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New Robotic Patient Helps Train Future Dentists

New Robotic Patient Helps Train Future Dentists

Robots who look like human beings are always something that people get fascinated by. If the robot is remotely human then there is usually a line forming in order to get to see it. What happens when the robots look even more human than usual?

While humanoid robots such as the well known Asimo robot that Honda put together a few years ago as well as a newer humanoid robot known as LOCH have been touring the country showing off what they can do and what the future of robotics can look like, there is another brand of robot that is much lower key but might be the real future - at least the near future - of humanoid based robotics.

Scientists at Japan's Showa University say they have been able to perfect a sort of robot practice dummy that dental students can practice on and get some sort of a realistic reaction to different mistakes being made during the practice. The robot will move its mouth as though it is engaging in conversation and will even gag or choke if the student is doing something that would most likely make a real person do the same. Even more lifelike, this robot will also occasionally come down with the need or shake its head and even simulate the need to close its mouth if it has been open too long and too wide.

Of course a robot that has a rubber coating that feels a little too much skin and will actually train its empty robotic eyes on you could actually be quite unnerving but the makers of the robot say that once the students get past their initial misgivings, this particular robot will go a long way towards getting patients familiar with the interactions of an actual patient without causing such patient as much discomfort. The robot, Hanako 2, is as lifelike as she is in large part thanks to an unlikely partnership between the researchers and Japan's top sex-doll company, Orient Industry. Orient worked hard to make sure that Hanako's skin, tongue and mouth were all built in order to look and feel as close to a real human as possible. It is because of these attention to details, paired up with the small sensors all around the robot's "skin" that make Hanako so convincing and such a good training aid.

While the robot was originally created over a decade ago, the Showa researchers say this is a vast improvement over their original model.

By Oliver VanDervoort