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Delivery Robots

Universities

Students can have robots deliver food through meal plans

As a provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life, Sodexo was a natural choice to partner with Starship Technologies for its largest implementation of autonomous robot food delivery services on a campus. Representative of Sodexo’s next-generation technology portfolio for the U.S. college and university market, the partnership is indicative of how Sodexo could deploy robotics in other environments.

Operating since January at George Mason University (GMU) in Fairfax, Virginia. the project involves 25 food delivery robots. For a delivery cost of $1.99, students, faculty and staff (and anyone else who downloads the iOS or Android Starship app) can order from a list of retailers including Einsteins, Steak and Shake, Dunkin’, Blaze Pizza, One Stop Convenience store, Garbanzo, Subway, Starbucks and GMU’s on-campus grocery store – with more retailers to be announced. Users can watch on an interactive map as the robot makes its journey, and then once it arrives, meet and unlock it through the app after receiving an alert. Commuters can even meet the robot on their way into class.

The robots carry any items up to 20 pounds, so even three grocery bags full of food only require one robot. They move at about four miles per hour and make one delivery at a time, so most deliveries are within 30 minutes. In all, Starship robots have completed over 25,000 deliveries and travelled more than 150,000 miles by using a combination of sophisticated machine learning, artificial intelligence and sensors to travel on sidewalks and navigate around obstacles. 

“University dining programs are evolving their strategies to meet this generation’s elevated expectations, such as better quality, variety and service delivery,” said Jim Jenkins, CEO of Universities East at Sodexo USA. “George Mason University’s culture of innovation and early adoption makes it the perfect campus for Sodexo and Starship to introduce this cutting-edge technology and enhance the campus experience for the entire school community.”

Problems are rare, but in case of tampering the robots are locked and have alarms and camera tracking. Once routes are mapped, they are autonomous, but turn to human operators for assistance in unexpected situations or social interaction.

Given its success at GMU, Sodexo and Starship Technologies have plans to expand the food delivery robot program to additional campuses in the future.

 

May 28, 2019

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