The Cybathlon will celebrate the collaboration of man and machine


The world’s inaugural ‘Cyborg Olympics’ are coming later this year, in Zurich, Switzerland. The Cybathlon, as it is officially called, will welcome competitors with technological and motorised body enhancements to take part, in sharp contrast to the Olympic and Paralympic games.

However, at the Cybathlon, people will not be competing in traditional sports and athletics. The event will focus on small tasks that may appear mundane to some. The 80 teams will do battle competing in cyborg egg and spoon races, stair-climbing, and slicing loaves of bread.

“The cyborg games will celebrate the strength and ingenuity of human-machine collaborations,” said Robert Riener, organizer and professor at ETH Zurich, “it’s less about force and speed, and more about control of the body and the device.”

The competition will be divided into the six disciplines of Brain-Computer Interfaces, Functional Electrical Stimulation, Powered Arm Prosthetics, Powered Leg Prosthetics, Powered Exoskeletons, and Powered Wheelchairs.

A test tournament took place in July of last year, and this spurned the creators to develop the full competition for an October 2016 run in Zurich. It has been said that both the BBC and Japan’s NHK news agency will be monitoring the proceedings very closely.

The organisers of the Cybathlon hope to generate sufficient interest that the next event can be scheduled to coincide with the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

Reiner created the event to showcase his frustration at the industry. He feels that the current technology available to people with disabilities are inadequate, and not as useful as they ought to be.

Reiner hopes that with the Cybathlon, the industry will take note, and it will spur a wave of technological innovation that he feels is sorely needed.

“We aim for the Cybathlon to be interesting for all members of the audience and for people to come away from the day having learned something about the daily issues that those with disabilities face and how technology can be a positive step towards overcoming those situations,” the organisers state on their website.

Two days before the actual sporting event, the organisers of the Cybathlon will stage another event. The Cybathlon Symposium will take place on 6 October, bringing together leading voices and researchers in the disability tech sector.

With keynote speeches and presentations, this conference will be key to placing technological advancements at the forefront, and, with the Cybathlon, provide a clear path forward for the further development of assistive technology.

The Cybathlon will take place on 8 October in Zurich, Switzerland. For further information, see here.


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