World Cup opening ceremony to feature paraplegic taking first kick in 'Iron Man-like' exoskeleton...and Pitbull

Brooks Peck
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World Cup opening ceremony to feature paraplegic taking first kick in 'Iron Man-like' exoskeleton...and Pitbull

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The 2014 World Cup opening ceremony will feature all the pageantry and decadence to be expected from a FIFA production. There will be dancers and pop stars and lights and choreography just baffling enough to make you forget that it all precedes a football tournament that has little to do with any of it. But before Brazil play the first match against Croatia, a marvel of scientific innovation will be demonstrated on the pitch that should make it all worthwhile.

A paraplegic whose identity has been kept secret will leave their wheelchair behind and get into what's being described as an Iron Man-like exoskeleton that will allow them to take the tournament's first kick using signals from their brain. The robotic bodysuit was developed by Brazilian doctor Miguel Nicolelis and 156 scientist from around the world and is the product of 30 years of work. It's being unveiled at the World Cup's opening ceremony in Sao Paulo's unfinished stadium as an attempt to show that Brazil is investing in science and things beyond football — which the millions of Brazilian protestors who have been bitterly opposed to their government squandering billions on this World Cup and the 2016 Olympics would dispute.

From the AFP:

Electronic circuits in the device's "feet" will send a return signal to the user via an artificial skin worn on the arm, conveying the sensation of movement and contact.

"It's the first time an exoskeleton has been controlled by brain activity and offered feedback to the patients," Nicolelis, a neuroscientist at Duke University, told AFP.

"Doing a demonstration in a stadium is something very much outside our routine in robotics. It's never been done before."

Here's a video from the National Science Foundation that explains it a bit further...

In addition to that, 600 dancers (who won't be in superhero exoskeletons, sadly) will take part in the 25-minute show put together by Belgian artistic director Daphne Cornez. "The opening ceremony is a tribute to Brazil and its treasures: nature, people, football," Cornez told FIFA's official website last month. Amazingly, an estimated 20 hours of preparation have gone into each minute of the program that will probably only be remembered for the Iron Man suit.

The show also features a "living" LED ball made of 90,000 light clusters and speaking of living, Jennifer Lopez has decided to perform the tournament's unpopular official song "We Are One (Ole Ola)" along with Pitbull and Claudia Leitte after momentarily backing out two days earlier. Again, none of them are scheduled to wear exoskeletons either. 

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Brooks Peck is the editor of Dirty Tackle on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him or follow on Twitter!