Lonely Planet Writer

Robots are set to have starring role at the Winter Olympics in Korea

 The 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, which kick off on 9 February, may be the most futuristic of their kind, as officials have announced robots will play several starring roles. In addition to robotic torch-bearers, there will be roaming robot guides that will provide assistance and entertainment around the venues, as well as robot athletes taking part in a skiing competition.

In December, two robots became the first Olympic participants by taking part in the torch relay in the city of Daejeon. A humanoid rescue robot called Hugo, as well as a giant manned robot, both carried and passed the Olympic torch. During the Games, there will be 85 robots stationed all over the country, from the main broadcast centre and Olympic Village to the ice hockey stadium and other alpine centres hosting events. According to Oh Jun-ho, a mechanical engineer and chief of the Olympics’ robot support team, eleven types of new and unique robots were picked.

“In deciding which robots to deploy, we chose to exclude robots which are already familiar to the public and instead focused on those able to deliver practical and useful services during the Olympics,” he told the Korea HeraldAttendees can expect to see everything from robot cleaning crews to multi-lingual humanoid information officers, refreshment-serving bots, dancers and even robotic fish swimming in ponds at the main venues.

Robots helped to carry the Olympic torch. Image by KAIST

Robots will also participate as athletes for the first time in Olympic history. On 10 February, humanoid skiiers will compete in a giant slalom ski tournament at Welli Hilli Snow Park not far from the main Olympic village. The event will be free to the public. 

The 2018 Winter Olympics are being held in Pyeongchang, a mountainous county in Gangwon-do, known for its top-notch winter sports facilities and lofty peaks. Can’t make it time for the Games? Check out Lonely Planet’s advice on snow sports in South Korea, including how you can go skiing or snowboarding at the Olympic venues yourself.