The “Bionic Olympics” 2016

By Robert Hickson 15/05/2014

The Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research Robotics has announced it will be holding a Cyberathlon in October 2016. (The BBC has a brief synopsis – the Cyberathlon site can bring up security certificate warnings). Its open to those with arm or leg prosthetics, as well as wheel-chair bound athletes and those with exoskeletons. There’s also a brain-computer interface challenge.  Nothing for bionic eyes or cochlear implants though. And don’t expect six million dollar man-type achievements.

Its about promoting novel assistive technologies rather than athletic prowess. Firms & research labs as well as the athletes can win medals. So it’s more like a DARPA grand challenge than a real Olympic event. And presumably no expensive, flash opening ceremony. Nor a rush of large scale stadium and athlete village building.

The initiative highlights the pace of development in bionics. Last week the US Food & Drug Administration approved marketing of the DEKA arm system that translates electrical signals from muscles into movement.

It also illustrates how competitions are increasingly being used to stimulate technological developments.

NZ has a stake in bionics. Rex Bionics, which produces exoskeletons, is based here, but has being listed on a British sharemarket, through an arrangement with Union MedTech.


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