New Technology Will Allow Paralyzed Teen to Kick First Ball at 2014 World Cup

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UPDATE: June 12, 2014 at 2:50 p.m. ET

We have kickoff!

The first kick at the 2014 World Cup opening ceremony went swimmingly on Thursday, with a teenage "Walk Again Project" participant utilizing an exoskeleton prototype to boot the ball forward.

It wasn't a mighty kick, but it's movement in the right direction for a branch of technology that could forever change the way those with impaired mobility live their lives.

---End of Update--- 

Imagine wearing an Iron Man suit you could control with your mind—gears and electronics responding to your every thought.

This is the essence of the real technology that will allow a paralyzed teenager to stand up and kick the first ball at the 2014 World Cup.

Ashley Burns of UpRoxx brings news of the "Walk Again Project"—a collaboration between scientists from the Technical University of Munich, the Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute of Neuroscience of Natal in Brazil and Colorado State University. The project is headed by Miguel Nicolelis, a Brazilian scientist and physician known for his work in "monkey thought" and neurobiology.

In short, there are a lot of smart people working in different time zones to help a handicapped youngster walk over the pitch in Brazil this June.

I’d need several days and a room full of abacuses to explain the science at work here, but let’s just say this: They’re connecting the human brain with machines, with the hopes of using brain waves to allow the paralyzed to communicate with a robotic exoskeleton. This exoskeleton, in turn, will allow the individual to stand up like soccer Voltron and kick the dog-tar out of the first ball in Sao Paulo.

Pretty cool, right?

The teen who will kick the ball has yet to be selected, but a number of prospects are working with the technology and learning to use it. It’s basically Ender’s Game, but more awesome and productive.

David Prawel, one of the many intelligent minds behind the Walk Again Project, says their work is just the beginning of brain-machine communication and its applications.

"The Walk Again Project moves everyone to just imagine the next generation," Prawel said. "If we can do this now, just imagine what doors that opens up for the next set of people saying, 'Oh my God, they did that. Now what are we going to do?'"

We’re going to do mind-controlled jet packs. Or maybe something practical. You never know.

What we do know is the World Cup opening ceremony just became a lot more interesting. The world will see a paralyzed person stand up and take a kick that will change lives.

 

For science!

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