Cybathlon set to champion assitive technologies

Written by: Justin Cunningham | Published:
The Cybathlon will close the gap between man and machine

The world’s first ‘Cybathlon’ will be held in Zurich at the weekend, a competition allowing individuals with physical disabilities to use assistive technologies. The event says, what’s disallowed at the Paralympics, is an absolute must at the Cybathlon: the use of state-of-the-art technology.

The six disciplines for competition aim to simulate everyday tasks and show the capability of powered limbs to brain control to complete exoskeletons. The event aims to remove barriers and build closer relationships between people with disabilities and technology developers, as well as showcase to the general public about what’s possible.

The Powered Leg Prosthesis Race features ramps and stairs, while the Powered Arm Prosthesis Race will see competitors using washing line pegs and a can opener. Other races include a brain controlled computer game; Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) Bike Race, where those with complete paraplegia stimulate leg muscles with electrical signals to pedal; a powered wheelchair race over a number of obstacles; and a powered exoskeleton race.

Swiss Maxon Motor has helped in the development of exoskeletons that will be taking part in the event, allowing paraplegics to take part in a footrace. The difficulty, said the company, was providing motors that are both powerful enough to support and move a human body, but light enough to not instantly drain the battery.

“We’ve spent decades perfecting our motors,” said Maxon’s CEO, Eugen Elmiger. “Our knowledge and the ability to give expert advice are a great advantage in the market.”

The Cybathlon games are organized by the ETH Zürich and are held for the first time this Saturday, 8 October 2016 at the Swiss Arena in Zürich with around 80 teams from all over the world participating. You can catch all the action via the event’s website here.

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