A recent insight has pointed out the benefits of the tongue drive system for people with spinal injuries.
The newest prototype of the system allows users to wear an inconspicuous dental retainer embedded with sensors to control the system. The sensors track the location of a tiny magnet attached to the tongues of users. In earlier versions of the Tongue Drive System, the sensors that track the movement of the magnet on the tongue were mounted on a headset worn by the user.
"By moving the sensors inside the mouth, we have created a Tongue Drive System with increased mechanical stability and comfort that is nearly unnoticeable," said Maysam Ghovanloo, an associate professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
The new intraoral Tongue Drive System was presented and demonstrated on Feb. 20, 2012 at the IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference in San Francisco. Development of the system is supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.
The new dental appliance contains magnetic field sensors mounted on its four corners that detect movement of a tiny magnet attached to the tongue. It also includes a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and an induction coil to charge the battery. The circuitry fits in the space available on the retainer, which sits against the roof of the mouth and is covered with an insulating, water-resistant material and vacuum-molded inside standard dental acrylic.