Tongue Drive System Team Wins People’s Choice Honors at 2010 da Vinci Awards

Chosen from a field of 17 finalists, Maysam Ghovanloo and his research team in the GT-Bionics Lab won the inaugural “Leo” People’s Choice Award at the 2010 da Vinci Awards, held last month at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

Emery King, Maysam Ghovanloo and Jeonghee Kim
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Detroit Medical Center Communications Director Emery King (L) presents the inaugural Leo Award to ECE Assistant Professor Maysam Ghovanloo and Ph.D. student Jeonghee Kim.

A finalist in the prosthetics/orthotics/controls category, Ghovanloo and his team from Georgia Tech received the highest number of votes for their YouTube video about their work on the Tongue Drive System, an assistive technology that enables individuals with high-level spinal cord injuries to maneuver a powered wheelchair or control a mouse cursor using simple tongue movements. The research team is currently preparing for their second round of clinical trials on the Tongue Drive System, which will be conducted at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. 

An assistant professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Ghovanloo specializes in biomedical device development. His main goal for participating in this competition was to promote the use of the most advanced microelectronics technologies in the field of assistive devices and rehabilitation engineering. The Tongue Drive System utilizes the latest in magnetic sensing technology combined with ultra-low power radio frequency transceivers, advanced signal processing algorithms, and smartphones.

“Sometimes when you ask our students about assistive devices, the first things that come to their minds are their grandma’s cane or the old manual wheelchair that they once saw at a hospital,” Ghovanloo said. “The Tongue Drive System draws a totally different picture in the students’ minds about assistive technologies and their associated field as a whole. Whenever I get a chance, I never hesitate to remind my students that there are very few other areas in engineering in which they can leave such a great impact in a lives of a group of human beings.”

The da Vinci Awards is a prestigious international forum that recognizes the latest developments and research in adaptive and assistive technologies that enable equal access and opportunity for all people, regardless of ability. Finalists representing the U.S., Canada, and Denmark were chosen from entries received from around the world. The awards were created by and benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society's Michigan Chapter.

The Tongue Drive System video may be viewed at