No, I'm not joking. James Dyson, the one-man brand who brought us the vacuum cleaner that "doesn't lose suction," decided that automatic hand dryers need a rethink. He gave me a private demo of his new "Airblade" hand dryer Tuesday afternoon at a theater in Times Square. I brought my camera along to capture the magic. Here's the video.
The basic idea behind his new hand dryer is that instead of using heat to evaporate the water on your hands, it uses a "blade" of air pushed through two eyelash-thin slits to, in effect, wipe your hands dry. What makes it work is a new electric motor Dyson invented that rotates at nearly 100,000 RPMs, and has done away with the brushes and coiled wires of conventional electric motors. It's hard to explain, just watch the video.
Designed with soccer hooligans in mind, the curved form prevents anyone from, say, balancing a beer pint on top of it. He is selling these puppies for $1,400, which seems kind of steep to me, but Dyson claims it costs only $100 a year in electricity costs versus $400 for a regular hand dryer. He also argues that his touchless system is faster, more effective, and much more hygienic.
In a cheeky bit of marketing, he commissioned a lab study to take swab samples from a dozen public bathrooms in the U.S. Not surprisingly, the "study" found fecal bacteria, yeast, and mold on soap and paper towel dispensers, faucet handles, and stall latches.
A separate survey was also conducted which found that 57 percent of people prefer the (dirtier) paper towels to electric hand dryers because hand dryers "take too long" and fail to dry "hands properly." It also found that, in an effort to "avoid touching things in a public bathroom," 40 percent of people have used their "elbow to turn on the hand dryer." (Come on, you know you've done that too).
As Dyson points out to me in the video, "germs multiply" on wet hands, so proper drying is key to good hygiene. He also points out that regular hand dryers typically don't have air filters as his does, meaning that they "take in the air from the room with all the nasties" and blow them on your hands. These are the kinds of problems that Dyson racks his brain trying to solve. I guess that's why he's a billionaire and I'm not.