A disabled child in robotic exosuit will kick first ball at World Cup 2014

2 Apr 2014

In from of hundreds of millions of football fans across the world, a paraplegic Brazilian child will kick the first ball of the FIFA World Cup 2014 with the help of an exosuit.

With the tournament kicking off on 12 June, the exosuit developed by Miguel Nicolelis, a neuroengineer based at Duke University in North Carolina, is aimed at making the wheelchair an item from a by-gone era and give physically disabled people the freedom to walk.

Controlled by the user’s mind, the exosuit will be built from a combination of lightweight alloys, hydraulic systems and will be, given the circumstances, easy to operate.

It will be powered by a battery pack which will aim to have two hours of continuous use, good news for any future exosuit footballers.

The team also looked at protective measures that would stop the user from hurting themselves if they should fall down while wearing the suit by equipping it with a number of airbags.

Co-ordinated by Professor Gordon Chang working out of Munich’s Technical University, the team responsible for the suit’s design have been researching robotic humanoid technology for a number of years and will be anxiously waiting to see how their robot will perform on the world stage.

Speaking to The Guardian, Nicolelis hopes the design will give new life to those who wear it: “”All of the innovations we’re putting together for this exoskeleton have in mind the goal of transforming it into something that can be used by patients who suffer from a variety of diseases and injuries that cause paralysis.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic