When the Football World Cup 2014 kicks off in Brazil this year, it will be a technological landmark of sorts. Instead of a celebrity or a legendary football player, a paraplegic teenager will be taking the first kick of the ceremony.
Thanks to The Walk Again Project, a teenager, paralysed from the waist down, will be kicking off the proceedings using a mind-controlled exoskeleton suit. CNET reports that the suit will support the lower part of the teen’s body, and help the wearer 'walk' using wireless electrodes attached to the head that will collect brainwaves and control the limb. These will then signal the suit to move, eventually getting the teenager to kick off the game.
A visual representation of the kick-off
Perhaps what’s most heartwarming is that person wearing the suit will have sensory feedback. Essentially, it will let the wearer feel like the suit is a part of them, helping them 'feel' the kick. The suit will come with sensors that monitors touch and pressure and even temperature. The wearer will be able to feel these thanks to haptic feedback.
The Walk Again Project itself is a not-for-profit collaboration between Duke University Center for Neuroengineering, the Technical University of Munich, 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, Davis, The University of Kentucky, and Regis Kopper of The Duke immersive Virtual Environment. The organisation will help the chosen teenager train in virtual reality, to get them ready for the most unique kick-off in World Cup history.