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Paraplegic to open World Cup in 'Iron Man' suit

The first kick at the World Cup opening ceremony will be made by a paraplegic wearing an Iron Man-like robotic bodysuit controlled by signals from the brain.

On Thursday in Sao Paulo, an unnamed paraplegic will leave behind his or her wheelchair to take to the pitch in the suit and give the tournament’s first kick.

Brazilian doctor Miguel Nicolelis led a team of 156 scientists from around the world to create the futuristic exoskeleton, which was designed to enable paralysis victims to walk.

Electronic circuits in the device’s “feet” will send a return signal to the user via an artificial skin worn on the arm, conveying the sensation of movement and contact.

A different take

Nicolelis started down this path in 1984 when he wrote his doctoral thesis on neural connections in muscular control and thought of the suit in 2002, when scientists were just beginning to explore robotic exoskeletons.

“In 2009, after we learned Brazil was hosting the World Cup, they asked me for ideas to show Brazil in a different way than the world usually sees it. That’s when I suggested doing a scientific demonstration to teach people that Brazil is investing and has human potential to do things beyond football,” he said.

Although critics have questioned the practicality of his research and accused him of hogging an unfair share of the Brazilian government’s research budget, Nicolelis rejects that criticism.

More than 65,000 people will be in Sao Paulo’s Corinthians Arena to watch the BRA-Santos Dumont’s first steps in public before Brazil play Croatia in the opening match. Around a billion are expected to watch on TV.

Source: AFP