This Inventor Made a Robotic Toothbrushing Helmet, So We Asked Her: Wait, Why?
It’s so perfect it’s a little terrifying.
Simone Giertz is a 24-year-old San Francisco-based tinkerer and Swedish transplant. She's also the Reddit user who posted this slightly horrifying but very effective gif of a toothbrush bot in the /r/shittyrobots subreddit, a watering hole for people to gawk at the world's least useful automatons.
We reached out to Giertz via Skype chat to ask: Why?
MOTHERBOARD: Alright. First and most importantly: WHY?
Simone Giertz: I made it as a part of a pilot episode for a kids show. I want to teach kids about electronics by building more or less useless (read: shitty) robots.
I somehow really like the concept of brushing your teeth. It's something everyone has to do, but no one really enjoys it. About a year ago I worked on this project where I wanted to make an iPhone case with a toothbrush and have an app play an instrument as you move it back and forth. But turns out that people (understandably) don't want to brush their teeth with the phone.
But it just looks so ridiculous I can't not love it.
Yeah we can see why that wouldn't work out so well. Did you go to school for this?
No, I didn't really go to school. I started playing with Arduinos about one and a half years ago and it was love at first blink. I made this iPhone guitar called Chordio, it had a retractable guitar strings and I measured the capacitance and sent a serial message over BLE to the phone that played the corresponding tone according to where you held your hands on the screen.
Anyway, after Chordio I managed to get a job as a professional maker at a company called Punch Through where I work with an Arduino board called the LightBlue Bean. I build our example projects and write tutorials for it.
So how does this thing work?
Really basic, I used a robot arm from MeArm that runs on three normal servo motors. Then I used an Arduino UNO with a servo shield to control it with like 20 lines of code or something like that. The hardest part was mounting it on the helmet and mounting the toothbrush on the robot arm without losing any of the mobility.
Would this even work on another person?
I'd definitely need to customize the code. It works on my face only, so no fancy face tracking stuff.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I started talking about what I wanted to be when I grow up the other week and my friend was like "Simone, you are grown-up." And I was like noooooooooooooooo.
Anyway, I like building things. I like telling people about things I build. I like making videos. I like making tools that people can use to be creative. So something along those lines.
Making a kids show about electronics would be heaps of fun.
But I'm not sure. Wanted to write "I don't want to be contained in a job title" but didn't know how to say that without sounding like a pretentious bag of dicks. Sometimes I feel like I should do something serious in life, like building rockets or printers that can print black and white images even though it's out of cyan.
Have you shown this to any dentists?
Haha no. I don't think I know any dentists, but I bet they're in to that type of shit. They'd be like "can you make it floss too???"
If I were a dentist I'd wear it all day.
I'm happy you're not my dentist.
Do you floss? And how often?
Actually proud to say: every day.
Lego or K'nex?
What the heck is K'nex?
Do you ever dream of teeth?
I sometimes dream of slipping on a marble staircase and landing on my front teeth.
Sorry that I passed that thought on to you.