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VR Interfaces: Tongue Drive


Overview of Tongue Drive
An assistive technology developed by engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, tongue drive is an attempt to bypass the need for brain computer interfaces in motion control for severe disabilities.

It allows individuals to operate a computer, control a powered wheelchair and interact with their environments simply by moving their tongues.

A small magnet, about the size of a grain of rice, is attached to the underside of the tongue. The attachment may be performed surgically, by piercing, or by tissue adhesive. The second part of the system is a magnetic tracer. This can either be placed outside the mouth, to either side as in the image above, or it can be worn inside the mouth in the form of a modified orthodontic brace.

The tongue was chosen, as unlike most of the rest of the body, it receives commands from a cranial nerve ? a nerve that leaves the base of the brain directly, rather than travelling down the spinal cord. In the event of spinal damage, the tongue is not affected.

Additionally, movements of the tongue occur swiftly, with no real thinking about it, and next to no effort.

Tracking the tongue magnet is a simple matter of outputting the brace or headpiece?s motion detections to a small computer, which is easily hidden about a person, or integrated into a wheelchair.

The sensor output signals are processed to determine the relative motion of the magnet with respect to the array of sensors in real-time. This information is then used to control the movements of a cursor on the computer screen or to substitute for the joystick function in a powered wheelchair.

The system can potentially capture a large number of tongue movements, each of which can represent a different user command. A unique set of specific tongue movements can be tailored for each individual based on the user's abilities, oral anatomy, personal preferences and lifestyle. Potentially, even touching each tooth with the tip of the tongue, could be a separate command.

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