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Researchers use tooth power to direct gadgets

Tooth grinding causes the temple muscles to react in very predictable ways

Compulsive teeth grinders might want to look away now if they don't wish to be reminded of their headache-inducing torment. For Osaka University in Japan has come up with a human-machine interface that is controlled by grinding the molars together.

The idea behind the research [Subscription link] was to create a simple switching system for people unable to use their hands properly or at all. The result is a hair band with infrared sensors that detect motion in the muscles of the temples caused by pressing the rearmost teeth together.

Muscle motion

A computer decides if the muscles have generated the movement pattern unique to tooth grinding and sends a signal to the connected device if they have. Errors are minimised by the fact that talking or eating generate completely different muscle movements.

While the technique could eventually be used for controlling electric wheelchairs, it is currently limited to switching a CD player on and off. The team hopes to expand that to cover more of the player's functions, then to checking email on a mobile phone before tackling more complex control systems.