The world's first pee-powered video game has been unveiled today, allowing customers at a bar in south London to compete for high scores every time they spend a penny.
The device, which is installed above urinals at the Exhibit bar in Balham, is the brainchild of Gordon MacSween and Mark Melford, the owners of the game's maker, Captive Media.
The device was inspired, they told thinq_, by an apocryphal story they'd heard about cleaning costs being reduced at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport after owners etched a tiny image of a fly in the bottom of the urinals - causing customers to improve their aim and reaping, it's said, an 80 per cent reduction in 'spillage'. MacSween and Melford thought they'd go one better by giving customers something more interesting to aim at.
The result is an eye-level video screen mounted about the urinal that senses the user's, um, 'stream' using infra-red sensors mounted on the base which respond to heat, allowing users to control on-screen action in a range of games including a skiing slalom called 'On The Piste'.
The device's inventors explain that they investigated a number of technologies, including ultrasound and even fluorescence - which they dismissed, they said, when they realised users would need to eat a lot of spinach for their urine to contain the requisite levels of Vitamin B.
An important part of the design of the device, they explained, was completely hands-free operation - for reasons of hygiene, the interface has been carefully crafted to avoid users thinking they need to touch the screen.
The device has an internet connection, enabling users to log in via their mobile phones and compete on high score tables with other customers - including those in other bars across the UK, as the network rolls out from early 2012. MacSween and Melford even say that multiplayer gaming is "in the works".
"It has taken three years of research and development to get to this point," says Melford. "The reaction to the units so far has been incredible - it's just much fun."
His partner, Gordon MacSween, explains that the pee-powered gaming device - which displays adverts between games, and can be used by bar owners to draw attention to drinks promotions and other offers, as well as publicising health campaigns by groups like DrinkAware - could prove a novel way of drawing in punters.
"We already had a huge amount of interest in the units from bars, pubs, exhibition centres and retail outlets across the country and overseas - even though we've been trying to keep a lid on it," says MacSween. "It's a tough time for bars and pubs currently. This product offers customers something fun, and unlike anything they've seen before. Those are two good reasons to go out for a drink at a time when so many are opting to stay in."
During trials, says MacSween, they even discovered women sneaking into the men's toilets to have a peek - leading them to develop a hand-operated version to entertain customers queueing for the ladies' with a pub quiz called, um... 'Clever Dick'.