Tongue Piercing Leads to Innovation

Dentists and teams understandably express concern when they see patients with tongue piercings.  And parents sometimes view tongue piercings as a show of rebellion.  But did you know that tongue piercings are revolutionizing some people’s lives.

Professor Maysam Ghovanloo and his team at Georgia Tech have developed what they call the Tongue Drive System, which will help people with spinal cord injuries drive their electric wheelchairs.  The Tongue Drive System consists of a magnetic tongue stud and a dental retainer, which snugly fits to the top of the mouth.

As reported in this current issue of Mental Floss magazine, this type of tongue piercing will revolutionize how people with high spinal cord injuries control their wheelchairs.  In the past, quadriplegics controlled their wheelchairs through a sip-n-puff system where they inhale and exhale through a tube.  This system was slow and awkward for some people.

The Tongue Drive System simply requires a wag of the tongue.  The magnetic stud senses the motion, which is relayed to the electric wheelchair.  Wheelchairs will therefore have much more precise movement, which as you might imagine, will greatly increase accessibility.

Since the sensor is not part of a device strapped to the user’s head—as it was in earlier tests—people do not have to worry about the device shifting around.  In addition, the Tongue Drive can interface with computers and be used for other functions.

Innovation is inspiring.  Especially when someone develops an idea that helps make such a big difference in people’s lives.

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