Soccer fans around the world are cheering on their favorite players and supporting their countries in the midst of World Cup fever! Every 4 years, the best players and teams across the globe come together to celebrate their cultures and share in fierce competition as they fight to lift the trophy. Much like the Olympics, the World Cup opens with a grand, spectacular opening ceremony. This year, the opening ceremony featured performances by J. Lo, and Pit Bull, but perhaps the most amazing performance was given by a young paraplegic man who took the first kick of the World Cup standing up, enabled by an exoskeleton robotic suit.
The Brazilian flag appeared onto the ceremony field, followed by the man who appeared to be wearing a space age-like suit who used his thoughts to direct the suit to allow his body to kick the soccer ball, symbolizing the official ‘kick off’ of the 2014 World Cup.
So how does a suit like that work?
Over 150 scientists designed the suit to function like an exoskeleton, allowing people with paralysis to walk. Circuits are built into the suit to allow the device to send return signals to the individual via an external skin worn on the arm to direct movement. One neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis at Duke University explains that “it’s the first time an exoskeleton has been controlled by brain activity.”
The basic functionality of the suit is two-fold: the patient controls movements to their limbs and the suit makes those movements a reality.
In an interview with www.afp.com, that neuroscientist said that he suggested the idea for demonstrating the suit at the opening ceremonies of the World Cup “to teach people that Brazil is investing and has human potential to do things beyond football."
Though the actual camera time on the man kicking the ball was only a few seconds at best, the publicity surrounding the suit is going viral, encouraging conversations about technology and disability all over the Web.
While the technology may be far from perfected for every day use, the possibility of technology encouraging mobility outside of traditional mobility equipment like wheelchairs or walkers is exciting and encouraging.
You can watch the kick off here: http://www.engadget.com/2014/06/12/paraplegic-exoskeleton-world-cup/#comments
Check out more background about the concept for the suit on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoTr3a3kbnc
What do you think about the evolution of technology allowing an individual to use their mind to control their body via the use of mobility equipment? Do you think the demonstration of this exoskeleton as part of the World Cup opening ceremonies will help gain positive support for the disability community? Share in the comments!