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Olympic robots offer ‘virtual’ attendance, help out on field

/ 10:31 AM July 22, 2019

TOKYO – A cart-like robot scuttles across the field to bring back javelins and discuses. A towering screen-on-wheels is designed for “virtual” attendance.

 Olympic robots offer 'virtual' attendance, help out on field

In this Thursday, July 18, 2019, photo, robots of mascots of Olympics “Miraitowa,” left, and Paralympics “Someity” are shown to the media at Toyota Motor Corp. headquarters in Tokyo. The mascot robots’ eyes change to the images of stars and hearts. The Japanese automaker Toyota, a major Olympic sponsor, is readying various robots for next year’s Tokyo Olympics. (AP Photo/Yuri Kageyama)

The cute ones are, naturally, the likeness of the Olympic and Paralympic mascots.

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Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp., a major Olympic sponsor, is readying various robots for next year’s Tokyo Olympics. The robots were shown to reporters for release Monday.

The mascot robots have moving limbs and its eyes change to the image of stars and hearts. It cannot speak at all or walk very well. But the engineer in charge, Tomohisa Moridaira, suggested various possibilities, such as getting the robot to hold the Olympic torch using magnets.

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The T-TR1, developed by Toyota’s robotics institute in the U.S., highlights “virtual mobility,” taking the automaker’s usual business of transportation to another dimension. It’s a moving human-size display designed to represent people who can’t be there.

Think a faraway grandma at a child’s birthday party or a legendary athlete not able to attend but “virtually” taking part in Olympic festivities.

Like all the world’s major automakers, Toyota uses robotics in production plants. But it has also designed human-like robots, including those that play musical instruments.

The Cue 3, which computes a three-dimensional image with sensors and adjusts motors for the right angle and propulsion to accurately throw basketballs, recently got listed in the Guinness World Records for making 2020 free throws without missing, a record for a robot and an homage to the Tokyo Olympics.

An earlier Toyota robot that glides around like R2-D2 is devoted to picking things up, to help the sick and elderly.

The latest “field support robot,” which looks like a cart, will also be picking things up: the javelin, discus or hammer on the Olympic field.

Its intelligence helps it avoid obstacles as well as repetitive routes to minimize wear and tear on the grass.

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The catch is: It can’t go find the objects or pick them up on its own. A person has to run in front of it. Once the object is loaded, by the human, the robot will return to its original position. /gsg

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