New Realistic ‘Mikoto’ 3D Printed Medical Simulator Robot Developed in Japan

Realistic 'Mikoto' 3D printed medical training robot developed in Tottori, Japan

Another new healthcare simulation manikin, this time out of Japan, as reported by 3D printer and 3D printing news website, which focuses primarily on endotracheal intubation, gastrointestinal endoscopy, and sputum suctioning. The new device was a collaborative project between Tmsuk R&D Inc., a medical venture firm based in Tottori Prefecture and the Tottori University Hospital in Japan.

Mikoto, which is the Japanese word for “life,” is an extremely lifelike medical simulation robot that was specifically developed to help train young doctors, medical students, and emergency care workers. Not only does the 3D printed robot look and feel real, it is also equipped with special sensors that allow it to give real-time feedback to trainees—in the form of saying “ouch” and gagging. At first glance, it’s easy to mistake the robot for a real boy, as all of its features are uncannily lifelike. Even its interiors are anatomically accurate, as its tongue, esophagus, and windpipe were all based on a patient’s actual organs. In making the simulation robot, the Tmsuk team transformed digital images of the patient’s organs into 3D printed models.

As we’ve seen, the medical sector is turning increasingly towards realistic 3D printed models to train surgeons and simulate medical procedures. In Japan, where most medical learning is still done through textbooks, simulations are also gaining in popularity, as they offer hands-on experience and training, though the simulation models are still relatively limited in their scope. That is, while many medical schools and hospitals are equipped with simulation centers, many of the current training devices and “dolls” are much more rigid than real patients, which creates a discrepancy between what doctors are trained to do and what they actually do when they encounter a real patient.

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Dr. Toshiya Nakano, a neurologist at the University of Tottori’s faculty of medicine, added: “Young doctors used to learn the ropes gradually by observing senior doctors at work and then trying their hand at operating on actual patients. Such styles of training are no longer acceptable. Ensuring patient safety is a top concern.”

The new Mikoto robot thus marks a remarkable step forward for medical simulation equipment. Mikoto is not designed for all types of simulations, however, but is built for three main procedures: endotracheal intubation (a process wherein a patient’s airway is forced open by a tube in the windpipe), gastrointestinal endoscopy (where internal organs are checked using a flexible fiber-optic camera tube), and sputum suctioning. As mentioned, Mikoto is equipped with various sensors which can alert users if they are putting too much pressure on the robot, or if they are choking it. At the end of the simulation, the 3D printed robot also issues a score for the simulation, which is based on data obtained through the sensors as well as the length of the procedure.

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PCMAG Says InTouch Health RP-VITA Best Robot in Show at CES 2013

CES, or the Consumer Electronics Show, is one of the world’s largest annual technology showcases which takes place every January in Las Vegas.  This year, PC Mag rated the iRobot & Intouch RP-VITA medical robot as “BEST ROBOT” at the show, explaining that the “RP-VITA is the first [robot] that can navigate autonomously. The RP-Vita has built-in mapping, obstacle detection, avoidance technology, and an iPad user interface that can connect directly to hospital systems. When a patient rings a call button, the RP-VITA could be dispatched bedside allowing the doctor to evaluate the patient’s condition from anywhere in the world”.

telemedicine robot

The federal government is clearly aware of the opportunity to reduce costs and increase distance medicine as InTouch’s website recently posted an article called “A Legislative Turning Point” because of a new measure sponsored by the U.S. House of Representatives:

“The Telehealth Promotion Act of 2012 (H.R. 6719) brilliantly addresses the two chief roadblocks in telemedicine: reimbursement and licensure. Plus it goes much further, calling for some long-needed improvements to existing programs. If enacted, Thompson’s bill would extend the benefits of telemedicine to nearly 75 million Americans by increasing access through Medicare, Medicaid, the VA, Children’s Health Insurance Program, and other federal programs.”

Obviously, telemedicine is on the frontier of healthcare education which has a lot of potential application for clinical simulation based activities as well.  Through teleconferencing and other virtual reality engagements (like Second Life) healthcare learners could be remotely watch a simulation experience and actively engage in debriefing all in real-time.  Many AudioVisual systems designed to capture simulation will allow for off-site streaming of recorded content.  Mobile units from these companies could conceivably be utilized for streaming debrief room sessions across geographic locations.  Check out the InTouch website news page to learn more about the future applications of telemedicine technology in healthcare.

Check out more of the innovative products showcased at CES 2013 and for further reading on robots in healthcare in general, visit Michelle McNickle’s article “10 Medical Robots That Could Change Healthcare” posted on InformationWeek! Know about an interesting robot with healthcare applications? Post a link in the comments on this articles page.