A paralyzed teen using an advanced mind-controlled exoskeleton could provide the first ceremonial kick of the 2014 FIFA Soccer World Cup in Brazil this month. Duke University plans to showcase their incredible mind controlled devices and exoskeletons at the international sporting event in São Paulo as part of a bid to demonstrate real, practical technology that’s within our grasp today.
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The once-in-a-lifetime kick is just a small part of the Walk Again Project; an international collaboration headed by Duke University Neurobiologist Miguel Nicolelis, that uses technology to overcome paralysis. The research began in the Nicolelis Lab using hair-thin and flexible sensors known as microwires. The scientists first tested the mini-sensors inside the brains of rats and monkeys to detect minute electrical signals generated by hundreds of individual neurons. The system monitors the animal or person’s frontal and parietal cortices—or the regions that control voluntary body movements.
Now, with further advancements, the team will pick a teenage candidate that will be trained as the starting kicker. At first the training will begin in Virtual Reality in order to help the teen learn to control the technology before they will eventually be prepared to kick the first ball at the World Cup. The kicker will wear a non-invasive headpiece that detects brain waves to control the exoskeleton’s movements.
The scientists also hope to incorporate sensors into the exoskeleton that feed information about touch, temperature and force back to the wearer. This feedback will come through a visual display or a vibrating motor.
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