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  • On June 12, 2014, precisely at 3:33

  • in a balmy winter afternoon in São Paulo, Brazil,

  • a typical South American winter afternoon,

  • this kid, this young man that you see celebrating here

  • like he had scored a goal,

  • Juliano Pinto, 29 years old, accomplished a magnificent deed.

  • Despite being paralyzed

  • and not having any sensation from mid-chest to the tip of his toes

  • as the result of a car crash six years ago that killed his brother

  • and produced a complete spinal cord lesion that left Juliano in a wheelchair,

  • Juliano raise to the occasion, and on this day did something

  • that pretty much everybody that saw him in the six years deemed impossible.

  • Juliano Pinto delivered the opening kick

  • of the 2014 Brazilian World Soccer Cup here

  • just by thinking.

  • He could not move his body,

  • but he could imagine the movements needed to kick a ball.

  • He was an athlete before the lesion. He's a para-athlete right now.

  • He's going to be in the Paralympic Games, I hope, in a couple years.

  • But what the spinal cord lesion did not rob from Juliano

  • was his ability to dream.

  • And dream he did that afternoon, for a stadium of about 75,000 people

  • and an audience of close to a billion watching on TV.

  • And that kick crowned, basically, 30 years of basic research

  • studying how the brain,

  • how this amazing universe that we have between our ears

  • that is only comparable to universe that we have above our head

  • because it has about 100 billion elements

  • talking to each other through electrical brainstorms,

  • what Juliano accomplished took 30 years to imagine in laboratories

  • and about 15 years to plan.

  • When John Chapin and I, 15 years ago, proposed in a paper

  • that we would build something that we called a brain-machine interface,

  • meaning connecting a brain to devices

  • so that animals and humans could just move these devices,

  • no matter how far they are from their own bodies,

  • just by imagining what they want to do,

  • our colleagues told us that we actually needed professional help,

  • of the psychiatry variety.

  • And despite that, a Scot and a Brazilian persevered,

  • because that's how we were raised in our respective countries,

  • and for 12, 15 years,

  • we made demonstration after demonstration suggesting that this was possible.

  • And a brain-machine interface is not rocket science,

  • it's just brain research.

  • It's nothing but using sensors

  • to read the electrical brainstorms that a brain is producing

  • to generate the motor commands

  • that have to be downloaded to the spinal cord,

  • so we projected sensors that can read

  • hundreds and now thousands of these brain cells simultaneously,

  • and extract from these electrical signals

  • the motor planning that the brain is generating

  • to actually make us move into space.

  • And by doing that, we converted these signals into digital commands

  • that any mechanical, electronic, or even a virtual device can understand

  • so that the subject can imagine what he, she or it wants to make move,

  • and the device obeys that brain command.

  • By sensorizing these devices with lots of different types of sensors,

  • as you are going to see in a moment,

  • we actually sent messages back to the brain to confirm

  • that that voluntary motor will was being enacted, no matter where --

  • next to the subject, next door, or across the planet.

  • And as this message feedback back to the brain,

  • the brain realized its goal: to make us move.

  • So this is just one experiment that we published a few years ago,

  • where a monkey, without moving its body,

  • learned to control the movements of an avatar arm,

  • a virtual arm that doesn't exist.

  • What you're listening to is the sound of the brain of this monkey

  • as it explores three different visually identical spheres

  • in virtual space.

  • And to get a reward, a drop of orange juice that monkeys love,

  • this animal has to detect, select one of these objects

  • by touching,

  • not by seeing it, by touching it,

  • because every time this virtual hand touches one of the objects,

  • an electrical pulse goes back to the brain of the animal

  • describing the fine texture of the surface of this object,

  • so the animal can judge what is the correct object that he has to grab,

  • and if he does that, he gets a reward without moving a muscle.

  • The perfect Brazilian lunch:

  • not moving a muscle and getting your orange juice.

  • So as we saw this happening,

  • we actually came and proposed the idea that we had published 15 years ago.

  • We reenacted this paper.

  • We got it out of the drawers,

  • and we proposed that perhaps we could get a human being that is paralyzed

  • to actually use the brain-machine interface to regain mobility.

  • The idea was that if you suffered --

  • and that can happen to any one of us.

  • Let me tell you, it's very sudden.

  • It's a millisecond of a collision,

  • a car accident that transforms your life completely.

  • If you have a complete lesion of the spinal cord,

  • you cannot move because your brainstorms cannot reach your muscles.

  • However, your brainstorms continue to be generated in your head.

  • Paraplegic, quadriplegic patients dream about moving every night.

  • They have that inside their head.

  • The problem is how to get that code out of it

  • and make the movement be created again.

  • So what we proposed was, let's create a new body.

  • Let's create a robotic vest.

  • And that's exactly why Juliano could kick that ball just by thinking,

  • because he was wearing the first brain-controlled robotic vest

  • that can be used by paraplegic, quadriplegic patients to move

  • and to regain feedback.

  • That was the original idea, 15 years ago.

  • What I'm going to show you is how 156 people from 25 countries

  • all over the five continents of this beautiful Earth,

  • dropped their lives, dropped their patents,

  • dropped their dogs, wives, kids, school, jobs,

  • and congregated to come to Brazil for 18 months to actually get this done.

  • Because a couple years after Brazil was awarded the World Cup,

  • we heard that the Brazilian government wanted to do something meaningful

  • in the opening ceremony

  • in the country that reinvented and perfected soccer

  • until we met the Germans, of course.

  • (Laughter)

  • But that's a different talk,

  • and a different neuroscientist needs to talk about that.

  • But what Brazil wanted to do is to showcase

  • a completely different country,

  • a country that values science and technology,

  • and can give a gift to millions, 25 million people around the world

  • that cannot move any longer because of a spinal cord injury.

  • Well, we went to the Brazilian government and to FIFA and proposed,

  • well, let's have the kickoff of the 2014 World Cup

  • be given by a Brazilian paraplegic

  • using a brain-controlled exoskeleton that allows him to kick the ball

  • and to feel the contact of the ball.

  • They looked at us, thought that we were completely nuts,

  • and said, "Okay, let's try."

  • We had 18 months to do everything from zero, from scratch.

  • We had no exoskeleton, we had no patients,

  • we had nothing done.

  • These people came all together

  • and in 18 months, we got eight patients in a routine of training

  • and basically built from nothing this guy,

  • that we call Bra-Santos Dumont 1.

  • The first brain-controlled exoskeleton to be built

  • was named after the most famous Brazilian scientist ever,

  • Alberto Santos Dumont,

  • who, on October 19, 1901, created and flew himself

  • the first controlled airship on air in Paris for a million people to see.

  • Sorry, my American friends,

  • I live in North Carolina,

  • but it was two years before the Wright Brothers flew

  • on the coast of North Carolina.

  • (Applause)

  • Flight control is Brazilian. (Laughter)

  • So we went together with these guys

  • and we basically put this exoskeleton together,

  • 15 degrees of freedom, hydraulic machine

  • that can be commanded by brain signals

  • recorded by a non-invasive technology called electroencephalography

  • that can basically allow the patient to imagine the movements

  • and send his commands to the controls, the motors,

  • and get it done.

  • This exoskeleton was covered with an artificial skin

  • invented by Gordon Cheng, one of my greatest friends, in Munich,

  • to allow sensation from the joints moving and the foot touching the ground

  • to be delivered back to the patient through a vest, a shirt.

  • It is a smart shirt with micro-vibrating elements

  • that basically delivers the feedback and fools the patient's brain

  • by creating a sensation that it is not a machine that is carrying him,

  • but it is he who is walking again.

  • So we got this going, and what you'll see here

  • is the first time one of our patients, Bruno, actually walked.

  • And he takes a few seconds because we are setting everything,

  • and you are going to see a blue light cutting in front of the helmet

  • because Bruno is going to imagine the movement that needs to be performed,

  • the computer is going to analyze it, Bruno is going to certify it,

  • and when it is certified,

  • the device starts moving under the command of Bruno's brain.

  • And he just got it right, and now he starts walking.

  • After nine years without being able to move,

  • he is walking by himself.

  • And more than that --

  • (Applause) --

  • more than just walking,

  • he is feeling the ground,

  • and if the speed of the exo goes up,

  • he tells us that he is walking again on the sand of Santos,

  • the beach resort where he used to go before he had the accident.

  • That's why the brain is creating a new sensation in Bruno's head.

  • So he walks, and at the end of the walk -- I am running out of time already --

  • he says, "You know, guys,

  • I need to borrow this thing from you when I get married,

  • because I wanted to walk to the priest

  • and see my bride and actually be there by myself.

  • Of course, he will have it whenever he wants.

  • And this is what we wanted to show during the World Cup, and couldn't,

  • because for some mysterious reason, FIFA cut its broadcast in half.

  • What you are going to see very quickly is Juliano Pinto in the exo doing the kick

  • a few minutes before we went to the pitch

  • and did the real thing in front of the entire crowd,

  • and the lights you are going to see just describe the operation.

  • Basically, the blue lights pulsating indicate that the exo is ready to go.

  • It can receive thoughts and it can deliver feedback,

  • and when Juliano makes the decision to kick the ball,

  • you are going to see two streams of green and yellow light

  • coming from the helmet and going to the legs,

  • representing the mental commands that were taken by the exo

  • to actually make that happen.

  • And in basically 13 seconds,

  • Juliano actually did.

  • You can see the commands.

  • He gets ready, the ball is set, and he kicks.

  • And the most amazing thing is,

  • 10 seconds after he did that, and looked at us on the pitch,

  • he told us, celebrating as you saw,

  • "I felt the ball."

  • And that's priceless.

  • (Applause)

  • So where is this going to go?

  • I have two minutes to tell you

  • that it's going to the limits of your imagination.

  • Brain-actuating technology is here.

  • This is the latest: We just published this a year ago,

  • the first brain-to-brain interface

  • that allows two animals to exchange mental messages

  • so that one animal that sees something coming from the environment

  • can send a mental SMS, a torpedo, a neurophysiological torpedo,

  • to the second animal,

  • and the second animal performs the act that he needed to perform

  • without ever knowing what the environment was sending as a message,

  • because the message came from the first animal's brain.

  • So this is the first demo.

  • I'm going to be very quick because I want to show you the latest.

  • But what you see here is the first rat getting informed

  • by a light that is going to show up on the left of the cage

  • that he has to press the left cage to basically get a reward.

  • He goes there and does it.

  • And the same time, he is sending a mental message

  • to the second rat that didn't see any light,

  • and the second rat, in 70 percent of the times

  • is going to press the left lever and get a reward

  • without ever experiencing the light in the retina.

  • Well, we took this to a little higher limit

  • by getting monkeys to collaborate mentally in a brain net,

  • basically to donate their brain activity

  • and combine them to move the virtual arm that I showed you before,

  • and what you see here is the first time the two monkeys combine their brains,