In Switzerland, a revolution in sports competition is upon us. The world’s first bionic Olympics will be held on Saturday, the culmination of months of training that will see 65 global teams compete for gold medals, all inside of a hockey arena in Zurich, Switzerland. The Cybathlon treats man and machine as one, with athletes as the “pilot” of their machines.
“The Cybathlon is the first bionic olympics, enabling people with the most severe disabilities, people who can’t even move their fingers, to compete in races that are inspired by daily life,” said Aldo Faisal, senior lecturer in neurotechnology at Imperial College London in an interview with the Financial Times.
Kevin Evison, an IT professional, is competing as part of Team Imperial with a bionic arm that responds according to muscle twitches. He can open, close, rotate and even drop down a finger to type with a keyboard. Evison will be joined by four other athletes, three scientists, and 20 university students, making Imperial the largest team in the competition.
Evison’s tasks will revolve around timed challenges like laying a table, highlighting the variety of games aimed at testing the pilot’s mastery of their machines. “Right now, I think this is a piece of cake but, on the day, nerves are going to get the better of me,” he told the Financial Times.
The Swiss Arena in Zurich is normally used for ice hockey games, but this weekend it’s been transformed into a field that will test skill, determination, smarts, and athleticism:
Although the Cybathlon is the first bionic games to get off the ground, it’s not the only tech competition in town. The World Future Sports Games, set to take place in Dubai in December 2017, will focus on machines against other machines, with manned drone racing and robotic soccer part of the many planned games around the event.
By design, these matches will focus more on artificial intelligence and robotics advancements, but compared to the Cybathlon it offers a competing vision of what the future of sports may look like. If Cybathlon is a success, a follow-up will be held two years from now in the U.K.