Where BristleBots Came From

By Miss Cellania
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

Over a year ago, Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories posted instructions for making a BristleBot, a cute little robot made from a toothbrush, a battery, and a vibrating motor from a pager. I thought it was a great idea, easy to make, worth posting at other sites. The real fun is watching the BristleBot go, like an insect on amphetamine! Lots of other sites picked it up, too. Before you know it, people were posting videos of BristleBots they made from Windell and Lenore’s instructions.

Fast forward to February 2009. A new book and kit from Scholastic and Klutz called Invasion of the BristleBots is spotted at the New York Toy Fair. See the Klutz version of the BristleBots in this video. Bloggers from Make, DVICE, Engadget, and other sites were at the fair and were excited about the kit until they saw that nowhere was Windell Oskay, or Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories credited with the idea!

Windell and Lenore, who were never contacted by Klutz nor Scholastic, are justifiably hurt. They are proponents of open source idea sharing, which is why they posted the project in the first place. Another company sells BristleBot kits with credit to the creators. But when someone is making moolah off your idea without even mentioning your name, that out-evils the Evil Mad Scientists. In their response, Klutz said the project dates from “early 2007”. So it took two years to bring this project to the public? The turnaround on an idea like this should be less than, say, a year. My kids buy Scholastic products. I can’t believe that much time and thought goes into any of them. Really, what are the odds that two separate laboratories came up with identical robots and gave them the same identical name in the same year? Neither Klutz nor Evil Mad Scientists patented the robot or copyrighted the name BristleBot, so it’s possible nothing will come of this besides a slew of bad publicity on the internet for Klutz. I hope pressure from a million or so geeks will cause Scholastic to add a creator’s credit to the kits, or maybe even a share of the profits. It’s the right thing to do.