Coming in 2016: The Bionic Olympics

Move over Olympics and Paralympics — there’s a new set of games in town. It’s called the Cybathlon and we gotta say… it’s pretty cool.

The Cybathlon, as the name suggests, is a set of championship games for robot-assisted parathletes. Athletes will be using technology that is not allowed in the Paralympics, including some seriously advanced exoskeletons, prosthetics, wheelchairs and even brain-computer interfaces. They will be tested in not only speed, but also dexterity and concentration. From CNET:

In one event, for example, athletes who have lost function in their legs will navigate a race course wearing a powered robotic exoskeleton. They will walk up and down a ramp, step on pillars of varying heights, and walk a narrow beam. At certain points along the course, they will carry a weight.

Similarly, in the arms prosthetics race, athletes with forearm or upper-arm amputations will be fitted with actuated prosthetic devices and charged with speedily completing tasks on hand-arm courses, including one that requires following a metal wire with a conductive wire loop — without touching the wire.

What’s even cooler is that people who are paralyzed from the neck down can compete in a number of different events. From CNET:

One, the FES bike race, will feature cycles that allow riders to pedal around a circular course with help from Functional Electrical Stimulation devices, which apply small electrical pulses to paralyzed muscles to restore or improve their function.

Pilots competing in the BCI race, meanwhile, will use a brain computer interface to control an avatar in a horse or car racing game filled with obstacles such as trenches, rocks, and bushes. The game has yet to be designed; a prototype will appear on the Cybathlon Web site once it has been so teams can train.

To participate in this event, pilots need to have completely lost motor function below the neck, though “no specific diagnosis (e.g. stroke, SCI,ALS) is excluded by default,” the guidelines say. “Pilots will be judged on a case-by-case basis with regard to motor and cognitive impairment.”

One word: AWESOME. We cannot WAIT to see these games in action. And the good news is we don’t have to wait too long — they are coming to Zurich in October 2016. Check out the action-movie-esque trailer below to learn more, and let us know what you think! Anyone interested in participating?

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