquid soap refills. Kohler, Delta, Moen and other brands also offer touchless faucets. Once again, battery power means you don’t have to make physical contact with the spout at all. Manufacturers have taken the risk of false-sensing into account in their designs and made the sensors precise and quick to respond. Like virtually all no-touch components, the hands-free faucet will generally cost you more than one you have to handle. But if you’re the kind of person who uses a paper towel to open a public restroom door, you might not mind the higher price.
On the subject of paper towels, there are residential dispensers that not only offer a towel with a wave, they also keep the sheets from unravelling. A vertical arm closes in on the roll as it dispenses, to keep it under control. The price of hand dryers have come down significantly in recent years and some models are much quieter now than the commercial versions that sound like jet engines. A blast of warm air arrives with a wiggle of wet fingers.
Heading out for the day? Let your Roomba or other robotic vacuum loose to clean up while you’re away. Roomba is self-guided and moves itself away when it encounters barriers like table legs. Set a home alarm with fingerprint technology now, or wait for an iris scanner. Apple is rumoured to be working on home iris scanners, based on those currently used in some government offices, big companies and international airports. If the geek rumour mill is correct, one day you’ll be able to set your security system with a wink instead of a wave. It’s something to think about as you take off in your car with its reverse parking sensor and go, where else, to the touchless car wash.