Technology is always trying to make our lives easier, and when it comes to wheelchair mobility, hundreds of technological applications have been thought of, however the one supreme application many of us have dreamt of but thought would never happen is finally here — hands-free driving of power wheelchairs and I’m not about the sip ‘n puff method either.
I’m talking about an amazing application for a tongue piercing, a higher power for said piercing that goes way beyond aesthetics — helping people who can’t use their arms drive their wheelchairs. I’m even interested in this technology and can drive my wheelchair with my hand. Sometimes it’d be really nice to have both hands free to do something else and still be moving forward.
This exciting new technology hails from Georgia Tech where a group of researchers have created what is without question the coolest tongue piercings of all-time, and how it works is pretty simple: Simply called the “Tongue Drive System,” a magnet piercing that resembles jewelry communicates with a headset worn by the user (a dental retainer is also used in place of a headset, so it’s less obvious).
The headset is then able to track the magnet on the tongue, so when the user clicks their tongue or touches their tooth with their tongue a certain way, the headset reads that and then sends the signal to a smartphone, and then to the wheelchair, driving it more precisely than many of them have ever been able to do since their injuries; especially diagonally, which is not possible with the traditional sip ‘n puff method.
Hands down, this is one of the coolest applications of magnet technology ever.
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But so far, this cool magnet technology has yet leave the research lab. Only a handful of lucky people have been able to try out, including 11 high-level quads, with most loving it and preferring the piercing over using the sip ‘n puff method. Part of the test included a comparison of their abilities in both set-ups – sip ‘n puff vs. tongue piercing — with all scoring three times better using the tongue piercing when driving their wheelchairs.
However, among the 23 A/B testers, there were a few people that did not like the tongue piercing. Even one had it fall out. Sadly, a tongue piercing isn’t for everybody, which is too bad because this sensor works so well. Some people even say it’s ironic that for those who are paralyzed from the neck down a tongue piercing, an area where they can still feel, is the only place this piercing will work.
Many though got over the initial pain and dove right in, recognizing the freedom it would give them. Just think of all the thing it can improve in a wheelchair-users daily life. If the wheelchair has the ability to drive itself, you can do so much while moving forward. This is not possible on any other wheelchair yet, but I know it would be a tsunami of awesomeness for most of us if it was.
The current technology however is rapidly changing, with sensor technology improving each year. A year from now, this piercing could be old news, but right now it’s some pretty amazing stuff, and driving one’s wheelchair with a tongue piercing is only the beginning of this application.
The lead researcher, Maysam Ghovanloo, would also like the magnet sensor technology to be used in home automation – turning off the TV, the lights, even unlocking a door, with the flick of the tongue. The possibilities are without question exciting. Hands-free technology is the future and this magnet tongue piercing is paving the way.
What would you like to control with a tongue piercing?