Tongue-Controlled Wheelchair Outperforms Popular Sip-And-Puff System

After a 2009 diving accident left Jason DiSanto paralyzed from the neck down, he had to learn how to navigate life from a powered wheelchair, which he controls with a sip-and-puff system. Users sip or puff air into a straw mounted on their wheelchair to execute four basic commands that drive the chair. Results from a new clinical study suggest that sip-and-puff users like DiSanto could gain a higher level of independence with a tongue-controlled technology. In the study, paralyzed individuals used Georgia Tech's wireless and wearable Tongue Drive System to access computers and execute commands for their wheelchairs at much faster speeds than those recorded in sip-and-puff wheelchairs, but with equal accuracy. The Tongue Drive System is controlled by the position of the user's tongue. A magnetic tongue stud lets them use their tongue as a joystick to drive the wheelchair. Sensors in the tongue stud relay the tongue's position to a headset, which then executes up to six commands.