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Into the future: Robots become part of everyday Austin life

Rev-1 bots can be seen around town delivering food in Central Austin. (Austonia)

They may not be the futuristic humanoids of a sci-fi movie, but Austin is awash with robots.

In different shapes and sizes, here are some bots in town that Austinites are using or will soon use for learning, leisure or convenience.

From Refraction AI: Food delivery bots

You might've spotted these small little guys on South Congress. A small, 10 machine fleet of three-wheeled robots have been making food deliveries around Austin since the summer.

It started with pizza delivery for Southside Flying Pizza in Travis Heights and the Central Business District. Now, Michigan-based company, Refraction AI is using their bots for deliveries with Tacoly Moly, Chivata, Two Hands and others. The devices, known as REV-1s, allow for contactless delivery. It works by sending texts confirming the robot is en route, along with an estimated arrival time and a code that can be used to unlock the robot and retrieve the order.

While the bots can go up to 15 mph, you'll see someone scootering behind them since the company is still in the pilot program. Eventually, the device's artificial intelligence will learn to navigate Austin.

Argo AI/Ford/Walmart: Robotaxi Groceries

In August, Argo AI and Ford announced their debut for robotaxi grocery deliveries would be at the East Ben White Boulevard Walmart. The partnership with the retail giant will later involve deliveries in Miami and D.C. At the time, Walmart said "this collaboration will further our mission to get products to the homes of our customers with unparalleled speed and ease, and in turn, will continue to pave the way for autonomous delivery."

As Forbes reported, these last-mile deliveries will be accomplished by Walmart integrating its online ordering platform with the ArgoWatch cloud platform for the deployment of automated vehicles. It's the same platform that Argo built for deploying AVs as robotaxis on the Lyft, soon coming to Austin. While deliveries will start out with small fleets of autonomous vehicles, delivery access will expand with time.

SISU: C31 cinema robot

SISU claims their C31 cinema robot is the easiest to use and cheapest on the market. (Laura Figi/Austonia)

Coming in with a wingspan of 20 feet and hand-guided motion technology that is "miles ahead of the competition," the C31 cinema robot from Austin-based robotics company SISU is on a mission to disrupt the film industry.

The robot can be programmed to take a set path and capture smooth and steady shots while moving. It also has a much greater range of motion and moves much faster than a mortal form. While Cinema robots are not a new concept, SISU says that almost anyone can operate the bot after only an hour's worth of training and that its "cutting-edge" cinema robot is the most user-friendly on the market.

St. David’s Healthcare: Robotic assisted surgery

At St. David's HealthCare, medical teams use robotic-assisted technology to perform cardiovascular treatments, colorectal procedures, gynecologic surgery, surgeries to treat the reproductive system, and urologic surgery.

Here's how the tech works: a surgeon controls a robotic arm from a console. The arm is strapped with surgical tools like an endoscopic camera, a scalpel, and other instruments. As one of the largest health systems in Texas, the team boasts that these technologies allow surgeons to operate with a higher degree of accuracy and control. And patients can expect better outcomes, including less blood loss, minimal scarring, shorter hospital stays, and more.

Gensler Austin: Robotics arena

Last year, architectural and design firm Gensler Austin announced a robotics arena for Cedar Park. The firm told Community Impact that "in addition to hosting robotics competitions, the arena will also be open to the public as a 'Topgolf style' venue for gamers and robotics enthusiasts."

With that, it'll be a space to unwind with food and drinks. Robotics enthusiasts will be welcome to bring their own robots or drones, or they can be rented on site.

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