How to win a CYBATHLON

9th August 2022
CYBATHLON pilot happy to have completed wheelchair race

CYBATHLON pilot happy to have completed wheelchair race

Preparing for CYBATHLON 2024? Here are four steps you can take to increase your chances of success. 

CYBATHLON competitions are not easy to win – in 2020, 51 teams from 20 countries battled to show their innovation could power pilots to the top spot. If you want your team in the top spot in 2024, here’s how you can optimise your chances.

1. Get prepared

Before you get started, know what’s involved. A good place to start is by reading the rules. There are certain criteria that must be met by teams and by pilots, and even if you’ve taken part in a CYBATHLON event before, 2024 will be on a new level, with less predictable tasks that will require quick reactions from teams. Familiarise with the processes before you embark on your design and build.

It’s also worth getting up to speed with the different disciplines. For 2024, we have added two new disciplines: smart visual assistance technologies for people with severe visual impairment and a race with assistance robots for people with severe impairment of the upper and lower extremities, to run alongside the existing six races: 

  • Arm Prosthesis Race

  • Brain-Computer Interface Race

  • Exoskeleton Race

  • Functional Electrical Stimulation Bike Race

  • Leg Prosthesis Race 

  • Wheelchair Race

2. Your pilot is a vital team member

Your pilot isn’t just your guide in the race, they should be your guide throughout the development process. Make use of their valuable lived experience, and ask them for input into the design of your assistive device. 2020 Brain-Computer Interface Race winners, WHi, from the University of Padova, say this is crucial: “Get your pilot involved in the development of the BCI system. Listen to their suggestions and try to customise the BCI according to their needs.”

KC Kong, from Angel Robotics – 2020 gold and bronze winners in the exoskeleton race – agrees: “The pilot was one of the main researchers who actively generated a lot of creative ideas.”

Making your assistive device a perfect fit for your pilot will not boost your chances of earning the top spot, but also increase the odds of your technology being useful – and therefore used – in everyday life. 

3. Fail fast, fail often

The more you train and test, the better your design will become. You can only improve your assistive device by testing out and learning from the mistakes and flaws you encounter.

As KC Kong says, “The requirements for the CYBATHLON forced us to redesign our system to foster the robustness and reliability required for the race.”

Luca Tonin, from WHi says that CYBATHLON events are probably the most stressful evaluation scenario for your assistive technology. “Everything must work perfectly from a technical point of view.”

The aim of CYBATHLON events is to stress test assistive technologies outside the lab, and allow researchers to benchmark their designs against others. Practising different scenarios will help make sure you’re race ready. 

4. Make it work beyond the race

About 15% of the world’s population – around 1.1 billion people – live with some form of disability. While CYBATHLON competition days are the highlight for many teams, including WHi, the goal of all our events is to improve lives for those living with disabilities. Keep this in mind. How can you make your design accessible, suitable for the everyday, usable in the long term and affordable?

“CYBATHLON is real. It’s solving problems that we encounter in our daily lives and it forces us to develop something practical,” says KC Kong.

And remember, CYBATHLON is just the beginning 

CYBATHLON is a unique and exciting space for innovation. While everyone wants to showcase their work, and earn that first place in their race, the message of the day is really one about how we can harness great minds and cutting-edge technology to transform lives.

“Winning a medal is a great thing, but it shouldn’t be the goal to participate in the CYBATHLON. To my team, the real competition started after the CYBATHLON competition ended,” says KC Kong. “Many people with disabilities called my team and asked about our plans to commercialise the technology.”

Join us on the Road to 2024
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