Athletes using advanced assistive devices and robotic technologies can compete in the first Cybathlon in 2016.
As technology has improved, so have the worries over “technology doping” in strictly-monitored sporting events such as the Olympics. The Paralympics can also only allow certain assistive devices for participants to use. Announced this month was the Cybathlon, a championship for robot-assisted parathletes to be held in Zurich, Switzerland in October 2016.
The competition, hosted by the Swiss National Competence Center of Research in Robotics, hopes to promote the development of assistive systems, improve public awareness of the challenges and opportunities for assistive technologies, and enable pilots with disabilities to compete in races. The assistive devices include commercially available products as well as developed prototypes from research labs. The competition will award two medals for each competition: one to the pilot, driving the device, and the other to the device’s provider. The competition will encourage the development of the latest prosthetics, exoskeletons, powered wheelchairs, electrically stimulated muscles, and brain-computer interfaces.
The six competition events are the following: Arm Prosthetics Race, Leg Prosthetics Race, Powered Exoskeleton Race, Functional Electrical Stimulation Bike Race, Powered Wheelchair Race, and Brain-Computer Interface Race. Each race will target the specific challenges and opportunities for technological advancement. The brain-computer interface race is designed for competitors paralyzed from the neck down, and the pilots will control an avatar in a racing game. Those competing in the powered exoskeleton race will walk over through obstacles such as steps, around pillars, and across a narrow beam to carry a bag around corners before a sprint to the end.
The Cybathlon will allow people to compete who have never been given the opportunity to do so because it encourages the inclusion of technology that is excluded from the Paralympics. Ticket sales for the event open in the beginning of 2016, and the event itself will be held in October of that year.