The Cybathlon team have released the list of participants for the Exoskeleton Race, and there are some surprises. The first Cybathlon or Cybernetic Athlon is coming up on October 8th, 2016 in Zurich, Switzerland. The Cybathlon will be the first competition to feature physically challenged contestants wearing powered prosthetics and orthotics. There will be six disciplines, ranging from powered arm and wheelchairs to powered exoskeletons. The exoskeleton race will consist of an obstacle course featuring six unique challenges, for more details look no further than our article from last September: Cybathlon – Powered Exoskeleton Race.
Now back to the surprises. The exoskeleton race will feature teams that have been virtual unknowns for their prior exoskeleton work in addition to some familiar faces. Many competitor teams have worked behind closed doors, while others have had little international exposure. Currently scheduled are teams from eight different countries: Mexico (2), Switzerland (2), United States (2), South Korea (1), Russia (1), Austria (1), Netherlands (1), and Germany (1).
Here are some of the more surprising team entries:
Team Roki, Mexico. Roki is a jointly developed mobility enhancement exoskeleton. It is a hip-knee powered exoskeleton (total of 4 motors), similar to the ReWalk, Ekso GT, and many other medical exoskeletons. The Roki does bring some new ideas to the field. First, it is modular for easier transportation, which is a relatively rare feature. Second, ROKI Robotics have decided to adopt a lease rather than sell strategy (the Roki can be leased only in Mexico for the time being). Leasing exoskeletons is a popular business model in Asia, but it is not very popular with North American or European companies. For more information, visit ROKI Robotics (Spanish version only).
Team ReWalk, Germany. Although ReWalk was founded in Israel, they have a second headquarters in Germany. ReWalk is one of the few internationally available commercial exoskeleton models announced to compete at the Cybathlon. It will be intriguing to see if the team chooses to make modifications and customizations to the ReWalk unit so it can be a better fit for the obstacle course and how it will hold up against custom made R&D devices.
Team SG Mechatronics, South Korea. This team is led by Professor Kyoungchul Kong and includes members from Robotics of Sogang University and Rehabilitation Medicine of Yonsei University. Japan and Republic of Korea are powerhouses in exoskeleton research, development, and adoption. Many would even argue that they are the countries leading the exoskeleton industry. However, due to distance, the language barrier and the involvement of large corporations, it is not too often that we get to see what researchers in that part of the world are doing. As a matter of fact, the last time we have highlighted the exoskeleton projects of Sogang University was all the way back in June 2015: South Korean Exoskeleton R&D Projects. Team SG Mechatronics will be a strong contender to win the race in October!
Team Ottobock, Austria. Another surprise in the list of powered exoskeleton teams is prosthetics giant Ottobock. Early last year, the company released their knee exoskeleton, the C-Brace: Ottobock’s C-Brace Goes on Sale in Britain. The company is marketing the C-Brace as a quality of life improvement device just as much as a medical one. But what is a powered knee only exoskeleton doing at an exoskeleton race? Are we going to see a modified or even a new version of the C-Brace?
This is just a taste of some of the technology that is bound to be on display at the first ever Cybathlon. You can find the full list of teams that are entered for the exoskeleton race on their website: cybathlon.ethz.ch.
Cybathlon, more than meets the eye!
While the upcoming Cybathlon is going to bring teams from all over the globe for a friendly competition, it will also serve as the first ever public benchmark testing for powered exoskeletons. Wearable robotic devices from all over the world will have to perform on exactly the same obstacle course and be judged on the same metrics. For more on the subject see: Business Importance Of Exoskeleton Independent Testing (February 2016).
The Cybathlon exoskeleton race is positioning itself to become a major event that brings people, technology, and ideas together.