WATCH ABOVE: When the World Cup kicks off in Brazil, hundreds of millions of people around the world will see a teenager rise from his or her wheelchair and kick the first ball. It’ll be thanks the work of a groundbreaking project called “Walk Again.” Mike Drolet explains.
TORONTO – So who has the honours of taking the first kick at this year’s World Cup opening ceremony? Soccer powerhouses Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi might have been in the running, but the first kick will be made by a paraplegic man wearing a robotic bodysuit crafted with the help of nearly 160 scientists around the world.
The man’s identity is being protected, but on Thursday afternoon, he will leave his wheelchair and don what doctors are calling an “Iron Man” exoskeleton suit. Brazilian doctor Miguel Nicolelis and 156 global scientists developed the robotic bodysuit over the course of three decades, reports suggest.
It’s being unveiled for the first time during the World Cup opening ceremonies. U.S. reports say the scientific offering will showcase Brazil’s commitment to science. It’s the product of hundreds of research papers and clinical studies.
WATCH: Science behind exoskeleton to be used in World Cup opening ceremony explained in National Science Foundation video
“It’s the first time an exoskeleton has been controlled by brain activity and offered feedback to the patients,” Nicolelis told Agence-France Presse. He’s a Duke University neuroscientist.
“In 2009, after we learned Brazil was hosting the World Cup, they asked me for ideas to show Brazil in a different way than the world usually sees it. That’s when I suggested doing a scientific demonstration to teach people that Brazil is investing and has human potential to do things beyond football,” he said.
The organization says the suit technology, in the long run, could help people with paralysis get out of wheelchairs and take steps on their own. The suit takes cues from the user’s brain activity – electronic circuits then send signals to the artificial skin on the suit to create the feeling of movement and contact.
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