fifa world cupBizarre as it may seem, this is really set to happen. The first kick of the 2014 FIFA World Cup will be delivered by a teenager who is paralyzed from the waist down. He will be wearing an advanced robotic body suit or exoskeleton, controlled by a special helmet which will pick up his mental commands directly from the brain, and pass them to the exoskeleton. If this sounds like something out of “Iron Man”, let me tell you that real research in this direction has been going on for years.

This is the result of the “Walk Again Project” a non-profit collaborative initiative among the Duke University Center for Neuroengineering, Regis Kopper of The Duke immersive Virtual Environment, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, the Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute of Neuroscience of Natal in Brazil, The University of California and The University of Kentucky and others.

So how does this thing work? The helmet which is customized has a flexible plastic inner lining in which numerous sensors are embedded. These pick up signals from the neurons of the brain and sends them wirelessly to the exoskeleton which responds appropriately to them. Since this inner layer has to fit perfectly with both the outer protective shell and also the particular user’s scalp, it is specially made with 3D printing. Take a look at the video to see how it is done.

The exoskeleton consists of motorized metal braces which will respond to the signals sent by the helmet by supporting and bending the user’s knees. The system will be stabilized by gyroscopes and power will be supplied by a battery carried in a backpack. Such braces have been tested and found to work on monkeys. However, movement and stabilization is not enough. The user must have some tactile feedback. This will be supplied through German-made sensors which will monitor various parameters such as touch, temperature and forces on the suit, which will be fed back to the user via visual displays and vibrating motors as each foot touches the ground. In theory, this feedback could be directly sent to the brain. No doubt that will become possible in the future.

Of course, this is not easy. For this to work the subject must train in a Virtual Reality (VR) environment for months to “teach” the exoskeleton to respond correctly to his or her mental commands.

Miguel Nicolelis, a Brazilian neurosurgeon who is leading the “Walk Again Project” efforts to create this robotic suit says they want to galvanize the people’s imagination. He feels that with enough investments and political will, it will be possible to make wheelchairs obsolete.

Nicolelis, a pioneer in this field first started by developing a robotic arm which could be controlled by mice that had sensors implanted in their brains. Other developments followed, and it was found that small groups of neurons had an astonishing capability of communicating with digital devices and of learning computer algorithms. This will be the first major development using a non-invasive technique.

FIFA WORLD CUP 2014 – Walk Again Project

The 2014 FIFA World Cup is not all that far off. You will get an opportunity to see this incredible sight, quite soon. If you can’t make it to Sao Paolo, Brazil, be sure to turn your TV set to the opening, even if you are not a fan of soccer. As the news spreads, more and more people will want to watch this in real time. I bet this will be one of the most watched TV events in history. What do you think?

Mind-Controlled Kick Off To The 2014 FIFA World Cuphttp://www.aartiinformatics.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/fifa-2014.jpghttp://www.aartiinformatics.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/fifa-2014-300x300.jpgAarti InformaticsTECHNOLOGY2014 fifa world cup,robotic body suit,Walk Again ProjectBizarre as it may seem, this is really set to happen. The first kick of the 2014 FIFA World Cup will be delivered by a teenager who is paralyzed from the waist down. He will be wearing an advanced robotic body suit or exoskeleton, controlled by a special helmet...Daily News, News Magazine, Online Magazine