Tongue piercing allows paralysed to operate wheelchairs from their mouth
The experimental device is less inconvenient than current systems and can be used just as accurately
Thursday 28 November 2013
Researchers in America have revealed an innovative device that gives paralysed individuals a new way to control their wheelchairs.
A magnetic tongue piercing acts as a joystick, allowing the wearers to control their wheelchair using their tongue as a joystick.
The device was compared with the current leading assistive technology for the paralyzed known as the sip-and-puff. Compared to this straw-like interface, the piercing was found to be just as accurate and a little bit faster.
"It's really powerful because it's so intuitive," said Jason DiSanto, a 39-year-old who was among the first spinal cord injury patients to try get his tongue pierced to put the system through its paces. "The first time I did it, people thought I was driving for, like, years."
The research was led by Maysam Ghovanloo, director of Georgia Tech's bionics lab, who oversaw the 11 testers as they used the device to navigate a specially designed obstacle course.
The piercing works in tandem with a headset, used to detect the position of the tongue. As the user moves their tongue in the mouth, the headset (and an associated app) then translates these movements into instructions for the wheelchair.
Ghovanloo, a biomedical engineer currently working with the Georgia Tech university to commercialise the system, said that he decided to use the tongue as a controller as it is “unobstrusive, easy to use and flexible.”
Paralyzed patient Jason Disanto pilots a wheelchair using the Tongue Drive System at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Image credit: Reuters.
Ghovanloo also noted that moving the tongue did not require any particular concentration and that as our brains dedicate nearly as much cerebral real estate to the tongue as they do our hands, allowing it a particularly expansive range of movements.
Dr. Brad Dicianno, a rehabilitation specialist uninvolved with the research from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, commented: “For people who have very limited ability to control a power wheelchair, there aren't that many options. There is some interesting promise for this tongue control.”
The study, reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine, found that all the volunteers in the study preferred the piercing to their regular device, but some individuals had dropped out of the tests, worrying that a piercing wasn’t suitable for their profession.
DiSanto also noted that the device took “some getting used to”; taking a week to heal and initially making eating and drinking an unusual experience. Another participant reported that the piercing simply fell out.
Paralyzed patient Jason Disanto's tongue is pierced in order for him to pilot a wheelchair using the Tongue Drive System at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Image credit: Reuters.
The researchers though are enthusiastic about the device’s potential, and Ghovanloo has outlined plans to expand the software’s functionality, allowing users to also control their TV or lights with a flick of the tongue. He’s also worked to reduce the size of the headset, allowing to work as a dental retainer instead.
DiSanto is one of the users that has already signed up to the next round of testing. "Somebody that's in a wheelchair already has a stigma," he said.
"If there was something that could be developed to control my wheelchair and the environment around me, to make me more independent without having to have medical devices coming out of my mouth, it would be a huge benefit."
Additional reporting by the Associated Press
Life & Style blogs
Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
Manuel Noriega fails in bid to sue Call of Duty makers for using his likeness in video game
Sex with more than 20 women 'reduces risk of prostate cancer'
Six months on bail – for being sent spoof video of a ‘tiger’ having sex, that was really a man in a tiger suit
The post-porn wave: why some young people are shunning videos of misogynistic sex
Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God is not 'a magician with a magic wand'
Huge surge in Ukip support after EU funding row, according to new poll
Ukip ‘exploiting grooming scandal’ to secure party’s first police chief
Nigel Farage: 'There’s nothing wrong with white people blacking up'
Muslims, immigration and teenage pregnancy: British people are ignorant about almost everything
Nigel Farage and Frankie Boyle clash over Andrew Lawrence's 'Mock the Week' criticism
- 1 'Nasa Confirms Six Days of Darkness in December': No, they don't - it's a hoax
- 2 Number of global billionaires has doubled since the financial crisis
- 3 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
- 4 Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
- 5 North Korean officials 'publicly executed for watching South Korean soap operas'
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
£25 - 32k DOE: Guru Careers: A digital-savvy Marketing Account Manager / Clien...
£23-30k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking bright Business Developmen...
25-30k + Comms + Benefits: Sphere Digital Recruitment: A rapidly expanding tag...
£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our large organisa...