Extraordinary World Cup kick-off

A paraplegic Brazilian teen is scheduled to don a mind-controlled robotic exoskeleton and a special 3D printed helmet to demonstrate a football kick during the opening ceremony of the Fifa World Cup 2014, which will begin on June 12.

The complex robotic suit, built from lightweight alloys and powered by hydraulics, will be the culmination of years of work by an international team of scientists and engineers working on a non-profit project called the Walk Again Project.

The kick is aimed to be one of the first massively public demonstrations of a person controlling a robot with neural signals.

The kicker will also train in a virtual reality environment to get used to walking with a new nervous system, the report said.

US tech blog TechCrunch said the exoskeleton is finally coming together after it was first announced in January. It should be ready for the World Cup kick-off in Brazil.

The exoskeleton will be almost 1.8m tall and should weigh about 70kg, said Brazilian neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis, who coordinates the project, on the Fifa World Cup 2014 website.

A team of researchers has reportedly built the helmet while other teams have built the exoskeleton and the neuro interface for the robot.

They used a 3D printer to extrude a foam structure that is soft and squishy and that will be able to keep the electrodes in place while in motion, the report said.

The Walk Again Project is a collaboration by several universities, including Duke University Center for Neuroengineering, in the US state of North Carolina, the Technical University of Munich, in Germany, and Colorado State University (CSU) in the US state of Colorado.

This article was first published on June 9, 2014.
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