When it comes to whimsy, there's no doubt that the concept of a "bristlebot," a combination robot and toothbrush, is dripping with it.
But there's little whimsy going on right now over a controversy that has arisen with the appearance at the recent Toy Fair in New York of a book from Klutz publishing called "Invasion of the Bristlebots."
That's because in December 2007, the inventors at Evil Mad Scientist posted a how-to entry on the Make blog about something they called "BristleBots," a combination of a robot and a toothbrush:
The BristleBot is a simple and tiny robot with an agenda. The ingredients? One toothbrush, a battery, and a pager motor. The result? Serious fun. The BristleBot is our take on the popular vibrobot, a simple category of robot that is controlled by a single vibrating (eccentric) motor. Some neat varieties include the mint-tin version, as seen in Make Magazine (check the video) and the kid's art bot: a vibrobot with pens for feet.
But as was discovered at the Toy Fair, a new book from Klutz and Scholastic publishing by author Pat Murphy, called "Invasion of the Bristlebots," is covering what seems to be exactly the same ground.
So far, it's unclear what the true origin of the bristlebot is.
In response to a request for comment on this story, Kyle Good, Scholastic vice president of corporate communications, wrote in an e-mail on Thursday that "Klutz is genuinely surprised by this reaction to our book. The development of 'Invasion of the Bristlebots' by the Klutz creative team dates back to at least early 2007 and was developed internally, like other Klutz products. In light of this misunderstanding, we're contacting the folks at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories in the interest of addressing the concerns that have been raised."
Afterwards, Scholastic put the same statement up on its public blog.
However, the folks at Evil Mad Scientist seem to be insisting that the bristlebot was their invention. As they wrote on their site Thursday, "We were never contacted by Klutz (or Scholastic), which we find surprising, being that we are the instigators of the current brush-based vibrobot movement and the coiners of the term bristlebot."
For now, this is all the information that is available. Stay tuned, however, as I plan to have a more in-depth story on this controversy on Monday morning.