CYBATHLON 2024: Two new disciplines and a new event format for a world without barriers

2nd November 2021

The third edition of ETH Zurich’s CYBATHLON will take place from 25 to 27 October 2024. 160 international teams from the worlds of academia and industry will compete in a global competition. "Compared to the rules for the 2016 and 2020 editions, we are incorporating a greater degree of unpredictability and a wider spectrum of tasks into the 2024 tasks", says Roland Sigrist, Head of CYBATHLON. For example, prior to the race, the wheelchair pilots will not know the order in which they will encounter steps of differing heights and must react to the situation in the heat of the moment. This requires the international teams to develop even more robust, functional and dynamic assistive technologies for people with disabilities. Based on this, the organisers promise increased acceptance of new user technologies.

A flexible, inclusive and sustainable event format

CYBATHLON has also taken an innovative approach in regard to the event format. “We learned a great deal during the execution of the CYBATHLON 2020 Global Edition. We are using this understanding of how to carry out a decentralised, global event and competition in order to make CYBATHLON more inclusive, more sustainable and more flexible,” says Roland Sigrist. CYBATHLON 2024 will be held at the Arena Schluefweg in Kloten. However, the organisers are also giving the teams the option to organise their own local CYBATHLON hub and to take part in the competition in this way instead. “On the one hand, given the global nature of the event, it allows us to respond in a flexible way in a pandemic situation or similar circumstances, and on the other, it helps us to make our desired contribution to sustainability and inclusion. Anyone who is unable to travel to Zurich or does not wish to do so can start at home in front of a local audience,” explains Sigrist. Over the next three years, in the run-up to 2024, competitions will be presented in this form at various national and international CYBATHLON events.

Two new disciplines added to CYBATHLON

In addition to the continued development of the six existing disciplines, two new disciplines are also being added to CYBATHLON: a race using smart visual assistive technologies for blind people and a race using assistive robots for people with severely limited use of their arms and legs.

The new assistive robot race must incorporate elements of human-robot interaction, environment recognition and object manipulation. It does not matter if the robot is part of the wheelchair or a separate device. In this discipline, the participating people with disabilities must work together with the robot to pick up various objects within a set amount of time or avoid obstacles for instance. Assistive robots offer tremendous potential to help people with disabilities who have very little or no control over their arms and legs become more independent.

The visual assistance race is the first CYBATHLON race for people with a sensory impairment. For people with visual impairments, finding a particular product in the supermarket or spotting unexpected construction works on their way to work each day can prove immensely challenging. “Smart visual assistive technologies that support blind people in their day-to-day lives in an intuitive and reliable way have the potential to improve blind people’s quality of life and increase their independence,” states Lukas Jäger, CYBATHLON’s Head of Competition.

The objective: dialogue and inclusion through the use of new assistive technologies

As a platform, CYBATHLON connects society, research and development, and people with disabilities in an emotional, positive and unique way. Since the idea first came to Professor Robert Riener at ETH Zurich back in 2013, more than 100 teams from more than 30 countries have taken part in various CYBATHLON events. Cheered on by thousands of spectators around the world, in recent years the developer teams have shown the obstacles that people with disabilities encounter in their day-to-day lives and how technology can contribute to a world without barriers. Through CYBATHLON, ETH Zurich has demonstrated the importance of research and development to society. The competition comprises eight different disciplines: the Brain-Computer Interface Race, Functional Electrical Stimulation Bike Race, Arm Prosthesis Race, Leg Prosthesis Race, Exoskeleton Race, Wheelchair Race., the Vision Assistance Race, and the Assistance Robot Race.

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