During the 1964 Olympic Games, Japan used this event to show the world how the country had been rebuilt after World War II, as well as its capacity for industrial innovation. Almost 56 years later, the country of the Rising Sun prepares to promote its R&D again in some Olympic Games.
A few months ago, the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee presented the Tokyo 2020 Robot Project to the media, one of the many initiatives launched to ensure that it is the “most innovative in history”, and it has the collaboration of various Japanese institutions, including Panasonic and Toyota companies.
According to the head of the project, Hirohisa Hirukawa, this “isn’t an exhibition of robots, but a practical display in real life, which shows how they can help people.”
Mobility for all: Autonomous Vehicles and Telepresence Robots
Toyota has been designated as the ‘official mobility partner’ of Tokyo 2020, with the mission of helping participants and the public to move to (and within) areas of Tokyo that host competitions and events of interest, which also includes providing tourists with new ways to get information.
Thus, people will take advantage of these games to test several vehicles that have been presented at various events during the last 3 years: the i-ROAD electric tricycles, the e-Palette multipurpose autonomous vehicle and the one that interests us most: the Concept -I, already presented at CES 2017 in Las Vegas.
The Concept-I is seen as “how Toyota will look like in 2030”, which includes “a powerful artificial intelligence system” called Yui. The purpose is “to learn from the driver to establish a human relationship”, which also allows the robot to detect the mood of the driver and react accordingly.
But Toyota Research Institute (TRI) has more surprises in the manga: having announced this week the launch of a new telepresence robot, called T-TR1 and equipped with a huge screen designed to provide a virtual presence in the event.
This robot shaped like a vacuum cleaner – enables a user’s image projection from a remote location, the robot makes you feel physically present in the robot’s location.
The T-TR1 provides its user with complete knowledge of their ‘other’ environment thanks to its 360º camera and enables a distance conversation. Unfortunately, the information we currently have on this robot does not allow us to advance whether it will be autonomous or semi-autonomous (that is, whether or not it will be equipped with sensors that allow it to automatically avoid obstacles ).
Which robots can we interact with in Tokyo stadiums?
Finally, last Monday Toyota presented five robots (one of them, the aforementioned T-TR1) that will help in the performance of specific tasks, from providing tourist information to broadcasting games, serving drinks or helping people with mobility problems.
The most impressive of these five robots is T-HR3, the only humanoid capable of repeating the movements of a person almost in real-time. Like the previous one, it has telepresence functions.
Tokyo 2020 official pets, some manga characters called Miraitowa and Someity, will also have their robotic versions, equipped with facial expressiveness and artificial intelligence to allow them to interact with humans.
Its role will be to entertain visitors (especially children), allowing photos to be taken with them. There will be copies of these robots in all areas open to the public.
Finally, we will find the HSR, DSR and FSR robots:
HSR (Human Support Robot): Its main task will be to guide the public to their seats and help them transport balls and objects. A robotic mix of buttons and setter, in short.
DSR (Delivery Support Robot): It will also help the public, transporting and serving food and drinks that event-goers can order using a tablet. Here we are before the artificial street vendor.
FSR (Field Support Robot): This last model will not be related to the attendees, but to the athletes and technical personnel, being responsible for transporting and collecting the objects that the Olympians throws in the field (javelins, balls, etc).