Science Friday: A Dental Retainer That Operates a Wheelchair

Dental Retainer That Operates a Wheelchair - Image Credit: Maysam GhovanlooDentists, are you ready to program dental retainers?

Researchers at Georgia Tech University have developed a magnetic dental retainer that can operate machinery with the touch of the tongue.

This wireless high-tech dental appliance called a ‘Tongue Drive’ enables people with high-level spinal cord injuries to operate an electrically powered wheelchair and a computer, simply by moving their tongues.

The Tongue Drive System uses a magnetic tongue piercing to command the appliance with the output signals from the retainer sensors being wirelessly transmitted to an iPod or iPhone. Special software installed on the computer interprets the tongue commands by determining the relative position of the tongue magnet with respect to the array of sensors in real-time.

The information is used to control the movements of a cursor on the computer screen or to substitute for the joystick function in a powered wheelchair.

The researchers plan to begin testing the usability of the intraoral Tongue Drive System by able-bodied individuals soon and then move onto clinical trials to test its usability by people with high-level spinal cord injuries, according to Georgia Tech News.

Maysam Ghovanloo, an associate professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology told Georgia Tech News, “During the trials, users have been able to learn to use the system, move the computer cursor quicker and with more accuracy, and maneuver through the obstacle course faster and with fewer collisions. We expect even better results in the future when trial participants begin to use the intraoral Tongue Drive System on a daily basis.”

Now that’s some dental retainer!

For more on this story see: Mouth Gear Tongue Drive System Goes Inside the Mouth to Improve Performance and User Comfort

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