“At the World Cup in June, they’re going to wheel a disabled person out onto the field. He’s going to rise out of his wheel chair and kick the first ball.”
That quote, courtesy of David Prawel, Ph. D, is sure to get your attention. According to the report from Engadget, that’s exactly what he and the folks at Colorado State University have been working on according to the video above.
It describes a high-tech prosthesis designed as part of the “Walk Again Project,” a venture described by Duke University’s Immersive Virtual Environment (DiVE) as a “nonprofit, international collaboration among the Duke University Center for Neuroengineering, the Technical University of Munich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, the Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute of Neuroscience of Natal in Brazil, The University of California, Davis, The University of Kentucky, and Regis Kopper of The Duke immersive Virtual Environment.”
“This is the first exoskelton that is getting feedback from the volunteer,” says Colorado State Vice President of Research Alan Rudolph, Ph. D. “who’s more integrated into the device and learning how to control the device through non-invasive signals, but more importantly through providing feedback about their world as they’re learning how to re-walk or learning again how to walk inside the exoskeleton.”
According to the Washington Post, the candidate, a Brazilian teenager paralyzed from the waist down and selected from a pool of 10, has been training for months with a virtual reality simulator. His legs will be stabilized by motorized metal braces, in turn stabilized by battery-powered gyroscopes. The desired result, of course, is that he will use this Iron Man-like prosthesis to translate human thought into mechanical motion on June 12 as part of the 2014 World Cup Opening Ceremony.
“If all goes according to plan, the teenager will walk onto the field, cock back a foot and swing at the soccer ball, using a mechanical exoskeleton controlled by the teen’s brain.”
“We want to galvanize people’s imaginations,” project leader Miguel Nicolelis told the Post. “With enough political will and investment, we could make wheelchairs obsolete.”
The young Brazilian man chosen for the 2014 World Cup display won’t be the first person to walk with help from a prosthesis, but this appears to be one of the most incredible scientific demonstrations put on the global stage. What an incredible time to live in, when international bio-mechanical research can come together with FIFA’s World Cup, perhaps the world’s most popular sporting event, to promote a cause that would benefit so many.
What do you think about the paralyzed teen kicking out the first ball of the 2014 World Cup?