People with paralysis could drive this wheelchair using their tongues and a smartphone

A new assistive technology under development could someday offer people living with paralysis an interesting trade-off — to get their tongue pierced in exchange for having a better way to control their wheelchairs. Georgia Tech professor Maysam Ghovanloo founded a startup that’s working with the university to test a tongue-drive wheelchair. It works like this: […]

A new assistive technology under development could someday offer people living with paralysis an interesting trade-off — to get their tongue pierced in exchange for having a better way to control their wheelchairs.

Georgia Tech professor Maysam Ghovanloo founded a startup that’s working with the university to test a tongue-drive wheelchair. It works like this: A magnet is attached to the tongue of a person who’s lost all movement in his or her arms and legs, and a sensor headset is worn.  As the tongue moves, the sensor picks up the precise movement of the magnet, sends it to a smartphone program which in turn sends a signal to the wheelchair to move in that direction.

In a study recently published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the system’s developers tested it on small groups of able-bodied volunteers and paralyzed individuals. According to Ghovanloo, subjects performed three times as well using the system as with traditional sip-and-puff assistive devices.

With that being said, there’s still a long way to go in refining the system and demonstrating its benefit before it could be used commercially by patients who have had spinal cord injuries.

Read more about it here.

[Image credit: Georgia Tech]