Georgia Tech’s Tongue Drive System (via GT)

There is a limited selection when it comes to wheelchairs that can be self-driven and maneuvered by quadriplegics. Controlling them usually consists of ‘breath-power’, where the user blows or inhales into a tube and the pressure is translated into movement. Researchers and engineers have been designing and developing new systems that allow those without the use of their limbs to control their wheelchairs without the need of assistance.


Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair, for example, is outfitted with a tablet computer that allows him to move and interact with appliances using an infrared switch (located on his glasses) to move a curser and select the appropriate app for interaction. Interactive Dynamics (Buenos Aires) is developing a thought-controlled chair that allows its users to move using a neural headset, however further development is needed before it’s fully realized.


Until that chair becomes available, engineers from Georgia Tech have designed a new method of self-propulsion that involves the use of the user’s tongue and tests have shown that it’s faster and more efficient than breath-powered setups. Known as the ‘Tongue Drive System’, the device uses a magnetic stud positioned on the users tongue for navigation and interaction (yes interaction as well). Sensors positioned on either side of the users head track the magnetic stud’s position, which acts like a biological joystick of sorts.


The tongue’s position is then translated into movement, allowing users to navigate their wheelchairs independently. The engineers also found that the magnetic tongue stud could also control curser movement, allowing users to interact with computer. Through a series of tests, the engineers found that their TDS system proved more efficient and easier to use over other systems currently on the market. It’s the engineers hope that their system can be refined enough to bring the technology to the market sometime in 2015.



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