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Our Robot Overlords

Cybathalon event (photo courtesy ETH Zurich / Alessandro Della Bella)

Much has been made of robots eventually subjugating humans. But it's far more exciting to think about how robots can make humans more human. On October 8, 2016 in Zurich, Switzerland, the first Cybathlon will be held: six different events featuring the latest assistive technology, from prosthetic arms and legs to exoskeletons to powered wheelchairs.

This event is a great way to highlight the role technology plays in helping people with physical differences to function better. And, different from other events for those with physical differences, Cybathlon was conceived specifically to showcase just how far technology has come.

In fact, the competition is really just the icing on the cake. Two days prior, the Cybathlon Symposium will bring together leading experts and researchers to present and discuss recent technological advances within the six disciplines of the Cybathlon: Brain-Computer Interfaces, Functional Electrical Stimulation, Powered Arm Prosthetics, Powered Leg Prosthetics, Powered Exoskeletons and Powered Wheelchairs.

Far from ushering in a new era of robot dominion, these breakthrough disciplines are pioneering ways to make technology better at delivering a very human experience -- the grasping ability of five flesh and blood fingers, the striding ability of flesh and blood legs, ankles and feet, the ability to sit and stand that previously only muscle and bone and nerve could afford.

Technology has -- yes, I'll say it -- evolved to the point where it can nearly duplicate these feats.

And to anyone who has had to live without them, that is not cause for alarm, but for celebration.

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