What We Can Learn from Cybathlon
The City of Kawasaki hosts a world-class competition
Echoed in a roar of excitement and flashed in a bright illumination, the stage set in the main arena of Kawasaki (Culttu) housed a crowd of spectators with zealous minds in the empty Tokyo in the early May. The 10 straight day off-duty duration is known as a Golden Week holiday in Japan. It is one of the longest three vacation seasons in January, May, and August when the urban residents of Tokyo fly out to find tropical locations such as Hawaii or Guam for the release of piled stress and indulgent gifts in return of miserable work during the urban week days. Despite in the middle of the vacation, university scholars and students in science, corporate sponsors, and retired volunteers rush into the limited space of the arena. Some of them fly to Tokyo from Zurich and Pittsburgh. Their minds focus on the brave Olympians for the 2020 Paralympics. This special event for sustaining physically injured body and saving handicapped soul is the competition called cybathlon. My original plan was halted suddenly when the empty entrance hall was interrupted by the crowded cheers of audience inside the hall. People watched the very slow but inspiring efforts of two wheel cheered athletes in high heart-beating moment. When the steady race is over, the supporters in the teams of both athletes joyfully celebrate with their fists up unanimously as if they were the gold medalists. This was produced by three major advancements of the next generation to revitalize the social capital; technology, company, and people. My two-hour observation led me to ask myself if the tide has shifted from money-grabbling economy to heart-caring society. Is this country in the Far East ready for Paralympics in the summer of 2020? My answer is, “Yes, this country is ready for 2020 Paralympics toward more caring society.”
A stage of cybathlon is still its infancy in less than three years. The idea originates from Zurich where Robert Riener, Professor of Sensory-Motor Systems at ETH Zurich and a handful of robotics and mechanical scientists launched the competition in 2016. By definition, cybathlon is a championship where people with disabilities compete against each other using state-of-the-art assistive devices to tackle everyday tasks. The show was welcomed by thousands of spectators and the wave of favorite responses transmitted itself from a modest and beautiful Zurich to the City of Kawasaki.
Among many different fields of sciences, robotics stands outright tall in the actual race. The disabled athletes sit in the carefully tuned machine in wheel chairs, which assists them in jointly moving their bodies into the designated courses with some tough bumps and obstacles, which makes the competition much harder for the disabled participants. According to a British magazine The Economist, Striker, an American medical-technology company, makes this progress one step further to challenge conventional manufacturing from customized one-off production to mass production of different prototypes. Their two-year-old 3D printing factory in Carrigtwohill in Ireland are manufacturing implants in a multiple set of prototypes in a single location for global distribution. The factory works around the clock.
Other companies followed suit. Among them is DePuy Synthes, the orthopedics business arm of Johnson & Johnson. LimaCorporate, an Italian business, joined the growing industry worth more than $1 bn in 2018. European firms will look at the transcontinental cooperation with America to produce complex, customized production of implants. For example, the Italian firm dogged 3D production facility into the Hospital in New York. The western collaboration of the initiative quickly landed on the part of the Far East. In a few yards from the exciting venue, a handful of innovative companies in Japan support the operations of the exciting event; Dai Nippon Printing, and 16 other corporate supporters.
With advanced technologies to assist, innovative companies to support, and people to drive the competition for the disabled people into the global mission of cybathlon, the two-day event marked the lasting legacy of the real beneficial human efforts in the 21st century in which modern urban residents often leave behind the industrial revolution. The disabled sportsmen pushed their wheels with a distance of short 50 meters and the time saw long 10 minutes past the gun went off. But what they moved was not wheels but something alive inside humans. The progress is immeasurably high and the long effect is achieved in hearts of spectators. Fast-track qualifiers in the running race in Tokyo Olympics 2020 work hard to break 10 seconds mark in 100 meter race. It takes the weak bodies more than 10 minutes to finish the half the distance. However, the progress in the minds of athletes, spectators, and supporters is significant. Bodies are partially broken but the minds of those people remain solid. They will be the true champions in 2020 to guide the able citizens to the right direction.