Tongue-Powered Wheelchair Control for People with Spinal Cord Injuries

In the United States, about 1 in 50 people live with some form of paralysis in their upper or lower extremities. The Tongue Drive System (TDS) is a wireless, wearable assistive technology that allows those with paralysis to access their environment using voluntary tongue motion.

Researchers studied the efficiency of TDS for controlling a computer and driving a powered wheelchair. Two groups of ablebodied subjects and one group consisting of people with spinal cord injuries participated in the study. They found that those with spinal cord injuries were more easily able to use TDS as compared to a sip-and-puff device or a keypad. The flexibility of TDS, along with characteristics of the human tongue enabled people with motor impairments to access computers and drive wheelchairs at a faster speed than with traditional assistive technology. Accuracy proved to be comparable to traditional devices.

Kim, Jeonghee, Hangue Park, Joy Bruce, Erica Sutton, Diane Rowles, Deborah Pucci, Jaimee Holbrook et al. “The tongue enables computer and wheelchair control for people with spinal cord injury.” Science translational medicine 5, no. 213 (2013): 213ra166-213ra166.