Students at Northern Arizona University now have no excuse to skip breakfast, because an autonomous delivery robot can bring it to their door “within minutes”.
Robot delivery startup Starship Technologies has partnered with food facilities management firm Sodexo to roll out more than 30 robots onto the university’s Flagstaff campus.
Students can make an order from a participating retailer on campus through the Starship Deliveries app. They then drop a pin on the map where they want their food to be sent – much like Uber’s system for ordering a taxi.
The Starship Technologies delivery robots, equipped with computer vision-based navigation, make their way to the delivery site, and are able to cross roads and navigate obstacles in rain or snow.
Customers are sent a mobile alert to collect their delivery when the robot is outside. Each on-demand delivery costs $1.99.
The robots are monitored at all times by a human and can be taken over at a moment’s notice.
“We’ve been very pleased with how quickly Starship has been embraced on college campuses,” said Ryan Tuohy, SVP, Business Development, Starship Technologies.
“These campuses are hubs of innovation and activity, with both students and faculty needing convenient and flexible services. Our on-demand delivery is perfectly suited to this environment and we can’t wait to introduce our robots to the students and faculty at Northern Arizona University.”
Targeting student demographic
It follows a successful partnership between Starship and Sodexo, in which an extra 1,500 breakfasts were delivered autonomously on the campus of George Manson University since the end of January.
“Sodexo oversees dining services at more than 700 colleges and universities which gives us unique insights into the evolving needs and preferences of students,” said Barry Telford, CEO, Universities West, Sodexo North America.
“Today’s college students are prolific users of food delivery apps and they place a high value on convenience, ease and diversity of options, so we are thrilled to be able to provide this cutting-edge robot delivery service to Northern Arizona University via our partnership with Starship.”
The companies have targeted a demographic that research suggests is more likely to skip breakfast.
“I’m really excited for these robots! Having the ability to get breakfast delivered right to my door simply with my meal plan will be a lifesaver for early classes and long day,” said NAU student Josh Feygin.
To further encourage students to use the delivery service, Starship and Sodexo have also partnered with Eintstein. Bros Bagels to give free breakfast to the first student to place an order via the Starship app for the rest of the academic year.
Arizona is one of the seven states that have approved the use of delivery robots.
The autonomous last mile delivery race
Starship Technologies has operations across the world, whether that’s delivering pizza delivery in Germany or groceries in London. The company says its robots have travelled over 150,000 miles across more than 100 cities.
Delivery robots are seen as a key way to revolutionise the so-called last mile, which involves moving goods from a transportation hub, such as a delivery van, to the final destination in the home.
As such, many other startups including The Academy of Robotics in Wales and FedEx join the last mile automation race.
Elsewhere, manufacturing giant Continental AG unveiled robot delivery dogs at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show.
“Northern Arizona University is proud to partner with Sodexo and Starship to bring this creative and innovative technology to our Flagstaff campus,” said Dr Rita Hartung Cheng, NAU President.
“This new robot delivery service complements the service on our premier residential campus and serves to enhance the exceptional dining and food offered to our students, faculty and staff.”
Read more: When guide dogs and delivery robots meet
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