Designer Dorothee Clasen has just created an intra-oral wearable device, called [in]brace, as part of her master's thesis in integrated design. The device allows tongue-based interaction between humans and machines.
When placed in the mouth, much in the same way as an orthodontics apparatus, [in]brace users can move a small magnetic piece with their tongue to generate an input. A WiFi module behind the user's ear then transfers the input to other connected devices.
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For her project, Dorothee Clasen set out to take the focus away from hands and fingertips when it came to haptic interfaces that allow humans to interact through touch with objects. Instead, she decided to focus on another body part — the mouth.
Clasen's final prototype is based on an electromagnetic principle, DesignBoom reports. Embedded reed sensors detect the location of the magnetic sphere-element, which the user controls using their tongue, though the location of the sensors has to be adapted for different mouths.
The device was designed with an alternated retainer architecture at the palate area so as to allow the sensors to be implemented — using silicone bonding — and adapted when necessary.
Making computer devices more accessible
As can be seen in the video below, Clasen tested her final prototype by setting up a classic game of 'tong', which she was successfully able to control using the device.
Clasen proposed that [in]brace could be used in physiotherapy to help patients re-train their tongue movement. It could also be used for specific jobs or performances where a user's eyes, feet, and hands are already occupied by other tasks. For example, a pianist might flip their digital note sheets using their tongue while playing a piece.
The device could, of course, also be used for people with a lack of fine motor skills in their hands or fingers, in order to make computer devices more accessible worldwide. Much like brain-computer interfaces, such devices could revolutionize the way we interact with the digital world.