Anyone who follows technology in Japan understands that they have an obsession with robotics. Robots are a part of their culture and developers are always creating new ways to use them as teaching tools. Several Japanese Universities joined together in their love of robots to design a robot that could be used in the training of wannabe dentists. The finished result was a lovely female robot named Hanako.
A first glimpse at Hanako might creep you out just a bit. Hanako is very authentic looking but also makes some creepy robotic movements to remind you that it is indeed a robot. How it works is that it is programmed to act like a patient visiting the dentist. This program can be altered by currently includes several random actions to make it appear more authentic. Some actions that can take palce are sneezing, production of saliva, and reactions to whenever the dentist does something painful to her mouth.
The robot is able to react to pain because of built in touch sensors throughout the mouth. These sensors are connected to the computer program and help with deciding how the robot will act. Hanako will even gag when the dentist does something wrong! I though this was pretty cool. But perhaps the greatest teaching tool is that Hanako is programmed to communicate with the dentist as well.
Hanako has the ability to answer and ask dozens of questions. The robot can challenge a practicing dentists abilities to properly assess the symptoms before them. Hanako will react in the same way that a normal patient will. If she feels uncomfortable she will act as just that. However, if the dentist talks to her properly and puts her at ease she will do that as well. This makes Hanako come off as incredibly authentic and real.
Designers of the robot believe that Hanako can become a great teaching tool for those in Japan. They would even like to create similar robots for doctors to practice upon. Overall reaction to the robot across Japan has been positive. Even though it is creepy to look at I would have to agree that it offers a unique opportunity to provide learning students proper “real-time” learning. This could very well be the future to learning for dentists and doctors throughout the world. Now if only they could make the robot a little less creepy in the process.
Steven Mottor, My Own Review, 2010
DVICE, http://dvice.com//practice-robot.php, 2010