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Robots in Tokyo 2020: The Unexpected Protagonists of the Olympic Games

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Gabriela Patrón
ByPor Gabriela Patrón

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The Olympic Games are the world’s main competitive sport. Different athletes from many disciplines and nationalities join together in a certain country every 4 years, in order to decide who will take away the glory of the gold medal. But the honor doesn’t only go to the athletes and the countries that they represent; it also goes to the host and their robotic technology achievements.  

Countries compete to be the main hub of the Olympics, due to the transcendent scope of this worldwide event. The competition brings thousands of tourists who not only enjoy the games, but also get to know the country’s tourist attractions, historic sites, cultural activities, and gastronomy.  

In 2020, Japan will be the host of this sports event, and a few weeks back revealed its new collaborators: robots. They will transport luggage, guide spectators, and translate for tourists. 

Robots in the city: what function will they serve in Tokyo? 

Toyota was the company in charge of creating five robot models for Tokyo’s Olympic Games. The first two are robot versions of the Olympic mascots: Someity and Miraitowa. They will feature facial expressions and artificial intelligence, allowing them to interact with the public and, above all, with kids.  These mascots will be found in open, public spaces. 

The other member is the human service robot (HSR), which will guide people to their seats and carry personal belongings like bags and backpacks. People will be able to interact with this robot through a touch screen that will allow them to choose their language. 

The DSR is a robot that will be in charge of sales. It will take food and drinks to clients’ seats, who will make their purchases through tablets. The FSR, on the other hand, is a robot that won’t have much interaction with the public. Its main job will be to help athletes and trainers, transporting them and picking up their luggage of various sizes, from sports balls to discs to javelins.   

Aside from these robots, the Olympic Games’ staff and volunteers will wear a “Power Assist Suit.” This is an exoskeleton, adjustable at the back and legs, that will allow them to lift, carry, and move heavy objects without much force or pressure on the body. 

In order to face the high demand for human transport, there will be autonomous taxi services.  The robot company, ZMP hopes to offer reliable transport through Tokyo to tourists and athletes. Passengers will be able to choose the journey using a QR code and will be able to pay in USD.  

The use of robotic technology in the Olympics will not only serve to demonstrate Japan’s robotic technological advances but also to offer a solution to a problem that the country faces: with a population that is on average continuously older, the Japanese government doesn’t have the sufficient labor force of qualified translators. Therefore, technology offers an innovative answer, not just for day to day problems, but also for the organization of sweeping global events.