Cybathlon turns spotlight on Iron Man tech

Image: Cybathlon
A Cybathlon pilot wearing an electrode-equipped cap uses a brain-computer interface to move an avatar through a computer-generated virtual obstacle course. (Credit: Cybathlon / ETH Zurich)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Imagine a contest for the kinds of technologies that would set Tony Stark’s nuclear-powered heart all aflutter in the “Iron Man” movies: exoskeletons, brain-computer interfaces, stair-climbing wheelchairs and bionic limbs, for example.

You don’t have to imagine it anymore: Swiss organizers are getting ready for the first-ever Cybathlon on Oct. 8 in Zurich.

This is no Hollywood publicity stunt: The Cybathlon is aimed at giving a boost to assistive devices and the millions of people around the world who use them. Fifty-five teams from 23 countries already have signed up for the games, and the organizers have put out the call for more teams to register.

The teams’ pilots will vie in six events that take advantage of exoskeletons, brain-wave controllers, prosthetic arms and legs, powered wheelchairs and muscle-stimulation bikes.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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