For people with disabilities that don't have control over their limbs, controlling wheelchairs can be challenging. However, scientists are working on solutions, at least as far as mobility goes. The latest system, developed by scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology, uses a tongue piercing, along with an iPod app, allowing those people to control their wheelchairs with just a flick of their tongue.
Obviously, for this to work, the person in the wheelchair has to submit to a tongue piercing with a small titanium barbell. A headset with sensors is also required, which responds to a magnet inside the piercing. When users flick their tongue against the piercing, an iPod app gets information from the headset’s sensors and figures out which way the user wants the wheelchair to move. Although the headset is currently unwieldy, the team are working on creating something smaller to fit in the mouth, much like a dental retainer.
The main benefit of the piercing is that this system works faster than traditional wheelchair maneuvering systems for many disabled people. The most widely used method at the moment is "push and blow," where a user must blow or sip on a straw in different ways to control their wheelchair. This existing system has a steep learning curve, and is slow and frustrating to use at times. The new system, with the piercing, works three times faster and is easier for users to learn.
Via New Scientist