Assistive Technology: Freeing Patients With Disabilities

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Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology have been working on a small magnetic device, to be implanted under the tongue.

We’re living in a world in which people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s disease, and autism can now lead a more independent life, thanks to advances in communication technologies, and assistive mobility devices and computers that patients can operate using only their tongues.

You heard right; researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology have been working on a small magnetic device, to be implanted under the tongue, which allows disabled people to “direct the movement of a cursor across a computer screen or a powered wheelchair around a room.” The reason behind using the tongue to perform these tasks is because “the tongue is directly connected to the brain by a cranial nerve that generally escapes damage in severe spinal cord injuries or neuromuscular diseases,” said Maysam Ghovanloo, an assistant professor involved with the Georgia Institute of Technology research.

Voice recognition (VR) and other communication technologies have become increasingly popular, especially among patients with autism, cerebral palsy, and Parkinson’s disease. Although VR hasn’t reached its full potential, many organizations and companies are working to come up with new applications. Integrated Wave Technologies, Inc. has created a VR system “based on a fundamentally different approach that recognizes all non-standard speech” and “recognizes speech with much greater precision than existing systems” with very few errors.

If you have a patient who is considering voice recognition once his or her speech becomes too slurred to understand, here are some suggestions of what he or she should look for in a resource before purchasing:

• Operates in a completely hands-free manner

• Recognizes non-standard speech

• Recognizes only intended commands

• Adapts easily to laptops and other computers in inventories

• Is affordable

Have you or your patients used voice recognition technology devices? What types of assistive technologies have you recommended to patients and their families?

Additional resources about assistive technology

Here is a list of communication augmentation devices you could recommend to parents of children with cerebral palsy:

  • BIGmack
  • Boardmarker
  • Delta Talker
  • DynaVox

Brain-computer link lets paralyzed patients convert thoughts into actions

Medical robotics: Laser guided robot

New device gives voice to children with autism

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