ATOM Is an Assistive Tongue Operated Mouse for People Living with ALS

Designed by a team of students, ATOM is an award-winning assistive mouse that can help people who lack motor control.

Cameron Coward
a month agoSensors / 3D Printing

Take a moment and consider how much time you spending using computers, smartphones, and tablets every single day. In 2018, Nielsen published a study that indicates that the average American adult spends nearly four hours a day on those devices and that doesn’t include the devices they used at work. But people who have difficulty with fine motor control, from either injuries or conditions like ALS, can’t use those devices without the help of specialized technology. ATOM is a device that can provide that, and it was designed by a team of students and won several awards.

ATOM stands for “Assistive Tongue Operated Mouse,” which tells you exactly what it does. It’s a special mouse that fits into the user’s mouth and lets them control a computer’s cursor with their tongue. In many scenarios, including most cases of quadriplegia, people retain control of their mouth and tongue. That means that they can use ATOM to take advantage of the computers that many of us tend to take for granted. They could even use an onscreen keyboard to type with this mouse — though it wouldn’t be particularly quick.

The ATOM tutorial contains all of the information you need to build your own, as well as the code to make it work. The total cost should be less than $75, and can be significantly less if you shop around and use cheaper generic components. The three most important components are an Arduino Pro Micro board, a pointing stick module, and a pair of tactile switches. Moldable polycaprolactone beads are used to form the mouthpiece. When the Arduino is connected to a computer, it will automatically appear as a USB HID mouse that will work with any computer. Finally, ATOM can be mounted on a stand that is 3D-printed, laser-cut, or even constructed by hand.

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