ETH Zurich in collaboration with the Swiss National Competence Center of Research in Robotics have attempted to take Paralympics to the next level by coalescing the conventional prosthetics with robotics.
There has already been an incremental improvement with the equipments being employed by the players in the Paralympic Games including but not limited to prosthetic limbs and swimsuits. If we talk about the props like bows & arrows, cycles, wheels, we would agree that taking these equipments to the higher level of proficiency is not a difficult job than enhancing human capabilities technologically. Since Paralympics’ players have to rely on tech relatively so their chances of improving becomes higher otherwise as well.
Currently, prosthetics are helping making the system active from the state of passivity but it is still far from the actual biology. Taking this point into consideration, a new kind of competition is being organized around the end of 2016, and it’s called the Cybathlon: The Championship for Robot-Assisted Parathletes.
The Cybathlon Championship
The tournament is aimed for parathletes who are taking the help of higher level of assistive devices like robotic technologies. The competitions include various track and field sports that apply latest tech tweaks in:
• Knee prostheses
• Arm prostheses
• Powered exoskeletons
• Powered wheelchairs
• Electrically stimulated muscles
• Brain-computer interfaces
The competition has allowed for not only the commercially available assistive devices but also prototypes or concepts fabricated by research labs. Each competition will bestow two medals, one for the driver and other for the creator or provider of the device.
Pilots of the Cybathlon will compete in six disciplines:
1. Powered Arm Prosthetics Competition
Actuated exoprosthetic hands and arms will be given to the contestants with upper or lower arm amputations and their task would involve hand and arm coordination. The one who’d complete the assignment first would be given the award.
2. Brain-Computer Interface Race
Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) would be provided to the participants. Having a computer oriented task, their target would be to take the charge of an avatar in a racing game.
3. Functional Electrical Stimulation Bike Race
Functional Electrical Stimulation device would be given to players with entire Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI). The device will facilitate in carrying out pedaling movement as is required in the cycling race.
4. Powered Leg Prosthetics Race
Actuated exoprosthetic device would be provided to the competitors with transfemoral amputation for completing a standard running race.
5. Powered Exoskeleton Race
Actuated exoskeletal devices would be offered to the players with complete thoracic or lumbar Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI). This would assist them in walking for a specific racecourse.
6. Powered Wheelchair Race
Participants with quadriplegics, paraplegics, amputees, disability of different levels would be given power wheelchairs for steering along the racecourse, including crossing over the huddles as well.
With these technologically enhanced assistive devices, soon the paralympic athletes would be seen eclipsing the human athletes in their ability to steer through the racecourses. Overall, it is a very good initiative by the Swiss National Competence Center of Research in Robotics (NCCR Robotics). Totally excited the witness the big day, October 8, 2016.