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A tongue controlled wheelchair

Isn't technology wonderful ! where might it stop ? I read today with interest about the exciting new developments being made by researchers and engineers combined at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the US.

The US team has been looking in to ways of using the body's tongue to control devices and now have a working example of an electric wheelchair that is controlled entirely by the human tongue ! This is surely going to revolutionise the way people can interact with the world in general following paralysis.

The recent advancement involves the use of a tiny magnet that is embedded within a tongue piercing. The magnet is detected by a number of sensors and the data is converted in to commands allowing the control of a range of electronic devices. It has long been known that the human tongue is both incredibly sensitive but also very deft and capable of making very precise and controlled movements. Once these are captured and interpreted they can lead to an enormous potential for control of other devices.

Because the tongue is invaluable to speech, the brain allocates a large proportion of resource to the tongue to enable the high level of communication that we enjoy, over and above its other uses of touch feel and taste. The key to this successful development is that the tongue is not dependant on the spinal cord for passing information to the brain. In fact it has its own hotline direct to the brain !
So far, this amazing technology has been deployed i no less than 23 able-bodies people, 11 with tetraplegia. On average, people with tetraplegia were able to perform tasks three times as fast and with the same level of accuracy as with the other technologies available. The scientists reckon that they can apportion a task for every tooth in the mouth allowing users to have upper most control of a selection of electronic devices which will help them to regain some mobility, independence and most of all quality of life !

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