Tokyo 2020 lifts lid on robot tech ahead of one-year countdown

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the 2020 summer Olympic and Paralympic Games has unveiled four new robots which will be deployed to assist spectators, athletes and officials at competition venues, stating it is “on track” as Japan prepares to mark the one-year countdown to the event on Wednesday.

Tokyo 2020 made a raft of announcements today (Monday) and, having previously pledged to enhance the Games by using the latest robotic technology, the unveiling of these plans was the headline item.

The robot project seeks to help realise one of Tokyo 2020’s core visions – ‘Unity in Diversity’ – by fostering 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.

The new models revealed today include Tokyo 2020 Mascot-type robots, Miraitowa and Someity, which have been developed by Toyota Motor Corporation. The robots will welcome athletes and guests at Games venues and other Games-related locations with human-like movements such as shaking hands and waving, along with a variety of facial expressions.

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

Another model—the T-HR3 Humanoid robot— will transmit sounds and images from Games locations to partner robots at remote locations. Tokyo 2020 is also considering that they mirror each other’s physical movements. This is being considered to allow those at remote locations who interact with the T-HR3 Humanoid robots to feel as if they are physically present at Games-related locations.

A third model— the T-TR1 robot— is a virtual mobility robot developed by Toyota Research Institute in the US. It 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 seek to allow that person to feel more physically present at the robot’s location.

Completing the robot line-up will be the Field Support Robot (FSR), which will be equipped with automatic driving functionality that will allow it to assist at throwing events at the Olympic Stadium. This type of technology was first implemented for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and Tokyo 2020 said it and Toyota will work with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in developing the FSR for next year’s Games.

A total of 43 venues – eight new permanent venues, 25 existing sites and 10 temporary venues – will be used 2020 Games. Tokyo 2020 today said that half of the new permanent venues are already completed and the overall preparation of all venues is progressing on schedule. The residential buildings of the Olympic Village will be completed in December.

Of the permanent venues still in development, the Olympic Stadium is scheduled for completion in November, the Ariake Arena in December and the Aquatics Centre in February 2020.

In other news, Tokyo 2020 today said that Emperor Naruhito has accepted the role of Honorary Patron of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Naruhito, who came to power in May, will assume the role from Wednesday following a request submitted through the national government by Tokyo 2020.

Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori said: “His Majesty’s gracious assumption of this title is not only a great honour and source of inspiration, it will be a hugely positive force in terms of promoting the values of the Games, including peace, friendship, the support for reconstruction of disaster-hit areas, and the Paralympic Movement’s message of diversity. We will continue our work to prepare for a successful Games and look forward to everyone’s support.”