You may love your tongue piercing, or perhaps you once made it clear to your kids that they wouldn’t have one as long as they were living under your roof. But they may someday be instrumental in helping folks who have lost the function of their arms and legs in getting around on a daily basis.
Scientists at Georgia Tech have developed the Tongue Drive System — it uses a magnetic tongue stud and a series of magnetic sensors, attached to an inconspicuous retainer held in the roof of the mouth, to allow the patient to use their tongue to pilot their motorized wheelchair. As the stud moves across the sensors, the retainer transmits the movement to an iPod or iPad. The Apple device then determines the stud’s position relative to the various sensors, and controls the wheelchair directly by either controlling the positions of a cursor on a touch screen or by substituting for the function of a joystick.
This gives the system several advantages over the current “sip and puff” technology:
- · it allows the patient to be more discreet in controlling the chair
- · it can be programmed with as many commands as the patient can remember
- · all the commands are available to the patient at the same time
- · patients usually become proficient and accurate faster
The scientists have created a universal interface so the Tongue Drive System can be attached to any motorized wheelchair. The system is currently in a clinical trial, and being tested among 11 patients.