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Robots Played Pivotal Role at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics 

October 7, 2021

There were many moments at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics that made the games unique. Though scheduled for 2020 they were delayed until the summer of 2021 due to the global pandemic and then had no audience beyond coaches and teammates in attendance. Another element that made these Olympics unique was the use of robots. 

A number of robots and autonomous solutions debuted during the Olympics including robot ambassadors, field support robots, virtual mobility robots, and autonomous vehicles. 

Robot Ambassadors and Mascots 

The Olympic mascots are two robots, Miraitowa and Someity, which were developed by Toyota Motor Corporation.  

“Mascot-type robots will welcome athletes and guests at Games venues and other Games-related locations with human-like movements, such as shaking hands and waving, and with a variety of facial expressions,” shares the International Olympic Committee (IOC).  

The robots are equipped with cameras that enabled them to detect any time someone approached so that they could react and welcome that person to the Olympics. 

Field Support Robots 

Playing a large part in streamlining the games, field support robots act as mechanical retrievers, picking up various equipment that is utilized in track and field. The robots are able to determine the path of the items thrown, be it javelin, hammer, or other items, and guide staff along paths that avoid obstacles. 

“This will help reduce both the amount of time needed to retrieve items and the amount of human support required at events,” says the IOC. Limiting the number of volunteers needed for events is especially beneficial due to the restrictions of the pandemic. 

Virtual Mobility Robots 

Developed by Toyota Research Institute (TRI) in the United States, T-TR1 robots are basically rolling computer screens. The robots project images of individuals at various Olympic events to those at a different location.  

“With T-TR1, Toyota will give people that are 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,” says a blog post by TRI.  

Autonomous Vehicles 

The Toyota e-Palette autonomous vehicle was used to transport athletes and coaches from the Olympic villages to the various Olympic venues. The vehicle can run for 90 miles before needing to be re-charged. 

“A management system sends out vehicles to the locations in a pre-planned frequency, but automatically adjusts the schedule when passenger number build up,” Graeme Massie for The Independent

Toyota’s goal for all of the new robots was to show how the innovative creations can contribute to everyday life. The company even has plans to reuse certain robots, including the autonomous vehicles, as delivery lockers or mobile shops. 

Want to learn about unmanned systems, including robotics? Capitol Tech offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in unmanned systems. Many courses are available both on campus and online. To learn more about Capitol Tech’s degree programs, contact admissions@captechu.edu.  

Photo from Wonderful Engineering