BACKGROUND The Cybathlon is a new kind of championship, where people with physical disabilities compete against each other at tasks of daily life, with the aid of advanced assistive devices including robotic technologies. The first championship will take place at the Swiss Arena Kloten, Zurich, on 8 October 2016. THE IDEA Six disciplines are part of the competition comprising races with powered leg prostheses, powered arm prostheses, functional electrical stimulation driven bikes, powered wheelchairs, powered exoskeletons and brain-computer interfaces. This commentary describes the six disciplines and explains the current technological deficiencies that have to be addressed by the competing teams. These deficiencies at present often lead to disappointment or even rejection of some of the related technologies in daily applications. CONCLUSION The Cybathlon aims to promote the development of useful technologies that facilitate the lives of people with disabilities. In the long run, the developed devices should become affordable and functional for all relevant activities in daily life.