Cybathlon 2016: Olympics for bionic athletes

All eyes are focused on what promises to be the world's first 'Championship for Robot-Assisted Parathletes'. Switzerland will play host to Cybathlon, an Olympics for bionic athletes with a tech slant. The event will be held in 2016 and is open to 'racing pilots' with disabilities. Those using assistive devices, including robotics, get a chance to use the latest technology in competitive sporting events.

For example, there is a race designed for competitors paralyzed from the neck down, where they can control an avatar by using a brain interface. Prosthetic limbs and exo-skeletons are also an integral part of the championship.

Other high-tech assistive gear includes powered wheelchairs, electrically stimulated muscles and unique brain-computer interfaces, which can be either commercial products or prototypes.

Organized by the Swiss National Competence Center of Research in Robotics (NCCR Robotics), the competition will award two medals for each championship won. One medal will be for the pilot (bionic athlete) and the other will be for the tech provider.

The main purpose behind the games is to encourage the development of innovative assistive systems and share the scientific marvels with all. The event also hopes to raise public awareness regarding the challenges and opportunities faced by assistive technologies. Taking the un-official Paralympics a step further with the technology route, there is an aura of excitement on bridging the gap between the two.