During day three of the Olympics, many spectators were delighted by the sight of what looked like a little robotic van chasing rugby balls that had flown out of bounds. The little device, which had glowing led “eyes” similar to the characters in the Disney “Cars” series, was developed by Toyota Motor Company and is designated as a “Field support robot”, and was “one of a handful of robots designed to streamline the Tokyo Olympic Games,” reports NPR.
“The International Olympics Committee says the self-driving robot is able to suss out the “optimal path” to follow when it’s chasing after hammers, javelins and all manner of objects thrown by athletes.”This will help reduce both the amount of time needed to retrieve items and the amount of human support required at events,” the IOC explained.”
“Other robots that have been designed and put to work in a partnership between the Games organizers and Toyota include Miraitowa and Someity. The blue and pink cartoon-looking robots are the official Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics mascots. They were intended to serve as futuristic ambassadors to the public, as welcoming hosts who shake hands and wave, but that part of their job has been severely diminished during the spectator-free events.”
“Similarly, human and delivery support robots, which look like a fancier and taller Wall-e, were developed to make the Games more comfortable. They are providing assistance to spectators in wheelchairs at the Olympic Stadium by carrying food and other items, guiding people to their seats, and providing event information. “The Tokyo 2020 Games are a unique opportunity for us to display Japanese robot technology,” said Hirohisa Hirukawa, leader of the Tokyo 2020 Robot Project.”
These robots also offer a glimpse into the future of eldercare services around the world. Several Japanese companies are currently developing robots to assist the elderly, by performing tasks such as carrying out garbage, reminding seniors to take their medications, or calling for assistance if a senior has a fall. Robots may come into regular use in the United States over the course of the next few decades, as the Baby Boomer Generation gets into their 80s and 90s. A nationwide shortage of home health-aides, and the problem of working class people who are willing to do jobs like being a home health-aide not being able to afford housing in many more affluent retirement communities, means robots are becoming increasingly attractive as a means of providing support for seniors who just need a little extra help to be able to remain in their homes.