Tuesday 23 July 2019
Virtual assistance is ready to roll out onto the field. Photo: AFP

A roster of Olympic robots that will do everything from welcoming visitors to transporting javelins has been unveiled as Tokyo works to showcase Japanese technology at next year’s Summer Games. Japan hopes the 2020 Olympics will be a chance to put its tech sector back on the map after years in which the country’s reputation as an industry leader has flagged.

Auto giant Toyota has a roster of five robots with different roles to play, from cutesy renditions of the Olympic mascots to a staid transport bot. Undoubtedly the most appealing are the toddler-sized versions of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic mascots, the futuristic Miraitowa and Someity.

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Children and residents pose with Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games mascots Miraitowa (L) and Someity (R) during a ceremony to mark one year to go until Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, at Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo on 22 July 2019. Photo: AFP

Blue- or pink-checked, with huge eyes and pointy ears, the mascot robots have multiple joints and arms which can be remotely controlled. And while the pint-sized pair can’t move or talk, a camera inside their heads helps them interact with spectators and athletes, said Tomohisa Moiradaira, an official responsible for Tokyo 2020 robot development at Toyota.

“Thanks to the camera, the robots can recognise people’s expressions and respond back,” he told reporters. “If a person moves away it will look sad.”

The mascot’s “feelings” are reflected in its eyes: they can display hearts or stars depending on emotions. Toyota has suggested the mascot robots could welcome athletes and spectators, and possibly help engage children with the Games.

Tokyo Olympics Robots (4) - Olympics
Officials carry Tokyo 2020 robot-type mascot Miraitowa as Olympic mascot Miraitowa (L) and Paralympic mascot Someity (R) follow during a ceremony at Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo on 22 July 2019. Photo: AFP

Significantly less cute – but slightly more practical – is the company’s Field Support Robot, a suitcase-sized automaton on wheels that will help Olympic staff. It is capable of following staff, while avoiding obstacles, and can be loaded with items like javelins or discusses, helping “reduce the amount of time needed to retrieve items as well as reduce the amount of staff labour for events”, Toyota said.

Other offerings include robots designed to support people in wheelchairs or deliver food to spectators. For those who can’t attend the Games, there’s the T-TR1, effectively a human-sized narrow screen on wheels equipped with a camera.

Source: AFP

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