Imagine being told you’ll never walk again. You’re paralyzed following a severe injury. You have to accept your new reality. But sometimes, miracles happen: Biomedical engineers unveil new medical inventions that could change someone’s life entirely.
That’s what happened to 28-year-old Lyon, France native Thibault. He was paralyzed for four years from the shoulder down. However, because of a mind-controlled exoskeleton that seems more science fiction than fact, he was able to walk again. But how?
His Bad Injury
In 2015, Thibault fell 40 feet from a balcony at a nightclub. The injury severed his spine, leaving him paralyzed from his shoulder down. He only had a very little movement in his biceps and left wrist. He was able to operate a wheelchair using a joystick with his left arm.
This was his life. He faced many limitations, and it seemed he would never be able to walk again. He would forever depend on a wheelchair. At least, that’s how it once seemed. But thanks to an invention known as a mind-controlled exoskeleton suit, Thibault was able to walk again. It was a long, difficult process, but it proved to be worth it.
Controlling His Brain
In 2017, Thibault, a former optician, enrolled in an exoskeleton program from the University of Grenoble. He used brain implants and sensors in between his skin and his brain to control the movements of his legs. The devices spanned the area of his brain that controls his motor function and various sensations.
Electrode grids collected Thibault’s brain signals and sent them to a decoding algorithm, which then translated into body movements. Thibault’s body was attached to a robotic exoskeleton suit, which would move according to the recorded translations.
For the past two years, as long as Thibault keeps thinking properly and effectively, he’s able to walk—slowly but with a purpose. All he has to do is think “walk” and it sets off a chain reaction in his brain. The suit moves his legs forward. Pretty cool, isn’t it?
Looking To The Future
In the beginning, Thibault covered a total of 476 feet and 480 steps. He was one of the earlier “guinea pigs” for the medical invention, but scientists have since made improvements. They believe the technology could have the ability to improve patients’ lives across the globe.
“I can’t go home tomorrow in my exoskeleton, but I’ve got to a point where I can walk. I walk when I want and I stop when I want,” Thibault said. He is confident he will one day be able to walk outside, just like everyone else. In fact, more research is being compiled to ease and improve the quality of life for patients with all kinds of disabilities.
Once news spread on social media about Thibault’s exoskeleton bodysuit, of course, it attracted attention. People were intrigued by the idea, and they were impressed with how easy it looked. After all, Thibault said he felt like he was the “first man on the Moon.”
The exoskeleton suit impressed thousands of Twitter users. One user (@22jerusha) said, “Amazing! Imagine how retro this will look in 100 years’ time when this tech has become about 1/50th of the size and can be used everywhere every day.” Another user (@bryan_belanger) commented, “This is how superhero movies start out.”
Finally, user (@RudyWesterneng) reflected, “This ranks as one of the best implementations of tech I’ve ever seen. Kudos, cheers, and excelsior to whoever accomplished this. Thank you!” Scientists and engineers also feel proud of the invention. They said they might eventually help tetraplegic patients drive cars using brain activity.
After all, nothing is impossible in the world of science. Once scientists work together, you never know what can happen. Whatever happens, we’ll certainly be impressed with the inventions.
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