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If you recall BristleBots on MAKE back in 2007 it was from our friends and MAKE advisory board members Evil Mad Scientists. Windell and Lenore are tireless makers always sharing and creating – unfortunately it seems that Klutz and Scholastic may have taken their works and ideas without permission. I was waiting until I heard back from Klutz (and Scholastic) to get comment from them and will update this article if/when they do, but it’s been over a day and other sites are starting to pick up this story (DVICE). Here’s the book Marc and I saw at the Toy Fair…

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And… Here’s the note I sent to Klutz, Pat Murphy the author, their law firm, their PR group and PR folks at Scholastic (it’s been over 24 hours and I also called and left messages).

This year I was very happy to see kltuz with a great booth and some new books, I was also surprised to see a new book called “Invasion of the Bristlebots” by Pat Murphy and the scientists of Klutz Labs.

I spoke with the PR person at the booth asking for more information and she stated the book was “developed by Pat Murphy and Klutz” – I looked inside the preview copies for any other credits or acknowledgments but did not see any – I was specifically looking for “Evil Mad Scientists” and/or Windell Oskay & Lenore Edman. The bristlebot was their project developed in 2007, there were no prior instances of the term or project before that date online or anywhere else.

When I returned to my office I emailed with Windell and Lenore to ask if they had worked with Klutz in any way or was approached by Klutz in any way and they said they were not. Other companies have worked with them in the past to license their ideas or at the least, credit them. Here are the prior works from 2007.

Bristlebot: A tiny directional vibrobot
http://www.evilmadscientist.com/article.php/bristlebot

The first link(s) on google are all evil mad scientist’s project called “the bristlebot”
http://www.google.com/search?complete=1&hl=en&q=bristlebot

It was first posted 12/19/2007 – over a year ago. we’ve covered this project on MAKE as well. I informed Windell and Lenore that I would be contact Klutz for a comment, I’ll be writing this up as an article on MAKE and would appreciate your gang responding the following questions:

  1. Did Klutz/Pat know about Evil Mad Scientist’s project? The name and project are identical – it seems unlikely that they were developed independently.
  2. Does klutz/pat plan to contact / work with Evil Mad Scientists before this book is published?
  3. Can you describe how Klutz usually works with makers with original ideas that Klutz wishes to turn in to books / products?

I also saw on youtube that someone representing klutz posted a “video response” to the original video… “This is a video response to How to make a BristleBot – Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2Ps95xuAp4

It appears that someone at Klutz did know about the original project but i’d like some clarification before I release the article about all this, thanks. Email responses are best.

Here’s what Windell and Lenore had to say…

“This is the first that I’ve heard of it. Frankly, I am a bit offended. Klutz makes some nice things, and I’m surprised that they wouldn’t have contacted us, asked permission, or at least given us credit. (Locomotion by ratcheting bristles isn’t remotely new — it occurs in nature — but the name ‘Bristlebot’ is surely ours, and I don’t know of any prior implementation with a toothbrush.)”


Here’s the video from Toy Fair – the book includes “BristleBots”…


And here’s the video from 2007 from Evil Mad Scientists (over 2 million views).

I’ll update this post if/when things change, please post up your thoughts in the comments. Here is the media relations page @ Scholastic – I also called and left messages for these folks too.


Update: Here’s a post from Lenore at Evil Mad Scientists.

Bristlebots by Klutz?
Some of our friends went to the NY Toy Fair (check out Make’s coverage– it looks like it was a lot of fun!) and came across a new offering from Klutz: “Invasion of the Bristlebots.” 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. Here’s our original story from 2007: Bristlebot: A tiny directional vibrobot. And here’s a round-up of some of the amazing reaction from the DIY community to this news from the toy fair:

Thanks to all of you for your support! We’re still figuring out how to react to this, and we’re waiting for comment from Klutz and Scholastic. We’ll try to update this post as additional stories and information arise.


Update 2: Wow, I’m surprised by this one folks… Here’s a statement on the Scholastic blog…

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.

So, from what I am reading Klutz and Scholastic is saying they developed “BristleBots” 100% on their own in early 2007 and then (also in 2007) Evil Mad Scientists developed the *exactly* same thing, with the same exact name. Klutz and Scholastic never thought to contact Evil Mad Scientists at all after seeing the internet sensation “BristleBot” and are now “genuinely surprised”.

Oddly enough Klutz does trademark many of the terms and words they come up with, but in this example – “BristleBots” they did not, will they now? Will Klutz and Scholastic ask EMS to take down their project which pre-dates Klutz’s book?

In Klutz’s marketing materials they state “On YouTube, dedicated tinkerers show off motorized toothbrush heads that are pretty darned impressive” – so if I’m following their statement – Klutz came up with “BristleBot” before anyone else and first, then an identical project happened at the same time, with the same name *and* folks on YouTube shared their videos about it all coincidentally while Klutz and their creative team worked on the same project by the same name, same design, same everything in secret but never contacted anyone about this wacky coincidence.

Ok, my head is spinning. Comment away…

Scholastic & Klutz are contacting Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories, I guess we’ll see what happens. We’ll keep you updated folks if we hear more.

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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