Starting this week, faculty, staff and students on Northern Arizona University’s Flagstaff campus can have food delivered directly to them—by robot.
Through a partnership with Sodexo and Starship Technologies, NAU is now the second university in the nation to introduce a fleet of more than 30 robots that deliver meals and snacks from on-campus restaurants anywhere on campus. The Starship delivery bots were first introduced to George Mason University in January and have been deemed a success.
Since introducing the robots to their Virginia campus, GMU revealed that an extra 1,500 breakfast orders have been placed and delivered autonomously. NAU, Sodexo and Starship hope the convenience of the bots will lead to increased consumption of breakfast—among youth, studies have linked breakfast consumption with improved academic performance.
“I’m really excited for these robots! Having the ability to get breakfast delivered right to my door will be a lifesaver for early classes and long days,” NAU student Josh Feygin said.
The process is simple: Download the Starship Delivery app, available on iOS and Android; choose from a variety of food and drink items from participating on-campus locations, including Einstein, Star Ginger, Cobrizo Mexican Grill, Turnip the Greens, G’s NY Style Deli and The Wedge Market and Pizza; then watch via an interactive map as the robot makes its way across campus. An alert will signify the robot’s arrival, and it can be unlocked through the phone app. The delivery usually takes a matter of minutes, depending on the menu items ordered and the distance the robot must travel.
“Northern Arizona University is proud to partner with Sodexo and Starship to bring this creative and innovative technology to our Flagstaff campus,” NAU President Rita Cheng said. “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.”
The robots, which use sophisticated machine learning, artificial intelligence and sensors to travel on sidewalks and navigate around obstacles, have already journeyed more than 150,000 miles. They navigate campus at 4 mph, look both ways before crossing a street and are built to keep the food they are transporting secure and at safe temperatures.
“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.”
As of now, buyers must pay with credit or debit cards, but it soon will work in conjunction with the NAU student meal plan. Until then, a $2 off promotion is being offered by entering “HELLONAU” in the promo code field of the app. When your first order arrives, snap a selfie with the robot, share it on social media with @starshiprobots and post it in the NAU Starship Delivery Facebook group to receive a $3 off promo code. Each on-demand delivery costs $1.99.
Carly Banks | NAU Communications
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