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With the Help of Exoskeleton, Paralyzed Teen May Make Kick During World Cup Opening Ceremony

With the Help of an Exoskeleton, a Paralyzed Teen Will Make Kick During World Cup Opening CeremonyAs if 2014 wasn’t already going to be exciting enough for the world of technology, now, a new breakthrough might give one lucky soccer—sorry, football—fan the chance of a lifetime.

Last week, we predicted that the world would see the first ever 3D-printed organ some time this year. Our next prediction is that a paralyzed teen from Brazil is going to score big at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil!

How is this possible? Well, if all goes according to plan, the teenager who is paralyzed from the waist down “will use the world’s most advanced mind-controlled exoskeleton to swing at the ball.”

As NewScientist Health notes in the article we linked above, the exoskeleton is the centerpiece of the Walk Again Project, an international collaboration using technology to overcome paralysis. The kicker, part of a small group of people already training in Brazil, is already training using a virtual exoskeleton, before things go live at the World Cup.

The exoskeleton supports the lower body and is controlled by minute electrical signals, or action potentials, in the brain detected by tiny electrodes called microfibers. These signals “are sent wirelessly to a computer worn by the wearer” that converts them into movements.

The movements of the exoskeleton will still feel clunky to say the least, but the team hopes to incorporate sensors into the exoskeleton that would feed information about touch, temperature and force back to the wearer’s computer pack.

Eventually, the team hopes to relay this information straight into the wearer’s brain through the microfibers, making it truly feel like it is part of the person’s body. But for the World Cup, the teenager will be wearing a helmet with the microfibers attached to their scalp.

This project all started with research at the Nicolelis Lab, where microfibers were implanted into the brains of lab rats and monkeys. Researchers studied the action potentials generated by the animals’ neurons in the frontal and parietal cortices, the areas responsible for voluntary movement.

The tricky part in all this will be to match those brain signals to the movements of the exoskeleton to mimic the sensation of touching the ground, rolling off the toe and kicking off again. “There’s so much detail in this, it’s phenomenal,” says Gordon Cheng, lead robotic engineer at the Technical University of Munich, Germany.

The first kick of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil might not be from the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi. Instead, it will very likely be from be a paralyzed teen, who with the exoskeleton of the Walk Again Project, will score a huge GOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!!

Photo credit: Walk Again Project via Daily Mail

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