With the first Cybathlon, a sports meet for bionic athletes, scheduled to be held in Switzerland in October 2016, a new era in assistive technologies will be ushered in. It will be a test and, consequently, evidence of how man may integrate with machines to overcome hurdles. While the Cybathlon will have a race for competitors paralysed from the neck down who will control an avatar in a virtual race through a headset that connects the brain to a computer, with sprints for athletes wearing assistive bionic limbs and exoskeleton, performance-enhancing technology stands to be the real winner here. Prosthetic bots are getting closer to perfectly simulating realistic movements, giving differently-abled people greater participation in the mainstream.
The Cybathlon events will have two medals for each competition, one for the winning pilot (the athlete) wearing the bionic device and one for the company/laboratory that developed the device worn by the former. The devices will include those that have been barred from the Paralympics. Given that the devices’ performance will be tested as much as the individual athletes’ abilities, the Cybathlon would be a showcasing of technologies that are tailored to meet patients’ needs. And with that, some of the existing gaps between the differently abled and the larger society should be bridged.