We’re incredibly proud to sponsor UK-based Team Gray Matter at Cybathlon 2016 – the world’s first competitive championship for robot-assisted parathletes, taking place in Switzerland in October 2016.
In 2008, Doncaster-based Peter Gray was paralysed from the next down after a swimming accident in the Dominican Republic. After being flown to the UK he stayed in Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital for six months before finally moving back home in January 2009.
Peter suffered a number of health setbacks, but with the help of his friends, family and carers he began to get his life back on track, even enjoying the England vs France match in Euro 2012 at a bar in Doncaster. He moved into a place of his own in March 2013, and with assistance he’s able to pursue hobbies like gardening, cooking and baking.
Ivan Nixon, Peter’s friend, told him about Cybathlon after finding the competition online. Things soon began to gather momentum and together they formed Team Gray Matter, a non-profit organisation with a global support network.
“When we first discovered news of a championships for “parathletes” full of high-tech disciplines that included one for people with my level of paralysis, I was highly intrigued and agreed to let Ivan run with it and see what would happen, although the idea of it leading anywhere soon left my mind,“ Peter said.
“As the weeks went by, things started to develop and gather momentum very quickly and we even had interest from organisations on three different continents!“
He continued: “Now I am registered to take part in the games and thanks to Team Gray Matter and now Irwin Mitchell, the original thoughts, the original ideas, ambitions and dreams that I have can hopefully be achieved. It’s great to realise that there are businesses out there willing to support you, to support athletes who have had to overcome adversity to achieve their goals.”
Our sponsorship deal gives Team Gray Matter the chance to grow its team and then develop and test the technology Peter will be using to compete at Cybathlon 2016.
Peter is now registered as a pilot in the first ever Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) Race at Cybathlon 2016. He’s already begun the training process, having welcomed Team Gray Matter Technology Leader, Dr Rolando Grave de Peralta Menendez from Geneva for a visit to continue the development process of their BCI device. In July 2015 Peter also travelled to Zurich to take part in a rehearsal for the BCI Race (the image below was taken of Peter in Zurich at the rehearsal).
Brain-computer interfaces allow Cybathlon pilots to control an avatar in a computer-based racing game. The avatar moves forward by itself, but the pilot must avoid oncoming obstacles by sending commands using hi-tech equipment that monitors brain activity. Four pilots can simultaneously race and the winner is the first to cross the finishing line. For more information on BCIs, please visit Cybathlon’s page on the race.
Peter feels positive about the impact BCI has had on his life and could have on the lives of others, saying: “I hope that my story and my involvement in this project will inspire others going through similar difficulties and in time, I hope that we'll be able to develop new and innovative technologies that, as a result of my experiences, I know will help not only myself, but the lives of many others as well.”
Please visit Team Gray Matter’s website for updates on their journey to Cybathlon 2016.