On Tongue-Controlled Wheelchairs and Quadriplegics

Jacob Kastrenakes, writing for The Verge:

Researchers are developing a method for quadriplegics to control wheelchairs and mouse cursors using only the movement of their tongue, and it's turning out to be far more effective than one of the most popular current control schemes. Researchers from Georgia Tech have been working on a tongue-based control system since 2005, and in their latest trial runs, they're finding that it's a significantly more accurate way to issue commands than one existing and popular method. "It's really easy to understand what the Tongue Drive System can do and what it is good for," Maysam Ghovanloo, the research's principal investigator, says in a statement. "Now, we have solid proof that people with disabilities can potentially benefit from it."


TDS is controlled by a small, magnetic tongue piercing. Right now, an external headset is used to detect how the magnet is moved about within the mouth, but a new method is in development that will sense its movement on a retainer-like device with embedded sensors. Both the headset and mouthpiece work by sending the data to a computer — in this case, an iPod — which translates it into directions for the wheelchair or mouse cursor. Though there are a number of other systems that can be used to issue such commands using just the head, Ghovanloo says that one major advantage of TDS is that when paired with the mouthpiece, no one can tell that any device is in use. "Having it hidden inside the mouth is a big, big plus," Ghovanloo tells The Verge. "It totally eliminates any risk of stigma."

Very cool technology, reminiscent of the Switch Control feature in iOS 7.