A fan of reading in the bathroom? You might want to avoid the high-tech public restrooms in Shanghai.
The Chinese megacity has built about 150 of the so-called "smart" public toilets around town. But if you spend longer than 15 minutes inside one of the stalls, an alert will be sent to city workers to check on you.
The new bathrooms are part of China's efforts to extend artificial intelligence (AI) into almost every aspect of daily life. They come hot on the heels of smart trash cans and AI-powered traffic lights.
Each stall has a human body sensor, using infrared rays and ultrasound to detect the person inside and how long they have been sitting there, according to a document released by the city government.
Sensors also monitor the, ahem, air quality inside the cubicle and a water-saving feature will adjust the water level based on occupancy time.
"I think it's OK with me, but probably not a good idea to read a novel inside the toilet," Frank Lin, a 22-year-old Shanghai native, told the South China Morning Post on hearing about the initiative.
A Shanghai resident surnamed Liu who declined to give her full name said: "This could be embarrassing for me. Since I was a little kid I'm used to spending up to half an hour in the toilet, this would mean a toilet worker checking on me twice … this makes me nervous."
As in many countries, public bathrooms in urban China can be a less-than-pleasant experience. And in rural parts of the country, toilets are sometimes just holes in the ground.
Other major Chinese cities such as Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen are also working to make public toilets "smarter."
More than 700 cities in the country have proposed or are in the process of building "smart infrastructure", according to a report by the Qianzhan Industry Research Institute earlier this year.
Technology is being applied to everything from airport security and crime prevention to garbage sorting in China. In the southern high-tech hub of Shenzhen, jaywalkers have already been named-and-shamed by pilot facial recognition schemes.
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