"It hurts," said Hanako, dangerously moving her plastic head while a dental student was grinding her resin teeth, which are designed to be taken out and examined later to assess the student's skill.
In the demonstration, under the watchful gaze of an instructor, the dental student reacted quickly, deactivating and moving the sharp-pointed grinding tool to avoid damaging Hanoko's teeth or gums.
She even discharges a saliva-like liquid and slowly slackens her jaw muscles to simulate the gradual "fatigue" of a real patient.
Hanako was developed by the medical Showa University and a research team led by humanoid pioneer Atsuo Takanishi, a professor at Waseda University, both Tokyo-based, as well as robot maker tmsuk based in southern Japan.
The price tag is confidential, the inventors said. Japan already has humanoid robots for a variety of tasks, from receptionists to photo models, but the field of patient robots is still small.
Koutaro Maki, vice director of the Showa University Dental Hospital, told a press conference that the use of the humanoid meant a vast improvement from the traditional method to teach and train young dentists.
"We still have a system where the 'apprentices' watch doctors with higher skills, borrow from them and copy them... This is not scientific," he said. "Education in the medical and dental fields is underdeveloped. I wouldn't say it's the Galapagos islands, but it is undoubtedly a final frontier. The key to cultivating this undeveloped land is a robot."
The great thing about using robots, Maki said, is that it "allows students to make many mistakes" from which they can learn. Shugo Haga, a 26-year-old dentist-in-training, said he had previously used a mannequin's head but said it felt like using a mere "object." Sitting next to Hanako, he added: "This one isn't easy to cope with, but she is close to being a patient." (Google News)