相比之前「只」打造了 600 多台產品原型的 Supersonic 吹風機和 Airwrap 美髮造型器，Dyson 今天發佈的 Corrale 更是來之不易，一共花了 3,690 台原型機才能推出這台奇特的直髮造型器。它到底是如何能夠大幅減少傷害頭髮呢？其錳銅合金彎曲面板背後的原理是什麼呢？這次我們有幸與 Dyson 創辦人兼總工程師 Sir James Dyson 在 Corrale 的全球發佈會前進行獨家專訪，讓他為親自參與開發的這款機器揭開神秘面紗。
RL：很好。其實我也去過你們的馬來西亞研發中心，確實令人大開眼見。幾年前，應該是 Supersonic 推出沒多久後，我也拜訪過位於 Malmesbury 的總部，留下了深刻的印象。那我們進入正題吧。所以是 Dyson Corrale？我這個唸法正確嗎？
JD：Corrale，就是「O.K. Corral」（1881 年的 O.K. 牧場槍戰）那個唸法（"kor-raal"）。這個字是「聚集」的意思，因為相比傳統的扁平直髮造型器，我們這款是以一個橢圓形之類的空間來收集頭髮並包起一小簇髮束。這個我們是利用了很有趣的柔軟錳銅合金面板來達成，它每隔兩至三毫米有一個開槽，讓它可以屈曲。
不知道你見過人家如何做曲線的踢腳線。他們是在每隔半吋切割一下，到差不多要切斷木頭，這就讓木頭可以沿着曲線彎曲。我們就以類似的方式處理錳銅合金面板：我們以機械加工切割幼縫，幾乎要切穿金屬的。然後我們以線切割至 60 微米的極精確厚度，這樣我們就造出柔軟性剛好、不會斷掉的錳銅合金面板。這些柔軟金屬面板就以橢圓形之類的空間包起一小簇髮束。
JD：你應該記得，那個紙袋沒有燃燒起來。它本來應該會燒起來啊。同樣道理，一簇髮束的核心可防止最外層被燙傷、燒灼。所以不管是什麼溫度⋯如果我們把 Corrale 和一台傳統直髮造型器設定為同樣溫度的話，Corrale 夾住的頭髮永遠會低 20 度左右，因此對頭髮的傷害較小。
另外，熱傷害會去除頭髮的顏色，而有超過百分之 60 的人有染髮⋯我沒有染過頭髮，不過我聽說這需要花很多時間。【笑】嗯，起碼暫時還沒有。【笑】我聽說這需要花很多時間，也很貴。其實熱傷害去除顏色的速度是蠻驚人的⋯你卻花了這麼多錢和經歷這麼多痛苦去染髮。
RL：所以總的來說，這是為了讓你節省時間，亦因為不用拉直那麼多次而減低過熱損傷。我的同事 Cherlynn 有在紐約摸過 Corrale。令我驚訝的是，她告訴我說她每晚睡覺前都會弄頭髮，而不是第二天出門前準備。這款產品看來能幫她大幅節省時間。她說這可能可以把她平常弄頭髮的一個小時降至半個小時而已，所以這對像她這種使用者來說顯然是一大優勢。不錯啊。
JD：嗯，用一個小時去弄頭髮真的是很長時間，對吧？【笑】其實呢，我會把美貌排第一，就是光澤亮麗頭髮排第一。然後損傷，然後時間，這樣的順序。當然，任何人都可以有自己喜好的順序。這三點就是我們追求的。啊，還有靈活性，能夠在車裡使用。是說 Cherlynn 都可以在上班途中在車裡、火車上、地鐵上⋯
RL：對，Uber。所以呢，我理解的是這款產品花了七年時間去研發，並好像是跟 Supersonic 和 Airwrap 同期開發的。這兩台我家裡都有，不錯用。
RL：所以我一直在想，我跟你都是男生，但這些產品都不是給男生用。至少不是每天都會用吧。不過我想從你的角度來看你對 Corrale 和相關產品在研發方面的貢獻，因為聽說你要親自核準這款產品的幾乎每一個項目。
RL：其實我想說的是⋯其實，有趣的是雖說你不一定每天都會用這款產品，但是你還是能夠為它們提供反饋。從你的角度，你為 Corrale 帶來的最大貢獻是什麼呢？
JD: Hello, Richard. I hope you're keeping safe in Hong Kong, Richard. It's been so battered by many things, but I hope you're well and safe.
RL: Thank you so much. So I understand that you're calling in from Paris because, well, you're now hosting an event there.
JD: Actually, I'm doing it on my own. I'm not hosting anything. We deliberately haven't got anybody coming here. I'm hosting myself. I'm on my own. There's only a cameraman.
RL: Well, everyone will be watching globally.
JD: Ah well, you see, I don't know about that, it's just me and the cameraman, as far as I'm concerned.
RL: So speaking of the situation, you won't be able to go back to Singapore anytime soon, right?
JD: Well, I hope so soon, because I think they've done a really good job of containing it. They're very strict and are doing all the right measures. I suspect, actually, it's one of the safest places to be, because of that.
RL: I've been curious as to how you split your time between the UK and Singapore, if these are indeed the two main places you spend most of the time at.
JD: Well, we've got research and development centres in both of them, and Malaysia. We're starting in the Philippines, and we've even got some in the United States and Japan. So it's a matter of traveling between the two, three or four centres. And I split it pretty evenly.
RL: Oh, interesting.
JD: And that's important for us because we, you know, we have lots and lots and lots of customers in Asia. And it's very important for us to be partly Asian-based, to understand our market and our people there. So we're part Asian and part British, and a little bit of few other things thrown in. That's really what we are. I don't really think of ourselves as a British company... Asia is such an important market for us, and we make everything there as well.
RL: Awesome. Well, I have been to the Malaysian R&D center. That was pretty impressive. And a few years back, I think it was shortly after the Supersonic launch, I visited Malmesbury which was nice. So let's go straight to the topic then. So it's the Dyson Corrale? Am I pronouncing it correctly?
JD: Corrale, as in the "O.K. Corral." "Gathering" is the word, because what we're doing compared with flat irons is gathering the hair and holding it in a very well-contained tress with a sort of oval section, and I mean that's accomplished by having very interesting flexing -- or flexible -- copper plates. So every 2 or 3mm there's a slice across the plate that allows them to flex.
I don't know if you've ever seen them doing skirting around a curve, they do a saw cut every inch or so... every half inch, almost through the wood, and that allows the wood to bend around the curve. And we've done a similar thing with copper plates: we machine them, and machine, if you like, a slit, which almost goes through the copper. And then we wire erode it to get a very, very precise thickness to within about 60 microns. And that allows us to get exactly the right amount of flex without the copper breaking.
And these flexible plates hold the tress in a sort of oval section, whereas flat plates splay the tress out, and you then apply tension by squeezing the plates together. And the problem is that whilst you might squeeze one bit of hair... the gap that's left allows quite a number of hairs -- particularly the ones towards the edges -- to not be squeezed at all, so they become flyaways.
Straightening hair is about tensioning it and applying heat. The heat obviously changes the bonds in the hair and rearranges them, and the tension makes it go straight. So when you do a one-pass with flat irons, obviously quite a proportion of the hair isn't being tensioned and heated, and you can see that when you see someone doing it, they become flyaways. And you get them all, for the same level of tension, by doing many goes -- probably five goes, five to six goes on the same tress.
The problem with that is that -- you know, if you've got the time -- the problem is that you're applying far too much heat. You're overheating the hair. And you're also overheating the hair because you're squashing it flat, you're applying a huge amount of heat to a large number of the hairs, whereas with our flexing plates and this oval section, you're evenly tensioning all the hair, so that you don't have to do so many passes.
And there's an interesting effect -- if you can imagine this oval section of the tress -- which is that the thickness of the tress cools the outer layer of the hair. Rather like boiling -- I don't know if you ever did it at school -- boiling a paper bag full of water on a Bunsen burner.
RL: Yes I have!
JD: If you remember, the paper didn't burn. It was supposed to burn. You got rather the same effect with the hair tress, in that the cooler core stops the outer from scalding, being singed. So whatever the temperature... if we set our irons at the same temperature as the flat irons, the hair is always 20 degrees or so cooler, so we cause far less damage.
And the thing about heat damage, which I think everybody who uses flat irons knows, that they're damaging their hair. It physically makes their hair half as strong, so it snaps much more easily. But almost worse than that, from a beauty junkie's point of view, is that each hair, instead of being shiny and smooth like hair that hasn't been overheated, is it becomes like a bit of old rope, all sorts of hairy. And the problem with that is that it doesn't reflect the light, it's not shiny and light-reflecting. So hair that's damaged is dull, doesn't reflect the light and is weaker. So it looks dull and lifeless and not shiny and glossy.
The other thing is that overheating removes the color in the hair, and over 60 percent of people dye their hair, which... I've never done it, but I'm told it takes quite a long time. [chuckles] Well, not yet, anyway. [chuckles] I'm told it takes quite a long time, and it's very expensive. And it's actually quite remarkable how quickly overheating removes the color, which is... you've spent so much money and gone through such agony applying.
So overheating damages the hair, makes it look dull and lifeless and not shiny and glossy. It removes the color and it makes it half as strong as it should be, so it snaps very easily. So those are the problems we wanted to overcome and have overcome.
We've also put batteries in from our battery technology in our vacuum cleaners and battery management system, which means that you can straighten your hair in an Uber taxi, or in the loo or at work or wherever you like in the house -- in front of a mirror, while having breakfast, whatever. So you've got freedom, you don't have to do it while crouching down in a corner near a socket by a mirror. You can travel with it as well, and we've got a little plug you pull out when you go on an airline. and it comes with a soft heatproof bag which looks like velvet, so you can wrap it up, put it in your suitcase or in your handbag.
RL: Yeah, it's pretty nice, I have to say.
JD: Yeah, because, you know, people like to top up. You use it at work, and if you're then going out for a meal or going to a concert or something, you can just quickly straighten the hair or give it a curl under, or whatever it is you want to do.
RL: So it seems like this is all about saving you time, which therefore also reduces heat damage because you don't have to do it so many times. I think my colleague Cherlynn, she actually had a briefing in New York as well. To my surprise, she told me that she actually does her hair every night before going to bed, rather than doing it the next day before going out. And this is obviously going to save her a lot of time. She said it might reduce her hair prep from one hour down to maybe half an hour, which is obviously a big plus for people like her. So that's very impressive.
JD: Yes, an hour doing your hair is just a lot of time, isn't it? [chuckles] Actually, I'd put beauty at the top, shinier and glossier hair at the top. And then damage, and then time, in that order. But anyone can put it in whatever order they like. Those are the three things we're after. Well and, you know, flexibility, to be able to do it in a car. I mean Cherlynn could do it in the car on the way to work, or on the train, on the Underground or...
RL: Preferably not while driving. [chuckles]
JD: Well, no, perhaps not. Uber.
RL: Yeah, Uber. So actually, my understanding is that this product took about seven years to develop and that was alongside... around the same time as the Supersonic and the Airwrap, both of which I also have at home as well. Very nice piece of kit.
JD: Oh good.
RL: So I was wondering, obviously, you and I both being blokes, these aren't really the kind of devices that we as men actually use. At least not every day anyway. But I was interested in seeing your perspective in terms of your input into the development for the Corrale or any related products really, because apparently you had to personally approve almost everything about this product.
JD: Oh, yes. I'm involved in it, in the development of it. In all of them. That's what I do every day. It's, you know, that's what I enjoy, that's what I was trained to do. Developing the technology is fascinating, developing those plates was really interesting. We've gone through many kilometers of human hair tresses, understanding hair, and learning what manipulates it, what damages it and what makes it shiny and glossy. And all those basics are really key for everybody. It's beauty. Your hair is almost the most important part of your body. The rest of it is covered up in clothes, usually. [chuckles]
RL: Unless you like wearing hats.
JD: Well, unless you have... there's still bits showing at the edges. Maybe you're wearing a hat because you've damaged your hair!
RL: Well... that's debatable. I mean, there's some fashion element to that, anyway.
JD: Yeah, and keeping you warm.
RL: But what I'm trying to get to is... I mean, it's interesting that even though you may not necessarily use that product every day, you're still able to provide your input into these products. From your perspective, what were your biggest contributions to the Corrale?
JD: Oh, you mean personally? I have absolutely no idea. I mean, we're developing lots of technology and lots of products all the time, and we don't say who's done what because... Obviously, engineers go off and discover things in laboratories, and they invite me to go and see what they're doing. And I make suggestions, and then we have meetings, and I make suggestions, and lots of people make suggestions. And we don't attribute the idea to any one person. Sometimes there's an inventor named on a patent, but... so I have absolutely no idea.
RL: OK, that's very gracious of you.
JD: In many ways, it's insidious to single anyone out because often it's a group of people coming up with ideas and developing things and so on. But failure, you know, is a... Understanding failure. So when we have these meetings, when we go into laboratories, we're not looking at what we've succeeded; we're looking at what we've failed, because it's from failure that you learn.