Date set for world’s first ‘cyborg olympics’ in Switzerland

31 Mar 2016

One of the participants in the powered wheelchair race. Image via ETH Zurich / Alessandro Della Bella

After years of preparation, the inaugural Cybathlon, or ‘cyborg olympics’ as it’s also being called, will take place in Switzerland on 8 October this year for those with physical disabilities using the latest assistive technologies.

News of the creation of a sporting event for people with physical disabilities using assistive technologies back in 2014 saw many describe it as the ‘cyborg olympics’ as, it’s fair to say, it differs considerably from the Paralympics.

While the aids used by Paralympians certainly fall into the category of technology, the Cybathlon participants will be using the most advanced technologies available today to overcome challenges, such as tackling flights of stairs in advanced wheelchairs.

We have now been given more details about the event, which will not only include sporting events and some healthy competition, but will also bring together some of the leading researchers looking into the field of advanced prosthetics.

Some of these experts will assist in the six events, which include the likes of a powered exoskeleton race, functional electrical stimulation (FES) bike race and a brain-computer interface (BCI) race.

The Cybathlon will also be used as a means of raising awareness of the challenges people with physical disabilities face in everyday life, with a hope that what is being shown here will convince other researchers or those with physical disabilities themselves to develop their own technologies.

Speaking of the potential of this year’s Cybathlon, the founder of the event, ETH Zurich’s Prof Robert Riener, said in an interview that he hopes the next Cybathlon, expected to be held in 2020, will coincide with the 2020 Olympics to be held in Tokyo, Japan.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic