2020 Olympics Support Robots

The new support robots for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been unveiled. Made by Toyota, they range from super cute greeter robots to autonomous vehicles designed to pick up javelins on the field.

Toyota is of course a major player in the industrial automation space, but they see the Olympics as an opportunity to strut their stuff in different ways. Nobuhiko Koga of Toyota’s Frontier Research Center says, “At Tokyo 2020, we want to capture the imagination of spectators by providing support robots as we do our part to make the Games a success.”

More specifically, Koga says Toyota is reshaping as a “mobility company” in the largest sense. Not only will Toyota cars move people and Toyota robots move objects, but Toyota is also preparing to move people emotionally.

The cute robots could certainly do that.

The Olympics will begin a year from today. Robots will assist visitors physically, show the games to people who can’t attend (virtually moving them into the experience), and provide support for workers and athletes as well.

Miraitowa and Someity, the official mascots (see Miraitowa above and imagine the similar but pink Someity), might go on the road to bring the Olympics experience to children across Japan.

Toyota’s special-made robots are a marketing coup for Japanese robot makers. They’re bringing greater awareness of the diverse tasks a robot can do, from high-fiving winners to pushing wheelchairs. Engadget also sees them as “an acknowledgement of Japan’s labor shortages.” Japan, with an aging population and a historic reluctance to welcome immigrants, already has trouble filling jobs.

Fortunately, robots are popular in Japan and are widely seen as the solution to problems of caring for the elderly and covering the housework needs of single men.

The Olympic Games should be good for Japan’s robotics industry. “By helping people feel and experience their hopes and dreams,” the company’s press release says, “Toyota believes it will be able to further contribute to the excitement and success of the Tokyo 2020 Games.”

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