If you ever visit a park in Tokyo's Shibuya neighborhood, you may find something rather odd - a transparent toilet.
The cubicle's colored glass walls are literally see-through, so much so that a person willing to relieve themselves while jogging/walking could have an anxiety attack before going in.
But, interestingly enough, there is more to this "transparent loo" than you can fathom.
Created by Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Shigeru Ban and a dozen of other designers, the novel transparent toilet uses a colored "smart glass" walls.
Normally, when no one's inside, this glass remains transparent to the world, but when someone goes in and locks the door, its shade turns darker and opaque.
Finally, when the occupant leaves, the glass of the toilet again turns transparent.
The idea behind this transparent convenience is to give people a way to see if the toilet is clean and also if anyone is currently using it.
Even in countries like Japan, one of the cleanest in the world, there can be instances where restrooms end up being dark, dirty, and smelly.
This innovation, with transparent walls, strives to end those concerns for good.
Nippon Foundation, the non-profit charity behind this project, says the transparent loos will be "accessible for everyone," adding, "We have arranged for ongoing maintenance so that people will feel comfortable using these public toilets and to foster a spirit of hospitality for the next person."
The tone-changing glass, which is the most unique element of this project, works through a technique called electrochromism.
Under this technique, the color or opacity of a material changes when a voltage is applied. By doing so, it can block ultraviolet, visible, or near-infrared light instantaneously and on-demand. It is widely used for smart windows and automatically tinting windows on automobiles.
As of now, the Nippon Foundation has set up five of these transparent toilets in the Shibuya neighborhood.
The project will be expanded in the coming days, with the region ultimately getting as many as 17 transparent loos across multiple public parks.
The entire project, in cooperation with the Shibuya City government, is expected to be completed by 2021.
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