Tongue Drive System Lets Persons with Disabilities Operate Powered Wheelchairs
Posted Apr 01 2009 12:00am
A new assistive technology device, called the Tongue Drive system, could revolutionize the way powered wheelchairs are operated. The system, developed by engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, allows people with disabilities to easily operate a powered wheelchair using simple tongue movements.
Tongue Drive works by implanting a small magnetic tracer, about the size of a grain of rice, into the powered wheelchair users tongue via implantation, piercing, or tissue adhesive. When the magnetic tracer is moved, it is detected by a field of sensors that are mounted on either a headset worn outside the mouth or an orthodontic brace worn inside of the wheelchair user's mouth. These magnetic tracers broadcast a signal wirelessly to a portable computer that can be carried on the wheelchair. This information is then used to move the powered wheelchair, omitting the need for a joystick.
The researchers said that they chose the tongue to operate the system because the tongue is directly connected to the brain by a cranial nerve that typically doesn't get damaged in severe spinal cord injuries and neuromuscular diseases. Another reason is because tongue movements are fast and people do not have to concentrate very hard to make them.
The system was tested on six able-bodied testers and the outcome was pretty astounding. The results showed a response time of less than one second with almost 100 percent accuracy. The next step is to test the system on people with severe disabilities.
Here at Orbit Medical we are constantly striving to stay up-to-date with the latest and greatest powered wheelchair innovations. We are excited about the possibility of more people gaining independence through the assistance of a powered wheelchair. If you have any questions or would like Orbit Medical to help you get a powered wheelchair, contact one of our Mobility Specialists today!