November 13, 2020 afternoon, Sports Complex at KAIST in Daejeon. "Beep, beep, beep, beep-." Pilot Kim Byeong-Uk's right foot crossed the starting line with a mechanical sound announcing the start of the game. A sleek white robot wrapped around his lower body. The pilot must perform six missions by manipulating the robot he is wearing. The first mission was to 'sit down and stand up and clean up the cups on the desk.' "Sit down. Choose to sit down. Start." When the pilot pressed the button on the crutch, the robot guided him to action. In case the pilot and robot lose their balance and fall, the engineer and physiotherapist walked together in front and side.
Pilot Kim Byeong-Uk is passing through the tilted path wearing on the WalkON Suit, competing for the ‘Cybathlon 2020’ held at the Sports Complex in KAIST, Daejeon, on November 13. Mr. Kim, who was paralyzed down from his waist due to an accident, won the golden medal participating as a team led by Professor Kong Kyoung-Chul of KAIST Department of Mechanical Engineering. The competition in which 53 teams from 20 countries are participating was held in each country due to COVID-19, and were live-broadcasted to determine the rankings.
Following the optimal robot rhythm
'Let's go!' pilot Kim Byeong-Uk shouted ahead of his second mission, 'Jig-zagging.' When passing through the narrow road between obstacles, Crouch and Robot alternated with the beat of "One, Two, One, Two." It was the optimum "robot rhythm" obtained from training for a year and a half. The referee lifted the green flag to announce the success of the mission.
Fifth mission was passing the side ramp. Pilot Kim Byeong-Uk, who lost his balance and stumbled here during rehearsals the previous day, walked fast again, leaning his robot and his body to the right, shouting the slogan "One, Two, One, Two." When the last mission passing down the slope was completed without a mistake, applause and cheers broke out. The record is 3:47 and the mission score is out of 100. It was the best record in the event of the "Strengthened Exoskeleton Robot Competition," an international Cybathlon (a compound word of Cyborg, which means artificial man, and Athlon, which means game.) competition where disabled people and engineers team up to compete for their mission performance.
Kim Byeong-Uk, who has paraplegia of the lower body by an accident in 1998, has been preparing for the Cybathlon competition as part of a research team led by Professor Kong Kyoung-Chul of KAIST's Mechanical Engineering Department. Those who joined the first competition in 2016 and won the bronze medal decided to participate in the second competition in 2020 "to show that Korean robots are the best in the world." Professor Kong teamed up with various institutions in mechanical engineering, rehabilitation engineering, rehabilitation medicine and design. Seven pilot candidates were selected and trained at Angel-robotics, a wearable robot development company, Severance Rehabilitation Hospital, Rehabilitation Engineering Research Institute and National Transportation Rehabilitation Hospital, respectively. Kim Byeong-Uk and Lee Joo-Hyun were selected as the team's official pilots in the selection of players at KAIST on February 25, 2020.
When pilot Lee Joo-Hyun crossed the finish line after completing her mission, her father, who was watching her, hugged Lee.
Pilot Lee Joo-Hyun saw the robot for the first time in 2019. Professor Na Dong-wook of Yonsei University's College of Medicine proposed to her, who was being treated at Severance Rehabilitation Hospital after an accident in January 2019 ahead of her high school graduation. Lee, who entered Ewha Womans University in March 2020, went back and forth between Seoul and Daejeon to conduct both online classes and offline training.
Competition robots don't have the concept of 'complete'. It is a series of tests, corrections, retests, and recorrections. Pilot Kim Byeong-Uk first wore the prototype and tested it, and after receiving his opinion, engineers modified the robot. The training schedule was often delayed due to fixing mechanical devices and modifying walking algorithms. Pilot Lee Joo-Hyun only received the robot he would wear in late November 2019. Since then, it has taken months to adjust hardware and algorithms to fit the robot tightly.
Pilot Kim Byeong-Uk is controlling his suit by the crutch between tasks.
Pilot Lee Joo-Hyun is passing through obstacles wearing a WalkON Suit.
"Now I feel like a part of my body."
Pilot Lee Joo-Hyun said her robot ‘Greene’, which was heavy and anxious, "Now feels like part of my body." The dark green color of the green she chose herself is the symbolic color of Ewha Womans University. She learned a lot from Kim Byeong-Uk, a senior pilot, until she rode the ‘Greene’ to perform her mission skillfully. Kim, who passed on all the know-how, including how to stand in a robot and walk in rhythm, called Lee his "copy board." After feeling ‘Greene’ as part of her body and hearing from her senior that "there's nothing more to teach you now," the competition is just a few days away.
After pilot Kim Byeong-Uk finished the game with the highest record, pilot Lee Joo-Hyun tried her third attempt. Jeon Sun, a physical therapist who has taken care of Lee Joo-Hyun for more than a year, walked together from the left back. When she started her usual difficult stair-climbing mission, the team members standing next to the stadium shouted, "Put out your stomach!" By the time the final mission was to climb up the slope and open and close the door, the clock was passing 4 minutes 42 seconds.
Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot. Just before climbing up the slope and opening the door, pilot Lee Joo-Hyun and robot stopped ahead of the last left foot step. She couldn't go forward with her left leg folded. 8 seconds passed while barely holding onto the railing by hand. Pilot Kim Byeong-Uk shouted as he sat watching near the finish line. "Right Crutch back! Back up! Push! Push!" As I pointed the right crutch far back, pilot Lee Joo-Hyun stretched out and regained her balance. "Right, great!" A round of applause broke out. Closing the door and coming down the slope, it was 5 minutes and 51 seconds.
The day after the match, at 11 p.m. on November 14, Switzerland's Cybathlon Organizing Committee announced the rankings after compiling the results of all teams' matches. Pilot Kim Byeong-Uk won the gold medal and pilot Lee Joo-Hyun won the bronze medal. Pilot Kim Byeong-Uk gave credit to "people who stayed up all night studying so that I could ride in the morning if they broke down at night." Pilot Lee Joo-Hyun said she wants to participate in the competition again in four years. All participants took another steps through Cybathlon.
Translated by Papago