Sometimes, the magic touch involves no human contact whatsoever.
Take airplane lavatories, for instance, where the threat of germs left by a steady stream of travelers might convince would-be users to "hold it" instead. This makes Boeing's new hands-free, self-cleaning bathroom prototype all the more appealing.
The airplane manufacturer pulled the lid off their new technology Thursday, boasting of a lav in which you not only don't have to touch many handles or buttons, but that uses a quick flash of far ultraviolet light to kill 99.99 percent of pathogens after each use. And because the lights can complete the cleaning in under three seconds, travelers need not worry about who, or what, was in the stall before them.
“We position the lights throughout the lavatory so that it floods the touch surfaces like the toilet seat, sink, countertops, etc. with the UV light,” said Boeing product development investigator Teresa King in a statement. "This sanitizing even eliminates odors from bacteria so that passengers can have a more pleasant experience.”
Unlike the harmful ultraviolet light spectrum, which includes the UVA and UVB wavelengths used in tanning beds, far UV is only destructive to bacteria and pathogens, not to humans.
Other perks in the futuristic self-cleaning restroom include hands-free motion-activated buttons to turn on the faucet, dispense soap, and open and close the toilet lid. According to the company, a hands-free door latch and integrated vacuum system in the floor are also in the works.
While some of the technology has already been widely implemented (think touch-free faucets, soap dispensers and the like), the UV lights are still in the development phase, meaning it could be a couple years before we start seeing them in planes.