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World Cup to Begin with Exoskeleton Kick

Wearing a state-of-the-art exoskeleton, a paralyzed teenager will make the ceremonial first kick at the World Cup in Brazil this summer thanks to The Walk Again Project.

The World Cup begins in mid-June and lasts an entire month. The paralyzed teenage candidate has yet to be chosen, but he or she will be picked from a pre-approved group of patients who have been taught how to operate the sophisticated exoskeleton. The candidate teenage kicker will practice in a Virtual Reality lab, learning 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.

The sophisticated mind-controlled exoskeleton will support the lower part of the body and enable the paralyzed wearer to walk using wireless electrodes attached to the head that collect brainwaves, which then signal the suit to move. “The vibrations can replicate the sensation of touching the ground, rolling off the toe and kicking off again,” explains lead robotic engineer Gordon Cheng of the Technical University of Munich.

The Walk Again Project is a nonprofit collaboration among the Duke University Center for Neuroengineering; Technical University of Munich; Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne; Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute of Neuroscience of Natal in Brazil; University of California at Davis; University of Kentucky; and Regis Kopper of the Duke Immersive Virtual Environment facility.