Mikoto robot. Photo via The Japan Times.

Japanese researchers unveil ‘Mikoto’, a realistic medical simulation robot with 3D printed organs

Researchers at the Japanese Tottori University Hospital together with medical company Tmsuk R&D created a medical simulation robot using 3D printing

3D printing assists the medical field once again. This time, it helped giving realistic organs to a robot for medical education purposes; ‘Mikoto’, which means ‘life’ in Japanese, will help to train surgeons and simulate medical procedures among other features. In contrast to traditional medical simulation tools, Mikoto counts on special sensors, enabling it to express pain and gag reflex.

Keep scrolling down if you want to see the video.

A sensitive robot

Mikoto allows a more realistic performance to students; One of the reasons is that creators ‘replicated’ internal organs from a real patient by using digital images and 3D printing. Finally, developers set up these 3D printed realistic organs in the simulation robot.

But Mikoto not only does look absurdly real, it also gives feedback to trainees through scores.

Mikoto’s sensors alert users whether they are putting too much pressure on it or if they are choking it. Next, the robot takes data obtained from sensors and the lenght of the exercise. At the end of each simulation, Mikoto gives to students a final score according to how well and for how long they did proceed.


The animation above shows how the creators used images of real organs (tongue, esophagus and windpipe) and then 3D printed the models.

Mikoto was not designed for all types of simulations, however, but it allows three main procedures. The First is an endotracheal intubation (a patient’s airway is forced open by a tube in the windpipe); the second is a gastrointestinal endoscopy (where internal organs are checked using a flexible fiber-optic camera tube), and sputum suctioning.

Devices like Mikoto are the future of medical simulations

In Japan, medical students still learning the more through textbooks; While medical students need to acquire multiple skills by practice, simulations still have limitations in their scope. Dr. Toshiya Nakano, a neurologist at the University of Tottori’s faculty of medicine, confirms the need of better simulation models.

“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.”.

TRADITIONAL medical simulator
In Japan, while many medical schools and hospitals are equipped with simulation centers, many of the current training devices still more rigid than real patients. There’s a lack of accuracy between how doctors proceed with a stiff and unresponsive ‘puppet’ than when they treat a real patient. The picture shows a conventional medical simulator.

Fortunately, there are more specialists adopting the use of 3D printed lifelike models as surgical guides; A good example could be the case of the twins who born joined at the head. 3D Systems made possible to plan the complex procedure to separate the twins by providing detailed 3D printed models before surgery. Another big step in the medical field, wasn’t it?

Moreover, researchers from Cornell University employed 3D printing to create a robot with sensory feelings.

About Mikoto’s developers

Tmsuk R&D Inc., a Japanese research company that specializes in creating medical robotics, teamed up with the Tottori University Hospital to create Mikoto. Now, the realistic Mikoto robot thus marks a remarkable step forward for medical simulation equipment.

Meanwhile, apart from Mikoto, Tottori Prefecture is also focusing on the development of other medical tech; from adjustable laryngoscopes to mouthpieces for dental surgery. The purposes of Tottori is to become recognized as hub for medical technology while boosting its economy.

Watch the video for more details about this human look-like medical simulation robot.

For me, it is just amusing the accuracy that Mikoto shows in appearance and gestures during the first 10 seconds!

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