For everything wonderful and memorable that will come from this summer’s World Cup, perhaps one of the most incredible moments will happen to kick off the tournament.
A volunteer from the Association for Assistance to Disabled Children (AADC) will operate an robotic exoskeleton with their brain in order to execute the World Cup’s ceremonial first kickoff.
To recap: a paralyzed person will be able to kick a soccer ball to open the world’s biggest event.
It’s amazing just to consider, but scientists from the Walk Again Project have put it together.
This demonstration is the debut of the Walk Again Project, a consortium of more than 150 scientists and engineers from around the globe who have come together to show off recent advances in the field of brain machine interfaces, or BMI. The paralyzed person inside will be wearing an electroencephalographic (EEG) headset that records brainwave activity. A backpack computer will translate those electrical signals into commands the exoskeleton can understand. As the robotic frame moves, it also sends its own signals back to the body, restoring not just the ability to walk, but the sensation as well.
Just how well the wearer will walk and kick are uncertain. The project has been criticized by other neuroscientists as an exploitative spectacle that uses the disabled to promote research which may not be the best path for restoring health to paralyzed patients. And just weeks before the project is set to debut on television to hundreds of millions of fans, it still hasn’t been tested outdoors and awaits some final pieces and construction. It’s not even clear which of the eight people from the study will be the one inside the suit.
The article is incredible, detailing the controversial research and experiments that preceded this development. It’s a lot to take in and accept but, regardless, it’s pretty captivating.
See the video below.