Updated on 29 November 2013
Within 30 minutes of training, all 34 participants were able to use the device to complete a variety of tasks, and their performance improved over the following weeks, according to the researchers.
They said that participants clicked on randomly appearing targets on a laptop screen, played video games, dialed phone numbers and drove a powered wheelchair through an obstacle course using nothing but their tongue movements.
The researchers also compared the device with a popular assistive technology known as the sip-and-puff device, where patients' sip and puff into a straw-like tube to operate a wheelchair. On average, these participants completed tasks with the Tongue Drive System three times faster compared with the sip- and-puff system, but with the same level of accuracy, they said.
"That was a very exciting finding," Ghovanloo said. "It attests to how quickly and accurately you can move your tongue."
Before the clinical trial, more than half of the participants with disabilities used the sip-and-puff on a daily basis. Experiments on the Tongue Drive System to date have been done in the lab or hospital, but the researchers said they will test how the Tongue Drive System performs outside of the controlled clinical environment in future studies.
Besides, they are developing a headset-free version of the system that fits inside the mouth, similar to a dental retainer.