Skip to main content

Robot assistants from Toyota and Panasonic gear up for the Tokyo Olympics


Ever since it was awarded the 2020 Tokyo Olympics six years ago, Japan has made it clear that it intends to use the global spectacle to show off a wide range of its advanced technologies.

Japan’s Olympics organizing committee recently ramped up its tech-focused efforts with the launch of the Tokyo 2020 Robot Project, which will bring all of its initiatives together under one roof.

At the project’s launch event last week, Toyota unveiled several new robots that it says will be able to assist disabled people attending next year’s sporting extravaganza. The Human Support Robot (HSR) and Delivery Support Robot (DSR) will work together to offer help to people as and when required.

HSR is a meter-high wheel-based robot that can move autonomously or be controlled remotely. It features a robotic arm and hand that can reach up high to grab objects, or pick up items from the ground. The robot can also act as a guide, leading the way for spectators in search of entrances and exits or facilities inside the sports venue.

DSR can bring snacks and other items when ordered via an app on a tablet or smartphone. Also wheel-based, the diminutive robot brings the item to the customer in a basket, whereupon they can either take the order themselves or wait for HSR to pass it to them.

Officials plan to deploy up to sixteen HSRs and around 10 DSRs, most of them at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.

Toyota’s Minoru Yamauchi said the robots are part of the automotive giant’s plan to become a mobility company using the latest robotic technology, a strategy similar to the one adopted by fellow Japanese automaker Honda.

“We have been looking at how we can support the daily lives of people, and how we can develop robots that can partner with daily life,” Yamauchi said. “In the Tokyo Olympics, there will be many guests in wheelchairs and we would like them to enjoy the Games without worrying about their mobility.”

Panasonic also showed off the latest version of its power assist suit (pictured), which provides support to the back and hip area so that wearers can perform lifting tasks without fear of injury. The Japanese tech company said it plans to use 20 of the suits at the Olympics to assist in a range of lifting tasks, such as helping visitors with their luggage.

Other high-tech initiatives with Tokyo 2020 in mind include the launch of a robo-taxi service to ferry sports fans around the enormous city, and also to transport athletes between hotels and venues.

There’s also been talk of deploying facial-recognition technology at the event to speed up the flow of athletes, officials, and media personnel entering the venues.

In addition, organizers are aiming to power the Olympics using only renewable energy, with solar roads providing a portion of that power. Similar technology has already been installed on a number of roads in France and the U.S., as well as on cycle paths in the Netherlands.

Tokyo 2020’s organizing committee also recently revealed that it almost has enough recycled tech goods to fulfill its promise to create all of the winning athletes’ medals from e-waste. The initiative was launched in 2017, and since then members of the public have been contributing to the cause by donating their old smartphones, digital cameras, laptops, and handheld games consoles.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
Toyota’s smart city will be full of autonomous cars, smart homes, robots
Toyota Woven City CES 2020



Read more
Fake snow might be used to keep spectators cool at Tokyo Olympics
fake snow might be used to keep spectators cool at tokyo olympics oly 2020 weather

With just 10 months until the Tokyo Olympics, organizers are experimenting with various ways to keep spectators cool during what is likely to be a scorching hot and oppressively humid Summer Games.

Along with mist machines and so-called “parasol hats” (essentially an umbrella that sits on your head), organizers recently tested the effectiveness of a snow machine at the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo Bay, the venue for the Olympic and Paralympic rowing and canoeing events.

Read more
A self-driving Toyota will escort the 2020 Olympic flame in Tokyo
Toyota Mirai

Toyota has partnered with organizers to provide transportation at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. The automaker and the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee want to achieve the lowest emissions of any vehicle fleet at any Olympic Games, so Toyota is rolling out an array of battery-electric, plug-in hybrid, and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles for the job. The 3,700-vehicle fleet will include everything from buses to scooters. Some vehicles may even operate autonomously.

The fleet will include about 500 hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and 850 battery-electric cars. Toyota claims it's largest fleet of those vehicles ever assembled for an Olympic Games. Many of the vehicles will be current production models, including the Toyota Mirai fuel-cell sedan and Prius Prime plug-in hybrid, as well as the Sora fuel-cell bus.

Read more