July 12 - Aspiring dentists in Japan are honing their technical skills and chairside manners with a model patient who endures multiple procedures ever day just to provide performance feedback. Called Simroid, she's the only practice-patient of her kind and will soon be taking her services beyond Japan to help dental students around the world. Rob Muir reports.
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"I'm going to drill your tooth"
For Simroid, it's just another day at the dentist's. She'll willingly undergo yet another procedure, but she's not always happy with the treatment.
Simroid is a robot...a teaching tool for dentists. She's equipped with sensors and artificial intelligence to register computer-generrated pain and respond as a real patient would. She was first introduced to the dental world in 2007 as a technical training aid, but according to co-developer professor Akira Hamura, she's come a long way since then.
SOUNDBITE: AKIRA HAMURA, PROFESSOR OF GENERAL DENTISTRY, NIPPON DENTAL UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL, SAYING:
"It was impossible to practise correct bedside manner -- you know, before we encountered patients for real. So we developed this robot not just for technical practice, but so we could also study how we should adjust our behaviour."
And Simroid is multiulingual. She speaks Japanese and English and the Morita Manufacturing company says she'll soon have a grasp of German, Mandarin and Korean for trainee dentists elsewhere in the world. Morita's Yukihiko Isokawa.
SOUNDBITE: YUKIHIKO ISOKAWA, MORITA MANUFACTURING GROUP, RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT GROUP LEADER, SAYING:
"We wanted to get it as near to a real human being as possible. When it's sitting still, talking to someone or opening it's mouth up wide, what we were after was to be as close as possible as genuine flesh and blood."
And like a real patient, Simroid can assess the dentist's work. Sensors emedded in her thermoplastic skin send pressure readings to a computer that translates them into a performance evaluation. She can be harsh in her judgement and dentist Mizuki Koike says she's not much for small talk.
SOUNDBITE: MIZUKI KOIKE, DENTIST , SAYING:
"Well with a real patient we also have a chat about life in general as well. So it's a bit different - when it's talking it misses out all the little things."
But Simnroid is still a work in progress and when you're under the drill several times a day, there's probably not much else to talk about.
Rob Muir, Reuters.
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