We have all seen tongue piercing as a fashion statement, but very soon, we will see its use in navigating a wheelchair. A latest invention will allow the paralyzed person to drive a wheelchair employing their tongue. The wheelchair has been tested with tetraplegia patients (paralysis of all the four limbs) enabling them to drive through obstacles successfully using just their tongue for steering.
Maysam Ghovanloo an electrical engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and his team designed the wheelchair with the sole aim of giving independence and hence a better life to paralyzed person. The wheelchair available now for the tertaplegia person uses the sipping and puffing air, which is slow in taking the command as compared to tongue drive system, needs regular maintenance and can be a problem for patient with respiratory ailment. Also wheelchair navigation using brain signal, eye movement or speech command require a camera or devise to be placed in front of the face making it difficult to observe and navigate and so could not perform as better as tongue drive system.
The tongue driven wheelchair consists of a headset and a barbell tongue piercing. The titanium barbell tongue piercing has a magnet embedded in it and the headset has a wireless sensor, which measure the variation in the magnetic field whenever the person moves its tongue. This variation in the magnetic field is send to an ipod or smartphone, which in turn instruct the wheelchair or a computer cursor to move in the direction as indicated by the tongue. This tongue drive system also assisted the tetraplegia patients in performing other task like dialing a number, playing video games and navigating the wheelchair through path with numerous obstacles.
The wheelchair prototype has been tested with 11 paralyzed person and 23 able bodied persons. Every participants was given the magnetic tongue piercing and half an hour training. It was noticed all the participants could use the tongue drive system with ease and the performance improved with every trail. These test gave ideas to the researchers like to ignore the tongue movement while speaking as the during talking the tongue moves only back and forth. However while eating it moves in all direction and so the tongue drive system can be put in a stand by mode while eating by holding the tongue against cheeks for 3 seconds and then restart the system in the same way.
The tongue driven wheelchair is still in developing phase as the researcher are trying to fit the entire device inside the mouth, eliminating the headset completely and making wheelchair bound person more independent and also reducing the cost of health care for the patient’s family. We will have to wait a little till the prototype gets completely tested and the idea get approved from the Food and Drug administration.
Source: Discovery News