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Tongue mouse

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Effective human input devices for computer access are very important to quadriplegics and others with severe disabilities who may have difficulties in controlling their hands. The computer mouse is one of the most important input devices for computer access, to navigate the cursor on the screen or to select the target.

There are several assistive devices to replace the roles of the hands to control the mouse. The tongue mouse is considered one of these assistive devices using the power of the tongue. The tongue is connected to the brain by the hypoglossal cranial nerve as seen in the figure below, which generally escapes injury and disease. Tongues can move very fast and accurately, and at the same time, do not fatigue easily because the tongue muscle is similar to the heart muscle.



Several tongue controlled assistive devices for cursor control, which will be called 'tongue mouse' in this article, have appeared on the market.

The Tongue Touch Keypad (TTK), as seen in the figure below, is one adaptation of the tongue mouse using the pressure applied from the tongue. It consists of nine switches built into a dental mouthpiece that fits in the roof of the mouth, and activates by the touch of the users' tongue [1].


Tongue Point is another tongue operated AT, which is based on the IBM TrackPoint used in laptops. It features a small pressure sensitive joystick placed inside the mouth. The tongue handles the joystick by applying force [2].


Also, there is an optical device which detects tongue gestures by several optical sensors implemented inside the dental retainer [3]. The infrared optical sensors operate as a switch and detect the tongue gestures with predetermined threshold.


An Inductive Tongue Control System uses a ferromagnetic material attached on the tongue as a tracer, and coils detect the induction with moving tracer according to Faraday's induction law [4].


Tongue Drive System (TDS) is composed of a small magnetic tracer attached on the tongue, and four magnetic sensors which detect the magnetic field from the magnet and the position of the tongue [5].



[1]. M. Giraldi, "Independence day: Tongue-touch controls give Ben a moresatisfying self-sufficient lifestyle", TeamrehabReport Mag., 1997

[2]. C. Salem and S. Zhai, “An isometric tongue pointing device,” Proc. CHI 97, pp. 22-27, 1997.

[3]. T. S. Saponas, D. Kelly, B. A. Parviz, and D. S. Tan "Optically sensing tongue gestures for computerinput", Proc. ACM Symp. User Interface Softwareand Technology, pp.177 -180, 2009

[4]. L. N. S. A. Struijk, E. R. Lontis, B. Bentsen, H. V. Christensen, H. A. Caltenco, and M. E. Lund "Fully integrated wireless inductivetongue computer interface for disabled people", Proc. IEEE 31st Engineering in Medicine and Biology Conf., pp.547 -550, 2009

[5]. H. Park, M. Kiani, H. Lee, J. Kim, J. Block, B. Gosselin, and M. Ghovanloo, "A Wireless Magnetoresistive Sensing System for an Intraoral Tongue-Computer Interface", IEEE Trans. Biomed. Circuits Syst., vol. 6, no. 6, pp.571-585, Dec. 2012

See the Mouse alternatives article for more cursor control options.