What tricks can you do with your tongue? Most people can roll their tongues into a tube, while some can juggle toothpicks, making them vanish and then reappear. The really talented souls are the ones who’ve put in enough practice to break out that most famous of party tricks and tie a knot into a cherry stem.
Emma Mogus, winner of this year’s Weston Youth Innovation Award, has invented a device to beat all, allowing you to use your tongue with a computer to point, click, and even type.
“It’s a mouthguard that has five tactile buttons” Mogus explains of her Tongue Interface Communication (TiC) device, “and you use your tongue to apply a little bit of pressure to each one and it moves your mouse up, down, left, right, and the fifth is for enter.”
Immediately, it’s useful as an accessibility device, allowing those with neurological conditions or spinal cord injuries to tap into the full freedom of a computer and it’s online world. That you can build her TiC with just $10 worth of commonly sourced parts is a big reason why she’s winning accolades and will help assure that the potential of her idea will be realized.
“Simply just using the internet or a computer application to communicate something is so critical to being a fully functioning member of society” Mogus says on our show. “I was inspired to create TiC because of a friend of mine who has ALS. I remember looking at the devices that are currently on the market and a lot of them are invasive and really expensive….my main objective is to assure accessibility to those who otherwise wouldn’t have it.”
Emma gets really excited when discussing her ideas, not just because of the rewards of problem-solving or the potential of making a difference for others who will contribute great ideas of their own, but with the zeal of a true scientist and inventor, she champions the untapped potential for the tongue to power a whole new world of devices.
“We talk a lot in the day” she points out, ”and your tongue never fatigues and it’s inherently capable of complex movements.”
For the curious, the Guinness Book of World Records lists the longest kiss between two people as being 58 hours, 35 minutes, and 58 seconds, set by a competitive, amorous couple who finally had to stop because it was hard to keep their heads in position, and not, as Emma points out, because their tongues wore out.
There are sixteen muscles in the tongue, making it one of the most complex structures in the human body. Throughout history it’s been our main tool for “hands-free” use, sorting through nails in a carpenter’s mouth and helping seamstresses prepare threads for needles.
“For future steps I’d like to make my device wireless” Emma says, amongst plans to create a version that can be used to steer a powered wheelchair.
From divers to surgeons to astronauts, there are many occupations in need of an agile hands-free system and it’s easy to see modified versions of Emma’s TiC for them all. Whatever the future has for this 17 year-old from Oakville, Ontario, you can be sure that Emma Mogus will continue to set tongues wagging in astonishment.