ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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Don’t Hold Your Tongue: New Assistive Technology Uses Tongue Movement to Control Computers, Wheelchairs

Device created for people with severe disabilities developed with the help of standards

New York, Jul 25, 2008

A new technology developed by engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology allows people with severe disabilities to control their environments with their tongue. Called a tongue-drive system, this device was created with the help of standards for dental adhesives and wireless communications devices.

The innovative technology relies upon small magnet implanted in the tongue; movement of the tongue is then detected by magnetic sensors attached to a headset or orthodontic brace. The sensor output signals are wirelessly transmitted to a portable computer, which can be carried on the user’s clothing or wheelchair.

Movements of the tongue can then be translated into manipulation of a computer mouse, control of a wheelchair, and other interactions with the surrounding environment.

Researchers have tested the tongue-drive system using able-bodied participants; the next step will be tests using people with severe disabilities.

Voluntary consensus standards help researchers like the Georgia Tech tongue-drive team to create novel applications for existing technologies. For example, a technical specification developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) provides test methods for different bonding agents used for adhesion to teeth. ISO/TS 11405:2003, Dental materials -- Testing of adhesion to tooth structure gives guidance for the type of adhesives that are needed to bond the tongue-drive sensors and control unit to the user’s teeth.

This standard was developed by ISO Technical Committee (TC) 106, Subcommittee (SC) 1. The American Dental Association, an organizational member and accredited standards developer of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), serves as the ANSI-accredited Technical Advisory Group (TAG) administrator to ISO TC 106/SC 1.

Standards also provide guidelines for the wireless technology that transmits sensor output signals from inside the mouth to a portable computer on the user’s clothing or wheelchair. IEEE Std 802.15.4-2006, IEEE Standard for Information technology- Telecommunications and information exchange between systems- Local and metropolitan area networks- Specific requirements- Part 15.4: Wireless Medium Access Control (MAC) and Physical Layer (PHY) Specifications for Low Rate Wireless Personal Area Networks (WPANs), was developed by IEEE, an ANSI organizational member and accredited standards developer. The standard defines the protocol and compatible interconnection for data communication devices in a wireless personal area network (WPAN).

Another standard currently in development by IEEE applies guidelines to wireless communication devices specifically for use inside of the human body. BSR/IEEE 802.15.6-200x, Standard for Information Technology - Telecommunications and Information Exchange Between Systems - Local and Metropolitan Area Networks - Specific Requirements - Part 15.6: Wireless Medium Access Control (MAC) and Physical Layer (PHY) Specifications for Wireless Personal Area Networks (WPANs) used in or around a body, will build on IEEE Std 802.15.4-2006 to consider the effects of height and weight variances on portable antennas, radiation pattern shaping to protect the user’s well-being, and changes in characteristics as a result of the user’s motions.

Building upon the technology guidelines set by standards both currently used and under development, the tongue-drive system has the potential to revolutionize the field of assistive technology and improve the lives of people across the world.

For more information, please see the Georgia Tech news release and Tongue drive: a tongue operated magnetic sensor based wireless assistive technology for people with severe disabilities, a paper posted on the IEEE website.

 Homeland Defense and Security Standardization Collaborative