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Tokyo unleashes robots ahead of 2020 Summer Olympics

By Thomas Maresca
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Tokyo unleashes robots ahead of 2020 Summer Olympics
Miraitowa, a robot version of the 2020 Olympics mascot developed by Toyota, will welcome visitors and athletes to the Games next year. It was unveiled on Monday by Olympics organizers.  Photo by Thomas Maresca/UPI

TOKYO, July 22 (UPI) -- Organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics unveiled a series of robots on Monday, bringing a high-tech edge to the Games they are billing as the most innovative ever.

The robots, developed by major sponsor Toyota, will do everything fron retrieving javelins on the field to serving beverages to spectators to enabling virtual attendance from remote locations.

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A smiling two-foot tall robot version of Olympics mascot Miraitowa was shown to reporters on Monday morning at Tokyo Stadium. The robot demonstrated a variety of movements, such as shaking hands and high-fiving, as it blinked, winked and flashed heart signs with its eyes.

A version of the Paralympic Games mascot, Someity, is also being developed. The mascot robots, which have cameras mounted on their foreheads to recognize and react to people nearby, will welcome guests and athletes at Games venues.

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Another model, the Field Support Robot, is a miniature four-wheeled vehicle equipped with automatic driving functionality to assist at Olympic throwing events. The robots will retrieve hammers and javelins thrown by athletes, using autonomous driving technology that Toyota has been developing in projects such as its e-Palette concept vehicles.

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The T-TR1, a virtual mobility robot developed by Toyota's research arm in the United States, features a camera and a life-size display on wheels and will act as a rolling telepresence device, allowing a user to virtually attend the Games.

A five-foot-tall VR-equipped humanoid robot that can mirror the movements of a human operator will also be deployed at the Games, as well as robots that deliver drinks and assist customers in wheelchairs.

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The Tokyo Games will be a technology showcase for Japanese sponsors such as Toyota, which will roll out driverless taxis and zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell vehicles for the Olympics, and Panasonic, which will supply cutting-edge displays and AV equipment.

The Summer Games start on July 24, 2020, and Tokyo is promoting the "one year to go" countdown this week with a series of events. The city previously hosted the Summer Games in 1964.

Eleven thousand athletes from over 200 countries will be competing in the 2020 Games, with medals to be awarded in 339 events. New sports to debut at the Games will include surfing, skateboarding and karate, while baseball and softball, which were dropped after the Beijing 2008 Games, will make a return.

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