Singapore scientists have invented the world's first interactive mouthpiece that can be used to control electronic devices, including computers, smartphones and wheelchairs.
The invention, developed by a research team led by Professor Liu Xiaogang of the National University of Singapore (NUS) together with collaborators from Tsinghua University, is light and compact (it weighs only about 7 grams), affordable and easy to use. It can detect the strength of a bite, with which it can control various devices.
Recently, many scientists have been working on technologies that will help people with disabilities achieve a higher level of independence and autonomy. But most of these technologies have significant disadvantages.
All of the above technologies are also not adequately protected (including against hacking and other external interference) and cannot provide the user with the privacy he or she needs.
But the use of bite force to control devices can be a very interesting alternative to other technologies to help people with disabilities. This area, according to experts, is understudied, despite being promising.
When the new mouthpiece developed by Singapore specialists is in the user's mouth, he or she can clench the jaw with a certain force or tap the tooth against the tooth a certain number of times for the system to understand and transmit to the electronic device the command that it should perform (for example, the electronic wheelchair should start moving or rotate to some side).
As Professor Liu Xiaogang noted, the optoelectronic system developed by his team can convert complex bite patterns into commands for electronic devices with 98% accuracy. In doing so, different bite forces or numbers of knocks can be assigned different scenarios and commands.
The current prototype is designed for straight teeth, but experts say it is possible to design mouth guards with unevenly spaced phosphor-impregnated pads - for users with uneven teeth or those who wear dentures.
Manufacturing each smart mouthpiece in the lab currently costs S$100 (about US$70), but the experts believe the cost of the device will be significantly reduced if mass production begins.