CYBATHLON

“CYBATHLON is a unique competition for people with disabilities that promotes inclusion and drives the development of assistive technologies.”

CYBATHLON, ETH Zürich

The CYBATHLON is a counterpart to the Paralympic Games, which do not allow the use of “active” assistive technologies. This event puts to the test the latest developments in robotic leg and arm prosthetics, wearable exoskeletons, powered wheelchairs, functional electrical muscle stimulation and brain-computer interfaces, originating from university research laboratories and innovative companies across the world. Teams compete on courses designed to test how well suited a given technology is to helping its user with everyday tasks.

The aim is not only to stimulate research on these devices, but also and more importantly to promote disability and body repair technologies. It offers a sports and scientific event capable of showing to a large audience the reality of assistive technologies (too often mediatised in a de-realistic way) as well as the reality of the daily lives of people with “assistive devices”, since the events are essentially made up of everyday tasks.

The Powered Arm Prosthesis Race

From 2020 to 2023, SmartArm has been the only French team participating in the Powered Arm Prosthesis Race (ARM). In this race, pilots using an arm prosthesis must solve a variety of tasks such as cutting bread for breakfast, hanging up the washing or driving a nail into the wood using a hammer. It tests a lot of abilities like fine motor skills, strength, multiple types of grips and the coordination of both hands. Since the 2020 edition, a new task focused on perception rather than action was added: the Haptic Bag. To achieve this task, pilots must identify objects of different shapes and materials only through contact with their prosthesis, without any visual feedback.

The Assistance Robot Race

In 2024, our team also competes in the Assistance Robot Race (ROB), a new discipline introduced in 2023 among the CYBATHLON categories. Building on the experience gathered when competing in the ARM race, we take on this new challenge with the aim to demonstrate more of our team’s innovations in robotic arm control.

The ROB category is dedicated to wheelchair users with severe upper-limb motor impairment, who may depend on able-bodied care persons to carry out manual tasks. Its aim is to test the latest advances in the field of assistive robotic manipulators designed to offer more autonomy to wheelchair users with limited motor control.

In this category, the race includes ten different tasks directly inspired by everyday life, such as picking up parcels in a mailbox, carrying kitchen items, brushing one’s teeth and opening a door. Following the competition rules, the manipulator must be actively driven by the participant and attached to a mobile platform (but not necessarily to the wheelchair itself).

CYBATHLON 2020

The SmartArM team competed in the CYBATHLON 2020, which took place on November 13-14, 2020. Due to the Covid-​19 pandemic, the teams competed for the first time in different time zones and locations, under identical conditions, before the videos were broadcast by the organizers in Zürich. We competed in our local hub in Paris, France. Despite a complex organization for everyone due to health restrictions, 51 teams from 20 different countries around the world were able to take part in this edition.

For this edition, the arm prosthesis race included six different tasks, each emphasising on different types of manipulation with the prosthetic hand: opening containers, hanging clothes, grasping tiny objects, manipulating tools, recognizing shapes, stacking cups etc.

CYBATHLON Challenge 2022

Between the regular CYBATHLON events that are held every four years, “light” editions of the competition are organized in order to offer the teams more opportunities to meet their opponents and motivate them to maintain the pace of their training. Besides, the Challenge editions include a smaller number of tasks compared to the regular editions. This allows new teams to join the competition even if they have less experience or do not have the resources to train for all the tasks.

In 2022, the CYBATHLON Challenge included a single task, named Clean Sweep, where the goal was to pick 8 common objects (pen, key, credit card etc.) from a box, then carry and place each one of them into a dedicated container on a nearby table. During this Challenge edition, our team reached the first place in its category !

CYBATHLON Challenge 2023

For its 2023 edition, the CYBATHLON Challenge include two tasks: an updated version of the Clean Sweep task with only 4 objects, and a bottle-carrying task. To complete this task, participants had to place four bottles of various weights into a crate, then carry the crate to the foot of a table, and finally take the bottles out to place them on the table. Our team reached the fourth place in its category during this edition.

Next editions

Since the end of the CYBATHLON Challenge 2023, we have been preparing for the CYBATHLON 2024 edition, which will be held in Zürich, Switzerland, on October 2024. For this regular edition, several tasks have been updated or modified with respect to the 2020 edition. For example, in the bottle-carrying task, the table is replaced by a two-level cupboard, which requires the participants to grab some bottles by the side rather than by the neck. These modifications make it necessary to develop new strategies and ways to handle these new conditions for the upcoming competition. We get back to training with diligence and enthusiasm, so that we are ready to take up the challenge!