Oral-B’s App-Enabled Toothbrush Exposes Your Poor Hygiene
BARCELONA, SPAIN—What would the world be like if your toothbrush knew which parts of your mouth were underserved by your tooth-brushing? Enter the Oral-B Genius, a new generation of electric brush with location tracking technology. Yes, you read that correctly: Location. Tracking. Technology. The Genius is making its debut here at Mobile World Congress, one of the industry’s largest showcases for new personal tech. To learn more about this smarter brush, I sat with Frank Kressman from Oral-B’s R&D department. Kressman is the father of the device and the app it connects with.
Dentists always recommend you brush your teeth for at least two minutes twice a day. The reality is that people don’t ever spend long enough brushing. Oral-B’s Kressman puts the average person’s brushing time at around 45 seconds. So, two years ago, Oral-B came up with its first connected brush. It would keep track of the time spent using it, pushing users to brush longer by offering them a selection of news, weather forecasts and calendar entries on a connected app. (You place the phone in front of you in the bathroom while you’re brushing.) Since then, the SmartSeries has helped users to reach an average of two minutes and 27 seconds per session, according to Oral-B’s claims.
The SmartSeries brush also has built-in pressure sensors to warn people when they’re pushing too hard, which is also a problem. But it seems brushing with the correct force for the correct time is not good enough. There was a third variable that was bugging Oral-B: location. Most people spend insufficient time brushing in at least one zone in their mouth, the company found. Because tooth-brushing is something we normally do on auto-pilot, a change in the routine is just not likely. So people will keep neglecting the same spots again and again every time they brush, which can lead to cavities and infections.
For the last two years, Oral-B has been working on what it calls Position Detection Technology. The company’s new Genius toothbrush has built-in motion and acceleration sensors, so it always knows its position inside your mouth. That’s good, but again not good enough, since you can clean different zones without changing the rotation of the brush, right?
The third element in this equation is yourself, and here’s the crazy part: to throw your position in the mix, Oral-B has developed a video recognition algorithm that uses a smartphone’s camera to identify the brusher’s face. Merging camera and brush data, the app calculates the position of your teeth and translates it to zones. A stylized map is shown on the display, and you can see the zones where you’ve spent enough time as well as the zones you need to revisit to get the job done properly. This tech requires you to stand in front of the smartphone, so to help you do that, the Genius comes with a suction-cup mount to stick the phone to the bathroom mirror.
Just like the SmartSeries, the Genius can loop a selection of up to six brushing modes: daily clean, deep clean, massage mode, whitening mode, tongue cleaner, and sensitive. Any dentist can help choose the right ones. Your dentist can also identify any zones that needed more cleaning. The app will then suggest you add 10 more seconds to those areas at the end of every brushing session. The Genius also has a light ring that can be customized with one of 12 different colors picked from the app—though this feature has no actual purpose other than to make it more fun and personal. It’s Oral-B’s intention to foster the creation of an entire ecosystem of third-party apps, too. The company held a dental hygiene hackathon last November, and it’s now offering an API and SDK for developers to use in the creation of features like achievements that unlock rewards, or games to motivate kids to brush better.
The Genius will ship in July in Western Europe and will come to the United States in the fall. There’s no price yet, but the company expects it to be around $250 for a unit that two people can share. The box will include a travel case for the brush and two different heads. The case also holds a battery pack to recharge the brush. The case has a USB port for recharging your smartphone too—and since brushing your teeth now requires a smartphone, that’s a very good thing.