When track and field athletes toss javelins and hammers at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, artificial intelligence will likely come into play — a pint-sized, self-driving AI robot car will appear and neatly fetch the items in high-tech fashion, CGTN reported.
This week Toyota Motor Corp. unveiled a prototype of its next-generation field support robot, a miniature shuttle bus-shaped contraption based on its “e-Palette” ride-sharing vehicle under development.
The vehicle, roughly the size of a toddler’s ride-on toy, can travel at 20 km/h and sports three cameras and one lidar sensor which enable it to “see” its surroundings, the CGTN report said.
Draped around the top of its body is a band of LED lights which illuminate when the vehicle uses artificial intelligence to follow event officials toward the equipment hurled by athletes onto the pitch during shot put, discus throw, hammer throw and javelin events.
After the equipment, which can weigh as much as eight kilograms for hammers, is loaded into the vehicle by the official, a press of a button located toward its front sends the car zipping back to athletes for later use.
“Humans are better suited to picking up heavy equipment from the field, but for quickly transporting them to their respective return depots, that’s a job that’s best performed by robots,” Takeshi Kuwabara, a project planning manager who oversaw the robot’s development, told reporters.
“Our aim was to leverage the strengths of both humans and robots.”
The trend of using miniature cars to fetch equipment at Olympics throwing events goes back to the 2008 Beijing Games, where fiery-red, rocket-shaped cars scurried along the green to collect hammers, javelins and discuses, the CGTN report said.
At the 2012 Games in London, BMW developed and operated a fleet of blue and orange miniature Mini Coopers to collect the discarded equipment, while pint-sized green pick-up trucks performed the task at the Rio games in 2016.
A major sponsor of the Tokyo Games, the Japanese automaker also plans to dispatch a fleet of robots which can perform household tasks for elderly people and hospital patients will also guide guests to wheelchair seats and serve refreshments at events.