The Cybathlon is a competition between people with disabilities using the latest assistive technologies. It tests the combined ability of competitors and their machines to master everyday tasks. It’s also an awe-inspiring demonstration of innovation and teamwork, a celebration of the human spirit, and a whole lot of fun!
The Cybathlon’s Origins
The Cybathlon was initiated by Robert Riener, a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. Inspired by an amputee using a bionic leg to climb the Chicago Willis Tower, and a paraplegic athlete using an exoskeleton to run the London Marathon, Reiner created the Cybathlon to:
- Provide a platform for the development and promotion of assistive systems.
- Raise awareness of the everyday challenges facing people with disabilities.
The first official Cybathlon took place on October 08, 2016, in an arena in Kloten, Switzerland. It attracted 66 teams from 25 countries, along with 700 staff and 4,600 fans.
The result was truly exceptional, as captured in this 3-minute video:
The competition itself consisted of 6 disciplines:
Brain-Computer Interface Race
Powered Arm Prosthesis Race
Powered Exoskeleton Race
FES Bike Race
Powered Leg Prosthesis Race
Powered Wheelchair Race
Did the Cybathlon achieve its goals? It certainly did in terms of raising public awareness. Not only did it pack the arena in Kloten. It also resulted in more than 500 imprints in prominent magazines and newspapers. Teams, visitors, and media agents created more than 4,500 video reports. And mainstream media organizations like the BBC, CNN, and NHK produced high-quality documentaries.
On a personal level, it taught us more about the everyday challenges faced by people with disabilities than all other sources combined.
Cybathlon 2016 also provided an ideal platform for the development and promotion of everyday assistance systems. Two days before the competition, ETH Zurich hosted the Cybathlon Symposium. This brought together leading experts in assistive technologies, end users, and representatives from academia, industry, and politics. Through lectures, presentations, and discussions, they explored recent technology advances and remaining challenges.
The events themselves added to this knowledge as the athletes and technology developers worked together to improve their solutions.
Continuing its success from 2016, Cybathlon 2020 will retain the same venue and the same 6 disciplines. It will also host another scientific symposium beforehand.
The competition itself will expand to two days and will include new challenges to reflect improved capabilities.
Once again, the organizers have produced another inspiring promotional video:
Note that, due to the Coronavirus, the dates for the competition have been moved from May 02-03 to September 19-20, 2020.
The good news is that this gives you plenty of time to volunteer here.
Click here for more information on the Cybathlon.
For more information some of the assistive technology used in the races, see A Complete Guide to Bionic Arms & Hands. and A Complete Guide to Bionic Legs & Feet.