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Bionic Athletes to Compete In 2016 In the First Ever Cybathlon

For the first time in sports history, a competition is going to be held that not only highlights the achievements of parathletes, but also demonstrates the possibilities that new technologies and robotics can bring to the average person. It was recently highlighted on Singularity Hub, and it’s very, very cool.

That’s right: an experience that combines the human spirit of the Olympics with the technological innovation of the XPRIZE competitions.

It’s called the 2016 Cybathlon, an event in which disabled competitors (or pilots) will compete using assistance devices like powered exoskeletons, robotic prostheses, and brain-control interfaces.

Here’s a list of all the events that the athletes will compete in as well as highlighting the amazing assistive technologies that will be on display:

  • Powered leg prosthesis machines will use computers to recognize electrical patterns in muscles and nerves and allow patients to control bionic limbs with thoughts alone.
  • Powered arm prosthesis machines that will allow arm amputees the ability to navigate a wire course as quickly and nimbly as possible without touching the wire.
  • Wearable exoskeletons, like the ones we reported on back in January, will allow disabled athletes the chance to walk again.
  • Powered wheelchairs that allow for increased mobility to pilots will make for a very exciting race.
  • Muscle stimulation bike races in which athletes will use functional electrical stimulation of nerves in paralyzed limbs to power bikes around a track.
  • Brain Interface race which features a video game race—controlled entirely by the athletes’ thoughts. Even competitors suffering from locked-in syndrome will be able to compete in this event!

The winning teams will receive two awards: one goes to the pilot, the other to the maker of their device. In fact, the competition encourages technological advantages in all devices. “There will be as few technical constraints as possible, in order to encourage the device providers to develop novel and powerful solutions,” a spokesperson reported to Singularity Hub.

This event is sponsored by The University of Switzerland’s Robert Riener and the Swiss National Competence Center of Research in Robotics. Their hope for the Cybathlon is that it will highlight the new advances in technology that have been achieved in labs and clinical trials around the world, and push them closer to mainstream use.

A little competition seems like a great way to bring assistive technology closer to helping out as many people as possible. With its prosthetic limbs, brain-control interfaces, and cutting-edge exoskeletons on display, the 2016 Cybathlon is going to be a great example of what the future has in store for us.

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