Cybathlon 2020: introducing the BLUE LIGHT specials for the prosthetic arm challenges ahead [terminology, concept]

"The Cybathlon 2016 demonstrated, in a comprehensive and entertaining manner, how people with disabili­ties can employ assistive devices." Novak, Domen, Peter Wolf, and Eugenio Guglielmelli. "Cybathlon 2016: Showcasing Advances in Assistive Technologies Through Competition [From the Guest Editors]." IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine 24.4 (2017): 24-122.

An individual that just wants to stare at amputees to be entertained by them has no business being anywhere near rehabilitation, leave alone actual products, or people. Wolf Schweitzer, 2008.

Insights derived from the Cybathlon 2020 plan - the BLUE LIGHT Special Paragraphs

The proposed Cybathlon 2020 race setup (link) is out and the prosthetic arm race is relevant to read.

Seeing as if nothing tangible, visible, perceptible or legible appeared to have resulted from the Cybathlon for the benefit of prosthetic arms (that would have been the goal of the prosthetic arm race though, right, better prosthetic arms), the observations end up falling more under a sociological subject than a technical.

Therefore, I will introduce a category of BLUE LIGHT specials that - in that form as considered here - may be new: they combine sociological northern hemisphere aspects with technical aspects and considerations [1].

The Extreme Cyborging labels that I introduced a while ago, find increasing correlates here, with the BLUE LIGHT specials.However, as we shall see, these BLUE LIGHT specials may be more relevant than meets the eye.

BLUE LIGHT Special Paragraph #1: Any individual, organization or state that finances circus events that makes amputees the center of staring, freak show display or other derogatory exhibition, also (but not only) fails to use exactly these financial and human resources for actual development and actual rehabilitation. This is a real problem with the prosthetic arm race of the Cybathlon.

Take the reverse view: it is an inherent truth that if (ever) a prosthetic hand functions in every possible regard, circus show competitions are of no use at all. There is nothing to see, because all sweet and running. We also do not conduct visual recognition of objects competitions to boost research into optical frames, or, supermarket carrying bag competitions to see which ones burst when overfilled, or, tooth brushing competitions to boost research into better teeth cleaning. In order for the circus to stay attractive as circus, the elements of freak show and lack of performance are absolutely essential. These, one may assume, are carefully left in place.

So: how exactly did we get here? What makes us us? Where do we go - given how we all came here? What is it about amputees that makes them the butt of the staring contest that is held here? Who did not focus on better grip mechanics over the last 70 years? Why is a body-powered prosthetic hook still the best device for real work?

This quote ("The Cybathlon 2016 demonstrated, in a comprehensive and entertaining manner, how people with disabili­ties can employ assistive devices." Novak, Domen, Peter Wolf, and Eugenio Guglielmelli. "Cybathlon 2016: Showcasing Advances in Assistive Technologies Through Competition [From the Guest Editors]." IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine 24.4 (2017): 24-122) is definitely the most needless statement ever.

How does an amputee need to "entertain" an engineer whose task it is to improve the prosthetic arm? Please by all means mail me with your good name, and explain that to me, we all want to know who else you all are and what happened to the engineer that he now needs to be entertained in just that way. The actual context will be explained later, after all, you busy typing up these mails now.  Because once upon a time, engineering had been a technical problem oriented culture driven by people in, possibly, short sleeved shirts and a purely technical problem oriented approach. Nowadays, a few arm amputees have definitely competently taken that role with regard to the development of really useful prosthetic arms and their real work rehabilitation and real sports devices. Almost 20 years since the promises of the year 2000. And I am not talking about gadgets that die after a few days, or Potemkin hands, but real devices for real rehabilitation for real work.

Where does that leave the people that formerly were engineers? What has become of them?

Is organizing staring competitions with amputees as performers really all modern engineers can do? Is it even necessary for better engineering? In what exact, detailed and mechanistically understood way does increased staring - as in the prosthetic arm race of the Cybathlon -  help technical development and better focus of financial resources? Where, more precisely, is the better resulf coming out of the 2016 Cybathlon? These are rhetorical questions, I am afraid, and no better results are on the market, not for real work, in a real world.

So one clear result of watching the Cybathlon 2016 and particularly also of observing its aftermath is that arm amputees remain the butt of the joke, the center of staring, not a single bit the center of actual serious rehabilitation engineering. That, which had been a promise of 2016, was conveniently left unaddressed.

Were it any different, or, would I be wrong here, I would now be able to find a list of research centers that at the very least would be help me make put together a prosthetic arm that works better than the one we built here for the use of very heavy lifting, sweaty work and other hazardous activities.

BLUE LIGHT Special Paragraph #2: Anyone that keeps focusing on questionable technical premises because they do not understand prosthetic arm users' reality will invariably build devices or parts of little or no use for a unilateral below elbow amputee with real hard work to be done.

With this wrong modern focus, everyone is caught up with circus shows, Potemkin hands, and look-alike puppet theater.

Practically no one builds prosthetic arms for real wreckage. No one (for example) has been able to explain, succinctly, why high performance prostheses for unilateral below elbow amputees necessarily need to be myoelectric. And while we could assume a stupid error, Occam's razor forces us to assume engineers to just sail, ride, surf on the myoelectric prosthesis Dead Horse that has kept funding agencies busy for years, but really, the answer of what really is attempted here is quite clear: this was never about arm amputees that perform real work to begin with. This is a very logical result of considering current robot hand research.

What is being built, with the research support of far too many "able bodied subjects" to make for any credible disability research, are very heavy, minimally mobile myoelectric devices with sophisticated controls and expensive requirements for motor power and electric wiring that suit most certainly any type of military application but definitely not a real life amputee that works a hard real life job. In that military or space exploring research, able-bodied subjects are strapped to heavy devices that do not need to serve an amputee during daily life, but that are meant to be stationary, mounted in a control room, to control a remote robot device. An able-bodied subject that is strapped to a stationary military control system very likely will be able to perform with only little sweating, and with no limb position effects, so it makes total sense to build devices of that kind for that application and to not make them overly miniaturized or mobile.

It certainly may make a lot of sense to "sell" all that research to "disability research" because we, the arm amputees, cannot at all tell military research from prosthetic arm research. We are not capable of realizing that we are being had. We really have no idea at all what is going on. And why maybe there are very specific reasons who exactly did what type of research for the past 40 years which landed us precisely where we are today: there are hard, distinct, uncomfortable and cogent reasons why it is 2018 and for demanding hard real work, a body powered prosthetic arm with a split hook that is well built is by so very far the best solution.

Given the absent real focus on real amputees in real work situations of prosthetic development, the only explanation of why they keep doing what they are doing is developing remotely controlled robot hands for non-disability usage. There, military applications, whose research is funded by disability intended funds, are the actual sensible logical and financially viable explanation.

BLUE LIGHT Special Paragraph #3: If you do not pay your circus artists, you are not much of a really great circus director but instead, you emphasize the exploitative character of what you were doing.

The circus artist takes risks, for example, and as we know that risk is not taken for the benefit of prosthetic arm development, but  purely for entertainment of the spectators.

  • A prosthetic arm may break during competition. Usually, these risks are not insured as the prosthetic arm is never built for any such circus-type competition. The more advanced a prosthetic arm is, the greater the risk overall.
  • Furthermore, the circus artist takes a risk to fail the performance. Some circus artists may have to make big claims and they fail totally to deliver, and that risk is as real as a risk is. This even more so the case, the more aggressive, difficult, dynamic or unplanned the act in itself is.

To use a prosthetic arm with an unpowered wrist to perform the hot wire loop test, for example, is a test that cannot be planned overly well as most prosthetic arms simply do not provide the necessary access: my prosthetic arm cannot hold a powered wrist at all. To make the hot wire loop test a success, I need to contort myself - and then, what does that test? The ingenuity of a Cybathlon engineer? Do you want to kid me? Do you really think no one notices? Do you also contort yourself when watching - after all, some people claim there to be "inspiration" - so where are those of you that, 1:1, actually, are, factually, inspired?

A myoelectric arm has two electrodes mostly, one for open, and one for close, that heavily succumb to body position or limb position effects. Those are inherent issues that everyone knows, and if not, that everyone can know by reading. If you "test" people, that then is one thing, if we can discuss the validity of the test and its actual goal - and if you keep providing a platform where based on the sheer design premises, everyone is about to fail, this contrasts strongly with the fact that the hot-wire loop test itself has no practical relevance for users of prosthetic arms at all, then you risk to be seen as someone that takes a particular pleasure in seeing arm amputees struggle with useless circus acts.

If you then do not at least pay these actors well, it is clear that you are not much of a really great circus director. If you do not quickly provide very cogent reasons why performing a particular act in circus demonstration is really relevant for real hard work, then you are probably not a great engineer either.

BLUE LIGHT Special Paragraph #5: Just because you do not fully understand how amputees really get stuff done - such as working with nails, screws, light bulbs or electric wires etc., does not mean we don't.

But given that, by all means, you want to have that circus now.

Why not have the amputee not use any sensible combination of tools at all? Why not go gah gah full circle? What is the logic here? Why not have arm amputees trying to change a car's oil stick using only their mouth and head? Entertaining, perhaps? Why not have the amputee try to insert or remove a screw using a credit card? Why not have the amputee try to "cut" a bread using a screw driver or, say, a hammer?

It appears that the Cybathlon organizers constrain any unilateral below elbow amputee to holding and manipulating a simple single manual screw driver (~16 USD) with what they hope will be used, a bionic hand (~80 000 USD) (total around ~80016 USD) (and thus holding the screw with the anatomical other hand), instead of encouraging what any halfways sensible real world adapted craftsman amputee would do, which is, using a battery driven screw driver (~30 USD, Aliexpress) and a prosthetic hook on a body powered arm (possibly ~6000 USD with standard parts) (total around ~6030 USD) to hold the screw (by so very far the better approach, and by so very far cheaper, longer lasting, as solution, etc., just a tip among us, not that you really knew to ask).

Screw drivers as manual tools in the assorted choice of tools do have their role from an actual practitioner's view such as mine: I will use a screw driver for very simple small acts, when I fix my glasses for example, or when I swap my wrist watch battery, or when I fix my wrist watch band, or when I swap a laptop harddisk or laptop screen - but microsurgery is hardly a domain for prosthetic arms, is it. If it was, would you agree on the best choice of prosthetic gripper, say, with me? How would you know what really works best? Obviously, more rhetorical questions. And I will definitely use a screw driver when the screw requires carefully delivered massive torque, which the battery driven screw driver cannot deliver. Also that is hardly an application for a "bionic" fragile hand, or is it now.

This in context also begs the question as what we are seen. As arm amputees.  Are we seen as people that do not know shit from shinola? That existentially struggle when faced with the question of how to tame a screw? Do we really need a high tech prosthesis to perform manual screw driver acts when high torques and very subtle force feedbacks are called upon? Where in military technology do we need a mechanical gripper to hold a screw driver when the whole prosthetic arm can be one big battery driven screw driver device? Y'all think we are bleeping idiots, right. We cannot use a screw driver as it was meant to be understood, right. You picked the best path for us, right. And you have amputees as circus artists test that then, after paying you thousands of dollars. Right.

"BLUE LIGHT Special Paragraph 5 games" are future games that follow this very peculiar (apparently absent) logic. Hammer away with the bionic hand. Use a prosthetic device as ballistic object - throw the hand! Terminator 1 Movie End Stage games, unplug the wires, short circuit the batteries, and take out the whip, chase the circus director around the stadium wearing fins and snorkels, until you catch him, then have ice cream together.

What do the Cybathlon 2020 organizers mean by "Do not touch this with your human hand, it is BLUE"?

In the new Cybathlon 2020's "race task" prescriptions for their "prosthetic arms race" (link), they use 3D renderings of test scenery setups with a BLUE coloring of whatever tool or object part there is that the candidate is supposed to touch, handle or manipulate with the prosthetic arm rather than with his or her anatomic hand (link). In short, what is colored BLUE is to be touched or handled only with the prosthetic arm. At least according to what the Cybathlon 2020 organizers planned and hope for.

Not sure why they still call the race contestants "pilot" - maybe as prosthetic arms suffering from cable shredding were sometimes built with parts described to be from "aircraft aluminium" instead of "general porpoise aluminum", maybe also to make a little bit of tinkering appear "better" in the user's eyes.

What to touch or not is an amputee's private own decision space, not a circus director's decision space

This blue part thing is a type of needless attempt to dominate an amputee's very own decision space that necessarily calls for serious discussion.

Not all attempts for pure, reason-free domination over my own decision space go through smoothly just as that.

Particularly when the circus director tries to make the artist (financially and in terms of time, device failure risk, insurance, travel, other expenses) pay for their display of performance.

You have to understand that despite the Cybathlon's general attempt to use disabilities for public spectacles:

  • disability still affects humans (and now: let that sink in); no one used the Cyabthlon 2016 to build one single better solution for real users of prosthetic arms;
  • it is not useful to treat it as spectacle from a disability view, only from a voyeuristic view is staring really constructive;
  • and prostheses themselves do not get better by repeating errors, mistakes, and conceptual problems on an event dimension such as a circus type show; that may be hard to understand if you do not see prosthetic arms as body parts, but trust me, they are not - they are, so often, hard to accept, failure prone devices that cost an absolutely ridiculous fortune;

(C) Copyright Steve Medwin / Thingiverse / Melted Lego / rendered and color highlighted in Blender

What comes to Circus 2: Cybathlon 2020 (after Circus 1: Cybathlon 2016)

When before, people rushed in to make the Cybathlon 2016 to be the first modern televised disability circus event ever, it is now - for 2020 - not a first ever any more.

Now this Cybathlon circus establishes itself, howevermuch disturbingly, as a true circus.

Note that the man in the below image has a blue arm. What does that mean? Does it mean you are only allowed to touch him there? What if you are his daughter, son, father, mother, girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife?

(C) Copyright Thingiverse / Ringmaster / Circus Elephants / rendered and color highlighted in Blender

Tasks for Cybathlon 2020 - critical technical comments

To re-cap and comment on the proposed Cybathlon 2020 race setup (link). As long as the Cybathlon pretends to be a technical competition, I pretend to provide a critical technical comment.

There is a funny aspect though.

I was sure myoelectric arms had some difficulties, and after some real life testing I figured the thing was clear. But then, I still felt that many people in R&D were still inadequately nervous about the whole thing. They appeared to exhibit a degree of uneasiness that was out or proportion given that I had just identified body-powered arms as far better than myoelectric arms (given a unilateral below elbow amputation, as stated by the blog title here).

So I figured there must be more to this and went to dig. Turns out that in about four decades, academically published myoelectric arm control  error rates remained (a) unacceptably high and (b) even became slightly worse [very detailed analysis here]. There is not even no potential: the current researchers lose a grip on these error rates, the old masters are dead and the new wizards cannot perform that well - but even their best "well" is not good enough. Only: why be afraid that this "comes out"? Do you think that you can somehow hide a realistic 11-35% myoelectric control error rate from a demanding user? What is it really you are trying to get away with?

Objects choice, how to handle objects, how fast to handle objects

Object choices of the prosthetic arms race, just as in a household, environment or setup generally are always deliberate, willful and tyrannic.

Just as in school, stuff was needlessly ordered, pre-defined, small minded and nevertheless strictly enforced.

That means that object choices usually can and will be exchanged or swapped, improved or modified in any normal real world. Any arm amputee will wilfully swap stuff that does not work for stuff that works. Automatically, by oneself.

There usually if not always is at least some room for negotiation, modification, slow approach, for testing and for getting things right in a good way.

A real life day has everybody win, and if that happens, rehabilitation worked well. It is usually the result of dedicated individualized hard work.

Rehabilitation is not widely understood a rat race, opposed to what Cybathlon makers think - it should be a comforting slow adaptive process that cares and succeeds

The problem is that the circus directors that think up a Cybathlon do not understand the word rehabilitation.

They think it is some rat race really.

But it is not, trust me.

The body powered arm that is so much better for real work and below elbow amputees may be a nightmare for a shoulder level amputee that cannot perform hard work the same way. So a different construction will be necessary altogether there. You cannot go and apply the same standards because you simply can't. The scale to compare performances is individual and relative to each individual. But this here, this website, is what again? How is this blog named? Right.

What "book", what "key", what "paper clip", what "coin" is used for the "competition", is definitely not a scientific choice.

So a sensible person that considers rehabilitation cannot possibly obsess over contestants or "pilots" handling them differently. A research person will investigate detailed differences and aspects of various different approaches or methods of amputees to handle things.

If I have a problem with a particular jug, I will buy a different one, or use my extremities any way I see fit. I tested pepper mills in the super market for ten minutes until I found one that works really well for me. What is wrong about that exact process?  How does Cybathlon not incorporate that aspect of the actual meaning of "re-habilitation"?

Here is a virtually melted LEGO brick. Just exactly why, very precisely, do they not use these?

(C) Copyright Steve Medwin / Thingiverse / Melted Lego / rendered and color highlighted in Blender

If ever the Cybathlon 2020 task, where the candidate re-places a range of objects, would be a real life situation, the whole operation would usually be performed by free choice of the amputee -  which method, which approach, which hand to use, which everything. The way I solve my tasks is free-style and if you get into the path of that you are freaking toast. If you don't understand that you do not understand a lot of things - as inference works also here.

One will have to compare the performance of the amputee before and after such a choice of how to do a thing better or differently. It would not be a "spectacle", a televised circus, just as real life rehabilitation is not a televised spectacle, a crazy circus with imposed rules that have no bearing in real life.

A nightmarish copy of real life is now the Cybathlon 2020 with its tasks, where the organizers insist that the amputee use their prosthetic arm.

To make that clear, their instruction booklet highlights these objects in BLUE.

Also there is no time limit in real life.

Myoelectric arms are known to be really slow. Sure, that is irritating sometimes, but why worry? We are not measuring degrees of irritation, or, are we? If you do measure degrees of irritation, why not constantly spit at the pilots during the "race"? If you buy a myoelectric arm, you will either know beforehand, or find out, what all sucks about it.

Using a timer to rate performance of myoelectric hands is therefore just as absurd, as making a prescription for the candidate to forcedly use their prosthesis on, say, light bulbs, hammers or screw drivers.

Engineers that make amputees hurry without an actual need, or forcing them to go about things in a particularly clumsy way, are never helping amputees.

Not that self-proclaimed "rehabilitation" engineers not helping amputees is such a new phenomenon.

Search the color BLUE in the following video loop and explain its relevance to rehabilitation.

Amputees need to be proud and stand tall these days. We need to work out our asymmetries and bear our individual weakness, and find ways to walk the line between use and overuse, pain and distraction.

(C) copyright Thingiverse / Amak Leto / Boxer Omerta

Blind box object grasping

Another Cybathlon task is to blindly pick objects from a box that is covered, and where the candidate has to "feel".

That may be fun for a number of prosthetic arm users, but that just does not happen anywhere in real life with prosthetic arms that are built for real work.

The absence of sensory feedback can be a good thing in true rehabilitation - which is exactly why these academic ideas are so far out.

Actual sensory feedback, as one method of making life fun for engineers, but also hell for amputees, has caused me massive exacerbation of my phantom pain in one research trial where I had participated, with the result that we had to stop. Obviously, researchers never publish negative results. At this point, I will regard such technology as painfully anthropomorphic.

How much effort does an amputee have to deliver, how much pain to endure, how much more money to pay, to please these circus directors that - themselves - do, and, provenly did, absolutely nothing to improve real prosthetic arms for real users anywhere in real life?

Isn't some of this "testing" just nonsense, like having to please, tickle, arouse the belly button of a character like Jabba The Hut?

Because on a more (or less) human note, the requirement to wear prosthetic technology that is potentially very painful, to complete a circus test, that as its main goal exposes amputees to stares and freak fans, makes the event organizers fail the #voightkampff test. For all I know, the organizers could be non-empathic robots; how now would we know the difference to them being actual humans?

(C) Copyright Thingiverse / c0lpanic / Blade Runner Origami Unicorn

Last but not the least, that test is absurd also because in real life, no one tries to distinguish cubes from spheres, wearing a prosthetic arm, and intentionally not looking.

It would be just as absurd as me asking a technical university to build a better prosthetic arm - and I am relatively sure you will whole-heartedly agree that this is definitely a very absurd hope or idea.

We all should give up our wildest dreams right now. We can only build a better future by actually building, probably ourselves.

How, again, does working with real tools really work?

To propose the use of tools in a shed or workbench sense - screw driver, hammer - generally is interesting.

But to precisely order the amputee on exactly what to touch with what body part or prosthetic arm part is needlessly pre-occupied, needlessly obsessive and as if our lives were not restricted enough: needlessly restrictive.

Real hammering is done differently, I should know, I also wood work.

Wouldn't that be just like me, making step-by-step prescriptions for how to perform research and development for prosthetic arm engineers because they are  unable to build useful solutions by themselves. On the other hand, we may really have to approach this relevant subject given this overall predicament - when self-proclaimed engineers become circus directors, in such a world, amputees have to become engineers themselves. That has been the problem already since 2008, so that is not new. We have actually given that sufficient thought already.

How to really use a hammer

A hammer needs to be carefully aimed and swung, carefully balanced, which is preferably done with the anatomical hand.

Sha-Topp. Hammer-Time.

A nail is best held with a body part that, when hitting it accidentally, does not hurt - such as a prosthetic hook.

The fact that the Cybathlon organizers propose to do it the exact other way around says so much more about their brains than they ever want to admit. Really, please get out napkins and wipe tears if you must.

To "nail" an amputee into a most awkward painful situations by making strange prescriptions for what they "have" to do is first and foremost a clear display of a very, very non-conforming world view. Or maybe strange.

These engineers do not help the amputee one single bit. Not, that this would be terribly new at this stage.

Why not ask amputees to put in nails by using shoes, or their ear lobes? Why exactly the other way around from any normal use? What real use reason is there? Are electrically powered and delicate prosthetic wrists of myoelectric arms built to use a hammer the way a hammer should be used? Can the race participant hammer the nails with the organizers' private / personal cell phones instead? Just how little engineering brain was employed to type up this race rule?

How to really change a light bulb

When changing a light bulb, one has to consider the overall aspect: the old one is usually blown. With an old blown bulb, one will use the most sensitive hand one has, to unscrew it, simply because there can be glass and metal connection issues.

The glass may break. Same for inserting a bulb: industrial consumer sockets are not precision works, so one has to be rather careful to screw in the new bulb. It must be kept from falling, it must be inserted symmetrically centered, and slowly.

To use a stop watch, to order an amputee to do that with the prosthetic arm if there is an anatomical arm, is nothing a real engineer would ever do.

That the Cybathlon requires the light bulb task to be done differently is another proof that they are not engineers, but circus directors that team up to exposing amputees in an awkward freak show and have them also pay for it themselves.

How to really use a screw driver

A screw and a screw driver are proposed to be used to insert a screw. The Cybathlon test requires the amputee to handle the screwdriver only with the prosthetic arm.

The screw is a Philips screw. A real engineer will know that these screws are built so a certain amount of torque is not exceeded, so they are built to slip.

Secondly, most realistically available screws are manufactured from soft metal, damaging the screw head is a real issue.

So in any real life situation, a maximum form closure with intimate and tight control over the screw process is sought. Real men (a somewhat satirical term that is not restricted to the male gender but that describes a dichotomy related to engineering in general, referencing a publication about real programmers not using Pascal) with real exposure to real screws know that, of course. Just not any quiche eater (the opposite of a real man) that cooks up academic circus shows.


That makes a very proficient amputee like me (who installed hundreds of screws) use a sticky tape, and a torque delimited motorized screw driver, and wherever possible, extra light, and the anatomical (real) hand wherever possible. I recently bolted up a board for use as a shelf, see the documentation there.

I also did put in screws right "handedly" (using the hook and the electric screwdriver / drill / Akkuschrauber), amounting to a total of around 3-4 times out of >500 or so, but those are rare and difficult exceptions, where also angle of access and reach are critical.

It appears that the Cybathlon organizers constrain an amputee to using a simple single manual screw driver (16 USD) with a bionic hand (80 000 USD) instead of using a battery driven screw driver (30 USD, Aliexpress) and a prosthetic hook to hold the screw (by far the better approach, among us, not that you really knew to ask ; )

So, that is neither intelligent, nor is it pretty. It is much rather not so intelligent and not so pretty.

Myself? I just taped the screw to the drill bit and went ahead without prosthetic arm.

How to really cut paper

To use scissors with a prosthetic hand is interesting as a research idea, that has not seen any actual followers really - so, why not use a knife? I use a very sharp blade Japan knife and that works well with the prosthetic arm as well.

Real men  - as in real paper work specialists - prefer sharp knives over scissors. Not that amputees know about how to best cut paper, right? We all idiots, right? Fumbling away at wrecking paper, right? Leme tell you guys he future of precision cutting is NOT scissors. If you want real life cutting scenarios of actual interest, give everyone a micro-SIM card and have them cut it down to nano-SIM, then have them install it in a cell phone to make that work.

You read that here first, also.

How to really treat closed jars and how to really open them

Opening a lid of a jar must be the most unscientific test, ever.

Small uneven shape variations and uncalibrated closing forces cause grips at the lower end of the useful spectrum to always fail.

From the most relevant publication about these attempts (link): One particular example for a culturally and practically relevant ADL that evades technical standardization is the opening of a jar by turning its lid: the SHAP instructions state that “the lid should be placed on the empty glass jar and tightened only with sufficient force as would be expected for everyday use/self storage [64].  Now, the televised footage of the CYBATHLON 2016 showed one pilot failing to open a jar lid using an iLimb prosthetic hand [8], so obviously, force is a key issue here. So, it will be of essence who closed the lid and how, with remaining uncertainty: lid closing or opening forces vary widely because when applied to jar lids, grip torque ranged between 0.86 and 6.56 Nm, across sex, age and grip type used [65, 66]. 

Real men type arm amputees with a deeper lid opening understanding such as me have tools to open lids that were closed by mindless hulks: drills, and mounted saw blades.

To use closed lids to show off how "good" a prosthetic arm is, is also showing how strong the organizers are when closing the lids beforehand. Good! You do well! You showed everyone how strong you are! Should we be impressed?

Honestly: is the middle man ("middle jar") really necessary? Why not sit down on a table and perform an arm wrestling contest?

One on one, with one of the organizers, and the candidate arm amputee, preferably with a "bionic" arm that was never intended for that use, to highlight the deeper understanding that the Cybathlon organizers harbor? Just do a direct face off with the organizers rather than playing a whole morning of "absurdity by proxy" or "chasing each other around Uncle Robert's puppet house"?

What, technically, would be so wrong with an even more explicitly celebrated barbarism?

The elements are all there: tyrannic or willful design, lack of rehabilitation focus, constant will to expose and degrade amputees in public, clear intent to reverse everyday applications to non-sensical usages - we just still lack the really pure form. Skulls at the entrance, screams as soundscape, hell type decoration.

Isn't all of this show-casing circus freak shows with amputees and entirely irrelevant tests more a complicated and needlessly objectified exhibit of barbarism when really, you just want to show who is up, who really wins, who always did get and now gets the money and the attention? These researchers?

The unspeakable journey of the "clothespin test"

The "clothespin test" was introduced  by Peter Kyberd into prosthetic arm testing because he thought it was a good test to show coordination of wrist and hand grip motion.

No one has these perfect, streamlined control setups really, where continuous posture and grip motion is forward stable dynamically executed, leave alone perfectly or usefully reliably well. So no one can really test that. D'oh.

Turns out the clothespin test is failed by prosthetic grippers that fail any centered compression point, that lack rigid plannable grip geometry. No one anticipated that, at least, mostly.

As a matter of fact, I was the one to identify this problem a lot earlier, particularly with iLimb hands, and I was the one that re-identified it as crucial for the clothespin grasp at the last Cybathlon event. You read that here first, definitely, and you read it again here. I'm a rub that in your face now.

So the clothespins are there - what is unclear is what these "engineers" really want to test with them, when confronted with arm amputees.

I can tell you that it does take a very peculiar mindset to insist using clothespins despite having no idea where doing so takes us - when all the time I can assure you that no one performs any industrial level clothespin relocation using a prosthetic arm. I hang my laundry as is, I do not hang it with clothespins. On top, clothespins are an entirely unstable product base.

My clothespins are the supermarket variety, the ones that disintegrate at minimal torsion. Larger clothespins exist, obviously, but that just goes to show that this is another pointless ill-devised test that does not prove any actual performance other than what can be firmly established by just looking at a prosthetic gripper. The Cybathlon motto must have been: act first, think later. True engineers will dry their jeans how real men do it - by using sleek approaches.

The unspeakable journey of the wire loop  or hot wire test

The Cybathlon's 2020 hot wire / wire loop test was announced with the words that postural changes can be hard for the user ("Maintenance of a tight grip during postural changes of the arm (e.g. pronation and supination of the forearm, elbow flexion and extension) can be challenging for prosthetic hand users, but is relevant in many situations in daily life. This aspect of prosthetic hand function is emphasized in this task", from: Cybathlon Race Task Description Cybathlon 2020, V_2018-02-26, ETH Zürich).

That has not always been like that.

In 2016, the wire loop test had been introduced as test for dynamical wrist actuation. No one of the organizers of the event assumed posture to be a problem, even though I had already recognized and described that problem previously (see here, 2014). No paper or publication shows that an analytical step that the organizers took, to now term their wire loop test a "test for postural changes". No wonder.

The analytic eye that pulled postural changes as actual problem also for the Cybathlon's wire loop test, out into the open, into the shared consciousness, is mine. Without citation, they copied that from my analysis. That is the ways not of an academic, but of a circus director, as it appears.

A wire loop test that has no correlate in real life is used at the Cybathlon to show how people either use a myoelectric control, that is not built to specifically excel there, or any other control technology that also is not specifically built to excel there, just for shits and giggles. Why, will you ask, do prosthetists not build a prosthetic control, that specifically excels at the wire loop test? Because it is lethally irrelevant in everyday life.

The Cybathlon 2020 entirely outshines the 2016 event in so many ways. We can hardly wait until it is there ("and with that - POOF - the satire detector machine exploded and went up in smoke").  We are looking at Engineers Getting Amputees to Ride Dead Horses in a Glorified Circus Freak Show, trash culture round two, after the first was already very strange. If anything confirms my first rather critical view on the Cybathlon 2016, a glimpse into the Cybathlon 2020 even definitely confirms the worst suspicions.

[1] D. Goodley and L. Swartz, "The place of disability," in Disability in the Global South, Springer, 2016, pp. 69-83.
  title={The place of disability},
  author={Goodley, Dan and Swartz, Leslie},
  booktitle={Disability in the Global South},

Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: - Cybathlon 2020: introducing the BLUE LIGHT specials for the prosthetic arm challenges ahead [terminology, concept]; published 16/05/2018, 09:52; URL:

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1653419438, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{ - Cybathlon 2020: introducing the BLUE LIGHT specials for the prosthetic arm challenges ahead [terminology, concept]}}, month = {May}, year = {2018}, url = {} }