China strives to flex its tech innovations to worldwide audience at Olympics

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An automated basket throws frozen wonton into boiling water. Within minutes, pieces of pork wrapped in batter are prepared, deposited in a black plastic bowl and transported to a conveyor belt untouched by human hands. Pink lights flash when your dinner order comes to the counter.

The robotic cafe at the media center at the Beijing Olympics has received worldwide coverage in recent weeks. It makes good television and attractive messages on social media.

There are cyber boilers and deep fryers and even a one-armed bartender. Drone servers glide over the overhead tracks, dropping food with a cable, like Tom Cruise hanging from the ceiling in the movie “Mission: Impossible.”

There may be an important political context behind all this mechanical outburst.

The organizers claim that their modernist cooking is designed to limit contact with humans and thus curb the spread of the coronavirus. At the same time, China has clearly made efforts to place gadgets in front of journalists at every turn.

Robots with flickering blue lights cruise the corridors and infrared scanners show the ghostly, glowing shapes of everyone who passes by. Sleeping booths, controlled by a mobile phone application, allow you to take a nap during long working days. Clayton Dubois, director of the US-China Institute at USC, suspects the host country is trying to pass itself off as “the highest of high technology.”

“China wants to convey that this is not just a manufacturing superpower, a so-called world workshop,” Dub said. “They also want to be a hub of innovation.”

These technical feats sometimes have a downside. In the cafeteria, the wait for Wanton’s space age lasts half an hour or more. Two guys in aprons and masks at a nearby counter can cook a bowl of noodles with stewed pork in less than five minutes.

During his speech at the opening ceremony, the president of the local organizing committee spoke about the tasks of holding international sports competitions during the pandemic.

“As we continue to live under the influence of COVID-19,” said Cai Qi at the stadium, whose capacity was severely limited, “the safety and health of all participants in the Games remain our top priority.”

Some countermeasures in Beijing – masks, social distancing, hand washing – are clearly low-tech.

But the use of robotics within a “closed system” was ubiquitous. Whites and whites standing on their chests, machine guns patrol places and media hotels. They have the ability to climb elevators on their own.

According to the government website, different types of robots can emit a disinfectant mist into the air, illuminate with ultraviolet light that kills germs, and, in some cases, detect people who don’t wear masks, and ask them to wear masks. The State Council of China says some of its drones are spraying spray mist on the ground, disinfecting up to 387 square feet per minute.

Zachary Beanie, an epidemiologist with Oxford College at Emory University in Georgia, notes that COVID spreads mainly through the air, making masks, HEPA filters and ventilation systems the most effective countermeasures.

“Surface disinfection from COVID is mostly a theater, although of course cleaner surfaces are generally better and it can affect other germs,” Beanie said in an email.

When it comes to fighting the coronavirus, Chinese officials have reason to want to look as careful as possible to the rest of the world, given that the virus has spread in their country.

Following a wave of nationwide restrictions in preparation for the Games, including the rapid closure of businesses, office buildings and entire communities, the Communist Party may also want to convey a message to its own people.

“What if some flash inside is caused by the Olympics?” asks Susan Brownell of the University of Missouri St. Professor Louis, who specializes in Chinese sports culture. “The party and its leadership are extremely sensitive to public opinion.”

Officials placed infrared stations throughout the closed loop, showing not only images but also body temperature. The health worker distracts anyone who records above 99.1 degrees and checks them with a standard thermometer.

Behind these stations is good science, but they are also photogenic with bright purple images displayed on the big screen of television monitors.

Surprisingly, the health monitoring system of the Olympic Games is to some extent based on self-reports. In addition to the daily appearance of throat swabs, everyone at the Games must measure the temperature and enter the result into a program for a mobile phone.

During a recent bus trip, a group of reporters joked about the temperature they would have come up with and dialed into their phones this morning.

Not all technology at the Beijing Games is related to the pandemic.

More than a dozen futuristic “sleeping booths” lined up in the wide corridor of the media center, where hundreds of journalists work from morning till late at night.

Anyone in need of sleep can scan the QR code to unlock the door, entering a compact space with a smart bed that can be adjusted – head up, feet up – using the remote control. There are massage installations and disposable sheets in drawers on the wall.

As with other innovations, these rooms have a caveat: their front walls are all glass. This means that people walking down the hallway can look inside, which they often do. That means they can stop and take pictures. They do it too.

Again, booths have been a favorite topic for the international media in search of bizarre news outside of conventional sports.

Watching the Olympics from afar, Dube echoes the view that Chinese officials may be trying to reach their own. According to him, state television showed not only the same robots seen around the world, but also “videos of foreigners shooting videos” from the cafeteria.

“By putting these things on display,” he said, “the government is proving, ‘Look, we’re using technology to make the Olympics better.’ “

If this technology was at least partially for show, the Winter Games would not be unique. Dub says he has been a witness in Los Angeles for the past few weeks.

“It’s not just China’s leadership that is trying to make a good impression on visitors,” he said. “With the Super Bowl … crews were collecting rubbish and painting graffiti along Route 405.”

Trying to make a good impression, the professor believes, can be a universal instinct.

COVID’s ambitious Olympic bubble in Beijing: so far so good

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Citation: China seeks to expand its technological innovation for global audiences at the Olympic Games (2022, February 21), obtained February 21, 2022 from -audience.html

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