Tongue Piercing As A Mobility Aid
Researchers are testing a new method for operating wheelchairs using a magnetic tongue stud. Designed for people who have severe movement disabilities and can’t use a hand controller, it provides a possible improvement over existing methods.
Currently the most common way for quadriplegics to control wheelchairs and computers is through a Sip-and-Puff interface where users suck and blow on a straw. It takes a fair bit of training to use. The tongue stud uses a more intuitive control method (flicking your tongue in the direction you want to go) and in tests is just as accurate, yet faster than other methods. As the scientists point out, the tongue is incredibly nimble and essentially tireless. (Though it does hurt a hell of a lot to get a hole punched through it.)
A headset tracks the location of the magnetic stud and uses the movement to direct a wheelchair, move a mouse, or control pretty much anything. The scientists have some thoughts about reducing the headset to something less obvious. Most people who use disability aids are understandably sensitive about the stigma of hauling around bulky, weird technology. Moving the method of control from a straw hanging in their face (and which is weirdly fascinating to watch someone use) to inside the mouth where it can be operated in stealth is one way of helping with that stigma.
Of course what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. What kinds of things could people who have full control of their limbs do with this? Control a robotic tail, transmit commands to a personal drone, or answer phone calls?