ETH Zurich’s third edition of Cybathlon will take place October 25 – 27
, 2024 with a main event in Zurich, Switzerland and teams participating at hubs around the world. As a platform focused on a world without barriers, Cybathlon challenges teams to develop everyday assistive technologies for, and in collaboration with, people with disabilities. In 2024, approximately 160 international teams will compete in a global competition. "Compared to 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 (pilots are persons with a disability who pilot the new technology) will not be able to anticipate the sequence in which they will encounter steps of differing heights and must react to the situation in the heat of the moment, much like they would in everyday scenarios. This requires international teams to develop even more robust, functional, and dynamic assistive technologies for people with disabilities. Such qualities ensure a greater likelihood of user acceptance.
Two new, and more inclusive, race disciplines
In addition to the continued development of the six existing race disciplines (Arm Prosthesis, Leg Prosthesis, Exoskeleton, Brain-computer Interface, Wheelchair, and Functional Electrical Stimulation Bike), two new Cybathlon disciplines will feature in 2024. There will be a race using smart vision assistance technologies for persons with visual impairments and a race using assistant robots for persons with severely limited use of their arms and legs.
The Vision 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. "While there are a variety of vision aids on the market, their functions are often limited to a specific area, such as reading a text aloud," states Lukas Jaeger, Cybathlon’s Head of Competition. “Smart visual assistive technologies that support people with blindness in their day-to-day lives and in an intuitive and comprehensive way have a great potential,” states Jaeger.
In the new Assistance Robot Race participating pilots with disabilities must work together with the robot to pick up various objects within a set time period or, together, avoid obstacles, for instance. It does not matter if the robot is part of the wheelchair or a separate device such as a drone. Assistant robots offer a tremendous potential to support people with disabilities, who have very little or no control over their arms and legs, gain more independence.