The first ceremonial kick of the World Cup game (Brazil 2014) may be made by a paralyzed teenager, who, flanked by the two contending soccer teams, will saunter onto the pitch clad in a robotic body suit.
Led by Miguel Nicolelis, the Walk Again Project is a nonprofit, international collaboration among the Duke University Center for Neuroengineering, the Technical University of Munich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, the Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute of Neuroscience of Natal in Brazil, The University of California, Davis, The University of Kentucky, and Regis Kopper of The Duke immersive Virtual Environment.
This 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, or action potentials, 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.
Now, with further advancements, 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.
More information about the Walk Again Project can be found in this Washington Post article.