Tokyo's Showa University has unveiled its latest robotic dental patient. The University engaged robotics company Tmsuk to manufacture the realistic bot which is designed to simulate a number of typical patient gestures and responses, allowing dental students to experience what it's like to work with a real patient.

Showa Hanako 2 is said to be a more user friendly and functional replacement to Showa Hanako 1, which was presented in March 2010. "Love doll" maker Orient Industry is responsible for the silicone skin (this replaces the PVC skin of the previous model) and mouth lining, which increases the realistic feel and prevents water from getting into the machinery.

"If you don't try to make a robot's face look realistic, it doesn't have the same effect on users psychologically. How doctors and students actually feel in the presence of a patient is a really big factor," explains Prof. Koutaro Maki from Showa University.

Showa Hanako 2 is designed to move naturally and smoothly like a real patient. It can blink, roll its eyes, sneeze, shake its head, cough, move its tongue and even get tired when having to keep its mouth open for too long. Interestingly, the robot is also capable of simulating a gag reflex, which is quite frequent during dental procedures.

Japanese engineers also used a speech recognition technology developed by Raytron to facilitate conversation capability.

Showa Hanako 2 will be sold by a dental supply company the Yoshida Dental Manufacturing beginning later this year. There is no word on pricing at the moment.

Source: DigInfo TV

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