iOS-linked Tongue Drive System hands over wireless control to the paralysed

Gadgets are extremely personal, if not selfish devices. How many of us need that remote controlled vacuum cleaner, or Bluetooth backscratcher? When does a gadget shift from impersonal, to life-changing? The Tongue Drive System, an iOS-controlled wireless device for the paralysed, does precisely that.

US-based university Georgia Tech is hard at work on the Tongue Drive System, which lets patients with spinal cord injuries enjoy full control of their gadgets, and has the potential to become the centre of an automated home.

The TDS had a troubled gestation period, with previous iterations of the device labelled as “grotesque” according to users of the now antiquated hardware.

The team at Georgia Tech have lovingly slaved over an orthodontic prototype which mounts in the upper palette of the mouth. The orthodontic resembles a standard retainer, albeit with the technical wizardry required to remotely operate iOS devices. The user morphs into a joystick courtesy of an embedded magnet in the middle of the tongue.

The image gives a clearer picture of how the TDS operates. Like an organic mouse, clicking is performed by wagging the tongue. The X and Y axis are then linked to the four sides of the mouth. This magic is care of sensors which interpret positional data. Initial tests will focus on able-bodied users. Clinical trials begin open successful completion of the able-bodied tests. The road to freedom is paved with tongue-controlled iOS intentions.

Steven Norris: grumpy curmudgeon


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