By Kelsey Coolahan, a blog contributor at GetUsPPE.org.
What do waterfall swing sets, musical tesla coils, robotic head massagers, and personal protective equipment have in common? Ian Charnas. He’s an engineer by trade who moonlights as an artist of technical showpieces, and now, PPE. A maker dedicated to inspiring creativity, Ian co-founded Sears think [box], a $50M innovation center at Case Western Reserve, helped found the Higher Education Makerspace initiative, and co-created the #1 podcast for makerspace managers. In his free time, quirky projects become the main focus. He explains, “I got started making when I was really young and I’ve been drawn like a moth to the light, ever since I was born, to making things.” Things, that are often “of no great value to society. I cannot stop making these goofy inane projects.”
But personal protective equipment is of critical value to society as hospitals and other institutions face global shortages. Called to action as his friends and loved ones in the medical field expressed grave concern over lack of protection on the job, Ian began mass-producing PPE. “Imagine going into your work and wondering, am I going to go home sick today? Am I going to infect my family? That’s the situation right now. We have to get PPE to our friends and family and our colleagues in the healthcare world. I wish I could be on the frontlines with them, but I’ve got a different role to play right now. we’ve all got a different role to play. Let’s get the PPE to the doctors and nurses who need it.” His PPE team has since mass-produced around 150,000 face-shields and made their injection moldable design available online.
PPE production, however, didn’t meet Ian’s creative needs. Staring at a head massager on his shelf during self-isolation, Ian thought, “man, that would feel really good right now, but not if I do it.” That’s when it dawned on him: “I think we need robots to massage us.” After several iterations, motor upgrades, and serious consideration over a name for the device (MassageBot and TingleBot didn’t make the cut), the PleasureBot9000 was born. What’s most important about the bot is that it provides more than just a head massage – it provides personal protective equipment to frontline workers in need. With every $50 donation made to GetUsPPE on his website, you’ll receive your very own hands-free massager. You get the ultimate feel good product, and GetUsPPE uses your donation to protect frontline workers across the country.
So, just how good does this robot head massager feel? Ian’s research indicates the sensation is “like a tingling sensation. Like a shiver, but a good one.” He tested his prototype on willing friends whose scalps spanned the hair spectrum, from thick, curly hair to no hair at all. The results were unanimous: spine-tingling approval. The wire, ‘octopus-like’ framing can be adjusted to fit any size head, and when asked if it could be used on feet, Ian didn’t say no (he also didn’t say yes).
The Pleasurebots are being produced piecemeal on Ian’s 3D printers, one of which is named Bob Marley because, he says, “it’s always… jamming.” The robots will come fully assembled and house a strong, neodymium magnet – “N52 for anyone in the magnetic field” – which allows users to easily adhere the contraption to any iron or steel-containing surface, such as a fridge. The original design involved a mechanism that would attach to the user’s shoulders with straps going under the arms. He says, “ I liked how goofy and idiotic it looked but it’s a high threshold to ask people to get past.” The present model requires no tools or hassle. “All you have to do is open a box, and stick it on your fridge,” Ian explains. And while it may well be the largest magnet you’ve ever seen on a refrigerator door, users rave that it’s “better than headgear,” or shoulder gear, for that matter.
A novelty for the times, the PleasureBot9000 offers pleasure and comic relief to the healthcare workers, frontline workers, or loved ones in your life who are struggling during these trying times. “Anybody who is stuck at home and stressed out, which is all of us, needs to get one of these robotic head massagers,” he says.
Make a donation on Ian’s website to receive your very own bot, or send it to someone in need of a laugh (and a massage).