Using Tongue Drive System as a New Interface to Control Powered Wheelchairs

Xueliang Huo1, MS; Jia Wang2, BS; Maysam Ghovanloo1,2, PhD
1 GT-Bionics Lab, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA
2 NC-Bionics Lab, Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC


Tongue Drive system (TDS) is a tongue-operated assistive technology, which can provide people with severe disabilities with unobtrusive wireless computer access and environment control. TDS consists of a small permanent magnet, which is secured on the user’s tongue, and generates a magnetic field inside and around his/her mouth that varies with tongue movements. The magnetic field is detected by an array magnetic sensors mounted on a headset outside the mouth or an orthodontic brace inside, and wirelessly transmitted to a PDA to be processed and converted to different user commands. TDS can therefore translate users’ intentions into control commands by detecting and classifying their voluntary tongue movements. These commands are then used to control various things in the users’ environment such as a TV, desktop PC, powered wheelchair, lights, phone, and powered bed. Our goal is to develop a noninvasive, unobtrusive, easy to use, and reliable tongue-operated assistive technology with large degrees of freedom, such that it can potentially substitute some of the arm and hand functions with tongue movements. We introduced our new entirely wireless Tongue Drive system in RESNA’07. Here, we are reporting on the latest progress in further developing the TDS, particularly interfacing it with a commercial powered wheelchair by means of customized interface circuitry and control software. We have also performed a few experiments by an able-bodied human subject. The preliminary human trial results show that the subject can easily operate the powered wheelchair using his tongue movements and perform complex navigation tasks in an office environment.


Assistive technologies, magnetic sensors, powered wheelchairs, tongue control, wireless


This project is funded in part by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation under contract # GA1-0704-2 and National Science Foundation grant # 0731691.


Maysam Ghovanloo, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor and Director,
GT-Bionics Lab, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology
Address: 85 Fifth Street NW, Room TSRB-419, Atlanta, GA, 30308
Phone: 404-385-7048
Fax: 404-894-4701