That was my reaction when I first saw a sink that grouped the three hand washing enablers inches apart in proper deployment order: soap dispenser, faucet and hand drier. A one-stop washing experience made especially convenient by motion-activators. Soap dispensed with a swipe of the hand. Water ready when you are. Then the coup de grace: the hand drier. No more hands dripping walks to nearest paper towel dispenser—or worse, waiting in line for one. It’s like the automated car wash for hands. What more could you ask for?
Well, actually, the coronavirus gives us a glimpse of a new frontier.
Proper washing requires 20 seconds of scrubbing, healthcare professionals remind us as we attempt to stop the spread of the virus. So how do you time it? With a timepiece? Your watch is on your wrist, which is involved in hand washing, so it’s not ideal. Your phone probably has a stopwatch, but then you are pressing and swiping, which isn’t convenient, and you’re doing it in a watery environment, which may damage your phone. Timing it in your head isn’t reliable. Some suggest singing a 20-second song like “Happy Birthday,” but that gets old after say, your 10,654th washing.
Then there’s the boredom factor. Twenty seconds is a long time to invest in a repetitive act that offers no distractions from TV or social media.
What to do? In the future, I believe we’ll have sinks with voice-activated timers that play 20-second songs to signal the proper length of a hand-washing session, thereby addressing both the timing and the boredom factors. Sink users could select a song they know or ask “Siri de Bain” to select one for them.
Standard selections might remind washers why it’s important to give their hands the full 20-second treatment. See “20 Seconds” and “Let’s Talk About Your Hands.”
No doubt some will offer tongue-in-cheek observations, as in “I’m Washing My Hands.”
And some experimental artists will forgo hand washing altogether to provide more of a 20-second experience. Give a listen to “No Time For Fooling Around.”
With multiple sinks in the public restroom, this could result in cacophony, so the enabling technology will need to provide a methodology for precisely controlling sound waves to be audible within tightly prescribed areas. Something like the Get Smart TV series’ “Cone of Silence,” but invisible.
So there’s the vision. Technologists: make it a reality.