JJ Moritz and Matt Schultz have created an orthodontic retainer that allows a user to control their phone or computer with their tongue. The engineers began working full time on this project in November 2019, and are collaborating with Colin Heffern, a landscape architect who is quadriplegic, and staff at Craig Hospital, to test the first set of prototypes. Their goal is to develop a computer mouse for people with disabilities that is as fast as a hand-operated mouse.
“Most mouse options for people who are disabled are slow in one way or another. Colin was frustrated with the head-tracking mouse he uses because he had to perform extra actions every time he wanted to right-click or scroll. We’ve solved that problem,” states JJ Moritz.
The Smart Mouthware Computer Mouse they have developed is a touchpad built into the roof of an orthodontic retainer that allows the users to move the cursor by moving their tongue across the roof of their mouth. Clicking (left, right-click, and click-drag), is performed by flattening the tongue against the roof of the mouth, and scrolling is performed by rapidly flicking the tongue across the pad in the desired direction of the scroll.
“It allows full functionality of the mouse, which really seems to be pretty slick,” states Colin in a YouTube review of the current prototype.
In that video, Colin explains some improvements that will need to be in the final product but says that the current prototype does allow him to easily click and perform actions like right-click and drag. He is also excited to have one piece of technology to control both his computer and phone.
JJ and Matt funded the project themselves for several months, then launched a crowdfunding campaign in February. JJ Moritz states that they chose to crowdfund (as opposed to taking loans or investments) in order to keep the final product cost down.
“Insurance won’t cover most assistive technology, and people on Medicaid in Colorado have a strict limit on the amount of wealth they can have, so we have to keep this product affordable for someone with an injury. If we took investor money or loans early on, we would have to set the product cost much higher in order to repay that money,” explains Mr. Moritz.
The goal is to keep the cost for single device around $400, though Moritz admits that is getting hard to achieve, as the donations to their crowdfunding campaign have slowed down. Regardless, they hope to launch the product in October of this year after additional user testing and improvements.
The most recent update on Smart Mouthware can be seen in the video below where head tracking to the Smart Mouthware device was added in response to Colin’s request for faster mouse movement, and desire to use his infrared head tracker with Smart Mouthware. A very cool proof of concept was also added that enables a person to play shooter games with Smart Mouthware on a PC!
More details on Smart Mouthware can be found at https://sapienllc.com.