World Cup 'bionic man' gives hope to paraplegics
Robotic exoskeleton lets paralysed man take first kick at the World Cup opening ceremony
A mind-reading robotic exoskeleton that enabled a paraplegic man to kick the first ball of the World Cup last night could soon let paralysed patients walk again.
Juliano Pinto, a 29 year-old Brazilian man whose lower body is completely paralysed, took a few steps towards the ball and performed a symbolic kick using the robotic suit.
Neuroscientist Dr Miguel Nicolelis and more than 150 researchers built the mind-controlled exoskeleton, which is built around a cap that sits on the patient’s head and a computer stored in the suit's backpack.
Brain signals detected by the cap are interpreted by the computer and converted into movement by hydraulics.
"The patient imagines that he wants to move, to walk. This is detected by sensors and sent to a computer which interprets this information and sends info to the exoskeleton," Dr Nicolelis, who leads the project, told the Washington Post.
"It allows the patient to control movements on the lower limbs, that's the first innovation. The second is the exoskeleton generates these movements."
As part of his continuing research, eight young patients with paralysis are being trained in his lab in Sao Paulo.
Researchers working for a project called Walk Again said in a statement that the event would be "just the beginning" of a future "in which people with paralysis may abandon the wheelchair and literally walk again", reports the BBC.
After Pinto performed the kick, Dr Nicolelis excitedly tweeted: 'We did it!'
We did it!!!!
— Miguel Nicolelis (@MiguelNicolelis) June 12, 2014