Tongue piercing as a stick for wheelchairs

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How a wheelchair can be controlled with the tongue

Tongue piercing will control computers and wheelchairs in the future. US researchers have developed the technology to benefit people whose arms and legs are paralyzed. In the scientific magazine "Science Translational Medicine" they explain how tongue piercing works.

Tongue commands are transmitted to the wheelchair via an iPod. A small tongue piercing enables the tongue position to be determined, to which certain commands are linked. The changed position of the tongue is recorded using the changes in magnetic fields via sensors. The researchers led by Maysam Ghovanloo from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta developed the system with which paraplegics, who often cannot move their arms or legs, can control a wheelchair. The tongue commands go to an iPod, which sends the commands to a wheelchair or a computer.

To test the new technology, eleven paraplegics and 23 healthy people tested the functionality of tongue piercing. Among other things, they had to enter a telephone number with the tongue control, click on certain objects on the computer and complete an obstacle course in an electric wheelchair. "All key figures improved in the course of the study," the researchers write in the specialist magazine. The study participants were already familiar with the technology after half an hour.

"The flexibility of the 'Tongue Drive System' (TDS) and the inherent properties of the human tongue gave people with severe motor impairments access to computers and controlled wheelchairs at speeds that were faster than conventional assistive technologies but still achieved their accuracy," report Ghovanloo and colleagues.

A few weeks ago, researchers from Göttingen presented a wheelchair control that is controlled by ear muscles. The test subjects trained the use of the ear muscles using software. (ag)

Image: Dieter Schütz /

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Video: Tongue piercing lets you steer a wheelchair

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