Brain Computer Interfaces and interfaces between muscles and computers have reached the stage of usability for patients. Although a lot of research is still needed, and a lot is going on, several patients disabled by various trauma or diseases are now able to augment their functionalities reaching in several cases a good level of autonomy.
To test the capabilities of these systems and to further stimulate researchers through competition ETH Zurich has launched Cybathlon. The first event was held in Zurich in 2016 hosting competition in six areas:
- Brain Computer Interface race, with participants using BCI to control an avatar;
- FES, Functional Electrical Stimulation Bike race, with paraplegic participants riding bikes. To pedal they have their muscle stimulated artificially;
- Powered Arms Prosthesis race, with participants with one or both arms amputated below the elbow controlling a prosthetic arm;
- Powered Leg Prosthesis race, with participants having to take precise steps to navigate through obstacles;
- Powered Exoskeleton race, with participants with complete paraplegia have to complete everyday tasks, including sitting and climbing stairs;
- Powered Wheelchairs race, with paralysed participants negotiating a track encumbered with every day obstacles.
By looking at the clip (see below) one can really appreciate the progress being made in this field and how symbiotic autonomous systems are becoming important players in our Society. There will be focussed Cybathlon in 2018 and 2019 in several locations around the world and a full Cybathlon in Zurich in March 2020. We can expect significant progress in the coming years.