Feeling like “the first man on the moon”, using a mind-controlled exoskeleton suit Thibault finally can take his first steps again. Thibault was injured when he fell 15m in an incident at a nightclub, four years ago. That accident injured his spinal cord and left paralyzed, he spent around two years in the hospital. Then in 2017, Thibault was invited to take part in exoskeleton trial with Cinatec and the University of Grenoble.
In order to control the exoskeleton suit, Thibault had surgery to place two implants on the surface of the brain, it covers the parts of the brain that will control the movement. There are sixty-four electrodes on each implant that read brain activity then beam the instructions to a nearby computer. The sophisticated software would read those brainwaves and translates them into instructions to control the exoskeleton.
At first, Thibault had to practice to control a virtual character, or avatar in a computer game. Once the training process is done, he moved onto walking in the suit. After not walking for two years, Thibault says that he almost forgot what it is to stand. Every time he thinks “walk”, the brainwaves releases a set of chain of movements in the robotic suit to move his legs forward, he can also control each arms and maneuvering the in 3D space.
The robotic suit weights around 65kg and is still at prototype stage, even so, it marks advance on similar approaches that allow people to control a single limb with their thoughts. This suit is still not ready to move outside laboratory since the user needs to be attached onto a ceiling-harness to minimize the risk of falling over in the exoskeleton. Still, this is amazing, isn’t it? BBC reports that this robotic suit has been designed with one goal only, that is to help patients with limited movements, not to enhance human abilities.