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Students at US Colleges Have Pizza Delivered by a Starship Robot

The small battery-powered bots have delivered over 10,000 meals from local businesses to university buildings and dorms in George Mason University.
BY BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer |   02-08-2019

A fleet of food-delivery robots at George Mason University
A fleet of food-delivery robots at George Mason University

Trudging along the sprawling wooded campus to the Southside College Dining Hall to get some food is so last semester — at least for some students at George Mason University, in Fairfax, Virginia.

A fleet of 25 gleaming wheeled robots have in recent months been delivering food to students at George Mason University, a service provided through their meal plan, that may soon spread to other campuses across the US.

Sodexo, a company that provides dining services at George Mason University, originally approached the school about the robot delivery service which has since caught on like wildfire on campus.

Rise of the robots

To use the popular robot delivery service, the 40,000 students and faculty staff at George Mason University’s Fairfax campus just download the delivery app from Starship Technologies, the company that created the robots.

Then they simply place their order from Blaze Pizza, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts or 2nd Stop, a campus grocery store, and provide their location. In no time, a small rectangular bot on wheels rolls up to a student’s dorm room loaded with coffee, pizzas, fries and more.

The delivery fee is low, $1.99 per order. Delivery hours have been extended to 2 am, with plans for a 24-hour service in the works. Breakfast is the surprise hit.

Part of life on campus

At first, students said that ordering a robot to deliver coffee was a “novelty” and they did it just to have a robot dark on their doorstep. But now it’s become a part of life on campus.

“In the very beginning, people used to just order drinks so they could have a robot come to their dorm and show all of their friends,” Kayla Shifflett, a GMU junior who works as a robot-runner at Blaze Pizza on campus told CNBC.

“They’re ordering more normal things now. … It’s helped us do our jobs and get stuff to more people that can’t come get their pizza.”

Still, it’s not unusual to see campus visitors snap a photo while others completely ignore the small rectangular bots on wheels passing them by, full of food and grocery.

The bots even politely say, “Hello, I’m a Starship Delivery Robot.”

The service, which uses small battery-powered robotic containers to deliver meals from local businesses to university buildings and dorms, first launched in January. Since then, more than 10,000 orders have been placed, according to CNBC.

The service has been so well-received at George Mason University that Sodexo has expanded the service to Northern Arizona University, with plans for more to come. Service at NAU’s Flagstaff campus began last week.

Robot Trivia

Starship Technologies was founded in 2014 by Skype cofounders Janus Friis and Ahti Heinla. Starship robots can carry items within a four mile (six km) radius. The company is headquartered in San Francisco, California, with engineering operations in Tallinn, Estonia.



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