BBC News has the story (told in many photos) of Thibault, a man who has been able to move all four limbs with a robot body he controls with two brain implants:
Sixty-four electrodes on each implant read the brain activity and beam the instructions to a nearby computer
When he thinks “walk” it sets off a chain of movements in the robotic suit that move his legs forward
Thibault, who does not want his surname revealed, was an optician before he fell 15m in an incident at a night club four years ago.
The injury to his spinal cord left him paralysed and he spent the next two years in hospital.
But in 2017, he took part in the exoskeleton trial with Clinatec and the University of Grenoble.
Initially he practised using the brain implants to control a virtual character, or avatar, in a computer game, then he moved on to walking in the suit.
“It was like [being the] first man on the Moon. I didn’t walk for two years. I forgot what it is to stand, I forgot I was taller than a lot of people in the room,” he said.
It took a lot longer to learn how to control the arms.
“It was very difficult because it is a combination of multiple muscles and movements. This is the most impressive thing I do with the exoskeleton.”
Thibault does need to be attached to a ceiling-harness in order to minimise the risk of him falling over in the exoskeleton – it means the device is not yet ready to move outside the laboratory.
In tasks where Thibault had to touch specific targets by using the exoskeleton to move his upper and lower arms and rotate his wrists, he was successful 71% of the time.
At the moment they are limited by the amount of data they can read from the brain, send to a computer, interpret and send to the exoskeleton in real-time.
They have 350 milliseconds to go from thought to movement otherwise the system becomes difficult to control.
It means out of the 64 electrodes on each implant, the researchers are using only 32.
So there is still the potential to read the brain in more detail using more powerful computers and AI to interpret the information from the brain.
Click the link for the photos; they’re really something.
Research details at The Lancet.