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Friday, December 6, 2019

Campus

Delivery robots have arrived: Here’s how to order


The robots, operated by Starship Technologies, will begin delivering orders from eleven on-campus dining and retail locations on Monday. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

The robots, operated by Starship Technologies, will begin delivering orders from 11 on-campus dining and retail locations on Monday. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

The University announced on Monday orders from 11 on-campus dining and retail locations are now able to be delivered by a fleet of autonomous robots managed by UH dining partner Chartwells. 

Over the last few weeks, social media has been flooded with sightings of the new bots as students encountered the rolling devices mapping sidewalks and buildings around campus ahead of the service’s launch.

“This increases our capacity to reach more customers, and I expect the robots will quickly become part of campus life,” said David Riddle, Chartwells’ resident district manager.

The robots, which are able to cross streets and operate in the rain, will travel along sidewalks on campus by making use of machine learning, artificial intelligence and sensors, according to the University. A person monitoring the cameras can take control of the bot at any time if deemed necessary. 

Currently, there are 11 food and retail locations available for delivery, among them are Drexler’s, Starbucks, Einstein Brothers Bagels, Panda Express and Cougar Village Market.

Delivery from these locations can be ordered through the Starship-Delivery app, available on both the Android and iOS app store. After creating an account, users can order delivery by adding goods to their basket and simply dropping a pin on the map to select their desired pick-up location. 

Once an order has been made through the app, a Starship representative receives an alert sent to a tablet. The representative will then retrieve the order within the grocery or restaurant location, all while a robot is dispatched to the location.

Most orders can be delivered in a matter of minutes, however, delivery time varies on the items ordered and distance the bot will need to travel. Users can track the device in real time as it travels across campus and will be given the option to unlock their goods once the bot arrives at the pick-up location. 

“This revolutionary delivery method will make it more convenient for the campus community to take advantage of our diverse dining program from anywhere on campus while expanding the hours of operation,” said Emily Messa, associate vice president for administration. 

The program is funded through the $1.99 fee attached to orders delivered by the service, according to the UH Dining website. Payment for services is completed through the app via credit, debit or Cougar Cash.

“By opening our campus to this innovative service, which is paid for by the customers, the University didn’t have to spend any money purchasing the technology, yet we’re enhancing our food delivery capabilities,” Messa said. 

The new service created several new full-time and part-time positions on campus, which students are eligible to apply for. The jobs listings include robot technicians, operators and operator leads, according to the Starship website. 

While UH is the first university in Texas to bring food delivery robots to campus, Starship Technologies, the company behind the bots, operates on at least five other college campuses nationally.

“Robotic delivery is affordable, convenient and environmentally friendly,” said Ryan Tuohy, senior vice president of business development for Starship. “We’re excited to start offering students, staff and faculty at Houston delivery within minutes when they need it most.”

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