|Robot suit: An exoskeleton on display in Brazil is designed to be worn, and controlled, by a paralyzed person.|
I cautiously wish him good luck...
In less than 60 days, Brazil will begin hosting soccer’s 2014 World Cup, even though workers are still hurrying to pour concrete at three unfinished stadiums. At a laboratory in São Paulo, a Duke University neuroscientist is in his own race with the World Cup clock. He is rushing to finish work on a mind-controlled exoskeleton that he says a paralyzed Brazilian volunteer will don, navigate across a soccer pitch using his or her thoughts, and use to make the ceremonial opening kick of the tournament on June 12.
The project, called Walk Again, is led by Miguel Nicolelis, a 53-year-old native of Brazil and one of the biggest names in neuroscience. If it goes as planned, the kick will be a highly public display of research into brain-machine interfaces, a technology that aims to help paralyzed people control machines with their thoughts and restore their ability to get around.
But the Walk Again project is drawing doubters. Saying the demonstration is as much publicity stunt as science, they question whether it will illustrate any real degree of thought control. That’s because it relies on a fairly old, imprecise brain-recording technology called EEG, or electroencephalography.
At least three other research groups have recently published reports of EEG-controlled exoskeletons. Yet so far, none have managed to do much more than send a start or stop signal. They let the robotic harness do the rest of the work on a preset trajectory, with plenty of outside assistance in balancing.
MIT Technology Review:
World Cup Mind-Control Demo Faces Deadlines, Critics
A Brazilian neuroscientist says brain-controlled robotics will let the paralyzed walk again. By Antonio Regalado