Paralympics and Assistive Tech: The Cybathlon

by Sinéad Nolan.

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You can’t throw a table tennis bat this August without hitting the Olympic games. It’s everywhere, from TV screens to newsfeeds to the front of your local rag. While for some the Olympics is the ultimate in competitive sport, for the more technologically passionate (read: nerdy) among us, there are bigger fish to fry.

That’s because October 8th 2016 will see the inaugural Bionic Paralympics, known as the Cybathlon.

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What is The Cybathlon?

The name is quite self-explanatory. The Cybathlon is where cyber-chic merges with competitive sport. It is a championship for pilots with disabilities who are using advanced assistive devices including robotic technologies (think I, Robot with a twist). The competitions are comprised of different disciplines that will test the ability of pilots to navigate a series of everyday tasks while using a powered knee prosthesis, wearable arm prosthesis, powered exoskeleton, powered wheelchair, electrically stimulated muscles and novel brain-computer interfaces.

What is its goal?

The main goal of the Cybathlon is to provide a platform for the development of novel assistive technologies that are useful for daily life. Through the organisation of the Cybathlon they want to help to remove barriers between the public, people with disabilities and science.

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Who are making these devices?

The assistive devices will 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. Presented by ETH Zurich, it comes out of a collaboration with the Swiss National Center of Competence in Robotics Research, which intends to use the competition to promote the development and widespread use of bionic technology.

I love robots. How can I attend?

Tickets are a snip at just 15 pounds but you’ll have to get to Switzerland first. For more information see http://www.cybathlon.ethz.ch/  or watch the Official Trailer for Cybathlon 2016 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rx9I_hYqQcM.

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