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Meet Moxi: A robot built by Austinites trying to help around the hospital

(Diligent Robotics)

Robots aren’t just delivering food or driving themselves. At Austin-based startup Diligent Robotics, robots can also assist with health care.

Founded in 2017 by University of Texas at Austin research scientist Andrea Thomaz and Vivian Chu, an alum of Google and IBM, Diligent Robotics aims to offload non-patient tasks from hospital workers.

It’s accomplished through Moxi, a robot that carries out key tasks around a hospital like delivering lab samples and picking up pharmacy prescriptions. Moxi is in hospitals across the country, including Dell Children's Medical Center in trial years for the bots.

Christy Warring, director of marketing and PR at Diligent Robotics, said that operation departments at hospitals have started reaching out with interest in having Moxi join the team. Previously, they had more commonly heard from the innovation department.

“It's hey, this used to be a really fun innovation project,” Warring said. “Now, it's we need you. This is something we have to have. So it's really moved from an innovation to a necessity in hospitals.”

While Moxi has an important role, the robot is undeniably cute, providing a warm expression resembling Eve from WALL-E. The team didn’t want to just make a box that carries items across the hospital, but a robot with a demeanor, an arm of sorts and a height around 4’11.

“They wanted to create a robot that felt like it belonged in your environment, but not something that would take over your environment right?” Warring said. “Moxi is never going to do patient care. So that was very deliberate.”

Of course, Moxi needs time to train just as anyone else doing the job. Over the course of six to 12 weeks, Moxi becomes skilled at maneuvering its way to an elevator, badging into rooms and learning its way around a hospital so that nurses can save themselves time.

“They understand that Moxi can come in here, and actually reduce those routine tasks so that you don't actually need your nurses to have to go deliver those lab samples or pick up those pharmacy prescriptions,” Laxmi Shetty, chief of people at Diligent Robotics said. “That's the importance of giving them that time back so that they can focus on patient care. And a lot of the time, that's what brings them joy— the impact that they're having on their patients.”

Moxi comes at a time when the stress of working in a hospital, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, has led to burnout among nurses and staffing crises across the nation. So Diligent Robotics sees room for relieving hospital workers of some tasks.

“They're hearing their nurses, their clinical staff and what they're feeling and thinking about how do we supplement this? How do we support our team and support retention?” Shetty said. “Moxi is that solution.”

Going forward, the company is in “hyper-growth mode,” Shetty says. Earlier this year, Diligent Robotics received funding from Tiger Global and some other key investors for $30 million. With about 100 people at the company currently, Diligent Robotics is aiming to reach up to 200 by the end of the year and are hiring across all departments with some positions in Austin and in their other markets.

As they look to expand, Moxi continues bonding with patients and healthcare workers alike.

“I've heard several people say they'll walk by Moxi in the morning, ‘Good morning, Moxi’ like talking to the robot. Moxi is truly part of the team,” Warring said. “So I think it's been fun for Andrea and Vivian, just to watch their vision of having a robot interact with humans actually come to life.”


Airport braces for high traffic this month with ACL and F1 drawing in travelers

(AUS airport/Instagram)

With major entertainment events slated for October, the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is gearing up for a busy month.

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With deposition and trial looming, Elon Musk has offered $44B for Twitter, again

Elon Musk has proposed once again to buy Twitter for $54.20 a share.

The news that Musk is offering to carry on with the $44 billion buyout was first reported by Bloomberg. Now, a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission shows Musk made the proposal in a letter to the tech giant on Monday.

The New York Stock Exchange temporarily halted trading in Twitter stock twice Tuesday, first because of a big price move and the second time for a news event, presumably the announcement of Musk's renewed offer.

While the per share offer price on this latest proposal remains the same as the original offer, it’s unclear if Musk has made other term changes or if Twitter would reject it. According to other reports, a deal could be reached this week.

The stock closed at $52.00/share Tuesday, indicating market uncertainty around the $54.20 offer.

After Musk informed Twitter of plans to terminate the original agreement in July, Twitter sued. A trial has been expected in Delaware Chancery Court on Oct. 17.

With the proposition of a buyout on the table again, it revives the question of whether Musk might move Twitter from San Francisco to Central Texas.

He’s done so with some of his other companies. Tesla’s headquarters in southeast Travis County had its grand opening earlier this year and tunneling business The Boring Company moved to Pflugerville. At least two other Musk companies, SpaceX and Neuralink, have a Central Texas presence without being headquartered here.

Technology journalist Nilay Patel this afternoon voiced concerns that owning Twitter and Tesla together could be problematic for Musk, as his Tesla manufacturing facilities in Germany and China are both in countries that have disputes with Twitter over content moderation and censorship.

Telsa shares fell after the Twitter news became public, before rallying to close up, at $249.44.