Tongue Pierce Lets The Paralyzed Drive Wheelchairs

By: AP -- (posted by Greg Palmer)
By: AP -- (posted by Greg Palmer)

WASHINGTON (AP) An experimental device is letting paralyzed people drive wheelchairs simply by flicking their tongue in the right direction. But they had to get their tongue pierced first.

The system is being developed by a Georgia Tech engineer, in hopes of offering the severely disabled more mobility and independence. Wednesday, researchers reported that 11 people paralyzed from the neck down rapidly learned to use the Tongue Drive System to pilot wheelchairs through an obstacle course. And the device operated a computer, too.

Here's how the system works: The tongue is pierced with a magnetic stud that resembles jewelry. A headset detects the tongue's position when the user flicks that stud. The headset beams that information to a smartphone. An app then commands the wheelchair or computer cursor to move.

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