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Patients Drive New Wheelchair With Their Tongues

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The new Tongue Drive System.

The new system, which allows paralyzed patients to navigate their worlds with their (pierced) tongues, is less obtrusive and more efficient than most existing assistive systems.

Credit: Maysam Ghovanloo

Georgia Tech researchers have developed the Tongue Drive System (TDS), a wearable system that enables paralyzed people to control wheelchairs with just flicks of their pierced tongues.

The researchers say TDS could help patients disabled from the neck down access their worlds much more easily than they can with current assistive systems.

The TDS system involves a magnetic tongue stud that relays the wearer's tongue movements to a headset, which sends the commands to a smartphone or other Wi-Fi connected device. "This is one assistive device for your entire daily life," says Georgia Tech professor Maysam Ghovanloo.

The researchers are hoping to develop an even smaller version of the device, called iTDS, that could disappear entirely into a patient's mouth and "eliminate the risk of stigma" of having a tongue stud, Ghovanloo notes.

During testing, the researchers compared TDS to another popular assistive system known as sip-and-puff. In one trial, the participants were timed driving their wheelchairs around a series of obstacles and making certain maneuvers, using both TDS and sip-and-puff.

The researchers found that TDS is, on average, three times faster than sip-and-puff, and just as accurate.

From Christian Science Monitor
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Abstracts Copyright © 2013 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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