Do you think you’re too old for a tongue piercing? Or maybe you think such things have no useful purpose? Think again! A project under development at Northwestern University would introduce a new mobility aid onto the market—one which uses a pierced tongue to control a wheelchair, hands-free!
Users of the Tongue Drive system would wear a headset which can track the movement of a magnetic stud in their tongue. Moving the stud forward in their mouth would drive the wheelchair forward, moving it to the left would drive the wheelchair left, and so on. This system could even be expanded in such a way that might turn the user’s teeth into a sort of remote control, where touching a certain tooth with their tongue might turn on the television or answer a ringing phone.
Such an advance in the technology of mobility would phenomenally increase the quality of life for those bound in a wheelchair or even a transport chair. Movement over time would become intuitive and easy—no more tired arms, no more depending on an assistant for mobility. A simple flick of the tongue would be all that was needed to perform a wide range of daily activities.
The system is now in clinical trials in three locations around the US. Dr. Maysam Ghovanloo, the inventor of the tongue stud control system, has worked on it for five years before beginning tests in two Chicago institutes as well as the Sheperd Center of Atlanta. He plans for the system to be easy to control for those who tire quickly, and also more aesthetically pleasing than other current systems like the “sip and puff” air tube. If all goes well, those reliant on anything from a light folding transport wheelchair to a heavy duty Medline wheelchair will soon have something to look forward to.