The TongueWise Project was carried out by an Aalborg University PhD student during a one-year research visit at Certec in 2009. It was part of the Inductive Tongue Control System (ITCS) project at the Center for Sensory Motor Interaction, Aalborg University. The objective was to study efficient tongue interfacing methods for people with physical disabilities by which they can achieve fast and efficient control of electrical devices, including computers.
Computers and other automatic equipment are a very important part of everyday life. The main problem is that the majority of computer programs are designed to receiving input from a keyboard and mouse. Thus, building interfaces that replace these devices by utilizing other available input sources for control (e.g. tongue, eyes, voice) is necessary. This is a challenge that can open a new window of opportunities for people with severe motor disabilities.
Why the tongue?
Although not naturally used for pointing or writing, the tongue can perform sophisticated motor control for vocalization and mastication, which makes it potentially good for computer input. Moreover, the tongue is mainly innervated by cranial nerves and remains unaffected after high-level spinal cord injuries.
What is TongueWise?
The tongue computer interface used in this research was developed at Aalborg University, and is now commercialized by TKS-A/S as “iTongue”. It is a fully integrated wireless inductive interface that fits into the mouth and is activated by a small metal unit attached to the tongue. The system includes a full alphabet keypad and a multidirectional mouse pad.
The TongueWise user interface (GUI) is a Microsoft Windows software that extends the functionality of the interface by providing a text prediction system based on Letterwise, which can significantly improve typing performance. The TongueWise GUI also allows easy parameter customization for typing and pointing.
Modular interfacing: mobility and portability
The ITCS was designed as a modular interface that consists of three different units and other specific interface modules:
- Intra-oral space: Activation Unit and Mouthpiece Unit
- Near-user space: Central Unit
- Target-devices space: Specific interface modules (e.g., computer interface module)