Client: Philips
Role: Creative lead & developer
Team: Sofia Tsalidou, Kareem Elkadi, Venus Chung

Designing a smart toy that forms a healthy toothbrushing habit for teenagers

Teens tend to not brush their teeth for a full 2 minutes, which could cause gum rot later in life.

Philips asked us to design a smart toy that connects to their Philips sonicare toothbrushes and improves the brushing routine of teenagers by making it more fun.


We interviewed 55 teenagers in their high school about their brushing habit and environment, interests, and ideas. The interviews were followed by 2 co creation sessions which started by having the teens generate a context map by making sticky notes containing their interests, technologies they use, and subjects regarding their oral hygiene.

These were used as a frame of reference for a crazy 8 session where the teens were grouped in teams and each teen generated ideas. The teens then discussed and voted on their favorite ideas and drew one final concept to present to us and the rest of the class.

The results of our interviews and co-creation sessions gave us a tremendous amount of valuable insights about the teenagers’ lives. Resulting in a lot of usefull statistics and journey maps of their brushing routine. 

Prototyping & testing

After our desk and user research we set out to create various prototypes using a rapid prototyping methods like paper prototyping and wireframing. The teenagers were into games, apps, customisation, belonged to a wide range of subcultures and had very different interests so we tried to think of concepts that could cater to those different interests and had the ability to be customisable. After testing our prototypes we made a Harris profile and combined the best features into one final concept.

Final concept

Gen is an artificial intelligence that lives in your bathroom and evolves as you brush your teeth correctly. During your brushing session Gen will entertain and guide you to brush better and longer. Gen starts out as a robot with no charisma, intelligence or creativity, and it’s up to you to upgrade those characteristics after each brushing session.

As you evolve Gen by putting points into it’s characteristics, you’ll see it change day-by-day, turning into you own customisable tooth brushing buddy. Not only it’s appearance will change, but also it’s personality and behaviour. Below you can see a generic progression of Gen from day 1 until day 7.

Spend your points in intelligence but none in charisma and it will turn into an evil AI set to take of the world, spend your points into charisma but none in intelligence and Gen will turn into a clumsy comedian. There are 8 big archetypes that Gen can turn into, each requiring at least 14 days of brushing to reach. Below are some examples of how different Gen can become depending on your choices.

We designed a 3d printed model that could be manufactured with low cost, and has a slot to fit various phone models that run the Gen app. Using Gen is just a matter of opening the Gen app and putting your phone in the model and Gen will ‘wake up’. After the user is done brushing he/she can upgrade Gen in the app, where you can also unlock accessories for Gen by brushing better.

The shape of Gen’s actual body is the result of extensive user testing of different forms with teens. We designed the body in such a way that it fits in any bathroom style, and it’s also possible to attach gen to a flat surface using suction cups. The aesthetics of the body are designed to have the same curves and color of the Philips diamond clean toothbrush.

This is a video of our first prototype, demonstrating what a brushing session with Gen would be like on the first day. Gen runs on an app and is connected to the Philips toothbrush through bluetooth, and knows when you start or stop brushing and if you are brushing too hard. Gen also has a LED light timer at the base of it’s body that serves as a visual indicator of how far you are in your brushing session.

This is a video of the Gen on day 1, when it has no personality yet, running a shortened brushing routine.

This is a video of the final version of Gen on day 7, with a generic personality and a shortened brushing routine.

In order to upgrade Gen, users need to do this in the app after or before a brushing session. Users get one point after each successfull brushing routine and they can also unlock accessoires if they brush better by not brushing too hard and switching sides on time. All of Gen’s customisation is done through the app.

After the project was done Philips commended us for our structural way of working and performing solid research at important moments throughout the project, putting the user in the center at all cost. Gen has been showcased at the Philips innovation event.

The Double Diamond model of our design process during this Research through Design project can be seen below.