Gold-medal performers: The Olympic robots of Beijing

A robotic cleaning machine operates at the Main Media Centre on Feb 3, 2022, in Beijing, China. — Getty Images/TNS

China’s zero-Covid policy has led to all kinds of brainstorming about how to limit transmission of the coronavirus. Among the solutions: Robots!

Replacing a human service provider with a mechanical one, the theory goes, reduces virus-spreading contact among humans. Robots are everywhere at the Olympics, in all shapes, sizes and varieties. At our hotel, a tallish white one with multiple arms plies the hallways, emitting mist. Another kind brings room service orders.

In the Main Media Centre, a cousin of the Roomba scoots along the concrete floors with a dustmop. (That one feels like it’s following you sometimes.)

The high-speed trains are robotic, too; these “smart trains”, which can run as fast as 217 miles per hour, whisk people from Beijing to the mountain venues without a driver.

The real stars are found in the Main Press Centre dining hall. At some food stations, robots assemble your dinner. At others, they deliver it. Chefs put the plates on a platter with a dome over it, and the little contraption skims along the ceiling, then drops down to your seat to present you with your kung pao.

They have not figured out how to handle cleanup, though; clearing the dirty plates falls to actual humans.

And if you’re the kind of person who likes to spill your troubles to a sympathetic bartender, you’re out of luck here. Order a cocktail at the press center bar area, and it will be mixed, shaken and poured by a giant robotic arm. No tipping necessary. – Star Tribune/Tribune News Service

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Winter Olympics 2022


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