Simroid, a super-realistic dental training robot developed in Japan, caused quite a splash in news outlets worldwide when it made its debut in 2007. The level of realism was pretty high back then, but it’s even higher in the new version that was showcased in Tokyo a few days ago.
The basic idea is that Simroid simulates a human patient during a dental check-up by moving and speaking as realistically as possible, including the simulation of gag reflexes or negative reactions when the doctor touches her “breasts” by accident. Two cameras are recording the treatment, which makes it possible to evaluate the performance of dental students after each training session.
Professor Hamura from the Nippon Dental University, the mastermind behind Simroid, explains:
The first improvement we have made is that the robot now has speech recognition. So when you speak to it, it moves in response. There are also sensors in and around the mouth. So, for example, if something hurts or feels unpleasant, the robot can react. Another improvement, as you can see, is the skin. A robot dental patient has to “open wide,” so if the skin is made of silicone, it can tear. So we’ve used a different material, which doesn’t tear even if it’s stretched a lot or makes contact with dental implements.
The newest version is bi-lingual (English and Japanese), meaning Simroid might go on sale in the US and other places soon, too.
This video, shot by Diginfo TV (in English), provides more insight: