‘Cyborg olympics’ to launch in Switzerland in 2016

28 Mar 2014

The world’s first ‘cyborg olympics’, the Cybathlon, will be taking place in Switzerland in 2016, shortly after the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

While perhaps not on the same scale as Robocop or other famous film cyborgs, the games will be a championship for racing pilots with disabilities (ie, parathletes) who are using advanced assistive devices, including robotic technologies.

While the Paralympics already exist, with runners such as Oscar Pistorius, who broke dozens of records with his artificial legs, this event is designed to showcase some of the world’s leading technology in prosthetic limbs, exoskeletons, wheelchairs, and even brain computer interfaces.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating races that will be taking place in Zurich will involve exoskeleton suits for people with complete thoracic or lumbar spinal cord injuries (SCI). The suits will enable the competitors to walk along a particular race course that will feature a staircase, slope and teeter-totter.

Other races in the Cybathlon include a prosthetic arm race, a functional electrical stimulation (FCE) bike race, and a powered wheelchair race.

The event is going to be hosted by Switzerland’s ETH Zurich and National Centre of Competence in Research Robotics under the initiative of the Swiss National Science Foundation to develop robotic technology that improves humans’ quality of life.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic