Cybathlon: Assistive Robotic Tech to Navigate the World

Advancing assistive devices through Olympic-style competition.

Event Details


swissnex San Francisco
730 Montgomery St., San Francisco, 94111 United States


April 08, 2016 from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm America/Los Angeles (UTC-08:00)



Each year, an estimated 34 million people worldwide need assistive and prosthetic devices to master their lives. Current technology is not ideal: wheelchairs cannot climb stairs, exoskeletons are bulky, and prostheses lack acceptance.

Researchers from the engineering and medical sciences are on a quest for smarter devices ultimately piloted by patients’ minds. This symposium showcases the latest technical developments and introduces the Cybathlon, an Olympic-style competition, offering a new approach to advancing assistive devices by awarding teams of disabled “pilots” and scientists mastering tracks designed along daily life challenges.

This event is part of ETH Meets California, a series of programs in the San Francisco Bay Area between April 6-15, 2016, organized by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich) and its presenting partners.


7:00 pm           doors open
7:30 pm           talks and Q&A
9:00 pm           networking reception
10:00 pm         doors close


Henry Evans

Henry Evans was left mute and quadriplegic after a stroke-like attack caused by a hidden birth defect at age 40. Years of therapy helped him learn to move his head and use a finger — which allows him to use a head-tracking device to communicate with a computer using experimental interfaces. Now, Evans is a frequent and enthusiastic collaborator with robotics teams who are developing tools to help the severely disabled navigate their lives. He collaborates with Georgia Tech professor Charlie Kemp on using the Willow Garage PR2 robot as a surrogate, as well as Chad Jenkins’ RLAB at Brown on quadrotors for expanding range of motion.

Homayoon Kazerooni

Homayoon Kazerooni is a professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, where he also serves as the director of the Berkeley Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory. With more than 30 years of mechanical engineering experience and a doctorate degree from MIT, he is a leading expert in robotics, control sciences, exoskeletons, human-machine systems and augmentation, bio-engineering, mechatronics design, intelligent assist devices, and power and propulsion. Prior to his more well-known research on lower extremity exoskeletons, Dr. Kazerooni led his team at Berkeley to successfully develop robotics systems that enhanced human upper extremity strength. The results of this work led to a new class of intelligent assist devices that are currently used by manual laborers in distribution centers and factories all over the world. These technologies are currently marketed worldwide by leading material handling corporations.

Robert Riener

Robert Riener is Full Professor for Sensory-Motor Systems at the Department of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zurich. As he holds a Double-Professorship with the University of Zurich, he is also active in the Spinal Cord Injury Center of the Balgrist University Hospital (Medical Faculty of the University of Zurich). Robert Riener studied mechanical engineering at TU München and University of Maryland, USA, from 1988 till 1993. He received the Dipl.-Ing. degree and the Dr. degree from the TU München in 1993 and 1997, respectively. In 1993 he joined the Institute of Automatic Control Engineering, where he has pursued research into neuroprosthetics. After postdoctoral work at the Centro di Bioingegneria, Politecnico di Milano from 1998 to 1999, he returned to the TU München, where he finished his Habilitation in the field of Biomechatronics about multi-modal VR applied to medicine in January 2003. Since his activity in Zurich Riener develops robots and interaction methods for motor learning in rehabilitation and sports. His current research interests involve human motion synthesis, biomechanics, virtual reality, man-machine interaction, and rehabilitation robotics. For his development of the arm therapy robot ARMin, he was awarded with several prizes including the humanTech Innovation Prize and the Swiss Technology Award.

Jacob Rosen

Jacob Rosen is a professor of medical robotics at the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering with joint appointments with the Department of Surgery and the Department of Bioengineering, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His research interests focus on medical robotics, biorobotics, human centered robotics, surgical robotics, wearable robotics, rehabilitation robotics, neural control, and human-machine interface. Dr Rosen developed several key systems in the field of medical robotics such as Raven – a surgical robotic system for telesurgery that is commercialized by Applied Dexterity as an open source research platform, and several generations of upper and lower limb exoskeletons and most recently the Exo-UL7 – a dual arm wearable robotic system.


More info

ETH Meets California is a program from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich) that brings some of its top researchers to California to unravel the mysteries of science and technology in an exchange of ideas with west coast counterparts in academia and industry. From Black Holes and Citizen Science to Cybersecurity and Flying Robots; from Earthquakes to a Hackathon; and from Robotics for Parathletes to Future Cities, ETH invites you to participate in a series of free public gatherings that connect a community of scientists, engineers, industry leaders, politicians, and students.

Join ETH Zurich and its presenting partners: 3D Robotics, Cisco, Disney Research Zurich, Ericsson, GoPro, Google, IBM, Pixar, SmarterBetterCities, Swisscom, swissnex San Francisco, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Urban Hive, Wingtra, the Mixing Bowl and the World Food Systems Center in the San Francisco Bay Area.  


Photo: Myleen Hollero

Event Photos