Tongue-controlled wheelchairs could be in the offing by the end of the year, thanks to a US company. Think-A-Move is using a device made by a couple of engineers from Southern Illinois University, which consists of a simple earpiece that determines how a person is moving their tongue, thanks to a person's Eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the mouth.
The research team asked eight people to perform four basic tongue movementsâ€”up, down, left and rightâ€”one hundred times, while wearing an earplug that contained a microphone pointing into the ear. The device, which works because of the mic's ability detect subtle pressure changes inside the ear, had a 97 per cent success rate.
US wheelchair company Think-A-Move already has a wheelchair control system aimed at quadriplegics controlled by swallows and coughs, but is planning on releasing a wheelchair that uses this system at by the end of the year. Ravi Vaidyanathan, one of the engineers behind the idea, who is now at Southampton University, thinks that a tongue-controlled system will be more hygienic. "It also keeps the mouth free for talking," he claimed.
Earplug provides steer-by-tongue control [New Scientist]