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Say 'Ahh': The toothbrush will see you now

Peter Sayer | Feb. 25, 2016
Oral-B's Genius toothbrush will tap into your smartphone camera to watch you as you brush

I drool as I brush, so I tend to hunch over the sink — all the more so when I'm trying not to drool on my jacket. This caused problems for the app, which on a couple of occasions asked me to keep my head still and look at the phone, so that may be how it lost track.

If your brushing technique is to roam around randomly, Roomba style, in the hope that you will eventually brush off all the crud, then having the Genius app try to keep track for you may be of some value, but if you have a routine and stick rigorously to it, then $250 may be a little too much to pay.

There's more to the Genius brush than just the position tracking function, of course.

The handle contains pressure sensors which respond in three ways to help you clean your teeth without damaging them. At the first sign of overpressure, a warning light comes on. If you continue to press too hard, the motor will stop "pulsing," lightening the impact on teeth and gums, and finally, the brush will switch to a slower, gentler cleaning mode until the pressure is released. The light came on a couple of times for me, a little less often than when using my brush at home.

There's no doubt the Genius has some clever touches.

Figuring out how to use accelerometers to monitor its position while it kicks around at 30,000 vibrations per minute is no mean feat — although the task of filtering out that noise was made easier, said Oral B's R&D group manager Frank Kressmann, because "We know the frequency of the motor."

There's an element of "gamification" to the experience, as the app records your performance each time you brush and lets you know how it compares to previous sessions, subtly encouraging you to do your best. When the Genius launches in July, it will be possible to upload your scores to the cloud, Kressmann said, but by default it will all stay on your phone.

The pressure warning light, which glows green by default and turns red when you press too hard, uses an RGB LED. That made it trivial to allow the app to change the default color, personalizing the brush for different users.

"The color of lighting is very emotional," said Kressmann. "If you bond with the brush you are more likely to come back for the next brushing event."

If you need a toothbrush that can outsmart you in order to get your teeth clean, then the Oral-B Genius may be worth the premium, but I will be sticking to my routine and my $30 classic model.

 

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