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Cybathlon competition

51 teams from 20 countries participated in the second CYBATHLON and, after years of preparation and development, put their assistance technologies to the test in a sports competition. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the competition did not take place at ETH Zurich this time, but rather in lockdown mode, which meant that the teams and their pilots had to compete from their respective country. The participants were allowed three attemps in three hours to complete the obstacle course. The best of the three attemps counted.

Live stream instead of live event

The races were filmed by the teams and were supervised by CYBATHLON officials, who acted as referees to ensure that everyone adhered to the rules as well as to rate the attempts. The results were kept secret, even to the teams themselves, until they were streamed over the course of two days.

On Saturday, the second day of the competition, things got serious for the HSR team. The live stream of the “Obstacle course with motorised wheelchairs (WHL)” got underway at 1 pm. The pilots had to solve six different tasks and do so as quickly as possible. The maximum time allotted was 8 minutes, and the HSR team was able to complete all six tasks in the record time of three minutes and four seconds. This meant that the team of the University of Applied Sciences Rapperswil had won again.

“FAULHABER is on board right from the start – with high-performance motors in the wheelchair and as a sponsor of the HSR team. So we are delighted with the win and congratulate Prof. Christian Bermes, pilot Florian Hauser and the entire “HSR enhanced” team on achieving this record time and reclaiming the title. A fantastic success and great team effort!,” said Andreas Seegen, Head of Marketing Communications at FAULHABER.

Realistic challenges

The WHL allowed wheelchairs that are operated by joystick, tongue, touchpad or other technologies. The sporting competition is also intended to promote further development of the technology – to the benefit of people with physical disabilities. The tasks included manoeuvring the wheelchairs in the tightest of spaces between furniture or through doorways. The wheelchairs also had to drive over uneven terrain as well as down slopes and stairs. Only pilots with different types of spinal cord injuries or other serious diseases that prevent them from walking were allowed to compete.

The challenges were tougher in 2020 compared to the first Cybathlon in 2016. For the last challenge, “Ramp & Door”, the door had to be opened and closed with a technical aid with external energy source (for example a robot arm), on the stairs the drivers had to overcome six steps instead of three, and they also had to demonstrate their control over the wheelchair by stopping while driving down.

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