• Tongue piercings could be used to control technology
    Electronic wheelchairs could soon be controlled through tongue movements

IT Solutions

Tongue piercings could be used to control technology

Nov 28 2013

New technology has allowed body piercings to be used to control computers and wheelchairs. Scientists believe that the revolutionary move could alter the way that people who are paralysed from the neck down are able to function within the world. 

A study that was performed by US scientists and published in the journal 'Science Translational Medicine' reveals that a magnet placed in a tongue piercing can be used to control computers and wheelchairs through subtle movements. Sensors are used to pick up the movements and then changed into commands that can control a number of electronic devices.

Researchers from the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology developed a headset that contains the sensors and a piercing that looks similar to standard body jewellery that holds the magnet. Clinical trials were undertaken, in which individuals who are affected by tetraplegia - paralysis in all four limbs - used the technology to perform tasks.

It was found that the participants were able to complete certain technological tasks three-times faster and with the same level of accuracy as other technologies that have been developed to aid those suffering from paralysis - such as the sip-and-puff system. 

The 33 participants - 23 of whom were able bodied and 11 were paralysed - were hooked up to the technology, which was set to control a computer or wheelchair from six different areas of the mouth. Simple movements, such as moving the tongue to the right cheek to make the wheelchair turn right were tested with a good level of success.

The Tongue Drive System was found to be easy to use, with all 33 participants understanding how to use the navigation system after a training session that lasted only 30 minutes. Performance was found to improve over the course of several weeks. Participants were able to use the technology to dial phone numbers, steer the wheelchair through an obstacle course and play video games.

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