University Researchers Create Tongue Driven Computer Mouse

A group from Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering has announced the development of a device that is affixed to the teeth and can be controlled by the tongue to manipulate a cursor on a computer screen. Originally developed as a means to assist quadriplegics, the new device, called the Tongue Drive System, might find other uses as well. Disabled and Productive magazine, says the new technology likely will give people with many kinds of disabilities more autonomy and control over their own lives.

According to a paper on the University website, the device works by means of a sensor board affixed to the roof of the mouth using the teeth, similar to a retainer worn by dental patients after having their braces removed. A small magnet is then connected to the tongue, which in real life would likely amount to a piercing. To use the device, the user moves the small magnet around and near four sensors that are attached to the back of the top front teeth. Such control allows for the same movements that can be found with an ordinary desktop mouse. Likewise, sudden tongue movements can be made to indicate pressing a left or right mouse button, and even to drag an object on the screen from one place to another.

In addition to serving as a cursor controller on a computer screen, the Tongue Drive System can also be used to directly control a wheel chair, via an iPhone app, or in future applications, devices that may be used to extend the capabilities of a person attempting to use several controls at the same time. A helicopter pilot for example could control the helicopter with is tongue and feet while using his hands to aim and fire his weapons. Or in simpler applications, such a device could be used to allow computer game players to use both hands and feet and their tongue to control action on the screen. NASA engineers have also shown interest in such a device to allow astronauts walking in space to control devices with more precision then they can achieve with gloved hands.

In the system connected to a wheel chair, the researchers have mounted a special chip enabled screen to the arm of the chair which the user directs with their tongue. It was presented at this year’s IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco and can be seen in action in a video posted by the researchers on YouTube.

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