This is another way for us to provide food in a different and fun manner.
Students returning to campus this semester might wonder if the space age has come to campus when they see traveling across campus small, white robots on wheels.
No, it’s not R2-D2’s long-lost cousin or some sort of Orwellian device monitoring the goings on at Bridgewater State University. Rather, it’s a fleet of friendly robots delivering food.
Sodexo teamed up with Starship Technologies to bring to campus the new delivery robots, that operate almost entirely autonomously.
BSU is the first school in New England to roll out the robots.
The timing couldn’t be better to offer this kind of “no-contact” food delivery service, as it provides another layer of safety during the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s another advancement, something we can offer to enhance the overall student experience,” said Sodexo General Manager Staci DeSimone.
To use the service, students can download the Starship app, where they will find all the information needed to use the service.
After users select their desired food items from the menu, Sodexo then prepares the order and places it into the robot. (There is a small delivery fee for each order.)
Once loaded and securely locked, off it goes! One robot is used per customer.
Users then track their meal as it makes its way toward them.
“When it does arrive you unlock the robot through your cell phone, not a code, you just press a button that is unique to you in the app,” said Henry Harris-Burland, Starship vice president of marketing.
Upon collecting the food, the lid is then closed and with a swipe of the cell phone the robot trundles off to its next delivery.
To thwart any attempts to open or steal the machines, 10 cameras are installed on each device and are closely monitored by the Starship team.
“If a robot’s journey abruptly stops, it pings to a human operator who takes control,” Harris-Burland said.
Since launching the company in 2014, the company hasn’t had any major issues when it comes to security.
“We find that people really take to the robots, they become part of the community…in general people have been very respectful,” said Kia Alborz, director of launch at Starship.
The robots are fully electric and produce zero carbon emissions. Each robot will display signage that reads, “Starship-Bears.com” and “I Deliver to Bears” so its recognizable to the BSU community.
Obstacle avoidance technology is also installed, which allows the machines to operate in snow and inclement weather, as well as climb small hills and sidewalks.
Starship is also creating new jobs and looks to hire BSU students to help maintain the day-to-day operations.
Sodexo hopes that students will take advantage of this new service.
“This is another way for us to provide food in a different and fun manner,” DeSimone said.
And Starship couldn’t be happier to bring the robots to BSU.
“It’s innovative thinking that Sodexo and Bridgewater State is bringing this type of technology to their campus in New England,” Alborz said.
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