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When was the BristleBot invented? Answered

Was the BristleBot invented by Doug Stillinger, Evil Mad Scientist Labs, Ben Jaques' friend, all of them, or someone else entirely?



Best Answer 9 years ago

Neil A Downie published a bristlebot in his 2001 book Vacuum Bazokas, Electric Rainbow Jelly and 27 other Saturday Science Projects, and refers to it as an established concept (citing a Japanese car designer's flight of fancy, an example I recall seeing on TV in the 1990s).

The concept of vibration providing propulsion is certainly several decades old, possibly dating back to the early days of mass production, as objects like bolts or pills get moved along conveyors by vibrating the whole conveyor instead of moving a belt.

The toothbrush + pager motor version is, in my opinion, merely a smaller iteration of a concept that existed well before the internet, and any arguments about provenance of the idea ought to include evidence from the pre-internet era.

The TV appearance is an interesting note. Would you happen to have any quotes from the TV show, Vacuum Bazookas, or another book?

I'm particularly curious about when the idea to use a toothbrush and/or a pager motor appeared.

The book was published in 2001, so the bristlebot must have been known well before then. The vehicle wasn't a show, it was one of those "and finally" articles on the news. As for when... no idea. It could easily have been independently invented several times - my youngest son has never heard of bristlebots, but I have caught him racing my electric toothbrush (which vibrates in exactly the same way as a bristlebot) across the shower tray. Here's a scan of the page:


Would you be able to give us something that links Doug Stillinger and Ben Jaques to this? L

Ben Jaques appears to have been the first (September 1, 2007) to post an idea of this sort on the Web, though he used a scrub brush rather than a toothbrush.

Klutz editor Pat Murphy claimed that the editor of the pictured book developed bristlebots with pager motors "sometime in early 2007". This is not implausible, as that is when he "just finished making my first two BEAM bots, both symets" and he apparently didn't leave Klutz before May. But perhaps she misremembers the details.

Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories described how to make a BristleBot on December 19, 2007. They said then that the angled-bristle vibrobot had been done before, but "this particular miniature implementation may be unique".

I admit the question is somewhat open-ended, as it depends on the definitions of "invent" and "bristlebot".