The Unique Tongue Drive

Originally published June, 2008:

Magnetic Control: Tongue Drive System Allows Individuals with Disabilities to Operate Powered Wheelchairs and Computers

Engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a system that could help individuals with severe disabilities lead more independent lives. Called the Tongue Drive, the novel system allows people with disabilities to operate a computer, control a powered wheelchair and interact with their environments. Attaching a small magnet, the size of a grain of rice, to an individual’s tongue by implantation, piercing or tissue adhesive allows tongue motion to direct the movement of a cursor across a computer screen or a powered wheelchair around a room.

Movement of the magnetic tracer attached to the tongue is detected by an array of magnetic field sensors mounted on a headset outside the mouth or on an orthodontic brace inside the mouth. The sensor output signals are wirelessly transmitted to a portable computer, which can be carried on the user’s clothing or wheelchair. The system can potentially capture a large number of tongue movements, each of which can represent a different user command. A unique set of specific tongue movements can be tailored for each individual based on the user’s abilities, oral anatomy, personal preferences and lifestyle. The Tongue Drive system is also non-invasive and does not require brain surgery like some of the brain-computer interface technologies.

The full article can be found on the Georgia Tech Research News website, with quotes from the researchers and pictures of the device in operation.

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