Good news dental students: soon you will no longer have to approach your first victim patient with shaky, unsure hands. Researchers at Showa University in Japan have unveiled a new dental dummy, a realistic robot for dental students to practice on before taking the drill to real, human mouths.
I use the term “dummy” here loosely. Showa Tanako 2, as the researchers call her, has a wide range of human-like features. She can engage in simple conversations, flinch, roll her eyes, cough, and close her mouth like a real patient suffering from jaw fatigue. Oh, and she has a gag reflex.
So how did a group of dental researchers build such a realistic—albeit slightly scary—looking robot? Naturally, they sought help from Japanese sex doll maker, Orient Industry, who helped fashion the robot’s skin, tongue, and mouth. If the doll’s face didn’t look realistic, it wouldn’t “have the same effect on users psychologically,” Showa University professor Koutaro Maki said in the video released by DigInfo. “How doctors and students actually feel in the presence of a patient is a really big factor.”
On top of her movements, speech, and look, Showa Tanako 2 has one final similarity to human patients: she judges. But rather than simply hitting the online message boards with nasty comments, she stores and analyzes students’ performances to help them improve their dental prowess.
Showa Tanako 2 is set to hit the Japanese market later this year, and hopefully other countries soon after. While the dental dummy may well improve dental training, she probably won’t fully replace human practice patients, as students still need to learn how to effectively numb their subjects. But hey, maybe that skill is best learned on annoying colleagues, anyway.