How The World Cup's Brain-Controlled Exoskeleton Works [Video]

Neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis talks about his "Walk Again" machine, which allowed a paraplegic man to make the first kick of the 2014 World Cup.

Soccer Exoskeleton

Juliano Pinto, a paraplegic man, kicks a soccer ball using an exoskeleton built by Miguel Nicolelis and a large team of scientists and engineers.Imagine Science Films

The World Cup has drawn more than rabid soccer fans to Brazil. A team of filmmakers are on the ground in Rio de Janeiro documenting the science behind the games, including an exoskeletal kick-off, the genetics of competition, and even the biochemistry of diehard spectators.

Here's Imagine Science Films' take on Kinetic, the latest mini-documentary in their "Field Work: World Cup" series:

Imagine Science Films teams up with Miguel Nicolelis, Director of the Institute of Neurosciences in Natal to discuss the neurobiology of translating thought into mechanical action in Kinetic. What if you could move technology simply by imagining it? If this sounds like a science fiction movie, rest assured, it is all too real. The exoskeletal kick off of the World Cup, performed by Juliano Pinto who lost motor control of his lower body in a car accident, left many of us wondering, how did he do it? Movement does not stem from one part of the brain, but neurons from many parts of the brain work in tandem to complete actions. “Think of the brain as a big democracy,” says Miguel Nicolelis, who led a team of researchers to create the robotic exoskeleton used to prompt muscle movement. “Lots of cells ‘vote’ electrically to produce this behavior from different parts of the brain.” The more neurons that join in, the better. The sensors placed on Juliano Pinto record angle, position, pressure, and temperature, that is then fed back to the subject through vibrations placed on their torso. These vibrations create an illusion in the brain itself that the subject is responsible for limb movement. In a sense, the exoskeleton is incorporated as an extension of the person’s body.

Watch the film below.

Not working? Watch _Kinetic_ on YouTube.

This article was created in partnership with Imagine Science Films. Watch all of the Field Work videos here.