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This retainer controls phones and laptops with a person's tongue

 (Augmental)
(Augmental)

A gadget that lets a person control a phone or PC with their tongue has been given its first public demo during CES 2024.

Augmental’s MouthPad^ is a piece of “smart mouthware” that offers tongue-based computer and phone control using a mouth insert that looks a little like a high-tech pair of Invisalign braces.

It’s kept in place using a transparent section custom moulded to the shape of your teeth, while the actual control surface sits on the roof of the mouth.

Tongue gestures can then be used for “cursor control, clicks, and swipes".

Augmental has posted a video of software engineer Corbin Haliwell using the MouthPad^ to look for a local grocery store on an iPhone.

Touchscreens on phones and touchpads on laptops use capacitive technology to track the movement of finger, but this does not work well with wet surfaces. The MouthPad^ gold-coloured sensor is instead pressure sensitive.

Tongue presses on the pad are used for left clicks and “click-and-drag” commands, while the wearer makes a “sip gesture” to right-click.

“We’ve always considered the tongue to be this very expressive and capable part of our body. We’ve likened it to the 11th finger, if you will,” says Augmental co-founder Corten Singer.

The clearest use for something like Augmental’s MouthPad^ is as an accessibility tool, for people who have limited or no ability to control a PC or phone with hands. However, Augmental has wider ambitions, and suggests one of these mouth controllers could be used by all sorts of people who often find their hands are otherwise occupied.

“Whether you're a gamer, astronaut, surgeon, or factory worker, the MouthPad^ is a helping hand in professions of all kinds,” Augmental says.

The MouthPad^ was announced back in April 2023, but has only just been given its first public demo.

It was devised by Berkeley graduates Cortes Singer and Tomás Vega, and the project came out of the MIT Media Lab. Augmental has raised upwards of $1.5 million (£1.2m) to develop the MouthPad^, according to Forbes.

Want to know more about how it works? The Augmental MouthPad^ communicates with phones and laptops over Bluetooth, meaning it’s as platform-agnostic as a wireless mouse or gamepad.

It weighs around 7.5g and is made of the same sort of dental resin used for biteguards. A battery is built into the outer part of the housing, and will sit under the side of your cheek/lip.

A charge lasts around five hours, and a recharge takes around 1.5 hours, using a wireless charger case to maximise the water resistance of the unit.

There’s no word on when, or if, Augmental MouthPad^ will be available to the general public, or how much it may eventually cost just yet. However, you can sign up for updates over at Augmental’s website.