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Almost Genius

Yes, This Exists: A Toothbrush That Tells You How Fast You're Brushing

Just because sensors allow us to measure almost anything doesn't mean we should.

Yes, This Exists: A Toothbrush That Tells You How Fast You're Brushing

[Image: Tooth brushing via Shutterstock]

Sensors are now cheap enough that the temptation to embed them into all our devices—for the sake of quantifying and thus improving our lives—must be hard for designers to pass up. To that point, one of the many sensor-laden products unveiled at CES last week was Kolibree, an intelligent toothbrush.

Kolibree is essentially an electronic toothbrush, but it comes equipped with sensors to measure where your teeth are getting brushed and at what speed that’s happening. That data then gets a graphic treatment through the Kolibree iOS or Android app, and can be shared at a later date with your dentist. By gamifying the twice-daily chore, French inventor Thomas Serval (who was once a Media and Platforms Director at Google) has created a product that might sound akin to a FuelBand or a FitBit, because they all make chores feel more like a game of Pac Man.

But fitness trackers have a unique advantage: at its core, a FuelBand is about sports, and sports are inherently competitive. Brushing your teeth…isn’t.

Kolibree’s user experience would actually be similar to that of the Kinsa, a smart thermometer that’s one of a growing crop of smart products intent on giving people access to their own health data. Once users can own and access that data, they can start to have more informed conversations with doctors, and—eventually—prevent health complications. But like a fitness tracker, a health gadget also has a built-in advantage: when you're sick, you'd do just about anything not to be. Brushing your teeth, on the other hand, is something most people do when they're half-asleep or rushing out the door. So until a device comes along that gets people flossing, our standard electronic toothbrushes might be fine just as they are.