When you talk about the sportsball games, my eyes tend to glaze over. I might appear briefly narcoleptic. But when you talk about robotic suits with a mind interface that might help paraplegics walk again, I snap out of my stupor.
Yesterday Juliano Pinto, a 29-year-old with complete lower trunk paralysis, used such a suit to make the symbolic first kick for the World Cup at Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Did most people notice the six-foot kick? Not really, they were a little too concerned with the sportsball games that are about to happen and all of the riots that are accompanying them.
But nerds noticed, because this is an important step forward for brain-machine interfaces and for cybernetic technology that may one day replace wheelchairs.
The suit was created by 150 researchers led by Brazilian neuroscientist Dr Miguel Nicolelis, called the Walk Again Project.
“It was up to Juliano to wear the exoskeleton, but all of them made that shot. It was a big score by these people and by our science,” he said.
The exoskeleton Juliano wore is fitted with a cap that picks up his brainwaves. A computer in the exoskeleton decodes them and sends the signals that give the suit the order to move its hydraulically powered legs. Battery life for the suit gives Juliano about two hours of use.
The suit actually has a “skin” of sensors on the feet transmit stimulation back to the patient through their arm. This feedback is designed to create an association between the stimulation of the arm and the movement of the legs, eventually creating a sensation that feels more like natural walking.
[Source: BBC News]
Image from neurogadget.com.