For quadriplegics to have more of a sense of independent mobility with wheelchairs, researchers at Georgia Tech are working on a prototype called the "Tongue Drive System", which, like it sounds, allows the user to control his or her wheelchair with specific motions of the tongue.
Using what is described as a "clinical tongue piercing", where the tongue ring would include a magnetic material, the wearer touches sensors on an inconspicuous retainer inside the mouth for specific motions.
According to Georgia Tech, this prototype is an improvement on previous technology that required the user to wear a clunky headset.
"One of the problems we encountered with the earlier headset was that it could shift on a user’s head and the system would need to be recalibrated,” explained Ghovanloo in a statement. “Because the dental appliance is worn inside the mouth and molded from dental impressions to fit tightly around an individual’s teeth with clasps, it is protected from these types of disturbances.”
The commands given from the tongue to move the wheelchair in a specific way are wirelessly picked up by an iPod or iPhone to control the wheelchair, substituting moving a wheelchair's joystick.
“During the trials, users have been able to learn to use the system, move the computer cursor quicker and with more accuracy, and maneuver through the obstacle course faster and with fewer collisions,” said Ghovanloo. “We expect even better results in the future when trial participants begin to use the intraoral Tongue Drive System on a daily basis.”
[H/T Popular Science]