A Russian Cybathlon Federation was officially set up on Tuesday to develop the creation of technology to help disabled people, with the Skolkovo Foundation among the signatories of the founding document.

The first international Cybathlon was held in Zurich, Switzerland earlier this month with the participation of several Russian teams who demonstrated how hi-tech devices such as robotic prosthetic limbs help them to overcome their disabilities. Now, according to the text of the memorandum, disabled Russians who want to take part in a Cybathlon will be able to use testing and training grounds due to be set up by the federation.

Signatories of the memo line up behind the podium after the signing ceremony on Tuesday. Photo: Sk.ru

The memorandum text also states the need to hold both Russian and international Cybathlons, and while the primary aim is to boost the domestic production of rehabilitation technology, the memo also calls for international cooperation in this area.

“The federation is needed for the formation of a community and the interaction of its members,” said Albert Yefimov, head of Skolkovo’s Robocentre, who signed the memorandum on behalf of the foundation.

“The value of any competition does not lie in someone winning, but in the creation of a community,” he said.

Yefimov, who attended the Cybathlon in Zurich at the beginning of this month, said he hoped a Cybathlon would be held at Skolkovo in 2017.

As well as race courses for people using hi-tech prosthetic arms and legs and electric wheelchairs, the international Cybathlon also had a track for people wearing exoskeletons – robotic suits that help disabled people to walk again – and Brain-Computer Interface (BCI). BCIs are devices that enable communication without movement by using signals from the central nervous system, and can be used to communicate by severely disabled people who cannot use a computer, for example. At the Cybathlon, participants in this discipline competed by controlling a figure on a computer screen and making it perform various movements using their brains.

Yefimov said it was entirely possible that the Russian Cybathlon Federation would not limit itself to developing these disciplines.

“Sensory perception was not featured at all at the international Cybathlon – there was nothing for people with vision or hearing impairments,” he said. “A section could be added for blind people, for example.”

The Russian Cybathlon Federation was founded by NeuroNet, a non-commercial organization of companies, researchers and manufacturers working in neurotechnologies such as Man Machine Interface, machine learning and neurosurgery. The founding partners are the hi-tech companies Neurobotics, Kleiber Bionics, Motorica, CaterWil and Orto-Kosmos, who all took sent teams to the international Cybathlon. Kleiber Bionics and Motorica, which make hi-tech prosthetic hands, are both resident startups of the Skolkovo Foundation.  The federation will be open to other interested companies and parties that wish to join in the future.

In addition to Skolkovo, fellow development institutions Russian Venture Company and the Agency for Strategic Initiatives signed the memorandum. Together with NeuroNet, those government agencies joined forces to send the Russian teams to Zurich. The federation also has the support of the education and trade and industry ministries.