Tongue-driven wheelchairs for paralyzed people

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

tongue drive system
The Tongue Drive System lets users control their wheelchairs like never before.

When people suffer from paralysis, portions of their body cannot move. If they’re a quadriplegic, their entire torso might be motionless, including arms and legs. Imagine how challenging life would be when everything below your neck is paralyzed! Fortunately, breath-controlled wheelchairs have provided a way for the disabled to navigate about.

Now, Georgia Tech researchers believe they’ve created an even better steering method, with the Tongue Drive System (TDS)! The wearable TDS uses a magnetic tongue piercing as a joystick, allowing more logical and accurate movement. Tests so far have only been performed inside hospitals and laboratories, but Georgia Tech hopes that the TDS will eventually be used to help quadriplegics on a worldwide scale.

The system, which was created by a team from the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, tracks the magnetic tongue stud with a wireless headpiece. Its unique configuration allows users to communicate six instructions with their tongue’s positioning. Study co-author Maysam Ghovanloo explains, “It attests to how quickly and accurately you can move your tongue.”

Images courtesy of Georgia Tech and Maysam Ghovanloo.