Robot Patents and the 2018 Winter Olympics

Today marks the opening day of the Winter Olympics 2018 which is taking place in PyeongChang in South Korea. There have already been news worthy stories surrounding this event, including Norway’s mistaken order of 15,000 eggs when they intended to order just 1,500 due to a Google Translate error. This is before the first medal has been awarded!

One headline that has created anticipation is ‘Meet the Robots of the 2018 Olympics’[1]. Robots are still a sci-fi dream for most countries, with their use restricted to factories and still being largely tested. However, in South Korea ‘social’ robots who interact, communicate with and aide humans are much more visible.

According to the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), since 2013 social robot patent applications have risen more than 20 percent annually with the figure rising to 75 percent in the last two years. In terms of their skills, the applications for robots capable of more complex action has risen to 49 percent from 32 percent, whilst applications for robots that are capable of simple repetitive work has dropped to 31 percent from 61 percent[2].

The use of robots in the 2018 Winter Olympics was already seen as a ‘humanoid’ robot carried the Olympic torch and even cut through a wall to show its abilities before passing the torch to the next runner. Throughout the next few weeks of the Olympics, there will be a robot ski competition to be held on the sidelines with entries from local universities and tech firms, artificial intelligence (AI) powered translation robots, cleaning and service robots and even schools of robotic fish in aquariums in the International Broadcast Center. Whatever happens in the stadiums and on the slopes, the robots will showcase South Korea’s forward thinking use of technology and AI.

Share your Olympic patent stories by using our hashtag #RWSOlympics! Who are you rooting for this year?



[1] The Smithsonian, 2018

[2] The Korea Herald, 2017