Teen in­vents tongue-con­trolled mouse

Mod­i­fied com­puter ac­ces­sory will be huge as­set for peo­ple with phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - PETER GOFFIN

— An On­tario teen is earn­ing high praise for de­sign­ing a de­vice to help peo­ple with se­vere phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties nav­i­gate com­put­ers eas­ily and af­ford­ably — with their tongue.

Emma Mo­gus’s in­ven­tion, the Tongue-In­ter­face-Com­mu­ni­ca­tion project (TiC), con­sists of a sports mouth­guard equipped with five but­tons that can be pressed with the tongue.

The mouth­guard is con­nected by eth­er­net ca­ble to a cir­cuit board which, in turn, plugs into a com­puter with a USB cord.

With some com­puter pro­gram­ming, the TiC can be used like a reg­u­lar mouse, di­rect­ing the cur­sor up, down, left or right and click on icons.

Us­ing her fin­gers to ac­ti­vate the switches, Mo­gus typed search terms into Google by us­ing TiC to se­lect let­ters from an on-screen key­board at a demon­stra­tion on Wed­nes­day.

Mo­gus, 17, says it’s a sim­ple and cheap prod­uct that will help peo­ple with ALS, mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, spinal cord in­juries and other dis­abil­i­ties use com­put­ers and ac­cess the In­ter­net.

The re­cent grad­u­ate of White Oaks Sec­ondary School in Oakville said TiC was in­spired by a friend who has ALS.

“I was just look­ing at the sort of as­sis­tive tech­nol­ogy that’s al­ready on the mar­ket to help peo­ple like my friend Tim, and what I was notic­ing is that the ma­jor­ity of these de­vices are highly ex­pen­sive and quite in­va­sive,” Mo­gus said.

She also found that the ex­ist­ing tech­nolo­gies, which rely on eye mo­tion or changes in breath­ing fre­quency, can be sus­cep­ti­ble to in­ci­den­tal move­ments.

“It’s easy to breathe too hard or look the wrong way, whereas my de­vice uses de­lib­er­ate tongue pres­sure,” Mo­gus said.

Her re­search also led her to the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion on the Rights of Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties, which calls for the de­vel­op­ment of af­ford­able as­sis­tive tech­nol­ogy.

“I re­ally want to get (TiC) into the hands of those who need it, in less for­tu­nate ar­eas,” she said.

With that in mind, said Mo­gus, TiCs could be mass-pro­duced for $10 apiece. The de­vice uses reg­u­lar Eth­er­net and USB ca­bles, and Mo­gus said its cir­cuit board cost $3.

“I got the mouth­guard out of my brother’s hockey bag,” she said, laugh­ing. “It’s new though. It’s clean, don’t worry.”

As win­ner of the 2016 We­ston Youth In­no­va­tion Award for her in­ven­tion, Mo­gus gets a $2,000 prize, and will work with the On­tario Sci­ence Cen­tre to cre­ate an an­i­mated show­case of TiC.

The teen also landed a job thanks to TiC. Last sum­mer, Mo­gus ap­plied for an in­tern­ship at McMaster Univer­sity’s engi­neer­ing physics depart­ment with a video of her­self talk­ing about TiC. The Hamil­ton school hired her for an in­tern­ship usu­ally re­served for univer­sity stu­dents.

Over the course of the school year she wrote a man­ual for the depart­ment and was lead­ing tu­to­ri­als for fourth-year and grad­u­ate stu­dents.

In Septem­ber she will be­gin an un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree in chem­i­cal and phys­i­cal sciences at McMaster.

But Mo­gus said she will con­tinue to work on TiC, get­ting it patented, and try­ing to im­prove the look and com­fort in a new pro­to­type.

The On­tario Sci­ence Cen­tre has been hand­ing out the an­nual We­ston Youth In­no­va­tion Award since 2008. Win­ners are cho­sen by a panel of judges made up of Sci­ence Cen­tre staff and re­searchers, lec­tur­ers and deans from sci­ence pro­grams at uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges across On­tario. Mo­gus won over four other young sci­en­tists, whose projects in­cluded a so­lar pow­ered-wa­ter pas­teur­iza­tion sys­tem and ad­vances in ro­botic pros­thet­ics.

“The jury was in­spired by Emma’s in­ge­nu­ity, skill and ded­i­ca­tion to de­vel­op­ing an orig­i­nal so­lu­tion, for an is­sue that, in spite of many sci­en­tific ad­vances, con­tin­ues to af­fect many peo­ple,” Mau­rice Bi­tran, On­tario Sci­ence Cen­tre CEO and mem­ber of the award panel, said in a state­ment.

CHRIS YOUNG, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Emma Mo­gus is pic­tured with her tongue-con­trolled mouse.

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