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Mind-Controlled Exoskeleton Lets Paralyzed People Walk

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A test subject tries out the mind-controlled Mindwalker exoskeleton.

Researchers will spend another five years refining the thought-controlled MindWalker exoskeleton, with the goal of developing a commercial product.

Credit: Mindwalker Consortium

MindWalker is the world's first exoskeleton that aims to allow paralyzed and locked-in people to walk using only their mind.

Five people have been involved in the clinical trial of MindWalker over eight weeks, culminating with a review by the European Commission.

Although there are currently many methods for controlling the exoskeleton through thought, the most promising involves wearing a pair of glasses with flickering diodes attached to each lens. Each set of diodes flashes at a different frequency in the wearer's peripheral vision. The light is processed by the occipital cortex area of the brain, which can detect whether the user is concentrating on the left diode or the right. Focusing on the left side starts the exoskeleton walking, while concentrating on the right side stops it.

The researchers plan to spend another five years refining MindWalker with the goal of developing a commercial product. "We're going to make it more lightweight and smooth out the movements, and possibly even incorporate it all into a pair of pants to make it a little less 'Robocop.'" says project deputy coordinator Jeremi Gancet.

From New Scientist
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