Tongue-controlled wheelchairs could be in the offing by the end of the year, thanks to a US company. Think-A-Move is using a device made by a couple of engineers from Southern Illinois University, which consists of a simple earpiece that determines how a person is moving their tongue, thanks to a person's Eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the mouth.


The research team asked eight people to perform four basic tongue movements—up, down, left and right—one hundred times, while wearing an earplug that contained a microphone pointing into the ear. The device, which works because of the mic's ability detect subtle pressure changes inside the ear, had a 97 percent success rate.

US wheelchair company Think-A-Move already has a wheelchair control system aimed at quadriplegics controlled by swallows and coughs, but is planning on releasing a wheelchair that uses this system at by the end of the year. Ravi Vaidyanathan, one of the engineers behind the idea, who is now at Southampton University, thinks that a tongue-controlled system will be more hygienic. "It also keeps the mouth free for talking," he claimed.

Earplug provides steer-by-tongue control [New Scientist]