The second edition of the Cybathlon, a competition where people with physical disabilities compete against each other to complete everyday tasks using state-of-the-art technical assistance systems, was livestreamed November 13-14. Beyond the competition, the Cybathlon offers a platform to advance research in assistive technology and to promote public dialogue about the inclusion of people with disabilities in everyday life.
Fifty-one teams from 20 countries competed. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the teams competed for the first time in a specially designed “lockdown mode” in their respective home countries.
The competitors each had three hours to make three attempts at an obstacle course, with the best attempt counting toward their results. Official Cybathlon referees were on site to enforce the rules and judge the attempts at all race venues around the world. Race results and winners were not revealed—even to the teams themselves—before the Cybathlon organizers streamed the races in the live event.
The Cybathlon consists of six disciplines for humans and their technologies: a virtual race with mind-controlled tasks (BCI), a bike race with electronic muscle stimulation (FES), and obstacle courses for those racing with arm prostheses (ARM), leg prostheses (LEG), robotic exoskeletons (EXO), and motorized wheelchairs (WHL). Between five and 13 teams competed for the win in each discipline.
“Universities have social responsibilities,” said Joël Mesot, president of the Swiss University ETH Zurich, which created the event. “Technology should serve people—not the other way around. The Cybathlon is a particularly impressive example of how humans and technology can create unity.”
Rolf Schoch, an exoskeleton competitor on Team VariLeg enhanced 2, set a personal record.
“Organizing the event in this way was the best option considering the situation. Although I missed the atmosphere of having a live audience, it made me a bit more focused,” Schoch said.
The next Cybathlon will be held in 2024.
To see pictures and video of the event, visit the Cybathlon 2020 website.
Editor’s note: This story was adapted from materials provided by ETH Zurich.