Friday, November 6, 2009


The Oxford English Dictionary distinguishes between mannequin (a model of a human figure, used for the display of clothes, etc.) and manikin (a model of the human body designed for demonstrating anatomical structure, or for teaching any of various surgical or medical procedures), although the media seem to use the spellings interchangeably. So technically, this post is about the many uses and occasional abuses of manikins.

Manikins have come a long way since Resusci Anne, although she is still used for CPR training. Her manufacturer Laerdal now offers Sim Man 3G, a wireless manikin that breathes, blinks, cries, and has convulsions. A manikin unveiled last month in Tokyo mimics the symptoms of the H1N1 virus, including moaning, sweating, and convulsing. Emergency Care Simulators used by the U.S. Army at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin bleed, breathe, and scream - and can be programmed to have an arm or leg blown off, as if by an IED. Texas Children's Hospital in Houston uses infant manikins in its new Pediatric Simulation Center.

Law enforcement officers experience both the use and misuse of "dummies." Students interested in becoming crime scene investigators train using low-tech manikins at Worcester Technical High School in Maryland. Trainees at the Orange County [Calif.] Sheriff's Office coroner division uses an extremely realistic manikin (photo above) featuring real hair, porous skin, and varicose feet. On the other hand, simulated humans have been used by commuters in many cities to warrant driving in the carpool lane. One prompted a bomb scare in Boston. Another caused police to recover what they thought were human remains from a Connecticut cliff. And a third provoked a water rescue in Portsmouth, England, that distracted a Good Samaritan long enough for thieves to rob him. These are just a few of the devious uses to which simulators have been put.

And I haven't even mentioned crash test dummies...

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