A teenager who is paralyzed will use a mind-controlled robotic exoskeleton to stand, walk, and kick the first ball at the opening of the World Cup soccer tournament this June.
The exoskeleton, which surrounds the lower body, is controlled by brain activity transmitted to electrodes that transmit wireless signals to a wearable computer that generates the exoskeleton's movements. The exoskeleton contains sensors that send important information about movement—such as force, rolling off the toe, and kicking off—back to the wearer, either through electronic vibrations or a visual monitor.
Tentative plans for the debut were first reported in the Washington Post last spring. Since that time, plans have solidified and reports of an official debut are now circulating. A brief video on the project is also available on YouTube. The technology was developed by the Walk Again Project, a nonprofit collaborative centered at the Duke University Center of Neuroengineering.
Learn more about how robotic devices are used in physical therapy: APTA offers podcasts that provide an overview and information on interventions, and the association's Learning Center offers a continuing education course that covers rehabilitation robots, technology differences, current uses, promising patient populations, evidence supporting the use of robotics, and other topics.
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