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Android Dental Patient Talks Back When Hurt

Simroid is a robotic dental patient to be used for training dentists. Simroid is able to follow verbal instructions from the trainee dentist, and can react in a human-like (eerie, but human-like) way to mouth pain.

Simroid's realistic appearance is due to her air-powered muscles and soft silicone skin; she shares these characteristics with Actroid, the well-known receptionist android. Both of these fembots owe their existence to Kokoro Company, Ltd.

Simroid has a number of special features that distinguish her from her sister; she has a mouth loaded with sensors to provide feedback to her students. She begins each session by gamely saying "ahhh." But if she needs to express pain after an unfortunate poke, Simroid grimaces, moves her hands and eyes and says "That hurts."

If the student dentist pokes an instrument too far down Simroid's throat, she exhibits a gag reflex. Although Simroid does not have as many facial expressions as EveR2-Muse, the South Korean humanoid robot, or the gesturing range of Repliee Q1, she seems successful in conveying discomfort.

The intent is to provide students with some training in a context that emphasizes treating the patient as a person (and not just a set of teeth). Simroid plays her part very convincingly (see video).

Simroid's sensors are not limited to her mouth. To make sure that dentists and hygienists know when they inadvertently touch more personal areas, she has a sensor on the breast that keeps track if she has been touched.

I do believe that Simroid and robots like her will have an increasingly important role in training health care professionals. However, I'm not sure whether we will want our dentists trained to work best with patients that are not quite human.

Via Humanoid robot teaches dentists to feel people's pain.

(This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission of Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction.)

Bill Christensen catalogues the inventions, technology and ideas of science fiction writers at his website, Technovelgy. He is a contributor to Live Science.