Tokyo 2020 adds to robot fleet

Four new robots designed to enhance fan engagement and assist athletes and officials at next year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games have been unveiled by organisers.

Olympic partner Toyota Motor Corporation, which has been leading the Tokyo 2020 Robot Project, has developed a fleet of robots based on Olympic mascots Miraitowa and Someity to welcome visitors. The technology company has also created a Field Support Robot (see the video below) that will assist in officiating and operating athletics competitions, and a T-HR3 Humanoid robot and a T-TR1 virtual mobility robot that will give people that are physically unable to be present at Games-related locations a chance to virtually attend.

Organisers said that other new robots being deployed as part of the Tokyo 2020 Robot Project – which was announced in March – will be introduced in due course.

“The Tokyo 2020 Robot project aims to ensure the Tokyo 2020 Games will be the most innovative ever, with the new robots expected to provide visiting fans and those watching remotely with an experience they are unlikely to forget,” said a Tokyo 2020 spokesperson.

The Mascot robots will welcome athletes and guests at Games venues and other locations with human-like movements such as shaking hands and waving, and with a variety of facial expressions.

Cameras mounted on the robots’ foreheads will allow them to recognise when people are nearby and to react to them.

“Tokyo 2020 and Toyota are additionally discussing a number of ways for the Mascot robots to make it easier and more enjoyable for children to experience the Games,” a spokesperson said.

The T-HR3 Humanoid robot will transmit sounds and images from Games locations to partner robots at remote locations. The T-TR1 virtual mobility robot will be equipped with a camera atop a large, almost life-size display. By 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.

Speaking about these three robots the spokesperson said: “The robot project will help realise one of Tokyo 2020’s core visions – ‘Unity in Diversity’ – aiming to foster a welcoming environment for all athletes, visitors and those unable to attend venues who want to experience the Games remotely at other locations in Japan.”

Finally, the Field Support Robot will be equipped with automatic driving functionality that will allow it to assist at throwing events at the Olympic Stadium. The robots will determine the optimal path to follow when retrieving items such as hammers or javelins thrown by athletes, guiding staff along paths that avoid obstacles.

“It will help reduce the amount of time needed to retrieve items as well as reduce the amount of human support required at events. Tokyo 2020 and Toyota will be working with the International Association of Athletics Federations in developing the FSR for the Tokyo 2020 Games,” the spokesperson said.

The Tokyo 2020 Robot Project 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 first robot to be announced in March was the Human Support Robot and Delivery Support Robot developed by Toyota that 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.

Images: Toyota Motor Corporation