HIGH-TECH DELIVERIES: Starship Technologies launches robot delivery service at Missouri State University

Published: Sep. 13, 2022 at 9:08 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 13, 2022 at 6:25 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (Edited News Release/KY3) -The futuristic world of “The Jetsons” is not here yet.

But on Tuesday, students and faculty at Missouri State University see the latest robotic tech as they walk around campus as Starship Technologies rolled out its robot food delivery service in partnership with Chartwells Higher Education.

This is the first university in Missouri where Starship delivery robots provide service. The robots will provide deliveries daily.

Starship’s fleet of 20 autonomous, on-demand robots will deliver food from several campus eateries, including:

  • Einstein Bros. Bagels.
  • Panda Express.
  • Subway.
  • Market Café 1905 (will be added soon).

Missouri State’s more than 20,000 students, faculty, and staff can now use the Starship Food Delivery app (iOS and Android) to order food and drinks from local retailers delivered anywhere on the main campus within minutes. The service will soon work with the student meal plan dining dollars.

“I’m really excited for these robots! Having the ability to get food delivered right to my location simply with my meal plan will be a lifesaver for long days,” Missouri State student Ovidio De Leon said.

According to Terry Weber, Missouri State’s Plaster Student Union director, the convenience that robotic food delivery will provide to the campus is immense.

“Buildings and individuals not in close proximity to the dining centers or retail vendors will have food options they’ve never had before,” he said.

Starship is already providing services to campuses across the country, including Bowling Green State University, the University of Houston, the University of Utah, and the University of Idaho. Since its launch, all campuses have increased the number of robots, dining options, and hours of operation to meet the high demand for the service.

How does the service work?

To get started, users open the Starship Deliveries app, choose from a range of their favorite food or drink items, then drop a pin where they want their delivery to be sent. They can watch as the robot journeys to them via an interactive map.

Once the robot arrives, they receive an alert and can then meet and unlock it through the app. The delivery usually takes just a matter of minutes, depending on the menu items ordered and the distance the robot must travel. Each robot can carry the equivalent of about three shopping bags of goods.

“We’re excited to start the new school year by expanding our services to Missouri,” said Chris Neider, director of business development at Starship Technologies. “We think the students will quickly see the advantages of contactless delivery and enjoy having the robots become part of the campus community.”

More about the robots

Starship Technologies operates commercially daily around the world and is already providing services to campuses across the country. Its zero-emission robots have made more than 3.5 million autonomous deliveries, traveled millions of miles, and made more than 140,000 road crossings daily.

The robots use a combination of sophisticated machine learning, artificial intelligence, and sensors to travel on sidewalks and navigate around obstacles. Computer vision-based navigation helps the robots to map their environment to the nearest inch. The robots can cross streets, climb curbs, travel at night, and operate in rain and snow. A team of humans can also monitor their progress remotely and can take control at a moment’s notice.

The robots will soon become as regular a part of campus traffic as the students themselves, but for now, they’re the subject of a lot of curiosity.

“I had no clue,” MSU freshman Tyler Clarke answered when asked what he thought when he first noticed them. “I was like, ‘Where did these things even come from?’ And then they almost knocked me over one time because I was looking at my phone.”

About the size of an ice chest, the robots get a wide range of reactions as they trundle around campus. Some students barely notice, others do a double-take, and a few people even wave at them like they’re human.

“I just think they’re adorable,” said MSU Marketing Director MaryJo Miller. “It reminds me of ‘WALL-E’ come to life. We did a photo shoot last week with them, and it was telling us jokes.”

That’s right.

The robots can talk.

A sample of robot jokes:

“Do you want to hear a dad joke? Why did the robot celebrate Father’s Day? Because the kids stopped pushing his buttons.”

“Why did the robot go to the shoe shop? To get rebooted.”

While they can’t carry on conversations, they do communicate.

The robots travel and encounter foot traffic.

“Excuse me. Would you please let me pass?”

And when they arrive at their destination, the customer gets a friendly greeting.

“Hello. Here’s your delivery.”

The cost of the delivery, by the way, is $2.49.

“No tips,” said Starship Campus Marketing Manager Annie Handrick with a smile. “Our technology allows us to keep our costs low, especially for college students, which is really important.”

And while no one knows just how successful the robot delivery business will be, one group is definitely interested.

“Dogs love our robots,” Handrick said. “They like to follow them down the street. They’re very interested in them, and the robots love them too.”

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