The MouthPad allows users to control a computer or mobile device with their tongue
It fits in the mouth like a retainerBy Cal Jeffrey
That's different: Over the years, various companies have developed strange PC peripherals to satisfy niche markets. There is also a recent trend to bring customized accessories to people with disabilities. A San Francisco startup has combined the bizarre with the accessible by developing a peripheral called the "MouthPad."
As the name implies, the MouthPad is a controller operated with the mouth, specifically the tongue. It works much the same way as a traditional laptop touchpad. Its sensors detect and track tongue movement on the roof of the mouth to control the cursor, perform left and right clicks, and more.
The company behind the device, Augmental, was founded in 2019 by a team of MIT graduates who wanted to "make technology more human-friendly." Co-founders Corten Singer and Tomás Vega envisioned the MouthPad as the company's inaugural flagship product.
"We're committed to pushing the boundaries of how we interact with technology by building intuitive products that empower everyone to unleash their creativity," said the founders in the company's mission statement.
The MouthPad is a hands-free alternative to control any device users wish. It connects via Bluetooth and is compatible with Windows, Linux, macOS, iOS, and Android. Despite the apparent accessibility applications, Augmental did not design the peripheral with only disabled people in mind, although they do get priority service.
"Whoever you are. Wherever you go. Whatever you do. The MouthPad was created for you."
As one would expect, it's not a one-size-fits-all device. Augmental designs a fitted chassis using waterproof dental resin, not unlike modern "invisible" retainers and bite guards. Each one is custom-made from a 3D scan of the customer's mouth. Since it fits like a retainer, it doesn't impede speech much. Generally, it is about 7.5 grams, 80x50x30mm (varying by design), and is about 0.7mm thick. Its battery lasts about 5 hours under continuous use, with a 2-hour recharging time and a lifetime of up to 500 cycles.
Once secured in the mouth, users control the cursor by running their tongue over a touch-sensitive plate the same way one would use their finger on a touchpad. Likewise, pressing the tongue to the roof of the mouth performs a left click, while a "sipping" gesture executes right clicks. The company plans to incorporate sophisticated head movement and bite-based input gestures in future iterations.
The MouthPad is currently in beta. However, Augmental has a preorder waitlist and will ship the device to beta participants on a case-by-case basis. Early adopters will also receive training on configuring and using the mouthpiece and "meticulous" support and software updates. The company will even set up a 3D dental scan at a dental lab near the user.
Augmental noted that it is waiting for FCC approval, which it expects to receive by Q3 2023. It also mentioned that it prioritizes the preorder queue by need and proximity to San Francisco. It cannot provide an accurate delivery timeframe because fulfillment times can vary. However, if it is similar to other dental appliances, delivery in eight to ten weeks from the time of the scan is not an unreasonable guess.