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I Want My Pee-TV: Switzerland Hooks Up Video Units To Urinals

Mounting a television screen on a urinal is the latest way for advertisers to reach a "captive" audience -- in this case, exclusively male.

You're out with the old, urine with the new... (T.Voekler)
You're out with the old, urine with the new... (T.Voekler)
Martin Huber

ZURICH - One of the unspoken rules of urinal etiquette is that men – when going about their business – look straight ahead. That usually means staring at a blank wall. Except if you happen to be in the men's room at the Marché Restaurant in Zurich, which now features "Weewee TV" on small screens built into the urinals.

Marcel Näpflin, general manager of the company that makes the Urimat units, says this is a first for Switzerland, after similar features were unveiled in the U.K. and Japan. In Zurich, you just need to press a button and the displays on the waterless pissoirs show not only ads but Internet videos, news, traffic and weather reports. The system, called "Pinkel-TV" in German, makes it possible for "advertisers to reach an exclusively male target group, with no scattershot," says Näpflin.

The Urimat executive sees a great deal of potential in "WC-TV," and says there has been a significant amount of interest in the medium on the part of potential advertisers. While not divulging the rates his company is charging, he says they are inexpensive because – unlike a poster system – nobody has to be sent out to change anything. Näpflin says it's a win-win situation: restaurants that install the system get a cut of the ad revenue, advertisers get an audience, viewers get some entertainment, and his firm makes money from selling more and more Urimats. Each unit costs 1,290 Swiss francs ($1,380).

The Swiss advertising industry has already shown an interest in the system. Besides offering creative options, the chance to target a specific group is interesting, says Peter Leutenegger, the head of the association of Swiss advertising and communication agencies. Only the market will tell if this catches on, he adds, pointing out that TV ads in public toilets are not entirely new – some Zurich restaurants already show ads on screens in the restrooms. In those cases, though, the screens are not mounted on urinals.

Shay Simcha, who sells the units in Zurich, says business is good. He's even selling units abroad. One problem, however, is vandalism.

"Weewee TV" is just for men

Screens featuring ads are becoming increasingly popular in general in Switzerland, in stores, railroad stations, gas stations and ski lifts. "The screens are increasingly available, permeate more and more into different areas of life, and are changing the face of our cities," says Ursula Stalder, who leads a research unit on digital outdoor advertising at a university in Lucerne. She thinks the idea of advertising in restrooms is original, and provides entertainment for users, although she expresses regret that so far it's only available in men's rooms.

The media researcher is also convinced that advertising on screens in public places has huge potential, also for interactive uses like playing video games – already a possibility in Japan. There, men using a urinal can play computer games at the same time, says Stalder. A bar in London offers the same attraction, she says.

In Zurich, interactive pissoirs are, for the time being, a thing of the future. Marcel Näpflin's firm would, he says, be able to install video games in their units but are not doing so for reasons of hygiene. "Knowing how badly men aim a lot of the time, we're staying away from that sort of thing for the time being."

Read the original story in German

Photo - T.Voekler

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AI And War: Inside The Pentagon's $1.8 Billion Bet On Artificial Intelligence

Putting the latest AI breakthroughs at the service of national security raises major practical and ethical questions for the Pentagon.

Photo of a drone on the tarmac during a military exercise near Vícenice, in the Czech Republic

Drone on the tarmac during a military exercise near Vícenice, in the Czech Republic

Sarah Scoles

Number 4 Hamilton Place is a be-columned building in central London, home to the Royal Aeronautical Society and four floors of event space. In May, the early 20th-century Edwardian townhouse hosted a decidedly more modern meeting: Defense officials, contractors, and academics from around the world gathered to discuss the future of military air and space technology.

Things soon went awry. At that conference, Tucker Hamilton, chief of AI test and operations for the United States Air Force, seemed to describe a disturbing simulation in which an AI-enabled drone had been tasked with taking down missile sites. But when a human operator started interfering with that objective, he said, the drone killed its operator, and cut the communications system.

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