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High-Tech Body Art Goes Oral
While for many body art is something to look at, there are others who are looking to make it a more functional application. While there are still some social prejudices around things like tongue piercings or body art that is "in your face," there are also some novel uses that just might change the future of body art.
For a while there was a fad of having "grills," the nickname given to temporary or permanent gold caps applied to the front teeth. For many who wore them, these were just a way of being flashy or demonstrating wealth, mostly seen as part of the rap and hip-hop communities. But recently an artist revisited the concept with the idea of bringing the music to the modification.
Artist Aisen Caro took the idea of musicians wearing grills and decided to put the music where the mouth was. Instead of just capping the teeth, these concept grills incorporated a music system, which fit against the roof of the mouth much like a conventional retainer. Controlled by buttons the wearer can push with their teeth, the tooth caps would then play music that only the wearer could hear. Bone conduction inside the skull transmits the sound, eliminating the need for headphones.
Another oral modification, the tongue piercing, is being explored by researchers at Georgia Tech who work with quadriplegics. Paralyzed from the neck down, these patients very often only have distinct control over their tongue and mouth and must get around with the help of elaborate wheelchairs. But controlling these mobility devices is still a problem. Over the course of several years, doctors worked with the consultation of professional piercers and a group of fully-mobile volunteers to explore using a tongue piercing as a "tongue-drive system."
A special headpiece worn by the patients would be able to read the position of the piercing and by detecting movement, receive controls that could operate specially-programmed wheelchairs. To date, this is the first application of such a body modification for assisted-living and clinical trials are presently ongoing. For patients who have little to no control over their arms or hands, this offers an exciting possibility for mobility and there's no telling what future applications could be adapted if the initial technology can be successfully developed.
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