Athletes with disabilities have been competing in a range of events that use assistive technology to overcome day-to-day physical challenges. Bionic arms, powered exoskeletons, brain-controlled computer interfaces and supercharged wheelchairs all took centre stage at the very first Cybathlon, near Zurich, Switzerland last month. Disability sport has become more prominent, following on from the London Paralympic games and with incredible development from technology, the playing field is wide open. The advancement of technology is allowing more sports to be adapted, and allowing more people to take part.
Assistive technology has aided Paralympians for some time in several fields of sport, it has also contributed in many athletes training leading up the recent Olympics. Rio saw more tech being used than ever before, athletes adopted more technology and data analytic software to boost their chances of taking home gold. Augmented reality, wearable technology and various software systems also debuted in Rio, aiding a wide variety of athletes to enhance their chances of winning a medal.
Initially dubbed the ‘Bionic Olympics’ the cybathlon seemed like further opportunity for those with disabilities to compete in their chosen field. However, the Cybathlon featured cutting edge technology and many have said it was more about what the future could hold for those with disabilities rather than a competition. Technology was the star of Cybathlon, with around 66 teams of technologists, developers and competitors, all competing within six disciplines. Each discipline listed sounded exciting, but perhaps the most eye catching was the brain-computer interface (BCI) race, in which the pilots controlled racing avatars with their minds, broadcasted onto large screens so the audience could see, this technology stole the show. Medals were awarded to both the athletes and the developers behind the technology used to aid the athlete in their chosen sport.
Advancements across the board for sport and business show how technology can bring added value, that has yet to be seen.