The Cybathlon is a championship for racing pilots with disabilities (i.e. parathletes) who are using advanced assistive devices including robotic technologies. The competitions are comprised by different disciplines that apply the most modern powered knee prostheses, wearable arm prostheses, powered exoskeletons, powered wheelchairs, electrically stimulated muscles and novel brain-computer interfaces. The assistive devices can include commercially available products provided by companies, but also prototypes developed by research labs. There will be two medals for each competition, one for the pilot, who is driving the device, and one for the provider of the device. The event is organized on behalf of the Swiss National Competence Center of Research in Robotics (NCCR Robotics).

The main goal of the Cybathlon is to provide a platform for the development of novel assistive technologies that are useful for daily life. Through the organization of the Cybathlon we want to help removing barriers between the public, people with disabilities and science.

Pilots are equipped with brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) that enable them to control an avatar in a racing game played on computers. Each avatar moves forward by itself, and thus, eventually reaches the finish line of the race even with a bad or no input signal from the pilot. However, there are obstacles on the race track that the pilots should avoid. Sending an appropriate command using the BCI within the correct time frame allows pilots to avoid these obstacles (elements) and gain a bonus (e.g. accelerate). Incorrect commands or incorrectly timed commands yield a disadvantage (e.g. deceleration of the avatar). A maximum of three different commands can be sent from the BCI simultaneously. One command is mandatory, and the other two are optional, but allow the pilots to gain additional advantages.

Four pilots can simultaneously compete in the same race. Each pilot sits in front of a separate screen to play the game, and each pilot sees the avatars of his or her three competitors. The pilot whose avatar first crosses the finish line wins the race.

A more detailed course description and the complete set of rules can be found here.

Inclusion Criteria for Pilots

In addition to the general inclusion criteria, participating pilots must fulfill the following criteria:

  • Pilots are not vulnerable to cyber-sickness, epilepsy or similar problems.
  • Pilots have complete or incomplete loss of motor function below the neck due to SCI, stroke, ALS or another lesion. Pilots are judged on a case-by-case basis if they are eligible with regard to psychological condition as well as motor and cognitive impairment to avoid any risk to body and mental stability.

Inclusion Criteria for Technology

In addition to the general rules, the following criteria apply for the BCI hardware:

  • While the primary envisioned BCI type is electroencephalography (EEG), other brain activity measurements such as functional near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) are also permitted as long as they primarily measure brain activity.
  • Electrodes can be wired or wireless, and the BCI amplifier can be powered by any means as long as the technology is safe.
  • Skin-piercing electrodes are not permitted. Other than that, the choice of electrode type, cap and gel (if any) are up to the participating team.
  • Electrooculography (EOG) electrodes must be used; if not for artifact rejection, then for judges to check for the presence of eye artifacts. A similar rule counts for muscle artifacts. Pilots must not use any muscle activity (e.g. facial muscles) or eye movement to control the game.
  • Pilots have to watch the race screen during the race. It is not allowed to give any additional (artificial) visual or acoustic stimulation by the BCI system. Thus, steady state visually evoked potentials (SSVEPs, P300, etc.) may not be used as the source of the input signal to the race unless they are elicited by the race animation provided by the organizers and not by an additional display.

The following criteria apply for the BCI software:

  • Artifact removal is crucial. Teams have to sign in advance to confirm that muscle and eye movement artifacts and other artifacts are removed, or that the classifier is blocked by artifact detection and not misused as commands to control the game. Before the race, teams have to send a description of the artifact removal procedure and examples of the signals to be checked by external judges who are experts on signal processing. Everything is treated confidentially.
  • Ocular control or control by facial muscles and any other muscular activity is not permitted.
  • Once artifacts are removed, any signal feature and classification procedure can be used in the BCI as long as it primarily reflects brain activity. Teams have to send the description of the inference process to be checked by external judges before the race. Everything is treated confidentially.
  • The output signal is sent to the race using the standard UDP network protocol.

The complete set of rules including the specific rules for the different disciplines can be found here.