App-Enabled Toothbrush That Works Too Well


Philips Sonicare, the brand behind popular electronic toothbrushes, recently released a device that accomplished the inconceivable: It made oral hygiene so fun that kids want to stay on top of it. The new toothbrush proved a little addictive, though.

The new Sonicare for Kids toothbrush hit retail at the end of August, and its key feature is an app that aims to keep kids brushing. The app is a game, and kids earn points for brushing each of the four quadants of their mouth for two-minutes a pop. There’s a cute little character, called a Sparkly, on the screen that encourages the kids to keep brushing. After they earn their points, kids can use the points to upgrade or feed their Sparkly.

“If you remember the Tamagotchi, it’s a little bit like that,” Boon Lai, VP of marketing told Advertising Age. Gamification is annoying sometimes, but if it keeps the damn kid brushing and clean, I can’t think of a better use. Yes, play game, child, keep the dentist away.

The trouble is that the game was too fun. Kids using the game not only got their teeth brushed, but later couldn’t stop playing with their fuzzy little Sparkly:

As it turned out, children using the toothbrush couldn’t tear themselves away from the app even after they finished brushing. “Because they love the game and they interacted so much with the app they didn’t go to bed right away,” said Mr. Lai, a nine-year veteran at Philips. In response, the app was altered so Sparkly topples over in exhaustion soon after his brushing adventure is over.

Even if it’s a little amusing that Philips temporarily ruined bedtime for early adopters of the technology, it’s neat that the company was able to turn around a needed update fast. That’s smart development, actually! According to Ad Age, Philips has a connected toothbrush for grown up on the way as well. Adult insomniacs be warned.