CALIFORNIA, USA – MIT Media Lab spinoff Augmental, an innovative hardware startup focused on creating human-first experiences that enhance everyday interactions with digital devices and interfaces, announces the launch of the MouthPad^ — a groundbreaking innovation that allows people to control devices purely through the movement of their tongue. The hardware company’s first device aims to push the boundaries of hands-free computing making technology more human.
As a fully bespoke, smart intra-oral interface, customized to the user’s mouth with the ability to connect to several personal devices, this cutting-edge product is set to usher in a new frontier for hands-free technology.
By tapping into the under-explored interactive potential of the tongue, the MouthPad^ is part of an exciting new wave of accessible tech products set to emerge from Silicon Valley. The World Health Organization estimates that 1.3 billion people – or 16% of the global population – experience a significant disability today, which constitutes the disability community as one of the world’s largest underserved groups. According to a study by the CDC, nearly one in fifty people live with paralysis, or approximately 5.4 million people.
While eye-tracking technology, “pure” voice assistance, and even lip-controlled joysticks all offer degrees of hands-free access to the digital world, users can be left frustrated, fatigued, or with damage to their teeth. There is a clear need for more technological innovation regarding how we control current and forthcoming digital devices without our hands.
“As our lives become increasingly intertwined with technology, and the world expands from the physical to the digital, it’s more important than ever to ensure that everyone has equal access to control inputs and new interfaces,” said Tomás Vega, Co-founder and Engineer at Augmental. “Interactions with these systems must be designed to cater to how humans perceive, process, and act.”
Led by principles of universal design and inclusivity, Augmental launched an R&D program focusing on the needs of people with limited hand control. By working with the disability community, Augmental gained invaluable insights that helped inform the development of the device. The goal is to scale up the MouthPad^ so that it can be used by the broadest possible audience, allowing people to carry out everyday tasks hands-free and enjoy digital control with greater ease and independence.
“Universal design has the power to greatly expand digital access for everyone, not just those lacking mobility. In exploring hands-busy scenarios and contexts in which users have limited hand control, we have developed an in-mouth platform that enables convenient device interaction today, while also setting the stage for a future of more human and less distracting heads-up displays,” said Corten Singer, Co-founder and Engineer at Augmental. “Our technology should meet us where we are — not the other way around.”
Though the MouthPad^ has been found to address relevant needs for people with quadriplegia and limited hand control, its reach extends beyond these cases as assisting those in “hands-busy” scenarios to enhance productivity and performance of surgeons, gamers, astronauts, lab technicians, factory-line workers, etc. When it comes to how this technology could be applied — and improved — the possibilities are endless, especially as the promise of augmented reality approaches.
“It is very exciting to see this technology becoming widely available, not only because it can empower millions of differently-abled individuals, but also because as digital access becomes ever more important in our lives, there will be a need for novel, more seamlessly integrated methods for device interaction. I applaud the Augmental team for exploring creative new opportunities,” expressed Pattie Maes, MIT Media Lab Professor and Director of the Fluid Interfaces Group.
How it Works
Designed to allow users to speak freely and perform other actions in parallel, the MouthPad^ is complementary to alternative technology such as voice control, allowing people to seamlessly switch between tongue-driven screen navigation and speech without the need for surgery.
“In my previous roles, I worked on invasive implants for brain-computer interfaces, and I realized that these innovations were going to help a lot of people. But in talking with friends who would most benefit from these technologies, I realized that most of them wouldn’t undergo a surgical procedure in order to interact with computers,” said Tomás.
The MouthPad^ harnesses the innate dexterity of the tongue — considered by Augmental as “the 11th finger.” The device converts the user’s tongue position and pressure into cursor actions by processing signals through a machine-learning algorithm inside its processor. The commands are then sent via Bluetooth to the connected device and translated into cursor movements and clicks, allowing the user to do everything from simply sending an email or turning on the lights, to editing a photo or playing a video game.
Each device is fully personalized to the user through a process of intra-oral scanning that generates a 3D model of the mouth. Using this model, a custom device is designed and printed with dental resin. This perfectly fits the individual’s mouth and encapsulates a flexible circuit board with sensors, a processing unit, and a Bluetooth radio — all sealed in a watertight casing with an innovative technique to protect the electronics from saliva. This “wet touchpad” – smart enough to deal with issues introduced by saliva and other liquids – in combination with the fact that it can connect with several devices via Bluetooth, makes the MouthPad^ a game-changing piece of technology.
“I’m motivated about augmenting human ability, and interested in using technology to overcome all the limitations of the way we are born,” added Tomás.
Creative agency Wunderman Thompson Lima and Wunderman Thompson’s Inclusive Experience Practice provided world class brand support and brand experience for Augmental’s MouthPad^.
Wunderman Thompson Global Head of Design Josh Loebner, PhD, said: “Sharing this news surrounding Global Accessibility Awareness Day shows that we’re moving beyond awareness to actions through innovations such as the Augmental MouthPad^. This device goes beyond an advancement in technology to advancing opportunities for people with disabilities that dream of showcasing their creativity to disabled consumers and so many others. We’re thrilled to collaborate with Augmental and the launch of the MouthPad^ to be among the next generation of wearables that solves a problem for one group, disabled consumers, and expands the innovation to everyone.”
Augusto Landauro, Chief Content Officer at Wunderman Thompson LATAM added: “The success of Augmental’s brand lies in its innovation’s impact on functionality, human well-being, and connection. Specifically, MouthPad^ will enrich people’s lives and significantly impact the disabled community.”
“We have been and are committed to promoting inclusive and accessible design work at Wunderman Thompson by implementing several accessible initiatives. Collaborating with this incredible tech device is truly inspiring as It can give access and make life easier for millions of people with disabilities around the world” said Patan Tarazaga and Dany Minaker, Chief Creative Officers at Wunderman Thompson LATAM.
For more information or to purchase the MouthPad^ click here.
Agency: Wunderman Thompson
Global Chief Creative Officers: Daniel Bonner & Bas Korsten
Global Executive Creative Directors & Chief Creative Officers, LATAM: Daniel Minaker & Sebastian Tarazaga
Global Head of Inclusive Design: Josh Loebner
CEO, Peru: Paul Thorndike
Managing Director, Peru: Carlos Bernal
Chief Content Officer, Peru: Augusto E. Landauro
Global Senior Account Director: Dana di Lello
Account Director: Chiara Mavila
Creative Director: Augusto E. Landauro
Art Director: Diana Tamayoshi
Creative: Camille Morgan
Senior Head of Production: Rodrigo Sanchez
Agency Editor: Daniel Ayllon
Creative Collaborator: Bruno Reggiardo
IT Project Manager: Diego Jimenez
IT Project Manager: Beatriz Rosales
Technical Architect: Edgar Soto
Developer: José Andrés Monge
Developer: Merelyn Rodriguez
Developer: Carlos Loayza
Developer: Jocelyn Roman
QA Analyst: Jan Kubny
Global Creative Operations Director: Nora Farley
Global Campaign PR Lead: Jessica Hartley
Global Communications & Public Relations Manager: Emilie Sharp
Public Relations Director, North America: Rebecca Sullivan
Corten Singer: Co-Founder & Engineer
Tomás Vega: Co-Founder & Engineer
Julian Castellón Odabachian: Biomechanical Engineering
Jay Damodaran: Business Operations
Fernando Del Campo: Strategy
Corbin Halliwill: Software Engineering
Jana Marie Hemsing: Electrical Engineering
Gabi Muñoz: Business Development
Oscar Rosello: Design
Production Studio: DAG
Director: Frank Pugliese
Executive Producer: Maria Aceves