Tokyo 2020 takes wraps off Robot Project

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020) has today (Friday) unveiled the ‘Robot Project’ as part of its effort to deliver the most innovative edition of the multi-sport event to date.

The project will lead to the introduction of robots in venues and at the Olympic and Paralympic Villages. The initiative brings together experts in the field of robotics, and is supported by Japan’s Cabinet Secretariat, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Panasonic, Toyota, and Tokyo 2020.

The Human Support Robot and Delivery Support Robot developed by Toyota will seek to enhance comfort levels for all spectators at Tokyo 2020. The robots will provide assistance to spectators in wheelchairs at the Olympic Stadium by carrying food and other goods, guide people to their seats, and provide event information.

Power Assist Suits developed by Panasonic will be utilised in the backstage areas of venues and at the Olympic and Paralympic Villages to unload and transport heavy objects, including food and drinks, and for waste disposal. They will be introduced with a view to easing human workloads and providing a healthier and safer working environment. The suits will also be deployed at airports loading incoming athletes’ luggage onto buses.

Both Panasonic and Toyota serve as top-tier Worldwide Olympic Partners under sponsorship deals with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Tokyo 2020 said other robots will perform a number of additional duties during the Games, details of which will be announced later.

Robots were utilised in a smaller capacity at the 2018 winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, but Tokyo 2020 is presenting a more ambitious scheme as organisers seek to use the Games to showcase the potential of robot technology for wider application in everyday life.

Hirohisa Hirukawa, leader of the Tokyo 2020 Robot Project, said: “The Tokyo 2020 Games are a unique opportunity for us to display Japanese robot technology. This project will not simply be about exhibiting robots, but showcasing their practical real-life deployment helping people.”

Tokyo 2020 deputy director general, Masaaki Komiya, added: “We are kicking off this robot project with the help of many people in order to help realise a truly innovative Games, as stated in Tokyo 2020’s vision. I would like as many people as possible to experience these technologies, which are one of Japan’s strengths, and I believe that through these we will be able to showcase a new style of the Games.”

Panasonic’s Power Assist Suits went on sale last year and at a cost of around $6,000 (£4,500/€5,300) each, have already received over 200 orders. “Japan has a shrinking population, and an ageing one,” Yoshifumi Uchida, general manager of Panasonic’s Paralympic department, said, according to the AFP news agency.

“We want to contribute to a society where people are not concerned about age or gender difference. These products are designed to help create a better future.”

Images: Tokyo 2020