Hands-free electronics control – the answer is on the tip of your tongue

8th June 2023
Sheryl Miles

What if your tongue could check your emails? The human tongue is a remarkably strong and dexterous muscle. It uses a range of functions which are essential for communication and survival. Its muscular structure allows for precise movements, facilitating speech articulation, and the manipulation of food during eating. But what if it could also send emails, play computer games, or even turn off lights?

According to a report from the World Health Organization, it is estimated that one in six people globally experience significant disability, leading to health inequalities such as discrimination and exclusion.

Augmental, MIT Media Lab spin-off and innovative hardware company, focused on creating human-first experiences, has developed a piece of hardware that is discreet and allows users to explore their digital world hands-free, enhancing interactions with their electronic devices – with just a click of the tongue.

The concept

The completely bespoke design is the creation of Co-Founders and engineers, Tomás Vega and Corten Singer, who wanted people with limited hand control to be able to confidently interact with the world in a discreet way.

Vega, having previously worked on invasive implants for brain-computer interfaces, could understand the benefits that those implants would offer to a lot of people, but he also found that those who would most benefit from the technology would not undergo invasive surgery to make their interactions with computers and electronics viable.

Taking this feedback onboard, the co-founders began to reach out to the people who would most benefit from hands free technology, and they found that whilst there is other tech out there to help people with limited mobility such as ‘pure’ voice assistance, or lip-controlled joysticks, they would cause either frustration, fatigue, or damage to teeth. Further research determined that the tongue, with its strength and agility, would be the ideal solution – not only this, but a device that fits in the mouth would be discreet.

Thus, the MouthPad^ was born.

The design

The MouthPad^ is being touted as being part of “an exciting new wave of accessible tech products set to emerge from Silicon Valley.”

With the guiding principles of universal design and inclusivity, the smart intra-oral interface device clicks in place on the roof of the mouth, much like a retainer from the dentist, and by combining smart 3D printing, electronics encapsulation, and dental materials it houses a trackpad, pressure sensor, battery, charging coil, and Bluetooth chip, and it connects to almost any device – no need to buy or install any new software or equipment.

With a weight of approximately 7.5g and a 0.7mm thickness, the lightweight design is around 80 x 50 x 30mm depending on the dimensions of the wearers mouth, meaning it can be carried in a case that fits in a pocket or bag when it’s not being used.

The battery is rechargeable, taking around 2 hours to fully charge, and is designed to last for 5 hours of continuous use.

Vega comments: “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 … Interactions with these systems must be designed to cater to how humans perceive, process, and act.”

The 11th Finger

The MouthPad^ allows users to speak whilst wearing it and activating the tongue-driven navigation. By using the tongue’s pressure and position, the device converts these into cursor actions – so the tongue effectively becomes an additional finger.

Machine learning algorithms inside its processor send commands to a connected device via Bluetooth and become cursor movements and clicks.

“I’m motivated about augmenting human ability, and interested in using technology to overcome all the limitations of the way we are born,” Vega comments.


Featured products

Product Spotlight

Upcoming Events

View all events
Latest global electronics news
© Copyright 2023 Electronic Specifier