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Dentistry simulation android is all smiles

Japanese universities recently unveiled a dentistry simulator robot called Hanako. The android patient responds to dentistry students by talking, sneezing, or even gagging.

Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

Aspiring Japanese dentists can now look forward to honing their skills with a robotic simulator, where mistakes won't have serious consequences.

Developers at Showa University and robot maker Tmsuk say Hanako Showa, designed to look just like a 5-foot-tall Japanese woman, is the first of her kind in the world.

Offering realistic treatment scenarios, she can open and close her mouth, turn her head, and say "Ouch! It hurts!" She can also interact verbally with students, answering questions like, "Are you OK?"

But why a female robot? An English-version press release (PDF) from Tmsuk has the answer: "Female model is suitable to learn careful treatment as no touch of breast."

Whether Hanako will reduce the number of pervert dentists in Japan remains to be seen. But she's definitely expected to provide an objective means for evaluating the abilities of students. Developers say students need a platform on which they can practice procedures over and over again.

So far, about 90 students at Showa University have undergone examinations with the android. Instructors can control Hanako's eyes, head movement, and tongue, monitoring how she reacts.

For instance, students who touch Hanako's uvula will provoke a vomit response. Hanako also produces saliva in her simulated cheek membranes, and students will have to suction it just like with a real patient.

The robot has eight axes of motion in her head, eyes, mouth, and neck, though her mouth doesn't seem to move when she talks. Her skin is made of resin and her tongue is made of silicon.

The developers plan to commercialize Hanako for sales to university dentistry schools. Graduates who get the chance to work with Hanako will at least have some experience with a patient who doesn't dread appointments.

(Via CrunchGear)