30 Jul 2021

Olympics Innovation: Meet The Game-Changing Robots

Startup, VC, Tokyo, Olympics 2020, Robot

Are you watching the Olympics this year?

The 2020 Olympic Games have officially commenced in Tokyo, a year later and brimming with fascinating, robotic technology, albeit without spectators to experience it. Dubbed the most “controversial games ever” for going ahead whilst Japan faces a national emergency of rising covid cases, the games might also be one of the most innovative the world has seen.

Competing athletes have posted TikToks of autonomous vehicles in the Olympic village, with the games aiming to demonstrate how robots can be used for good within society as part of their legacy.

Here is a walkthrough of some of the game-changing robots that Tokyo are displaying throughout this Olympic and Paralympic season:

Tokyo 2020 Robot Project

The Tokyo 2020 Robot Project is the core robotic initiative of the games and encompasses the following machines. Robotics institutes have paired up with such producers as Toyota and Panasonic in order to create autonomous, assistive robots to promote the use of robots for “social good”.

However, the Robot Project was not immune to the impacts of cutting spectators. The Human Support Robot, which carried out a crowd-facing assistive role for spectators in wheelchairs, may now only be used at the paralympic games.

The robot, which is controlled through an app and can be caught in action in the athletics stadium, aims to offer a “stress-free entry and exit” to the venue, as well as assist in the delivery of water and guidance to seats for wheelchair users.

Startup, Venture Capital, Robots, AI, Olympics, Tokyo 2020

Meet the team of Robots behind the 2020 Olympics. Image via Toyota

Nobuhiko Koga, Chief Officer of the Frontier Research Centre at the robots producer, Toyota, told The Independent: “We believe that the robots will help spectators in wheelchairs to enjoy watching the events without any restrictions, to soak up the atmosphere inside the stadiums and to feel the excitement of the sport.”

An autonomous Field Support Robot will also be used to assist at throwing events and will guide staff in retrieving hammers or javelins along the most optimal and efficient route. It aims to reduce the time needed for retrieval and the amount of human support needed for the event.

Toyota even unveiled their world record-breaking robot, which wowed spectators with a series of free throws during the halftime break of the group round stages game between France and the USA.

Power Assist Suits

Power Assist Suits are part of the Robot Project and are attached to humans to aid operations staff during the games.

The suits will be used to assist in the heavy lifting of boxes and loading and unloading luggage and show how this assistive technology can improve workforce efficiency. Produced by Panasonic, the suits can be found in use in 5 key areas according to the Robot Olympic map.

Robotic Mascots

It is very befitting that the mascots of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic games are also robotic. Olympic mascot Miraitowa and Paralympic mascot Someity are designed to welcome athletes and spectators with a variety of facial expressions and gestures, such as bowing and waving. The Robots can detect and react to people nearby through a head-mounted camera.

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