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Mouth 'joystick' could allow people living with a disability to play


Internet readers may snicker at this prototype for a mouth-based “joystick,” but the hands-free remote technology could be a real advancement for some people living with physical limitations.

Developed by engineer Dorothee Clasen as part of her master’s thesis on human-computer interaction at Germany’s Köln International School of Design, the [In]Brace mouthpiece contains a tiny toggle that can be controlled with the tongue via highly sensitive magnetic sensors. Custom-fitted to the player’s palate and teeth, the plastic retainer connects to a wireless transmitter, worn behind the ear, with a small set of wires.

Clasen hopes the circuitry, which must travel from inside your mouth to a Wi-Fi module, can eventually be encapsulated into an all-in-one mouthpiece.

To demonstrate how [In]Brace could work, Clasen created an analog to the classic video game “Pong,” called “Tong,” wherein simple flicks of the tongue could signal the paddle to move up and down the screen’s perimeter.

For the website Design Boom, Clasen explained that the device does require practice to master it, as most humans don’t need to develop eye-tongue coordination for daily life. However, she found her skills “quickly improved” during the first try and she ultimately “enjoyed” the novel gaming experience.

In Brace mouth joystick
[In] Brace

 

As most electronic interfaces are controlled with our fingers, the [In]Brace has obvious value for those who live with physical limitations of their hands and fingers but require access to various digital environments, such as logging on to a standard laptop.

[In] Brace - A master thesis by Dorothee Clasen in the area of Interaction design (HCI) and Design research. Supervised by Prof. Dr. Scherffig and Prof. Dr. Höfler at KISD.
The “brace” in place.Dorothee Clasen

Currently, there are dozens of examples of assistive technology that can perform similar functions, such as chin, blink or sip-and-puff switches. However, these gadgets can be clunky and have a limited range of functions, especially for tasks that require fine motor skills, such as video gaming. For many living with a disability, some games and game systems have become “obsolete” for that reason.

However, the designer also said the device allows anyone to connect to a digital environment with their tongue, and it could also be useful for those performing complex tasks which are already occupying the hands and feet.

“A pianist might flip his digital note sheets with his tongue while playing, or a skier could play music from their smartphone with their tongue while skiing,” she wrote.

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