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Photo of the day: Insert hands to dry

When I’m in a strange, public place, the last thing I want to do is insert my hands anywhere. I went to the public restroom at the Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle and finally got to use the Dyson Airblade hand dryer! Lots of people had mentioned it before, but this was my first time seeing it up close and personal.

Take a look at their website to see a Flash video of how it works.

Their description:

It’s the fastest hand dryer – and it’s hygienic too, cleaning the air before blowing it onto hands. And because it uses up to 80% less energy than warm air hand dryers, it costs less to run and is better for the environment.

The dryer is actually quite powerful and very loud. It really startled me when I tentatively inserted my hands and the air came out in full force. I wasn’t expecting it to be so aggressive.

The thing that really struck me though about the whole experience is that you need instructions to dry your hands. Since it’s a new device that people aren’t yet familiar with, they print the two-step process both on the hand dryer itself and on a sign hung above it.

1. Raise and lower hands slowly through the airflow.
2. Your hands will be dry in 12 seconds or less.

Firstly, “airflow” isn’t exactly a commonly used word. For the people who can’t figure out how to use this thing without instructions, will they even know what the airflow is?

And secondly, how can Dyson promise that your hands will be dry in 12 seconds or less? What if someone decides to count and prove them wrong? Furthermore, isn’t 12 seconds quite a long time to take drying your hands? I know paper isn’t environmentally friendly and it’s also costly, but dang it takes about four seconds tops to dry your hands with it. This is a 300% reduction in efficiency.

I think Dyson needs to keep working on those prototypes.

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  • http://www.mattjmcd.com Matt J McDonald

    It's a good idea, and I'm glad that they're trying to push the thinking on otherwise mundane things, but it looks a little creepy. Also, while I know it's not dangerous at all, I'm not sure people want to go sticking their hands into something with the word “blade” in the name. Just saying.

  • http://www.brianartka.com/ Brian Artka

    I used one of these at the Chicago Union Station last month. Great idea, and works well. All of the old air hand dryers have nothing against this one.

  • Connie

    what sucks is i always accidentally touch the side of the dryer. It seems its only for people with very stable hands.

  • http://www.lindsaymallen.com/ Lindsay M. Allen

    I actually think I was less freaked out by the Dyson hand dryer (I've used it a couple of times at Union Station in Chicago) than I was/still sort of am by the Excel Xlerator hand dryer ( http://www.exceldryer.com/products/xlerator.asp ). That thing blows the air out so hard that you can see the skin on your hands rippling!

    • http://www.whitneyhess.com/blog Whitney Hess

      Yes, I used the Excel Xlerator soon after this one and took pics of how the skin on my hands was blown back by the sheer force of the thing. Really freaky.

  • http://erielookingproductions.info Stephen Michael Kellat

    Hmm. I haven't seen this here in the Vegas Valley yet. Most of the casinos just use paper towel dispensers. Air drying technology is something I've rarely encountered out here. The only place where I have seen one of those in Nevada is in Wendover at the Traveler Information Center at I-80 and US-93.

  • http://hirevincent.com/ Vincent Gable

    To be fair, every automatic hand-dryer I've seen had instructions too. And as this funny re-labeling shows, representing “airflow” has it's hitches in icons as well.

    Challenging someone to count to 12 to “prove dyson wrong” might actually be good motivation to use the thing. But I totally agree it sounds like a long time to dry your hands compared to a towel!

    My biggest complaint with the instruction poster is that the hands in the picture look like they are being dipped into water.

    I wonder if installing mirrors by the open sides, so you could see into the thing, would make it more approachable.

    • http://www.whitneyhess.com/blog Whitney Hess

      I really like your mirror proposal!

  • http://www.mdaniels.com/ Matt Daniels

    If anything, I think that the sign signals that it is a hand-dryer. Would someone know if they had never seen it before? It looks nothing like the former electric hand dryers.

  • http://capcloud.com martinpolley

    OK, 12 seconds is a little optimistic, and for sure longer than it takes to dry your hands with a paper towel. But have you ever measured how long it takes to dry your hands with a regular warm air hand dryer? It ain't even _close_ to 12 seconds. More like 30.

  • http://intenseminimalism.com/ Davide 'Folletto' Casali

    I think that martinpolley nailed the issue this machine tries to solve, while of course paper toilet dispensers are faster, they has also bigger logistic problems (and related costs).

    I might add that in Japan I found a few of them, so I think that they're quite widespread, not just isolated examples.

    I can't find the photo I did to confirm this, but the japanese/english instructions told us just to put the hands inside and slowly take them off… “once”. This because the airflow doesn't just make the water evaporate, but it pulls the water down into the machine, so with one (or two) slow movements you're done.

  • Benek

    I had the pleasure to encounter this drying mouth machine in London pub. I taped it!

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  • http://pravinsingh.wordpress.com/ Pravin

    Just the fact that they had to put instructions, doesn't make it user unfriendly. It's more bacause the product is new and people are not familiar with it. I'm sure when the first regular hand driers came into existence, they also would have needed instructions, as people using paper towels were unfamiliar with them.
    New products always need instructions, and that's acceptable. Just imagine the instructions and training needed when first ATMs were set-up. Can we accuse them of being user-unfriendly?

  • Bryan

    This may be a bit germaphobic (and I am not one at all), but I don't like how small the enclosure is where you move your hands in and out of. With the wind blowing on them, you need to move cautiously, else you touch the sides where others may have touched. I know, not a huge deal, but still kind of weird. Then again, most people who would be using this probably just finished washing their hands. Keyword: probably.

  • http://twitter.com/stevenray Steven Ray

    So I was recently at a Hilton where they had auto flush, auto soap dispenser, auto sink, and these Dyson dryers.. Then you walk around the corner to the door and there's the big nasty brass door handle for you to grab. UX sweetness :)

    • http://www.whitneyhess.com/blog Whitney Hess

      Hilarity! Goes to show the importance of consistency in UX :)

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  • http://www.automatic-soap-dispenser.com/ Automatic soap dispenser

    It's a very good idea. But you can touch margins of this “gadget” with your hands

  • Mike Paulson

    From a janitorial standpoint, this has another big plus over conventional / xcelerator hand dryers.

    The water is collected below instead of just splashing onto the walls and floors below. For cleaners, this is a great plus.