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R&D Story 07
Smart toothbrushes to make brushing more effective and fun
Motivating people to brush their teeth regularly is a common challenge around the world. Sunstar developed the smart device G･U･M PLAY to overcome this and bring fun into tooth brushing.
Encouraging effective brushing
Sunstar was one of the first in the world to recognize and promote the relationship of oral health and the health of the whole body. This belief lead us to develop unique top-quality oral care products in collaboration with dentists and medical professionals from around the world. While we have crafted a wide variety of products, we were searching for ways to help visualize and encourage effective tooth brushing.
Half of the users are under 3 minutes
- Less than
- 1-3 minutes
- 3-5 minutes
- 5-10 minutes
- More than
Globally, people are advised to brush teeth for over two minutes for a thorough cleaning. In Japan, however, at least 3 minutes of brushing is recommended although a user survey revealed that most people do not brush their teeth this long and miss spots due to poor brushing.
Tackling the challenge with IoT*
Oral hygiene is closely linked to the health of our entire body. This is why it is vital to brush our teeth regularly to lead a healthy life. Sunstar wanted to change the tooth brushing experience into a fun and active routine.
One possibility was the use of an Internet of Things (IoT) device. Inspired by how wearable devices impact user experience in the sports industry, Sunstar’s marketing team explored the idea of developing a product using IoT. This would enable a new user experience by collecting user data and connecting with a smartphone app.
*IoT, or “Internet of Things”, provides new possibilities by connecting the internet to everyday objects, enabling them as communication tools and sensor devices.
Diving into a whole new field
While the Marketing team was eager to develop a new product right away, developing an IoT device was uncharted territory. We needed to collaborate with external partners – a creative agency built the app and a hardware company developed the physical device.
- App Design
- Product Design
Feedback and decision-making sometimes took time because the development process and speed were different between these software and hardware developers. Despite a number of obstacles, the Sunstar team and the two partner companies pushed the project forward sharing a common goal – to create something truly innovative.
Besides the technical development, there was a need for the Company to understand the innovation. Some had issues relating to the proposal for the IoT device because they were not familiar with smartphones nor apps. The team, therefore, made prototypes and asked over 100 employees and their families to use them. Before finalizing the product, the team had a number of people, including toddlers, test 4 different prototypes.
An IoT device that reflects Sunstar’s expertise
Sunstar’s long-standing philosophy and know-how has inspired G･U･M PLAY. This includes our network of dental hygienists. Our team worked closely with dental hygienists from the Sunstar Foundation to build the features that teach users how to brush correctly.
As with all of Sunstar’s trustworthy products, we had to meet high-quality standards. For example, the new device achieves the same waterproof standard as our electric toothbrushes – it must function even after being dropped one meter deep in water. In addition, our team carefully designed the product from the very beginning to overcome the mass production issues that many IoT devices face. Our dedication and expertise in manufacturing made it possible to produce G･U･M PLAY at mass scale while maintaining high quality.
Our dedication and expertise helped us produce G･U･M PLAY at mass scale while maintaining high quality
The team also worked hard on the market acceptance. In order to make it affordable, the device is designed around a 3-axis acceleration sensor (1) rather than a more expensive gyro-sensor (2), and uses the app’s algorithm for detailed analysis of the collected data. In addition, the device can be attached to any existing toothbrush for easy use. It took two years to complete the product, and another year from prototyping to mass production.
(1) Three-axis acceleration sensor — a sensor that measures the acceleration of an object across 3 axes (vertical, horizontal and depth).
(2) Gyro-sensor — a sensor that measures rotation, angle and speed.
Transforming the tooth brushing experience with G･U･M PLAY
And so, G･U･M PLAY was born. The data collected by the device’s acceleration sensor is sent to the smartphone via Bluetooth® and used across various apps to make tooth brushing more effective and enjoyable. Users of G･U･M PLAY have responded with positive feedback and testimonials. Some of the comments we received were:
“My children started brushing their teeth on their own, and my stress level has gone down”
“We now enjoy brushing our teeth with our kids”
MOUTH CHECK & MOUTH LOG
Mouth Check rates your brushing based on how close the movement is to the model brushing of a professional dental hygienist.
Mouth Log records the movement and elapsed time of brushing. In addition to these core function apps, there are three additional apps to help you enjoy brushing for over 3 minutes.
Mouth Monster lets you fight against characters designed after bacteria while brushing.
Mouth Band turns your toothbrush into a musical instrument.
Mouth News reads out the news for three minutes while brushing.
We now enjoy brushing our teeth with our kids
Customizing the tooth brushing experience to each user
The future perspective of G･U･M PLAY goes beyond a simple app or sensor, including a possible collaboration with dental clinics. Utilizing the brushing data within the app, users can receive more personalized advice from the dentist and dental hygienist. Since the very beginning of the development process, the team wished to create a new service that could improve the quality-of-life of our users. Their initial idea is now taking shape.
Sunstar will continue to research and develop products globally
G･U･M PLAY has been launched in the Japanese market, with parts of the apps available in English and Chinese. With the aim of revolutionizing tooth brushing routines across the world, Sunstar will continue to research and develop products globally.
Find out more
The compact G･U･M PLAY attachment contains acceleration and Bluetooth sensors, which sends brushing data to your smartphone while you brush your teeth. In addition to recording brushing motion and frequency, the device offers advice on brushing technique and comes with entertaining apps that make brushing fun.