Where Robots Roam

Where Longhorns once played basketball, robots now play soccer. Where athletes once worked together on the court, engineers and scientists now collaborate on next-generation robotics. The newly renovated Anna Hiss Gym is now home to an ever-growing UT Robotics umbrella where robots are being developed and tested as we prepare for a world where these machines become even more present in our everyday lives.

See the New Home for UT Robotics ↓

Built in 1931 as a home for women’s physical education at UT, the gym was later named in honor of professor Anna Hiss, who advocated for the facility and encouraged participation in sports activities. Renovations to the gym began in 2019.

Different types of bots — from programmed surgical equipment to autonomous all-terrain robots — occupy stations in the main space when you enter Anna Hiss Gym. The area features tables, a raised platform and a walking track to test movement and maneuverability.

In nearly every corner of the gym, you can find fully constructed and deconstructed robots ready to be plugged in, turned on, programmed and set loose in the facility to test new functions and abilities.

A walled hallway for testing distance and direction lines the original brick wall and arched floor-to-ceiling windows, which preserve the history of the gym while serving as a bright, inspiring backdrop for robotics R&D.

Both aerial and floored fields occupy the other side of the main facility, designed for robot-to-robot interaction, including the UT Austin Villa Robot Soccer Team, and teleoperated robots like drones.

A robotic arm is at the ready to practice gripping, picking up and relocating various objects like blocks and balls, as one part of studying human-robot interaction.

Preparing for a time when humans and robots will co-habitat even more — with robots performing tasks like cooking and cleaning — the gym features a small apartment-like setup with furniture, walls and entrances for robots to navigate around.

In another wing of the gym, work is done on heavy-duty remote systems to deploy in hazardous or challenging environments in domains such as nuclear, energy and military.

The newly renovated Anna Hiss Gym embodies the history and spirit of UT Austin while putting on display the future of robotics, an area of research and development that will continue to have a profound impact on our world — and an area where UT engineers and scientists are leading the charge.