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Happy New Year to everyone! Let’s kick off 2014 with a ceremonial kick off: the first kick of this summer’s soccer World Cup in Brazil. The whole event, and probably the first match (Brazil – Croatia) will be officially started by a paralyzed teenager, who will use the world’s most advanced mind-controlled exoskeleton to strike the ball.

For the first time we also have a concept image of the robotic body suit and the football pitch to show you (see above). The exoskeleton will be created by the Walk Again Project team, a nonprofit, international collaboration, among others supported by Miguel Nicolelis, the famous Brazilian scientist and physician, best known for his pioneering work in “reading monkey thought”.

The Walk Again Project started with research from the Nicolelis lab using hair-thin and flexible sensors, known as microwires, that have been implanted into the brains of rats & monkeys. These flexible electrical prongs can detect minute electrical signals, generated by hundreds of individual neurons distributed throughout the animals’ frontal and parietal cortices—the regions that define a vast brain circuit responsible for the generation of voluntary movements.

“The vibrations can replicate the sensation of touching the ground, rolling off the toe and kicking off again,” says the lead robotic engineer Gordon Cheng, at the Technical University of Munich, Germany. The challenge will be to match those sensations to the brain patterns and movements. “There’s so much detail in this, it’s phenomenal,” he says.

The candidate teenage kicker will be trained in Virtual Reality to control technology that will eventually allow them to kick the ball at the world cup. They will do this by wearing a non-invasive headpiece that detects brain waves.

Source: Walk Again Project