THE PINAY SUNSET RUNNER
Filipino future technology writer/blogger and seasoned media practitioner Lei Kalina (creator of "Future Culture")
plunges back to her first love -- long-distance running -- taking us for a joyride on the myriad of twists and turns and rough-and-tumble daily grind of her world, coming from a 21st century maverick telling it like it is: mostly no nonsense irreverent musings with her sharp wit and nonconformist humor.
WHEN CELEBRATED CASE AND QUADRIPLEGIC PATIENT Cathy Hutchinson, paralyzed from the neck down sseventeen years ago and later dubbed by international scientists as “Patient S3” last 2012 -- successfully picked up a flask of coffee and sipped through its straw via thought-controlled robotic arms and brain-computer interface -- advanced science enthusiasts knew that the best is about to come.
Hutchinson’s case was an exceptional breakthrough, which celebrated the success of enabling people with severe paralysis to maneuver thought-controlled robotic arms, using brain-to-computer neural implants, which the technological process, called BrainGate II -- the updated version used on Hutchinson -- made possible.
In the initial stages six years ago (2006), paralyzed patients could have only moved a curser on the computer screen monitor using their thoughts. Whats the secret behind this breakthrough? No secret. A surgically-implanted electrode on the patient's brain the size of a baby aspirin interprets the electric signals it relays -- enabling the movements to take place.
Lead researcher and neuroscientist John Donoghue from Brown University, noting that “we now show that people with longstanding, profound paralysis can move complex real-world machines like robotic arms, and not just virtual devices, like a dot on a computer
BrainGateII as process later transforms into a muti-million company with its noble mission “to improve of the quality of life for all disabled humans, (and) additionally seeking “ to increase the usage of BrainGate related technology in both medical and non-medical applications and facilitate innovation in invasive and non-invasive brain research.”
Further, it is geared “to create technology that will allow severely disabled individuals—including those with traumatic spinal cord injury and loss of limbs—to communicate and control common everyday functions literally through thought… teaming up with a seasoned team of enterpreneurs aiming to advance movement through thought alone “ achieved through partnership with leading academic institutions institutions, corporations, and various non-profit and government organizations working on the research, science, and development of applied commercial technology.”
Meantime, the likes of Cathy Hutchinson who were disabled by accidents or by birth have something more to look forward to.
By October 2016, all roads lead to the first-ever Cybathlon --- an international sporting event for for parathletes wherein athletic events actively encourage the use and development of pioneering robotic technology -- with the use of leg prosthetics , powered exoskeletons and powered wheelchairs, brain-computer interface , and functional electrical stimulation (FES) via bike races, and more.
A clear first for all-time: to be held at the Kolping Arena in Kloten, Zurich, Switzerland, wherein parathletes worldwide can be given the opportunity to compete internationally using robot-assisted technology and showcase the maximum performance and practical functionality of artificial intelligence for persons with disabilities (PWD).
Photo via YouTube Screengrab
Photo via YouTube Screengrab From powered exoskeleton races to competitions using brain power (illustrated), the first Olympics for bionic athletes, called the Cybathlon, will take place in Switzerland in October 2016
Event organizers , including Swiss National Competence Center of Research in Robotics (NCCR Robotics) , one of the main goals 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. It is hoped that the competition will spur interest in human performance-enhancing technology.”
Prizes will be awarded to both the winning athletes in each event and to the company behind the software or technological device used. Organized on behalf of the Swiss National Competence Center of Research in Robotics (NCCR Robotics), the competition is open to technology already available on the market, or to research development projects by laboratories.
Earlier reports mentioned that a variety of disciplines would be applying state-of-the-art technology for the most modern “powered knee prostheses, wearable arm prostheses, powered exoskeletons, powered wheelchairs, electrically stimulated muscles and novel brain-computer interfaces… Even totally paralyzed people will be able to take part, using brain-computer interface.”
“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.”
In a recent BBC news report, University of Switzerland Professor Robert Riener, also part of the event organizing team, explained that "much too often, there is disconnect between patients and technology. The idea is that we want to push development of assistive technologies towards devices that patients can really use in everyday life. While some of the current technologies look very fancy but are a long way from being practical and user-friendly, we would want technology to be useful for daily living for these persons with disabilities.”
“Further , we are allowing use of technology in this event, which has previously been excluded from the Paralympics. By making it a public event, we want to get rid of the borders between patients, society and the technology community. Our other main aim for the games is to allow people to compete who have never had the opportunity before,” Reiner says.
From website Sophimania.lamula.pe
Photo via YouTube
Pilots with leg amputation will be equipped with machine operated prostheses and will have to successfully complete a race course (pictured) as quickly as possible, which will include obstacles such as slopes, a staircase, cobblestones and a seesaw
Photo via YouTube Screengrab
In the Powered Exoskeleton Race (pictured), pilots with complete thoracic or lumbar Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI) will be equipped with actuated exoskeletal devices, which will enable them to walk along a particular race course
Meantime,The Verge News reports:
“Unlike the Olympics, where athletes can use prosthetics only to make themselves as good as able-bodied athletes and not better, Cybathlon competitors are encouraged to use the best technology. Dual prizes will be awarded, one to the athlete and one to the company that created the prosthetic, device, or software.”
"The rules of the competition are made in such way that the novel technology will give the pilot an advantage over a pilot that would use a comparable but less advanced or conventional assistive technology," the organization says on its website. "There will be as few technical constraints as possible, in order to encourage the device providers to develop novel and powerful solutions."
“Of course, the races will be slower than their Olympic counterparts, but they're also arguably more mind-boggling. The exoskeleton competitors, for example, must walk over a slope, up steps, around pillars, over a see-saw, across a narrow beam, then pick up a bag and carry it, go around tight corners, and then sprint to the finish line.”
Photo via YouTube Screengrab
+7Photo via YouTube ScreenGrab
Pilots with forearm or upper arm amputations will be equipped with actuated exoprosthetic devices and will have to successfully complete two hand-arm task courses as quickly as possible (illustrated). A close-up camera view will be used to life-display the shoot on the stadium screens. At least two participants will start at the same time on two identical courses, to make the event more exciting
Parathletes at Cybathlon, however, will be called “pilots”, using exoskeletons like those by Ekso Bionics, to trudge through obstacle courses, powered wheelchairs will be seeing action as well, while FES ( Functional Electrical Stimulation) of nerves for paralyzed limbs assist the parathletes competing in the bike race. Meantime, arm amputees use robotic prosthetics “to navigate a wire course as quickly and nimbly as possible without touching the wire.”
SingularityHub.com further reports:
“Robotic prosthetics (arm and leg), like those from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and Case Western Reserve University, use computers to recognize electrical patterns in muscles and nerves and allow patients to control bionic limbs with thoughts alone. Some are even beginning to send rudimentary sensory touch information back to the brain.”
“The Cybathlon wouldn’t be possible without these technologies, but perhaps it wouldn’t be quite as urgent if they weren’t still confined to labs and clinical trials. The hope is the Cybathlon can add another incentive to speed things along.”
The Powered Wheelchair Race (illustrated) will allow pilots with different disability levels (e.g. quadriplegics, paraplegics, amputees) to be equipped with power wheelchairs, which will enable them to steer along a particular race course. The course will be defined by cones between which the pilots will have to manoeuvre the chair both forward and backward. In addition, obstacles of different sizes will be used.
THE SIX DISCIPLINES AT THE 2016 CYBATHLON
Powered arm prostheses race: Pilots with arm amputations will be equipped with robotic prostheses and will have to successfully complete two hand-arm task courses as quickly as possible.
One of the challenges will see pilots holding a wire loop which they will use to navigate a metal wire without touching it. Another race will see participants pick up differently shaped objects in order to demonstrate the dexterity of their prostheses.
Brain computer interface race: Pilots will be equipped with technology that lets them control an avatar in a racing game played on computers using their brains. They will race along a track with obstacles.
Functional electrical stimulation bike race: Pilots with spinal cord injuries will use functional electrical stimulation devices, which will enable them to perform a pedaling movement on a cycling device that drives them on a circular course. There will be two categories - a sprint race, over a distance of 200metres and an endurance race over the distance of 1000metres.
Powered leg prostheses race: Pilots with transfemoral amputation will be equipped with machine operated prostheses and will have to successfully complete a race course as quickly as possible, which will include obstacles such as slopes, a staircase, cobblestones and seesaw.
Powered exoskelton race: Pilots with spinal cord injuries (SCI) will use powered exoskeletons to negotiate a race course with obstacles of around 100metres.
Powered wheelchair race: Participants will use powered wheelchairs to steer along a race course with slopes and uneven surfaces as well as a slalom