The Robots’ Contributions to the Tokyo Olympic Games
During this pandemic, we all have gotten used to using a little more technology than usual; school, work, volunteering and even hanging out with friends have all become online activities. What we might not expect, however, is that COVID-19 has also played a large role in the use of robots at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. With Japan exporting almost half of the robot supply globally, according to the International Federation of Robotics, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games was a place to showcase its advanced innovation and technology skills to the world.
On the field…
One of the robots, the Field Support Robot (FSR), was designed to retrieve items including javelins and shot puts. According to the International Olympic Committee, this robot used an automatic driving function to lessen the need for human support on the field.
Human and Delivery Support Robots
According to Forbes, to increase accessibility, the Tokyo Olympics had planned to use human support robots and delivery support robots. The human support robots were made to guide spectators with accessibility requirements to their seats, while the delivery support robots were made to bring food and drinks to those spectators. These robots were not used during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games due to COVID-19, but if spectators had been allowed to enter, then these robots would have been used.
At the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games, 1824 drones from Intel were used to perform a Drone Light Show. During the light show, the drones formed different patterns including geometric shapes, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics emblem, and even the Earth. The International Olympic Committee states: “Intel Drone Light Shows animators collaborated closely with the Tokyo 2020 creative teams to incorporate the drones into the Opening Ceremony narrative, which aimed to show that the world and its athletes are stronger together through a display of connection, unity and hope.” (Anonymous, 2021)
Even outside of the stadium…
There were mascots, Miraitowa and Someity, which greeted and welcomed visitors. These mascots both had “cameras and facial recognition technology that let their eyes show emotions.” (Greenspan, 2020). To reduce the spread of COVID-19, certain locations such as washrooms have added sensors that allow people to open doors without directly touching the surfaces. This demonstrates how technology played countless roles during the Olympics, even outside of the stadium.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games showcased robots ranging from those which helped run the games to those that helped welcome and entertain people across Japan and the world. Will we see more robots in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games?
Figure 1. Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Logo with Tokyo in the background.
Demaitre, E. (2021, July 23). 7+ robots to watch for during the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. Robotics 24/7. https://www.robotics247.com/article/7_robots_to_watch_for_during_the_2021_tokyo_olympic_games.
Greenspan, R. E. (2020, January 24). Here's what the robots are doing at the 2020 summer olympics. Time. https://time.com/5763785/robots-2020-olympics/.Ioc, Anonymous. (n.d.) [Photograph of Tokyo in the background with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Logo]. https://olympics.com/ioc/news/tokyo-2020-to-organise-innovative-and-engaging-games.
Ioc, Anonymous. (2021, July 15). New Robots unveiled for Tokyo 2020 Games - Olympic News. International Olympic Committee. https://olympics.com/ioc/news/new-robots-unveiled-for-tokyo-2020-games.
Ioc, Anonymous. (2021, July 23). [Photograph of Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony with the Intel drones for the Drone Light Show]. https://olympics.com/ioc/news/spectacular-intel-drone-light-show-helps-bring-tokyo-2020-to-life-1.
Ioc, Anonymous. (2021, September 1). Spectacular Intel Drone Light Show helps bring Tokyo 2020 to life - olympic news. International Olympic Committee. https://olympics.com/ioc/news/spectacular-intel-drone-light-show-helps-bring-tokyo-2020-to-life-1.
McCaskill, S. (2019, July 30). Tokyo 2020 to use robots for a more efficient and accessible Olympics. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevemccaskill/2019/07/29/tokyo-2020-to-use-robots-for-a-more-efficient-and-accessible-olympics/?sh=1c0774ff36ad.
Toyota. (n.d.) [Photograph of the Field Support Robot] [Photograph]. TIME. https://time.com/5763785/robots-2020-olympics/
Figure 2. The Field Support Robot.
Figure 3. Drone Light Show at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.