Paraplegic Kicks Off World Cup with Mind-Controlled Exoskeleton

The first ceremonial kick of the 2014 World Cup game was made by a paralyzed teenager, who walked onto the field clad in a robotic body suit. Led by Miguel Nicolelis, the Walk Again Project is a nonprofit, international collaboration of the Duke University Center for Neuroengineering and several other institutions. The project started with research from the Nicolelis lab using hair-thin, flexible sensors implanted into the brains of rats and monkeys. These flexible electrical prongs can detect minute electrical signals generated by hundreds of neurons throughout the animals' frontal and parietal cortices - the regions that define a vast brain circuit responsible for the generation of voluntary movements. Now, with further advancements, the kicker wore a non-invasive headpiece that detects brain waves and relays them to a computer in the exoskeleton's backpack. The paralyzed teenager was trained in Virtual Reality to control technology to kick the ball.