Humanoid teaches dentists to feel patients' pain

Japan’s future dentists may soon be able to better appreciate patients’ pain by training on a humanoid robot that can mumble “ouch” when the drill hits a nerve.

The robot, resembling an attractive young woman with long black hair and a pink sweater, can also listen to instructions and react to pain by moving her eyes or hands.

A group of robot and computer makers presented the high-tech dental patient in Tokyo at the 2007 International Robot Exhibition, a four-day technology showcase that opened on Wednesday.

The medical simulation robot, named “Simroid,” is designed to be used for clinical training at dental schools, said Tatsuo Matsuzaki, an official at robot maker Kokoro, which developed the body and control system.

The 160cm robot can say “it hurts” and frown when it feels uncomfortable from the dental drill.

“Because it’s so real, dental trainees can see patients’ feelings and will be able to develop good skills as they treat it, not as an object, but as a human being,” Matsuzaki said.

“The point is that we can share people’s pain without hurting people,” Matsuzaki said.

Naotake Shibui, a professor at Nippon Medical School, which introduced the robot in September, said Simroid can help dentists “learn how to communicate with patients”.

“Treatment technique is important but it’s also important to feel what it’s like to be a patient,” he said.

But in case anyone thinks the robot is too real, it also has a sensor on the breast area that keeps track if it has been touched inappropriately, an engineer said.—AFP

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