Tongue-Tap Control: The New Lip-Licking Controller for Your Devices
University of Chicago researchers recently revealed a game-changing user interface that can receive and transmit digital information using small movements of the lips and tongue. This technology, known as LipIO, is a godsend for people with disabilities who may not have full use of their hands or eyes.
The device is made of a thin, flexible plastic sheet with conductive materials that is attached to the skin and has electrodes for lip contact. The top layer of the sheet receives input from the lower lip or tongue via capacitive touch, and the signals are transmitted via electrostimulation. The researchers created the LipIO system with readily available hobbyist components and made it open-source.
While the device’s primary purpose is to assist people with disabilities, it has numerous other potential applications. LipIO can, for example, be used to tune a guitar, provide navigation information to cyclists, and even provide DJs with an additional control source for adding effects.
LipIO’s applications can also be found in the virtual world, where it can be used to create a realistic sense of taste in virtual reality (VR) environments. The researchers envision a similar haptic interface that uses electrical stimulation on the tongue to allow users to taste basic flavours such as sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. In the future, people may even be able to taste virtual ice cream in the metaverse.
Although LipIO is still a relatively large device with numerous wires, the next step is to reduce its size to make it more practical for everyday use. The researchers also hope to make the technology more suitable for public spaces by removing the need to frequently lick one’s lips.