“More than 50 percent of Google searches today in beauty are about hair,” Mr. Balooch explained.
The device aims to banish bad hair days by offering technical insights into the state of the user’s locks, plus personalized advice on how best to care for them.
Scheduled to go on sale this year, the $179 brush contains a conductivity sensor that knows whether hair is wet or dry; an accelerometer and gyroscope to measure the speed and force of brush strokes; a microphone that captures auditory data; and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity to upload all that information to an app, which uses an algorithm to analyze the statistics and detect breakage. And, oh yeah — the bristles feel pretty good, too.
“It was very important for us to make a high-end device that, taking all the technology and sophisticated aspects away, is the best brush you’ll ever see,” said Cédric Hutchings, chief executive of Withings and vice president for digital health at Nokia, which developed the hardware.
Mr. Balooch said the brush uses a combination of synthetic fibers “that mimic $200 to $300 brushes on the market.”
It’s a category he knows well. In 2007, after earning a doctorate in biomaterials from the University of California, San Francisco, and following postdoctoral studies in cell biomechanics at Stanford, he took a job with L’Oréal in Chicago, where he was challenged to “understand the physics of hair,” he said.
“I would take hairs of ethnic descent and I would test relaxers on them, shampoos, conditioners, then I would break the hairs on a machine,” he said.
Mr. Balooch’s work impressed the L’Oréal brass, who in 2008 asked him to join the…