Electronic toilet tissue dispenser
Kimberly-clark  /  AP
Kimberly-Clark's electronic toilet tissue dispenser is designed to roll back your penchant for paper.
By Brian Tracey
msnbc.com
COMMENTARY

This may be the last straw for people who think technology has eliminated every last bit of personal privacy: A toilet-paper dispenser that limits the issue of tissues.

A year in the works, the electronic dispenser is being rolled out to the masses by Kimberly-Clark Corp. as it seeks to capture more of the $1 billion away-from-home toilet paper market. The company believes most people will be satisfied with just five sheets — and use 20 percent less toilet paper in the process.

"Most people will take the amount given," says Richard Thorne, director of the company's washroom business. Waxing philosophical, he adds, "People generally in life will take what you give them."

Kimberly-Clark turned to focus groups and years of internal research to determine just how much is right.

Americans typically use twice as much toilet paper as Europeans — as much as an arm's length each pull, Thorne says. The company decided the best length is about 20 inches — or precisely five standard toilet paper squares, though the $30-$55 machine can also be adjusted to churn out 16 inches or 24 inches, depending on the demand.

When one of the two motion sensors is activated, the device's battery-powered motor automatically dispenses a predetermined amount of toilet paper.

The machine isn't completely automated. Each also comes with a suite of "security" features in case the machine malfunctions.

"This is probably the most personal experience you can have. We didn't want to get any frustrations," Thorne says. "None of us like to touch things they think someone before them has touched."

But Thorne admits the company won't truly achieve a "touchless" bathroom until it develops a toilet that does the dirty work for you.

"And that," he says, "is going to be interesting."

Disgusting was more the word we had in mind.

Not-so-bad ideas

  • Even more toilet tech: Fans of the lavish lavatories found in Japan will soon be able to benefit from the state-of-the-art facilities even while in the air.All Nippon Airways (ANA), the nation's second largest carrier, has decided to fit its new Boeing 787 Dreamliners with toilets that project jets of warm water, allowing users to clean themselves, the Nikkei newspaper said last week.When the new planes take off in 2008, the report said, they will be the first passenger jets equipped with the sanitary devices.ANA has ordered 50 of the aircraft, the Nikkei said.The airline expects the additional costs of the toilets to be offset by the fuel efficiency of the new jets, the newspaper reported.

Let's just hope these squirting commodes also have an automatic air turbulence cut-off system.

  • Beer lovers everywhere can think of nothing better than quaffing a frosty cold one on hot summer's day. And now a  restaurant is taking this concept to a new level with its introduction of frozen beer pops.

According to small-business Web site Entrenprenuer.com, Alexandria, Va.-based Rustico is selling the icy adult treats through September for $5 each. The beercicles come in six flavors: Cherry Kriek, Plum Mirabelle, Framboise, Banana, Cassis and Chocolate Stout.

We suggest you consume these in moderation, as we can just imagine the agony of a frozen-treat-headache hangover.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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