The Tongue Drive System is a wireless device that enables people with high-level spinal cord injuries to operate a computer and maneuver an electrically powered wheelchair by moving their tongues. The latest prototype of the system, developed at Georgia Tech, allows users to wear an inconspicuous dental retainer embedded with sensors to control the system. The sensors track the location of a tiny magnet attached to the tongues of users. In earlier versions of the Tongue Drive System, the sensors that track the movement of the magnet on the tongue were mounted on a headset worn by the user.

“By moving the sensors inside the mouth, we have created a Tongue Drive System with increased mechanical stability and comfort that is nearly unnoticeable,” said Maysam Ghovanloo, an associate professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The new intraoral Tongue Drive System contains magnetic field sensors mounted on its four corners that detect movement of a tiny magnet attached to the tongue. It includes a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and an induction coil to charge the battery. When in use, the output signals from the sensors are wirelessly transmitted to an iPod or iPhone. Software installed on the iPod interprets the user’s tongue commands by determining the relative position of the magnet with respect to the array of sensors in real-time. This 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.

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