Tongue controls wheelchair for quadriplegics

Now how's this for cool? Researchers at Georgia Tech are testing a wheelchair for quadriplegics controlled by the tongue. A magnet in the mouth acts like a mouse pad, relaying wireless signals to sensors that control the chair's movement. "One of the major advantages of the tongue is that it's directly connected to the brain," project director Maysam Ghovanloo tells CNN. "The tongue is unlike the rest of the body, which is connected to the brain through the spinal cord. A patient who has even the highest level of spinal cord injury can still move his or her tongue like me or you."

While developed for people with spinal-cord injuries, the so-called Tongue Drive system may be suitable for patients paralyzed by strokes or from diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Ghovanloo says.

"The users like it because they don't look much different when using the chair, as opposed to other mobile units that use sip and puff methods or keypads to get around," Ghovanloo says. (Think Stephen Hawking or the late Christopher Reeve.) "These patients, the last thing they want is to look even more different when in a wheelchair. This design helps."

To learn more:
- check out this CNN story