Advancing Assistive Devices Through Global Olympic-Style Competition

Monday, February 15, 2016: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
Marriott Balcony A (Marriott Wardman Park)
Each year, an estimated 34 million people worldwide require assistive and prosthetic devices due to amputations and neurological lesions. Unfortunately, current technology is not ideal: wheelchairs cannot climb stairs, powered exoskeletons are bulky and error-prone, and prostheses are limited in function. Pooling their efforts, researchers from the engineering and medical sciences are on a quest for smarter, more precise devices, ultimately piloted by the patients’ minds. This symposium showcases the latest developments in limb prosthetics, assistive robotics, wheelchairs, and brain computer interfaces – tackling form as well as function. These technologies give us a glimpse at the future, when artificial electrical stimulation signals will stimulate nerves, and glove-like soft devices will restore hand functions, offering a better quality of life to patients. The symposium highlights Cybathlon, a series of Olympic-style competitions that offers a new approach to advancing assistive devices. It awards teams of disabled “pilots” and scientists from all over the world who master events designed along daily life challenges. Cybathlon allows for global sharing of knowledge and close interaction between patients and scientists. It also lifts the barriers between scientists, people with disabilities, and the public and increases acceptance across different cultures.
Rahel Byland, ETH Zurich