by Tanya Thomas on  July 4, 2009 at 10:13 AM General Health News
 Wheelchairs Controlled by Tongues for Patients With Spinal Cord Injury
Thanks to an upgraded wheelchair that scientists have developed, persons with spinal cord injury may be able to use it easily. A novel headset that can precisely control a wheelchair or computer using the tongue is on the anvil for such patients.

The "tongue drive", being trialled at Georgia Tech University, Atlanta, could also give astronauts a third hand in difficult situations like spacewalks.

Invented by electrical engineer Maysam Ghovanloo and Xueliang Huo, the device works by using two sensors to track a 5-millimetre-wide magnet attached to the tip of the user's tongue.

The magnet is attached to a person's tongue using surgical adhesive.

The sensors - implanted in a wireless headset - accept fluctuations in the strength of the magnetic field as the tongue moves, and transmit the signals on to a computer, where they are interpreted and acted upon.

By moving the tongue in predefined patterns, the user can steer a cursor on a screen, direct a wheelchair, and can even on switch on a TV.

Conventional methods include "sip and puff" devices, which are operated by blowing or sucking on a straw held in front of the mouth.

However, according to the Ghovanloo, tongue-drive system can accept a wider variety of commands.

"Some don't like their sip and puff because it sits right in front of their face, and is like a signal of their disability," New Scientist magazine quoted Ghovanloo as saying.

"Our design can be made less conspicuous," Ghovanloo added.

The researchers say that they are in talks with a dental expert about installing them into a plastic retainer that fits inside the user's teeth.

Source: ANI

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