By: Nick Gambino
That has to be one of the strangest titles I’ve ever given an article without attempting to be funny. It seems this year’s Winter Olympics saw more than humans competing in a skiing event.
There are about 85 different robots at the Olympics in Pyeongchang working the sporting event in an effort to show the coolest robotic technology Korea has to offer. Tons of these little guys are there to clean up, offer directions, serve drinks and the like. But beyond menial tasks, some were also given the chance to compete in the Edge of Robot: Ski Robot Challenge with the opportunity to win $10,000. That kind of dough will certainly help pay for spare parts.
The challenge was simple. Let’s see how fast the robots could go down a slope, avoiding obstacles the whole way. Points were given for the number of obstacles avoided.
Now, not every robot at the Olympic Village was eligible to compete. It seems there were certain requirements that needed to be met first.
The Guardian reported that, “robots had to be more than 50cm in height, be able to stand on their own two legs, have independent power systems, use skis, and poles, and have joints that allowed them to bend their knees and elbows.” In other words, they had to be more of a humanoid and not just run on tracks or wheels.
Sensors allowed the robots to detect the red and blue flags lining the slope that they were meant to avoid. Though avoiding them proved challenging for many.
The event was more comical than anything. Many of the robots were unable to maneuver around the flags and wound up tumbling over like something out of Short Circuit. Some even finished the descent backwards after colliding with an obstacle. While the technology is definitely impressive, it still doesn’t compare to watching Olympic human athletes in action.
Japan is already planning a robot presence at the next Winter Olympics in 2020 hosted by Tokyo. So prepare yourself for some really weird robot events in two years. My money is on robot pairs figure skating.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick Gambino is a regular script writer and tech beat reporter for NewsWatch. He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and daughter.