Autonomous robots on skis

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There’s no getting away from the Olympics. Even robots are contributing to the spectacle in South Korea. And in a rather unusual way.

According to the latest figures from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), South Korea has by far the highest robot density in the manufacturing industry. With 631 units per 10,000 employees, it exceeds the global average by a factor of more than eight. Next in line are Singapore (488), Germany (309) and Japan (303).

In order to demonstrate its robot affinity to a really large audience, the Winter Olympics’ host country is deploying 85 robots at the event. Some of them are working as cleaners, waitstaff or guides, others as translators and some are painting giant pictures. This all began last year in December, when a whole team of robots carried the Olympic flame by torch relay to Pyeongchang. These even included a submarine robot, FX-2 from the Samsung Junior Software Cup and HUBO – a humanoid robot from the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST).

Challenge for autonomous robots

A few days ago, robots even joined in the events as athletes. Eight robotic teams stormed down the slope at the first “Ski Robot Challenge”, slaloming around the gates. Admittedly, the autonomous robots’ achievements were not always convincing and at times were reminiscent of a ski beginners’ course for children. But to some extent this will have been because temperatures around -20°C put more strain on electronic athletes than on their human counterparts. The winner of this spectacular event was TaekwonV, made by Minirobot Corporation, who won $10,000 in prize money. It completed the five gates in 18 seconds.

In this video you can see how the downhill skiers’ sensors perceive the obstacles.

Olympia 2020 with robotic village

The next Olympiad will undoubtedly see autonomous robots making yet more advances, not least because the next meeting, in the summer of 2020, will be in robot-crazy Japan. Although in terms of robot density in its manufacturing industries Japan occupies only fourth place, as a supplier it leads the world. Japanese manufacturers meet 52% of global demand. This is why Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also announced a robot Olympics to be held alongside the “Human Olympiad”. Exactly how this will look is still unclear, but at least the robotic athletes will not have to deal with low temperatures. And if developments in robotics and artificial intelligence continue at their current rate, we can look forward to surprising Summer Games in 2020.


Learn more about artificial intelligence and networked embedded systems at the electronica cyber physical systems conference (CPS).



Roboter Skiing (Image: Minirobot Corp.)

The winner of this spectacular event was TaekwonV, made by Minirobot Corporation, who completed the five gates in 18 seconds. (Image: Minirobot Corp.)