Next year’s Games in Tokyo could be the most tech-friendly ever.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics is doing its best to embrace Japan’s heritage of technology. Toyota, an official Olympic partner, is leading the charge with what it calls the “Tokyo 2020 Robot Project.” Robots are going to be front and center at the Olympics, including special-use bots that will be helping out during the events.
Known as Field Support Robots (FSRs), they will carry javelins, shot-puts, and other items that can be thrown to athletes in the Olympic stadiums. Toyota hopes the robots will be able to reduce the time needed to retrieve items, as well as lighten the workload for official support teams.
“As we transform into a mobility company, we are expanding our robotics efforts to provide all people with the freedom to move,” says Nobuhiko Koga, Chief Officer of Toyota’s Frontier Research Center, in a press statement. “‘Mobility for all’ is not only the ‘physical’ movement of a person or thing from one location to another, but also includes ‘virtual’ mobility of a person.”
“This provides further opportunities to experience new things, meet and interact with others, or to be ‘moved’ emotionally,” Koga says. “At Tokyo 2020, we want to capture the imagination of spectators by providing support robots as we do our part to make the Games a success.”
Beyond the FSRs, Olympic visitors will notice a plethora of robots at their events.
There will be robot mascots known as Miraitowa and Someity, which will have cameras and facial recognition technology. Toyota says each mascot “can recognize people nearby, and once recognized, use its eyes to respond with/show a variety of expressions.”
Robots will also allow fans to meet their favorite athletes, in a way. T-HR3 robots, humanoid robots whose bodies are remotely controlled by humans, will be able to reproduce visuals and audio from events that visitors can’t make it to amidst the rush. Additionally, anyone using a T-HR3 will “be able to experience the power of movement and force-feedback, allowing them to converse with and high-five athletes and others, feeling as if they were truly physically present.”
There will also be robots solely dedicated to projecting events, like the T-TR1. Through “projecting an image of a user from a remote location, the robot will help that person feel more physically present at the robot’s location,” Toyota says. It will allow people “physically unable to attend the events such as the Games a chance to virtually attend, with an on-screen presence capable of conversation between the two locations.”
Robotic butlers will also be on display in the form of Human Support Robots (HSRs) and Delivery Support Robots (DSRs). They’ll be able to guide attendees to their seats and bring light refreshments and drinks. Most importantly, they’ll be able to help attendees with mobility problems get to their seats.
No Olympics goes flawlessly, as Tokyo residents have struggled with housing displacement due to the event. But Olympic officials are hoping that the robots will be part of a grandeur that leaves attendees and athletes thrilled. In 2017, officials began the hi-tech parade by announcing that all medals for the event will be made out of recycled phones.
This article was written by David Grossman and published by Popular Mechanics on 23/07/2019