Robots at the 2022 Beijing Olympics: What are they used for?

The mind-blowing technology at the Olympics is always impressive, but it’s proving to have more than just the cool factor in Beijing. These innovations are cutting down on human contact to help keep COVID-19 at bay.

The 2022 Winter Games have brought new events like the monobob and big air, but other novel concepts are functioning in the Olympic bubble to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games outlined many ways robots have taken over responsibilities normally performed by humans. An anti-epidemic robot stands at the entrance to each competition area. The terminal scans QR codes from phones of those entering the venue for health, vaccination and travel records. Even though this process may seem laborious, it only takes two seconds to complete.

The health information is extensive. Games participants are PCR-tested daily and Dr. Brian McCloskey, Chair of the Beijing 2022 Medical Expert Panel has said the testing is “robust and reliable.”

A video on China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency’s website shows the smart restaurant in the media center with robots cooking burgers, fried rice and dumplings. Other robots are acting as baristas or shaking up cocktails. The site has more than 10 types of smart-catering equipment with the most mesmerizing aspect high above diners’ heads. Once an order is ready, it goes on a serving dish and takes a journey on a track system mounted to the ceiling. After locating the person who placed the order, it drops down using a contraption that looks similar to those arcade claw games. I’m hopeful people’s chances are better to receive their order than it is to win a stuffed animal in that arcade game.

Robots are keeping venues clean as well. An atomization disinfection robot in use can sterilize 377 square feet in one minute. Beijing is also using ultraviolet disinfection robots to make sure competition areas are germ free.

Another robot acts as an automated temperature-taking tattletale. These robots can approach people and measure their body temperatures. If the reading is abnormal, the robot will tell the person and then report the situation to staff. The person with the abnormal temperature will be tested again with a mercury thermometer after a short break. If the person’s temperature is still high, they will need to go to a designated area for health screening and consultation with medical staff, according to The Playbook for the 2022 Olympics. Remember, everyone at the games is tested daily with results available and scannable via the My 2022 app required for all visitors.

Something else that measures an athlete’s health statistics is their bed. The smart beds have sensors that can collect health data such as heart rate and breathing according to China’s Global Times. They also reported a member of the management team for the Zhangjiakou Winter Olympic Village told another Chinese news outlet, “The coaches will be noted if there are any data differences.” Seems like that could be a bit invasive, although American luger Summer Britcher posted on TikTok that the beds seemed like a way for Beijing to one-up Tokyo and were “phenomenal.”

Robots doing everything from collecting garbage to dispensing hand sanitizer in the Beijing bubble may have had an impact. Despite its best efforts, the country of China hasn’t had a day of zero COVID cases since October, according to Nikkei Asia. Consider that health officials have performed more than 1.2 million screening tests for people participating in the Beijing Games and have only seen a total positive case count of less than 500.

Mr. Arigato Robot.

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