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Watch your Tongue!

August 26 2008 | by

Tongue Drive System

I’m always on the lookout for new devices. This one could revolutionize the field of assistive technology. It’s called the Tongue Drive System. It’s a tongue control pad, currently in advanced research at Georgia Tech, that could potentially be used to help quadriplegics control more of their equipment, including a computer, a wheelchair and any assistive technology they might use. The tongue is a serious muscle, and is attached to the brain, not the spinal cord, which is why it will work for those disabled from the neck down. TDS works by placing a magnet under the tip of the tongue, and the tongue operates like a virtual mouse, sending data to a receiver worn on the top of the head. The data is processed by software that converts the movement into commands. Researchers also envision moving beyond the tongue to “turn teeth into keyboards and cheeks into computer consoles,” according to the Associated Press. Sure, the prototype is ugly, but early prototypes usually are. Design and software gurus will eventually be swept in to make TDS a viable option to the ‘sip and puff’ system (issuing commands by inhaling and exhaling into a tube). I like the fact that the magnet is removable. I can’t imagine it being very comfortable, but I hope I’m proven wrong. (Look closely to see the man’s tongue in the photo.) This research is being funded by grants from the NSF and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, and I’m confident we’ll see sprouts of success for this system.

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