Preliminary Evaluation of A Tongue Operated Assistive Technology by Individuals with High-Level SCI for Computer Access and Wheeled Mobility

Xueliang Huo1 , MS; Joy Bruce2 , PT, MS, NCS; Maysam Ghovanloo1 , PhD

1 GT-Bionics Lab, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA
2 Spinal Cord Injury Unit, Shepherd Center, Atlanta, GA


Tongue Drive System (TDS) is a tongue operated, unobtrusive, minimally invasive, wireless assistive technology (AT), which enables people with severe disabilities control their environments using their tongue. It detects the position of a small permanent magnetic tracer secured on the users’ tongue with an array of magnetic sensors mounted on a headset outside the mouth or a dental retainer inside. We have built an external TDS (eTDS) prototype on a wireless headphone and interfaced it to laptops and commercial powered wheelchairs (PWC). Here we introduce the latest eTDS prototype and its performance evaluation by five subjects with high level (C3~C5) spinal cord injury (SCI). Preliminary results show that subjects can successfully perform common tasks related to computer access, such as controlling a mouse cursor or playing a computer game, as well as complex wheelchair navigation tasks, such as driving through an obstacle course, using nothing but their tongue movements.


Assistive technologies, computer access, environment control, magnetic sensors, tongue, wheeled mobility


The authors would like to thank Permobil Inc. and Pride Mobility Products Inc. for donating powered wheelchairs. We also thank Chih-Wen Cheng from GT-Bionics Lab for helping with the experiments. This project is funded in part by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and National Science Foundation.


Maysam Ghovanloo, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Georgia Institute of Technology
School of Electrical and Computer Engineering
85 Fifth Street NW, Room TSRB-419
Atlanta, GA 30308
Office: 404-385-7048
Lab: 404-385-6427
Fax: 404-894-4701