The 2014 World Cup will undoubtedly put on display to shine some of the very best soccer talent the world has to offer. The likes of Messi, Ronaldo and Suarez will time after time produce moments of incomparable athletic ability from their very first to last kicks of the ball.
But in terms of the greatest scientific achievement of the tournament, they will fall miles short in Brazil. Thanks to science and technology, that honor looks all but set to go to someone completely unknown to fans of the beautiful game — a Brazilian teenager paralyzed from the waist down.
With the aid of a mind-controlled, mechanical exoskeleton, a group called the Walk Again Project (see video above) plans to empower an otherwise powerless to walk teenager to stand up from a wheelchair, walk onto the field, cock back a foot and perform the ceremonial first kick of the World Cup.
Comprising of more than a handful of some of the brightest scientific and software specialists in the world, the Walk Again Project is based chiefly out of Duke University in Durham, N.C.
In a recent interview with The Washington Post, Miguel Nicolelis, a Brazilian neuroscientist and leader of the Walk Again Project, said, “With enough political will and investment, we could make wheelchairs obsolete.”
The opening kick of the 2014 World Cup will serve as one of the very first public, human demonstrations of neuroprosthetics following years of testing similar devices on rats and monkeys.
The teenager chosen to partake in this historic act has yet to be selected, but in order to do so will undergo months of training via a virtual-reality simulator in order to kick off this World Cup like never before.