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MIT News: Mouth-operated touchpad allows individuals with paralysis to interact with computers

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In Short:

Tomás Vega SM ’19, co-founder of Augmental, began using technology to help people with disabilities since a young age. His startup developed the MouthPad, a device allowing users with movement impairments to control their devices through tongue and head movements. The goal is to improve accessibility of technology for everyone. Augmental is working on gaining FDA clearance and developing a new version of the MouthPad to respond to whispers and subtle movements.

Tomás Vega SM ’19 developed a stutter at the age of 5, which gave him insight into the challenges of disabilities and the potential of technology. He utilized technology to enhance human capabilities, starting with programming at the age of 12 and later creating technologies to assist people with disabilities in college.

Augmental – Enhancing Accessibility

Vega is now the CEO of Augmental, a startup dedicated to improving accessibility for people with movement impairments. Their flagship product, the MouthPad, enables users to interact with their personal devices through tongue and head movements. By leveraging the tongue’s motor control abilities, the MouthPad enhances independence for individuals with spinal cord injuries.

Augmental aims to empower individuals with severe impairments to use technology as proficiently as those without limitations.

From MIT to Augmental

While at MIT, Vega explored brain-machine interfaces but ultimately shifted focus to develop a non-invasive solution following an internship at Neuralink. Augmental was officially established after utilizing MIT resources and funding from the E14 Fund.

Driving Innovation with MouthPad

The MouthPad’s design is personalized for each user, enabling intuitive control through tongue and head gestures. Augmental continues to enhance the device’s capabilities to cater to various user needs.

Expanding Accessibility

Augmental is working towards FDA clearance to expand the MouthPad’s applications, including controlling wheelchairs and robotic arms. The company is also developing advanced features to enhance user experience, such as detecting whispers and subtle movements of speech organs.

As technology and AI progress, Vega envisions Augmental as a universal tool that can benefit a wide range of users by providing a seamless, hands-free interface to intelligence.

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