You’ll see something amazing next week at the start of the World Cup. A paralyzed volunteer will walk onto the field and deliver the first kick. It will all happen with the help of a Brazilian-led project called the ‘Walk Again Project.’ Here’s how it will all go down.
The Cyber Suit
Using a robotic exoskeleton, the volunteer’s brain will send signals to the exoskeleton suit. From there, the suit will move the person’s legs and arms in order to help that person walk onto the field. When the volunteer thinks about kicking the ball, the suit will respond by making it possible for that person to kick the ball. Outside of the suit, the volunteer is not able to move all due to being completely paralyzed.
This technology isn’t entirely new, and it’s not entirely finished either. One of the lead scientists for the project has told press that the suit is not ready to go yet, and that the suit has not been tested outside or on a field at all. In short, nobody is really sure if the suit will actually work. But, suits like this one have been tested in labs, and, so far, it works. Plus, the Walk Again Project has already started to sell robotic arms that work much like the whole body suit – and that’s not all. Helmets that pick up on brain waves and can connect one person’s thoughts to another person’s brain are currently being developed.
Here Comes the Future
The point of the Walk Again Project is to show the world that the technology to help disabled people walk again (and perform other basic functions) exists. Even if the suit doesn’t work as planned on the opening day of the World Cup, it’s the technology that the group wants to exhibit. There’s hope behind a suit that can let a disabled person walk, kick a ball, move his arms, and complete simple tasks. But, further, the suit also relates signals back to the brain, so that the person wearing the suit actually feels the sensation of walking and kicking or doing any other task.
Any kind of cyborg-esque project like this one isn’t going to slip past the press without some kind of controversy. Some believe that this is not the way to help people rehabilitate. Others believe that these suits will give paralyzed people a chance to be free again, to walk again, to kick a ball again – and feel the sensations actually attached to those physical movements. This is a step in the cyborg direction, and it could be used for bad purposes, but the technology that this team developed has been created to help those that cannot walk become independent once again.
Is this technology scary or necessary? If this isn’t the way to help a person rehabilitate, what is? All eyes will be on that opening day kick – hopefully, the suit works as planned, so that this group can get the funding it needs to continue with these important projects.