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"An Interview with Michelle Gold"

by Steven Harmon

Recently I was shared this twitter post and knew I had to interview one of the brightest minds on the precipice of innovation for the Apple Vision Pro and the future of toilets within games for XR and spatial computing. We cover Michelle Gold’s mockup video for an Apple Vision Pro augmented reality toilet game as well as thoughts on the future of toilets and technology with respect to 2kliksphilip’s The Grand Unified Toilet Theory video essay.

Follow Michelle's work here: @waziot

Steven: Hello. Thank you so much for, allowing me to interview you and accepting the interview.

And it's, it's really great to have you here. This is the first I've written for Toilet Game Studies in years, so I'm quite excited to get back into it. And I don't know, your video inspired me, as well as another game I saw at GDC. So, I figured, you know, Toilets and Games are back, and I've got to be there to cover it.


Michelle: hell yeah.

Q: Tell me about yourself

Steven: Well, without further ado let's just get started. So I saw your video, a friend sent it to me cause I'm like the toilet guy and that's all I know of your work. And so I want to know a little

bit about you.

Michelle: Totally. Yeah. My name is Michelle Gold. She, her I'm a comedian here in Brooklyn. I do stand up and do kind of like weird sketch videos and just like weird little visual oddities and stuff.

Q: Is the video a real working prototype?

Steven: This isn't like a real working prototype, like built in a VR head mounted display or anything, right? Like, this is just a mock up of the video editing software.

Michelle: Yeah, exactly. Truly just made everything in After Effects and then edited it through


Steven: I mean, did you have any challenges in After Effects in terms of tracking or superimposing, or even adding some shadow or depth in terms of placing it, I don't know much about that, but was there any challenges that you faced in this that you haven't in previous videos?

Michelle: Yeah, it was kind of tough in that the coins themselves are a kind of like 2d object and making them seem at least a little bit like they're adhering to the ground or occupy 3d space was hard to kind of find that happy medium and to try and light them properly.

You can have kind of fake lights and after effects to add different shadows to them. So a lot of it was trying to make them seem at least like they were semi in the room and then reacting in real time. There is a point about three fourths of the way through the video where the whole section on the ground like shifts at the same time.

Yeah, I wish I'd fixed that, but whatever. It really took a long time to make. So I was kind of like, fuck it.

Steven: Honestly, I, even if it did shift, I think in some, in some way, it, it almost convinced me more that it might be real. And, and the reason why I say that is in in AR development, for example, if you were using something like AR core the, the actual spatial anchor that you place when you're kind of creating your, your boundary or your, your, or your room, essentially tracking giving it points to track onto sometimes that gets a little, Out of sync or very at your phone's, gyroscope, which also depends on the IMU sensors to figure out where it's at, something gets out of out of sync, so there is some sort of drifting that happens, and that's why I was really convinced that it could possibly be real, even if it's just a joke So you did a great job.

Q: Were you surprised by the video's public reception?

Michelle: Oh, thank you. Yeah, I was really happy with the reception of it. I was kind of surprised how much people like popped off and stuff.

Steven: So about the reception were you surprised at all? Or were you expecting just because of like the trends of all the Apple vision pro hype or.

Michelle: Yeah, I feel like when I had the idea, I did think that this definitely had, like, the potential to, go viral or pop off or be shared in some way but I, I guess I wasn't expecting it to be to that extent I was just thinking, like, more about how the best short video is something that you just inherently in your brain can understand even without sound even without needing to look at it for more than, like, 3 seconds.

And so just based on that alone, the boundaries of, like, what would click in your head. I was like, oh, yeah, this totally works.

Q: What was the inspiration?

Steven: I guess in terms of your inspiration was it the viral Quest 3 passthrough demo with the the vacuuming coins, was that it?

Michelle: Yes. That literally was it. I saw that and was like, Oh, this is a perfect kind of adaptation I could make of that.

Steven: No, exactly. I think it's I don't know. I think there's a certain Like hype around the Apple vision pro, which is ironic because that demo is actually for the quest three. And yet, everyone like who retweets it and, you know, shares it, attributes it to the, to the, the, the Apple vision pro.

Michelle: Interesting,

Q: Real of fake pee?

Steven: So my other question about the making of the video was did you really pee or was there a water bottle to use with a tiny hole or a squirt gun? I don't know.

Michelle: Yeah, I fully just got a ketchup bottle, one of those big ones and filled it with water.

I actually filled it with like multi surface cleaner as well. Cause I was like, oh, sick. When I clean this up, it'll be like cleaning my tiles as well. But yeah, I, for a myriad of reasons, I mean, the basic one being, if I'm doing multiple takes it would be way easier not to actually pee but also great not to like piss all over my floor, obviously.

Steven: Of course. I didn't expect that to be the answer, but I always ask just in case.

Michelle: Yeah. I mean, I was pretty sure. Blown away by the sheer amount of people who kind of took it at face value. I guess it worked in that way, but it is like, I hope that isn't people's normal reality, but who knows?

Steven: It's their virtual one.

Michelle: Yeah.

Q: Was peeing beyond social boundaries intentional?

Steven: It's their mixed reality. All right. So my next question is, Was the goal of, like, the video or the demo, like, a potty training pee accuracy app? Or, you know, that just had a few kinks to iron out in terms of where the coins are placed? Or was the act of peeing beyond the acceptable social boundaries the intentional design decision?

Michelle: Yeah. I mean, initially it's kind of like, you're thinking about how to improve on basic functions in your life. And so, Oh, let's spice it up by you collect coins every time you pee. But then I put coins outside of the boundary to kind of subvert how technology will make you go against things that that are like basic understandings of social decorum for the sake of, collecting more coins or getting a power up. So to speak,

Q: Are toilets the universal truth?

Steven: I guess to follow that question up in terms of like, your comedy is subverting expectations your main way of going about it?

Michelle: I think so. I always think that's really fun to have something that is essentially a normal or understood situation and then there's something that's thrown in that's fundamentally wrong or diverts from it.

I feel like that's always fun or that always resonates with me.

Steven: Would you feel that toilets specifically? Bathrooms in general are something that our bedrock that everyone can kind of relate to in terms of setting the expectation. Like, it doesn't have to be set up beforehand.

Like, you can just deliver the punchline since. Since it's already kind of well known.

Michelle: Yeah, I mean, I feel like everyone kind of has that experience of going into a gas station bathroom or somewhere and there's piss all over the floor and it is just a universal suffering that we all endure.

If you could then attribute it to technology is now going to become a new motivator for people to do that instead of whatever reason they've been doing it before it's just a great way for everyone to collectively laugh and also blow off the steam about this thing that we all experience.

Q: How do we make toilets & XR more accessible?

Steven: That's, that's great. So, I suppose, as the creator of this mockup video, how would you envision making this app more accessible in terms of this limited only to the standing peers? Or, how would you envision a sitting mode for this app?

Michelle: Yeah, I was thinking about that too.

People were like saying that in the comments and stuff. And I wonder almost if as you're sitting, maybe there's a screen that pops up that you can get a rendering of the toilet from the inside and maybe try and angle yourself. It definitely be like a different type of game at that point.

But it's tough, you know, like, what do you do?

Steven: No, I, I, I think it's I think it's great. And that, that is a great idea. Definitely. Extending the reality and making it more useful and

Michelle: more like battleship or something.

Q: Would you like to see a future of computer vision tracked bathroom entertainment?

Steven: Would you like to see a future of computer vision tracked bathroom entertainment? And why and why not?

Michelle: Yeah. I mean, I'm open to it if it doesn't involve wearing a headset or having to deal with wearable tech. I think it could be cool to, have decoration or ornamentation that's like digital I guess.

Yeah, the biggest kind of hindrance is having something strapped to your face, but if there is any kind of way to spice it up, I think inherently if someone's sitting on the toilet, they're usually on their phone, so I don't think it would really be a downside to have a more interesting version of being on your phone.

Steven: So are you sort of insinuating that the future is smart toilets?

Michelle: I think the future is probably more like the holodeck in Star Trek or something where any room you go in can kind of become its own environment or become a different thing than just a basic tile bathroom.

Steven: So would the, the, the toilet itself, would it be consistent so you at least are aware of what you're pooping on or into.

Michelle: Totally.

Steven: Or would, so everything else would be changed, but not necessarily the, yeah, the toilet. Or, or do you imagine an overlay of since toilets are sort of the same scale usually and they're pretty consistent, would that, Make for an interesting new overlay

Michelle: that could be interesting.

I mean, I think at least at first you want all the basic fixtures in the bathroom to remain the same, but maybe the surfaces, floor and walls will be the 1st to be something fundamentally different. I could imagine the fixtures being something else in the future, but I don't know what that would look like yet.

Steven: You mentioned earlier about everyone having this sort of communal experience with. Really gross gas station bathrooms where there's pee or poop, sort of, sort of smeared on the walls and would you expect , technology to be able to , especially virtual reality or augmented reality to sort of solve that in terms of just kind of coating over a virtual space over the actual disgusting real one?

Michelle: Yeah, I mean, I guess I would hope first that we would find a way to actually clean it in a more efficient way. I mean, there's self cleaning public restrooms in Europe , where when you close the door, the whole kind of interior is pressure washed.

So I'm kind of hoping the next advancement will be a better more sanitary version of that in public spaces. I'm not sure what exactly that'll be though.

Q: What is your personal relationship to toilets?

Steven: So I suppose what is your personal relationship to toilets, bathrooms? Was this the first toilet related work you've ever produced?

Michelle: Hmm. I think this is the first. Yeah. I mean, I, I have a close personal relationship with toilets. I think you're hard pressed not to I think about them a lot. It's just kind of like thinking about your bed, you know, or anything that you are required to use in your day to day life.

But yeah, I think not a lot of my humor really revolves around bathroom stuff, but I think there are so many kind of weird social eccentricities that come with bathrooms, especially public bathroom stuff.

Q: What aspects of toilets in games do you think appeal to you personally?

Steven: So one question I like to ask everyone and I'll go one at a time is, , what aspects of toilets in games do you think appeal to you personally, if any?

Michelle: Yeah, my first thought was about in GoldenEye 64, the first mission you go through an air vent and pop out in a bathroom and I as a kid thought that was so interesting because it grounded a level in reality in a way just because it's something that exists but isn't functionally important to the video game.

And I think toilets in video games just kind of there is an interesting novelty that they aren't necessarily utilized, but they really help establish that it is in a real world. So I always find them interesting in that way. And I think there is some kind of functional importance to that, if only aesthetically.

Q: What values, culturally, politically, do you think toilets present in games?

Steven: What values, culturally, politically, do you think toilets present in games?

Michelle: Let me think. Interesting. Yeah, I mean.

I personally have a strange relationship with public restrooms being trans and there's a lot of political weight and cultural bullshit that comes with that. I haven't seen it mirrored in game so much but I feel that is definitely ripe for a game. You could almost make as a trans woman, make a stealth game where you're trying to just use the bathroom without being hassled and just get in and get out.

I think that would be an interesting game. But at least in games I've played, I feel there hasn't been necessarily specific cultural or political undertones that I've seen

Steven: Would you like to see a, you know, very overtly political game about toilets?

Michelle: Yeah, definitely. Just to know what that would look like.

I would definitely like to see that

Steven: is there any sort of specifics on that in terms of that game that you mentioned earlier about sort of like stealth game or is there other avenues that you can see it like being taken down?

Michelle: Hmm.

Yeah, I mean. I think there's just a lot of quiet social order related stuff that people that maybe don't necessarily talk about at least with when it comes to public restrooms, people who are shy peers or people who don't want to defecate while someone else is in the room or make lots of noise. There's just a lot of really weird social contract stuff that you could make into game mechanics , it'd definitely be something I feel like we haven't really seen very much and could be interesting.

Steven: Well, that sounds great. I mean, as a shy pee-er myself, I think that definitely can be explored.

Michelle: Yeah, right.

Q: Thoughts on the Unified Toilet Theory?

Steven: So there was a grand unified toilet theory, it's a video sort of explaining the ideal configuration of a public toilet. That's not gender split. And and they have a open door because, doors are very gross in terms of, you pee and poo, but you still have to touch a door to get out. Basically they have privacy cubicles of some sort, but there's no necessary doors separating them. And the ones, at least in the cubicles, are foot opened as well as on the other side a trough of urinals. To sort of, add to the speed of standing peers going pee quickly. And opening up the, what used to be considered the men's stalls for women as well, because there's always a queue outside of, of the women's bathroom. Do you have any opinions on how that can be improved or if simulating that in a machine learning environment virtually could get to mathematically perfect toilet.

Michelle: Yeah,

I definitely think there is a potential for like a perfect toilet situation. I honestly think an all gender shared toilet situation would be best and I think maybe the move is just to make the stalls as impenetrable as possible. I mean, you'll see it like some airports where the door goes basically almost all the way to the ground or there's no like cracks or any way for like anyone to be a creep.

And I think inherently some social orders kind of maintained or people will be less messy if all genders are participating in the same room. I think I, I don't necessarily have a problem with the trough. I think I do love a good kind of privacy wall thing for urinals and I don't want to lose that necessarily.

I'm definitely, I can be a shy pee-er as well. So I think a trough inherently makes things more socially weird or difficult. But yeah, I, I like this in theory and I think yeah, especially the foot opening for the stall doors. That's a really interesting addition. I'm into it.

Steven: So. In terms of, anti trough, or just not pro trough, necessarily. I think that the argument for trough was because, there's not someone on either side, there's almost an implicit rule that you don't necessarily stand next to someone, if there is another one open, so people end up sort of like staggering and then sort of waiting, even if there is they don't want a crowd.

So it's every other stall, even if there is an open stall

Michelle: I think a way to get around that or maybe like to help with that is you have a trough. That's like low. And then you have dividers still. So there's still are designated areas where a person can pee that gives a little bit of privacy, but you're not wasting water flushing individual things. It's all still like going into the same channel.

Steven: Interesting. Yeah,

no, I, I completely agree. That's a, that's shy pee-er approved. Sounds, sounds great. Yeah. And I don't know, is there any insights other than enhanced privacy for stalls as well that you have?

Michelle: Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of the stigma around all gender restrooms comes from people being afraid of being creeped on or being assaulted in the bathroom. And I think all this would take place for these people while they're in the midst of being on the toilet.

And so I think if you're able to just create a more safe contained environment for the stalls. Like there's no way for someone to crawl under from another side or like the sides go all the way up to the ceiling or something. Just really making that so that when you're in that room, it's almost like a single use restroom. Then I think that eliminates a lot of the stigma and the fear around it.

Steven: That sounds great. I know recently I've been really impressed by certain more futuristic advancements in tech, like those parking garages that now have lights over the spots that are open or and even a counter that says how many available, you know, spots are open.

would you see that being helpful? You know, in a restroom. So you can just automatically know without even walking in that there's open stalls.

Michelle: Definitely. And I think knowing which stalls too because sometimes you might be waiting thinking that they're all full up but there is one that someone left and you just didn't know and the door looks like it's closed.

Because like you don't really want to be the person who's trying to see legs under make sure a stall is occupied or not. And yeah, just kind of like any transparency that isn't violating people's privacy would be huge. I would say.

Steven: We're almost done here. I guess the last one that I have to ask everyone is Is any interesting findings or discoveries you found in your time with toilets?

Michelle: Hmm. I think I definitely, my life changed after I got into bidets. I think a bidet should be a fundamental part of every toilet.

It really is like Going from using a toilet with a bidet to one without is such a humongous downgrade. And I think the best arguments I've seen for it is if you got shit on your arm, you wouldn't just wipe it off with a paper towel. You would definitely at least use water, if not soap or something.

So why shouldn't that kind of argument carry over to when you're actually using the bathroom?

Q: Have you ever used a squat toilet?

Steven: I, I agree. Have you, have you ever used one of the squat toilets, like the Asian or like Russian kind of region toilet?

Michelle: I have not. I mean, I'd be open to it, although I'm not sure how good my crouch strength is, but it is interesting.

Steven: I'm just curious what people's opinions are on different types of toilets as well. I totally appreciate all of your wonderful responses and, and thank you so much for your time.

Closing Thoughts / Michelle's Questions

Michelle: Of course. I'm curious why do you have such a fascination with toilets or what kind of sparked this?

Steven: For me personally, and I know I'm not the one being interviewed here, but I think for me, it was a matter of, I wanted to write a research paper for my game studies class that no one would have written. And I wanted to make my professor laugh. And so I sort of came into it ironically but there was some truth to that because I'd noticed over the years, there's multiple Tumblr pages Twitter pages, Accounts, covering toilets within video games and they'll measure different things like time to toilet.

In terms of the time it takes from you to get from the beginning of the game, almost like a speed run to the 1st toilet that appears in the game.

Michelle: That's awesome.

Steven: As well as if it's flushable or other metrics.

Michelle: Totally.

Steven: I was curious why they did that. Like why would they spend their time taking screenshots and videos of every toilet

Michelle: and why would a video game include it or a flush animation is always so interesting.

Steven: That takes extra work for like payoff. Especially if there's no affordances outside of just it flushes, you know,

Michelle: totally.

Steven: And so I went to investigate and do this huge study where I interviewed hundreds of people probably as in depth as this for their experiences in toilets.

I got a lot of hard data and Found out some things that we already discussed here. But I, I always want to sort of see if there's anything I've left out in that conversation. And now I genuinely just interested in it.

Michelle: I love it. I, when I got your DM, I was so curious. I was like, this is wild, but I'm honored to be a part of it.

Steven: Were you expecting like anyone to interview you about this video?

Michelle: No, not at all.

Steven: I guess have you ever been interviewed by, about any of your other previous videos?

Michelle: I've had like videos featured before, but not necessarily, I think like a full out interview. So I'm glad it was this one, honestly.

Steven: I'm glad I could be one of the first. All right. Well, thank you so much for your time today.

You have so much great insight and a lot to bring to the conversation about toilets and games and apps in general. So thank you so much.

Michelle: Yeah, thank you, Steven.