The tongue = a remote control?

Published on February 21st, 2012
The tongue = a remote control?

The tongue is a pretty useful muscle. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to talk or taste, and funny faces just wouldn’t be the same …

But now, thanks to a group of smart scientists at America’s Georgia Institute of Technology, the tongue has found a new, inspiring use: moving an electric wheelchair. Seriously.

Huh?!? But how?

The Tongue Drive is a wireless device that lets people with spinal cord injuries use nothing but their tongues to maneuver a wheelchair. But how do you turn the tongue into a remote control? First, a magnet must be attached to the wearer’s tongue, either by sticking it on or by piercing the person’s tongue (eina!). Then, a high-tech retainer, or plate, is fitted under the roof of the person’s mouth – just like the one you have to wear when you get your braces off.

Inside the retainer are tiny sensors that detect the magnet’s movements and send wireless signals to an iPod or iPhone. This can be connected to an electric wheelchair or computer, allowing the Tongue Drive to maneuver a wheelchair or even move an on-screen mouse cursor. Different tongue movements can be programmed to represent different commands, allowing paralysed people to move around on their own and operate a PC. Awesome!

But why the tongue?

According to Maysam Ghovanloo, associate professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the tongue was the perfect muscle because it’s connected directly to the brain and therefore won’t be affected by a spinal cord injury. Plus, the tongue can be moved around quickly and accurately, without requiring too much concentration or effort.

Wanna test your tongue?

How fast and accurate is your mouth muscle? To find out, try saying these tongue-twisters as fast and as many times as you can …

  • Unique, New York, Unique, New York.
  • He threw three free throws.
  • Which wristwatch is a Swiss wristwatch?