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Tongue piercings help wheelchair users be independent

Technology has made it easier for those with disabilities to control their wheelchairs.

Imagine being able to control a motorized wheelchair just by a flick of a tongue. Tongue piercings are no longer a fashion statement. They are a mode of independence.

Engineer Maysam Ghovanloo of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta wanted to develop a better system. The process started five years ago with himself and colleagues. They eventually created a tongue piercing that allowed control of a computer and wheelchair.

For testing, they took people without disabilities and those with. Training and learning the system was apparently very easy. It took no time to learn how to move a cursor around the screen. After learning the computer, they moved on to the wheelchair.

Through the piercing, there is a chip that goes to an iPod or smartphone. The iPod or smartphone then connects to a computer to signal the wheelchair to move. The process sounds long but happens quickly.

They discovered that wheelchair users could drive five times faster than the standard sip and puff systems. The sip and puff systems control the chair by puffing in and out through a straw. People do not usually like the system because of it being right in their face. They want them to see the them and not technology.

More money is needed to go into the development. Hopefully, soon, quadriplegics and tetraplegics will be using the system.

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