The National Science Foundation has awarded a grant to GA Tech Research Corporation at the GA Institute of Technology for an innovative technology that lets the user move wheelchairs and mouse cursors with their tongue. A team of engineers at the GA Tech Research Corporation has developed a wireless and wearable assistive technology that can convert the user's tongue motions to specific commands such as moving a mouse cursor or a powered wheelchair.
In testing the advanced prototypes, individuals with high-level spinal cord injuries and other severe disabilities were able to move objects with ease. In one trial individuals with spinal cord injuries showed that the average speed of information transfer between participants and the computer was 95 bits/min--more than twice the bandwidth of the fastest brain-computer interfaces that have been tested on human subjects.
More from the NSF site:
"A team at the Georgia Institute of Technology, led by Maysam Ghovanloo, developed the system, which uses magnetic-field sensors mounted on a headset to detect a small magnetic tracer the size of a grain of rice on an individual's tongue. A novel signal-processing algorithm running on a laptop that wirelessly receives the measured magnetic fields associates the subject's tongue position to a set of six user-defined command positions within their mouth in real time. For example, subjects can touch one of their incisors with the tip of the tongue to move the wheelchair forward or one of their left molars to move a mouse cursor to the left."
The subjects also had immediate and full control over a powered wheelchair and were able to perform complex wheelchair navigation, such as driving through an obstacle course. Future development of the Tongue Drive System will include increasing the number of commands, and turning the tongue "into a joystick" by adding proportional control capabilities, and incorporating all the electronics in a dental retainer that can be hidden from sight.