Wheelchair Controlled by Tongue for the Paralyzed

Wheelchair, tongue drive systemParalyzed people are now given independence with the new Tongue Drive System wheelchair. A paper published in Science Translation Medicine talks about how there is a wearable device that will allow paralyzed people to move about by the flick of a tongue. The only downside some may see about this is the need to have your tongue pierced in order to use this specialized wheelchair.

The Tongue Drive System is still in development but is giving hope that someday soon paralyzed victims will be able to move freely with limited help. A man named Jason DiSanto served as a test subject for a similar system called sip-and-puff. DiSanto had to make a sucking sound or quickly exhale to input the commands. The wheelchair responds to four basic commands in which DiSanto delivers with his own breath.

Since this is a new invention still in development it needs a little work before being released publicly. The commands for the chair are not intuitive. There is a straw that sits in the front of the mouth which will relay the orders of the person to the chair. This straw needs regular cleaning to remain sanitary.

DiSanto stated that people already see him in a wheelchair but now he has something covering his face. This brings more attention to his condition and he feels it is another strike against him. DiSanto was involved in an accident four years ago and hasn’t been able to move anything below the shoulders since. He is enthusiastic about a wheelchair being developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology. That wheelchair responds to commands from the individual’s tongue.

There is a headset involved that will interpret movements of a magnet that will be embedded in the tongue. These magnets are compared to trendy tongue piercings people like to get. This sends them to a program on their cellphones which then will drive the chair backwards, forwards, left or right.

This new aged tongue-controlled wheelchair is fairly simple to control and will allow for faster driving than the alternate sip-and-puff version. Eleven disabled patients and twenty-three healthy patients commented in Science Translational Medicine that this version of the wheelchair is a lot easier.

This same system will be used to flick the lights and TV on or off. It will also help to change the thermostat temperature in the house. DiSanto is relieved he will not have to rely on people to do simple household tasks. This gives a sense of independence and privacy. The best part about this wheelchair system is the fact that the control stays with the individual. This allows the person to do household tasks without being in the actual chair. This version is compared to the sip-and-puff system that will not allow the person to use the one on their wheelchair if they are in bed.

It is a huge advantage having technology that is hidden from sight. Unfortunately this device is estimated to cost between $6,000 and $8,000. This is four times the amount of the sip-and-puff system. There are roughly 300,000 Americans who have mobility limitations and this new development will help a great deal of them cope with their immobility. The Tongue Drive System wheelchair is the new technology leading to independence with the disabled and is anticipated to be very successful.

By Anjulina MaComber

ABCNews

USAToday

CSmonitor

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