In the lab we have been actively developing several assistive medical devices using the tongue as a medium. Each device consist of a three-layer retainer, with the two outer layers being dental thermoplastic and the electronic hardware encased within.
User Interface Cursor-Controller (UIC-C)
Amongst the devices developed, the User Interface Cursor Controller (UIC-C) is the most refined. This device functions similar to a trackpad, allowing patients to move a computer cursor in any direction as well as select with a right or left click. This opens up a wide variety of opportunities for patients with limited to no upper extremity movement.
The device is completely wireless using Bluetooth technology. This makes the device discrete and patient friendly allowing for ease of use. Each device is custom made to the users unique palate enhancing both the comfort and fit not found in similar existing devices.
Another technology that is being developed in the lab is the Tongue to Speech wearable assistive device. This product allows for the user to touch several different sensors within a custom made retainer that writes out text similar to a T9 keyboard found on cell phones. We have prototyped several different configurations to allow for the greatest ease of use among patients.
Once the proper configuration was created we developed a mobile application that directly communicates with the device. The mobile application registers the words typed out via the tongue and reads them aloud. This allows patients with severe speech impairments to discretely have real time conversations.
Tongue to Robot (TTR)
This device would allow patients with contraction of the upper extremities or amputation to wirelessly control a robotic arm. Similar to the UIC-C and the TTS an array of sensors would be placed in the retainer. The sensors are designed to allow for robotic control of the arm with the tongue that achieves the same degrees of freedom as controlling the device manually.
We are currently developing additional applications from our retainer design to implement the use of biosensors. In particular we are interested in exploring biosensors that can be placed within the mouth that can monitor specific body conditions. Research is still being conducted on what type of biosensors would be most beneficial.