Finding live human volunteers willing to play guinea pig for first-year dental students is surely no easy task. Nervous, unsteady hands, drills, needle-sharp probes — sounds like a recipe for disaster.

However, roboticists at Japan's Showa University say they have perfected a life-like dental training robot that blinks and flinches just like a real patient.

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Revealed last week at a press conference in Japan, the "Showa Hanako 2" is set to be let loose on first year dental students.


First developed 10 years ago by a research team at Showa, this eerily life-like robot is capable of sneezing, head shaking, coughing, mimicking gagging and snapping a mouth shut like a real patient's involuntary reflex. The dentist trainee can even hold down simple conversation with the robot, being that "Showa Hanako 2" is equipped with voice recognition technology.

Quite possibly the most convincing element of the robot's appearence is the skin, made of silicone. Designers tapped Japan's top sex doll manufacturer, Orient Industry, to help make Showa Hanako 2's skin, tongue and mouth.

But the robot's worth goes beyond the dental chair. After the check-up is finished the robot is not only capable of storing and analyzing each student's performance, but able to provide feedback through a computer link. Showa Hanako 2 is slated to go on sale in Japan later this year for an undisclosed amount of money. Open wide.