Technology isn't just about improving the speed of graphics cards to push more pixels on a display, nor is it limited to the pursuit of bigger and faster storage devices, though we're fans of such advancements. More than that, we're passionate about technology because of the wonderful things it can accomplish. Case in point, at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil this year, the first kick will be made by a teenager who is paralyzed from the waist down.
Say what? There's no voodoo magic involved, just awesome technology. The teen will use a mechanical exoskeleton that he'll control with his brain. Yes, it sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but it's real, and it's going to happen very soon.
"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," researchers from Duke University explain. "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."
Transitioning the technology to humans will be made possible through a 3D printed headpiece that's non-intrusive. The sensors will translate thoughts into action. As explained by The Washington Post, the teenager will wear motorized metal braces that were tested on monkeys. They'll support and bend his legs, keeping stabilized during the process by gyroscopes. Sensors made in Germany will relay a feeling of pressure when each foot lands on the ground.
Months of training to get used to the process is required beforehand, but the end result will be nothing short of a technological miracle, and a moment in time the paralyzed teen will never forget.