View Full Version : Cybathalon 2016: A Competition for Augmented Humans

27th Apr 2014, 20:01
FYI, an interesting topic that invites discussion. Taken from EM's latest tweet:

Cybathalon 2016: A Competition for Augmented Humans

The Olympic Games are a competition for the fittest and most talented able-bodied humans on Earth. The Paralympic Games are a competition for the fittest and most talented humans on Earth with physical and intellectual disabilities. To compete, paralympians take advantage of assistive systems, some of which are becoming increasingly cybernetic, combining traditional prosthetics with robotics. ETH Zurich and the Swiss National Competence Center of Research in Robotics have an idea of where we can take this.

It's already the case that the Olympics are heavily influenced by technology. Aside from the 2012 controversy over whether paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius had an advantage in his carbon-fiber prosthetic legs, there are continual incremental advances in drag-reducing suits for swimmers and runners. Any event which requires hardware (shooting, archery, cycling, and so forth) is only going to become more heavily skewed towards tech, as human performance improvements will inevitably be eclipsed by technology, simply because it's a lot easier to improve technology than it is to improve humans.

The athletes who have benefited the most from technology are arguably paralympians, who have a significantly heavier dependence on tech, and therefore more to gain as tech improves. Things like prosthetics are transitioning from passive systems to active ones, capable of sensing a user's intent (through nerve or brain interfaces) and use motors and actuators to more effectively replace a real limb. The goal right now is to be able to provide capabilities similar to that of a human limb, but eventually, we'll transcend biology, which is part of the reason why we need an entirely new type of competition.

The question, then, starts to become one of how much of an athlete is human, and how much of an athlete is robot, and if you've got more robot than human going on, how will that change things?

We'll find out on October 8, 2016, when the first Cybathalon event is held in Zurich, Switzerland.

Read full article here: