Just as the recent code release of Microsoft Kinect software gave robotics developers a shortcut to creating autonomous robotics applications, Tokyo's Showa University has taken a shortcut to creating a dental-training robot with realistic features and reflexes, by adapting a so-called "love doll" robot.
Dental training robots are not new. King's College in London designed hapTEL– a virtual reality training chair that uses haptics to give students feedback so they can better ascertain how much pressure to exert when working on a patient. The problem with the hapTEL robot is that students are not able to experience empathy as they would on a human patient, because the UK device does not look realistic (as it is simply a mouth). Plus, the students do not get verbal feedback as they would from a human patient.
Enter Showa Hanoko 2. Tokyo's Showa University has partnered with Japanese Robot maker Tmsuk and "Love doll" maker Orient Industry to create an updated dental-training robot with realistic silicone skin, tongue, and mouth. The Hanako 2 also has the ability to move her tongue, blink, cough, sneeze, choke, roll her eyes, shake her head and say "ouch, it hurts." The robot is also capable of simulating a gag reflex, a common reaction during a dental procedure.
Showa Hanako 2 will be ready for sale to Japanese dental groups later this year by Yoshida Dental Manufacturing. The price has not yet been disclosed.
Sign up for the upcoming free weekly RoboNexus eNewsletter at robonexus.com.