'Wheelchair mobility at the tip of the tongue'


Here's a cool story, "Wheelchair mobility at the tip of the tongue," that appeared on CNN's Web site yesterday. It's about a tongue drive wheelchair that's being developed by the Georgia Institute of Technology. The reporter describes the technology this way:

Once he mastered the commands, researchers fitted his tongue with a small magnet, no bigger than a piece of rice. The magnet works like a mouse pad, with the tongue as the cursor. Move the tongue forward and it sends a wireless signal to six sensors in a special headset that cause the wheelchair to move forward. Move the tongue back, and the chair goes into reverse."

When it comes to controlling a wheelchair, why's a tongue better than a keyboard, buttons or a sip and puff device like the one used by Christopher Reeve? One of the researchers working on the technology explains:

These patients, the last thing they want is to look even more different when in a wheelchair. This design helps."

Or take it from 20-year-old Cruise Bogle, who became a paraplegic during a skimboarding accident two years ago:

The wheelchair was pretty crazy. It was awkward at first to control a wheelchair with my tongue, but it got easier as I went on. It is amazing technology, and I can't imagine what else Georgia Tech will turn out in the coming years."

Liz Beaulieu


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