Japan Launches Robotic Patient for Dental Training

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It seems of late that there are new training devices for dental students being invented every day, and they seem to be getting better and better with every new release.

The newest innovative dental training idea comes from Japan and even goes one better than hapTEL – the virtual reality training chair that recently impressed British dental circles due to its low price tag in comparison to older, outdated training methods and its innovative use of haptics.

Now the masters of robotics and computing have come up with a robotic patient to help with dental training, known as Showa Hanako 2.

A joint invention by top boffins from the Universities of Showa, Waseda and Kogakuin, Showa Hanako 2 is not the first dental training robot to be made by the group. Whereas Showa Hanako 1 was made from PVC plastic and was quite obviously a doll, with more in kin to the “phantom head” , hapTEL is replacing this with Showa Hanako 2, which is eerily similar to a real patient.

With a silicone tongue, mouth and skin, as well as the ability to move her tongue, blink, cough, sneeze, choke, roll her eyes, shake her head and say “ouch, it hurts!” if the would-be dentist makes a mistake, Showa Hanako 2 is quite likely the closest a student will come to practicing on a real patient … without having to practice on a real patient!

While the device was thought up and developed by the above universities, the robotic doll in question was created and produced by Tmsuk, a Japanese robot making company, and the realistic mouth lining created by Orient Industry, a creator of sex dolls.

A Professor from the Showa University’s Dental School told DigInfo TV during an interview, “If you don’t try to make a robot’s face look realistic, it doesn’t have the same effect on users psychologically. It makes quite a difference if students can train while experiencing the same kind of tension they’d feel about a human patient, thinking, for example, ‘I’m really going to make this treatment work’ or ‘Even the smallest mistake would be unforgivable.’”

Showa Hanako 2 is set to be sold to Japanese dental groups later this year by Dental supplying company Yoshida Dental Manufacturing for a fee that has yet to be released to the public.

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