Technology with attitude

Cybathlon 2016: the championship for parathletes with technology aids


As we all know, 2014 is going to be the year when, for the very first time, a paralyzed person wearing a mind-controlled exoskeleton will perform the ceremonial kick-off of a traditional football event, namely the World Cup in Brazil.
Meanwhile, in Switzerland, researchers are already working on the next generation of para-sport events: the Cybathlon, a special racing championship for disabled athletes with technology aids, such as exoskeletons, robotic assistive devices, brain-computer interfaces and a broad array of other technology marvels.

On 8th October 2016 Zurich in Switzerland will host the Cybathlon, a sort of Paralympics games for athletes with disabilities (i.e. parathletes) who are using advanced assistive devices.

Teams will be consisting of one or more drivers, called ‘pilots’ and a technology provider (academia or industry) to compete in one of the following six disciplines:

  • BCI Race (Brain-Computer Interface)
  • FES Bike Race (Functional Electrical Stimulation)
  • Leg Prosthetics Race
  • Powered Exoskeleton Race
  • Powered Wheelchair Race
  • Arm Prosthetics Race

According to the Cybathlon website, the six disciplines will apply the latest prosthetic technologies including electrically stimulated muscles, novel brain-computer interfaces, modern electrical powered knee prostheses, wearable arm prostheses, powered exoskeletons, and powered wheelchairs.

The assistive devices can include commercially available products provided by companies, but also prototypes developed by research labs.

There will be two medals for each competition, one for the pilot, who is driving the device, and one for the provider of the device.

Brain-Computer Interface Race

Since here at Neurogadget we mainly focus on brain-computer intefaces, let us go a bit more into the details  of the BCI Race.

As described on the event website, pilots participating in the BCI Race will be equipped with brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) that will enable them to control an avatar in a racing game played on computers. The planned duration of the race is about 5-10 min, which sounds a bit long to us, knowing that mind-games can be very-very exhausting.

The game will be either horse racing or car racing. The image will be displayed on large screens in the stadium, and special visual and auditory effects will be used to make the game exciting not just for the pilots but also for the audience.

The Cybathlon championship is organized on behalf of the Swiss National Competence Center of Research in Robotics (NCCR Robotics).

Everything you might want to know about the competition, from the registration process to presentation of all six game disciplines, can be found on the official Cybathlon website.