Tongue-driven wheelchair: New Hope for Paralyzed wheelchair users

This Device is letting paralyzed people with new hopes as they can drive a wheelchair just by flicking their tongue in the direction of their desire. It’s been a long time since Engineers have been working on wheelchairs to provide the users with comfort using it. The examples of their expertise are the carbon fiber wheelchair, the mind-controlled, and the eye-maneuvered wheelchairs. Opening a new door to the disabled wheelchair community.  This technology was developed by a team of electrical engineers in Georgia Institute of Technology. The device is designed with several sensors holding dental retainers, to allow the persons with severe spinal cord injuries to control or move an electric wheelchair using their tongue. 

For this Tongue Driven Device to work, the users need to get their tongue pierced with a magnetic stud just like an ornament which acts like a joystick, a high-tech dental retainer is placed against the hard palate of the mouth, sensors or magnetic field indicators are implanted onto the device and are mounted on both upper and lower corners of the mouth, helping in detecting the location or movement of the magnetic stud.  The device is powered by a lithium-ion battery and to recharge it, an induction coil is used.  The team has used a water-resistant material to protect sensors from saliva and other liquid that passes through the mouth. Care is also taken by the team to avoid any feeling of discomfort by the users wearing the dental device, for this they shaped the implants from dental impressions to fit perfectly to the person’s teeth. Clips are included in the system to help hold them in place. 

An iPod touch or iPhone are used to wirelessly transmit the collected signals from a sensor. A specially installed software on the Apple device helps in locating the location of the magnate studded tongue with the sensors as they are arranged.  This software is also capable of interpreting the commands from a user.  All the signals from the sensors are used as a substitute to a joystick function in an electric wheelchair. An Intra-oral high-tech appliance has been created by the team which is a suniversal interface that connects to a standard battery-powered wheelchair.  The below mentioned are the functions of the interface.

  • Holding the apple device used (iPhone or iPod touch).
  • Signals and data are received and transmitted wirelessly to the Apple device.
  • Dental retainer are charged.
  • It features a special container which helps to hold the retainer in place letting the user leave the device for charging overnight. 

For now, the Tongue Drive System is yet to be tested on people with spinal cord injuries. The team is planning to test their invention on able bodied persons to evaluate its usability which can help the team for the product’s further improvement.


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