The Cybathlon: A competition for Robot-Assisted Parathletes

25 Feb 2015 – One day, in the near future, don’t be surprised if you see a disabled athlete surpassing the able athlete with his superpowers given by technology itself. Our world is developing super fast that in 2016, you will be seeing the first championship of Robot-Assisted Parathletes, the Cybathlon.

“The CybathlCybathlon-1  on is a championship for racing pilots with disabilities who are using advanced assistive devices including robotic technologies. The competitions are comprised by different disciplines that apply the most modern powered knee prostheses, wearable arm prostheses, powered exoskeletons, powered wheelchairs, electrically stimulated muscles and novel brain-computer interfaces.”

“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. The event is organized on behalf of the Swiss National Competence Center of Research in Robotics (NCCR Robotics).”

According to the organizers: “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 organization of the Cybathlon we want to help removing barriers between the public, people with disabilities and science.”

But the main question will be how far can technology go? When we get back to Oscar PISTORIUS who was able to compete with able athletes and qualify for the semi-final at the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games, we wonder how many able athletes in the world did he beat back then, including the athletes who didn’t qualify for the Olympics? It must be hundreds of professional athletes.Powered-Wheelchair-Race

Are PISTORIUS’ two prosthetic legs an advantage for him? Some people may also use prosthetic legs that are longer than they would otherwise have if they had biological limbs. What if disable athletes extend their bodies using prosthetics rather than limit to human proportions? It would be something remarkable.

This also opens another debate about the Paralympic Games and how the International Paralympic Committee will react against this huge development and the Robotic Games. What about Techno-doping?

“Technology doping has been defined as the practice of using “performance enhancing” sporting equipment employing the latest scientific and engineering breakthroughs in order to gain a competitive advantage against the field.”

The Olympics on their own are amazing, we can always see people pushing the limits and breaking barriers. In the Paralympic Games, the disable athletes have their own show of achievements too. Imagine humans with superpowers competing in an arena. It would be like watching science fiction, but for real.

There are 6 different disciplines in the Cybathlon:Cybathlon-2

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

 

We should mention that they are using the word pilots rather than parathletes.

For more details about the Cybathlon check the following link: http://www.cybathlon.ethz.ch/