To Infinity and Beyond – Part 2

28 Mar 2014

Last week I wrote a post about how all good business ventures start with a dream, inspired by Richard Branson’s epic work on the Virgin Galactic project.

This week I would like to discuss a similarly brilliant venture, the ‘Cybathlon’. This is an incredibly inventive project put together by the Swiss National Competence Center of Research in Robotics (NCCR Robotics). The project is to put on an Olympic games for ‘bionic athletes’ to take part in, hosted in Switzerland, in 2016. The aims of the sporting event will be ‘to promote the development of novel assistive systems and reinforce the scientific exchange, to improve the public awareness about the challenges and opportunities of assistive technologies, and to enable pilots with disabilities to compete in races, making this a unique event.’*

When I was a young student, I visited a few local art therapy centres. These were set up for people of all ages with different disabilities, some minor, some very debilitating indeed. A lot of the therapy was tactile; like building collages or garden decorations. While other activities were more colour and emotion orientated.

I have since kept a keen interest in how arts and technology can be used to help include disabled people in areas of life they may not have otherwise been able to experience.

Now, I – like most people – live and work amongst technology, one could easily take for granted how everyday innovations are going a long way to improve user experiences. Take for example a standard smart phone, tools like touch screens, voice recognition and the vast array of applications out there, could and will be helping many people to experience more from their lives than they ever thought possible. It takes very little imagination to think how you could use tools like these (and more advanced ones) in other ways to help people with disabilities to also accomplish more in their lives.

In our own industry, there are a number of companies doing some great pioneering work towards making CRM systems more accessible.

CRM might not be quite up to events like the Brain Computer Interface race and Powered Exoskeleton Race being planned by Cybathlon, but the concept of global accessibility is on its way to becoming a reality.

At Cybathlon, people watching the games will be in awe of the capabilities of modern science and technology. The Cybathlon will not only help the athletes taking part in the events to achieve more than they ever dreamed to be doable, but will go on to help more and more people in the future by planting the seeds to educate the world in this new and exciting area of our societies technical evolution, something all aspects of the tech industry are keen to improve.