Sunday, February 18, 2007

Talking Urinal Cakes

February 10th's New Mexican brought a story about a new device designed to curb drinking and driving. The state has ordered 500 high-tech deodorizing cakes for placement in urinals in bars and restaurants in Santa Fe and other New Mexico cities and towns. When an approaching male sets off the motion detector, the cake speaks to the customer in a friendly female voice: "Hey there, big guy. Having a few drinks? Listen up. Think that you've had a few too many? It's time to call a cab or ask a sober friend for a ride home. . . "

Drunk driving is a huge problem in New Mexico, and for all I know this may be a fabulous deterrent. However, I would have wanted to study the impact on a man who'd had a few too many drinks approaching a urinal and having it speak to him. And what about a restroom with several such cakes installed, providing this message in sort of an echo-chambery not-quite-unison: "Hey there, hey there, big guy, big guy...."

The product is called Wizmark. (I'm not even going there.) The manufacturer, Healthquest Technologies, also has a female-oriented product which flashes a message on a screen affixed to the stall door. It's quiet and private, matching women's bathroom habits I guess.

It boggles.

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