Exoskeleton at World Cup: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

A paraplegic in a mind-controlled robotic exoskeleton is expected to kick off the World Cup…literally. If all goes according to plan, the World Cup opening ceremony will feature a wheelchair-bound person who will wear a suit that allows for standing and movement. Learn more about this amazing technology and the people behind it right here.

UPDATE: The paraplegic’s kick in the exoskeleton suit worked. You can read more about the potential of this exoskeleton on Mashable, and check out the kick in the GIF below.

paraplegic in exoskeleton kicks world cup ball

1. World Cup Exoskeleton Created by Miguel Nicolelis

The video above from the National Science Foundation explains more about how this technology will work.

The BBC reports that the exoskeleton to be featured at the World Cup has roots at Duke University. Brazilian neuroscientist Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, a leader of the Walk Again Project, works at Duke University at Duke’s Immersive Virtual Environment (aka DIVE.)

The BBC article quotes Nicolelis, who states:

“It’s the first time an exoskeleton has been controlled by brain activity and offered feedback to the patients…Doing a demonstration in a stadium is something very much outside our routine in robotics. It’s never been done before.”

2. Exoskeleton Works Via Brain Signals

The video above from the Guardian has more info about this cutting-edge exoskeleton.

This impressive exoskeleton works through a special cap. The paraplegic wears the cap, which relays brain signals to a computer. The computer resides in the “backpack” of the exoskeleton, which coordinates movement. The Duke DIVE website has some additional information about the genesis of this technology:

“This started with research from the Nicolelis lab using hair-thin and flexible sensors, known as microwires, that have been implanted into the brains of rats & monkeys. These flexible electrical prongs can detect minute electrical signals, or action potentials, generated by hundreds of individual neurons distributed throughout the animals’ frontal and parietal cortices—the regions that define a vast brain circuit responsible for the generation of voluntary movements.

Now, with further advancements, the candidate teenage kicker will be trained in Virtual Reality to control technology that will eventually allow them to kick the ball at the World Cup. They will do this by wearing a non-invasive headpiece that detects brain waves.”

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3. Exoskeleton to Be Called ‘Bra-Santos Dumont’ Suit

Check out the video above from CNN to learn more about the people who made this innovation possible.

The BBC explains the rationale behind the naming of this exo-suit:

“The suit has been named Bra-Santos Dumont, which combines the three-letter designation for Brazil and Alberto Santos-Dumont, the aviation pioneer who was born in the country’s southern state of Minas Gerais.”

Since the suit comes from the mind of a Brazilian doctor, and the World Cup is taking place in Brazil, a Brazilian name makes a great deal of sense.

4. World Cup Exoskeleton Took 30 Years to Build

Yahoo! Sports notes that the exoskeleton bodysuit is the product of 30 years of research, and the minds of over 150 scientists. The report also notes that part of the reason behind featuring the exoskeleton at the opening ceremony is to show Brazil’s dedication to science:

“[The exoskeleton is] being unveiled at the World Cup’s opening ceremony in Sao Paulo’s unfinished stadium as an attempt to show that Brazil is investing in science and things beyond football — which the millions of Brazilian protestors who have been bitterly opposed to their government squandering billions on this World Cup and the 2016 Olympics would dispute.”

5. World Cup Exoskeleton Is Not the Only Advanced Prosthetic in Development

The video above features a bionic limb designed by researchers at Johns Hopkins.

The Washington Post has an interesting breakdown of the current state of mind-controlled technology for the disabled. In addition to the exoskeleton being featured at the World Cup, a number of other advancements in robotic prosthetics have recently been made. Some of those developments have come from Nicolelis’ own lab:

“In Nicolelis’s lab, monkeys can feel virtual objects displayed on a computer screen when areas of the brain associated with the sense of touch are stimulated…

[Meanwhile,] Andrew Schwartz, a neuroscientist at the University of Pittsburgh [has a] robotic arm, showcased in the Feb. 16 issue of the Lancet…Funded in part by the U.S. military and built at the University of Pittsburgh, the freestanding mechanical limb sports a wrist that bends and rotates. Altogether, it reproduces seven of the 20 to 30 types of motion possible with a human arm.”

Check out all Heavy’s World Cup coverage here.