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Olympic robots offer 'virtual' attendance, help out on field

A cart-like robot scuttles across the field to bring back javelins and discuses. A towering screen-on-wheels is designed for "virtual" attendance. The cute ones are, naturally, the likeness of the Olympic and Paralympic mascots.

Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp., a major Olympic sponsor, is readying various robots for next year's Tokyo Olympics. The robots were shown to reporters for release Monday.

The mascot robots have moving limbs and its eyes change to the image of stars and hearts. It cannot speak at all or walk very well. But the engineer in charge, Tomohisa Moridaira, suggested various possibilities, such as getting the robot to hold the Olympic torch using magnets.

In this Thursday, July 18, 2019, photo, a "field support robot" is demonstrated before the media at Toyota Motor Corp. headquarters in Tokyo. The Japanese automaker Toyota, a major Olympic sponsor, is readying various robots for next year’s Tokyo Olympics, including the one which has intelligence to avoid obstacles in its path and helps bring back thrown objects like javelins and discuses. (AP PhotoYuri Kageyama)

The T-TR1, developed by Toyota's robotics institute in the U.S., highlights "virtual mobility," taking the automaker's usual business of transportation to another dimension. It's a moving human-size display designed to represent people who can't be there.

Think a faraway grandma at a child's birthday party or a legendary athlete not able to attend but "virtually" taking part in Olympic festivities.

Like all the world's major automakers, Toyota uses robotics in production plants. But it has also designed human-like robots, including those that play musical instruments.

In this Thursday, July 18, 2019, photo, a T-TRI robot is demonstrated before the media at Toyota Motor Corp. headquarters in Tokyo. The Japanese automaker Toyota, a major Olympic sponsor, is readying various robots for next year’s Tokyo Olympics, including the screen-on-wheels designed for "virtual" attendance. The T-TR1 is a moving human-size display designed to represent people who can't be there. (AP PhotoYuri Kageyama)

The Cue 3, which computes a three-dimensional image with sensors and adjusts motors for the right angle and propulsion to accurately throw basketballs, recently got listed in the Guinness World Records for making 2020 free throws without missing, a record for a robot and an homage to the Tokyo Olympics.

An earlier Toyota robot that glides around like R2-D2 is devoted to picking things up, to help the sick and elderly.

The latest "field support robot," which looks like a cart, will also be picking things up: the javelin, discus or hammer on the Olympic field.

In this Thursday, July 18, 2019, photo, Toyota engineer Takeshi Kuwabara speaks about a "field support robot," foreground, to the media at Toyota Motor Corp. headquarters in Tokyo. The Japanese automaker Toyota, a major Olympic sponsor, is readying various robots for next year’s Tokyo Olympics, including the one which has intelligence to avoid obstacles in its path and helps bring back thrown objects like javelins and discuses. (AP PhotoYuri Kageyama)

Its intelligence helps it avoid obstacles as well as repetitive routes to minimize wear and tear on the grass.

The catch is: It can't go find the objects or pick them up on its own. A person has to run in front of it. Once the object is loaded, by the human, the robot will return to its original position.

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In this Thursday, July 18, 2019, photo, a T-TRI robot is demonstrated before the media at Toyota Motor Corp. headquarters in Tokyo. The Japanese automaker Toyota, a major Olympic sponsor, is readying various robots for next year’s Tokyo Olympics, including the screen-on-wheels designed for "virtual" attendance. The T-TR1 is a moving human-size display designed to represent people who can't be there. (AP PhotoYuri Kageyama)

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In this Thursday, July 18, 2019, photo, a journalist takes a photo of robots of mascots of Olympics "Miraitowa," left, and Paralympics "Someity" shown at Toyota Motor Corp. headquarters in Tokyo. The mascot robots’ eyes change to the images of stars and hearts. The Japanese automaker Toyota, a major Olympic sponsor, is readying various robots for next year’s Tokyo Olympics. (AP PhotoYuri Kageyama)