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Tokyo unveils chatty robot-eers for 2020 Olympics

Organisers of Tokyo Olympics have rolled out a pair of chatty robots, who will be put to work on assisting wheelchair users at the 2020 Games. Referred to as distant relatives to Star Wars drone R2D2, Toyota has unveiled its human support robots (HSRs) and delivery support robots (DSRs), which are set to act as seat ushers—they will fetch food and drinks for disabled fans at next year’s Olympics.

In an Olympic first, the waist-high, robotic volunteers will casually introduce themselves to customers, who will then be able to place orders on a tablet. “Hello, everyone! I’m a lifestyle support robot,” the fully rotating HSR said in a demonstration. “I’ll fetch things for you. I also have an extendable arm that can pick things up if you drop them,” it added.

Toyota’s HSR human support robot delivers a basket to a woman in a wheelchair during a demonstration of Tokyo 2020 Robot Project for the Olympic Games in Tokyo (Credit: AFP)

In reality, the DSR deli-bot—with its built-in drinks tray—more closely resembles a moving dustbin with blinking lights, but Toyota insisted that the technology would ensure a more comfortable Games experience for wheelchair users.

Minoru Yamauchi, general manager of 2020 robot development department, told AFP, “In the run-up to the Olympics we will work on other useful functions that these can carry out.”

Toyota is currently planning to deploy 16 units of each droid at the 2020 Olympics. Games organisers have also unveiled a Panasonic-developed exoskeleton suit to help with a range of Olympic-related chores, such as delivering or loading heavy baggage brought to Japan by athletes and officials.

Toyota’s HSR human support robot delivers a basket to a woman in a wheelchair during a demonstration of Tokyo 2020 Robot Project for the Olympic Games in Tokyo (Credit: AFP)

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