A smart retainer developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) may help you note down all your groceries using only your mouth. Mouthpad^ is what the device is called and it easily connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth.
The user can select buttons by sweeping their tongue across a trackpad chip. They can left-click by pressing it, and right-click by making a ‘sip’ gesture.
This invention, created by the team from a startup Augmental, a spinoff from MIT Media Lab, is hoping that these will be very useful for individuals with impaired hand control to live more independently.
‘As our lives become increasingly intertwined with technology, and the world expands from the physical to the digital, it’s more important than ever to ensure that everyone has equal access to control inputs and new interfaces,’ said Tomás Vega, co-founder and engineer at Augmental.
‘Interactions with these systems must be designed to cater to how humans perceive, process, and act.’
Mouthpad^ uses a machine learning algorithm inside its processor to follow and track the user’s tongue position precisely for accurate responses. It then translates these tiny movements into cursor commands, allowing the user to perform any number of actions that their computer or phone is capable of.
These actions include routine tasks such as sending emails and turning on lights which are otherwise difficult for those with quadriplegia, and limited hand control. Similarly, it can greatly increase the productivity of individuals in professions which are always ‘hands-busy’ scenarios like surgeons, astronauts, and factory-line workers.
Mouthpad^ is custom-made for the wearer and it starts with a 3D model of their mouth, followed by the design and printing of the device that fits them using dental resin.
After this, a flexible circuit board with sensors, a processing unit, and Bluetooth radio, before sealing it all in a saliva-proof case. It is then able to connect to and control iOS and Android smartphones, Windows, Mac, and Linux-based desktop and laptop computers.
Vega said: ‘In my previous roles, I worked on invasive implants for brain-computer interfaces, and I realized that these innovations were going to help a lot of people. But in talking with friends who would most benefit from these technologies, I realized that most of them wouldn’t undergo a surgical procedure in order to interact with computers.’
The Mouthpad^ is not currently available to purchase but you can apply and be added to its waiting list if you want to receive a beta version of it.