Next week at the World Cup, a paralyzed volunteer from the Association for Assistance to Disabled Children will walk onto the field and open the tournament with a ceremonial kick. This modern miracle is made possible by a robotic exoskeleton that will move the user's limbs, taking commands directly from his or her thoughts.

This demonstration is the debut of the Walk Again Project, a consortium of more than 150 scientists and engineers from around the globe who have come together to show off recent advances in the field of brain machine interfaces, or BMI. The paralyzed person inside will be wearing an electroencephalographic (EEG) headset that records brainwave activity. A backpack computer will translate those electrical signals into commands the exoskeleton can understand. As the robotic frame moves, it also sends its own signals back to the body, restoring not just the ability to walk, but the sensation as well.

Just how well the wearer will walk and kick are uncertain. The project has been criticized by other neuroscientists as an exploitative spectacle that uses the disabled to promote research which may not be the best path for restoring health to paralyzed patients. And just weeks before the project is set to debut on television to hundreds of millions of fans, it still hasn’t been tested outdoors and awaits some final pieces and construction. It's not even clear which of the eight people from the study will be the one inside the suit.

The point of the project is not to show finished research, however, or sell a particular technology. The Walk Again Project is meant primarily to inspire. It's a demonstration that we’re on the threshold of achieving science fiction: technologies that will allow humans to truly step into the cyborg era.

It’s only taken a little over two centuries to get there.