Let Them Eat Take-Out: Kiwibots Bring Sustenance to Students

by Lauren Finkle

College students are many things — sleepy, overly caffeinated, stressed — but above all, they are hungry. Kiwi Campus is here to help.

Co-founder and CEO of Kiwi Campus, Felipe Chávez, joined AI Podcast host Noah Kravitz to talk about Kiwi and its delivery service.

Based in Berkeley, Calif., the company specializes in creating a robotic ecosystem for last-mile delivery. Its solution is the Kiwibot. The small autonomous robot delivers orders seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Its coverage area includes UC Berkeley and the surrounding streets.

Chávez, originally from Colombia, noticed how expensive it was to have food delivered in the US. He says online food ordering ranks at about 20 percent in Latin America’s largest cities. By contrast, when he moved to America, “it was 6 percent two years ago, and now it’s 9 percent.”

Given the American economy and level of productivity, Chávez says, “It’s insane that we’re not ordering several times per day.”

Kiwi Campus has a unique delivery system. It starts with Kiwi Trike, an autonomous tricycle, that brings Kiwibots to restaurants. Kitchen staff load the order into the Kiwibots, which then complete the final legs of the journey.

The Kiwibot runs on a blend of AI and human input. The bots themselves use a Jetson TX2, six ultra-HD cameras, and radar to navigate the streets of Berkeley. Chávez realized that the best way to avoid high-risk situations would be to incorporate human input.

Kiwi’s human workers are based in Colombia. Each person is assigned to three robots and provides observations, with a latency of just five seconds. Their role is to ensure that the robots “are in the correct direction. Also, sometimes we have a behavioral neural network that keeps the robot centered in the sidewalk but sometimes it’s not, so they keep it centered, and also giving extra input about position.”

Human observations also are key in crossing the street. Kiwibots are “crossing 2,000 streets per day,” says Chávez. Before each crossing, humans confirm the input each Kiwibot receives from traffic lights. They then cross the street safely.

This approach seems to be working — Kiwi Campus has had more than 30,000 orders in the last 10 months.

Chávez promises that Kiwi Campus will soon be in more than 10 campuses. In the meantime, you can visit their website to learn more, or connect with Chávez on twitter at @felipekiwi90.