Food on the move with Starship Technologies

TU has implemented more robotic services: this time it is food delivery instead of grass removal

Late last semester, small, white droid-like robots began to scurry about the University of Tulsa campus. Food delivery bots from Starship Technologies have become a common sight to any campus-goer, with their little orange flags and headlights. These funny little robots are the result of a partnership between TU and Starship Technologies, and like the TU lawn mower implemented last semester, their main purpose is to minimize any study distractions, as well as to lower the stress of students with multiple demands on their time. In addition to the convenience and novelty that the Starship robots bring, they also are a bit of a historical moment for technology at TU, with TU being the first Oklahoma university to implement the delivery bots.

The robots are autonomous, with built-in sensors and cameras so that they will avoid collisions as they travel the walking speed of 4mph. Starship Technologies proudly proclaims on their website that their battery-powered robots are environmentally-friendly and secure for their delivery journey, equipped with a GPS, lock, and alarm. The robots are also roomy and can carry up to three grocery bags’ worth of groceries. Living in Oklahoma, one would worry that the robots cannot deal with the various and intense weather conditions, but Starship reassures that they can handle rain, snow and sun and protect their cargo with an insulated lining.

Using the free Starship app and paying a delivery fee of $2.99, students can order any meal from five options at the Student Union: Einstein Bagels, Subway, Benvenuto, SOL Tex Mex, Tulsa Burgers and Wings, as well as from the Dietler Cafe in McFarlin and Pat Case Dining Center. The app has a standard and usable layout, with the option of a delivery song to add to the fun of takeout. Students can also track the robot as it travels to their apartment or dorm to ensure they stay on course. Payment can be made using Dining Dollars, Hurricane Gold Dollars or a credit card. The robots do have a curfew, with the dining and delivery options open from 7:30am-11pm.

While the food options for the TU Starship robots are fairly standard, the university has plans to expand the menu to include local dining options as well. In a Tulsa World article, TU Vice President Matt Warren hinted at a future collaboration with Mother Road Market. The future plans for the robots include a robot garage and growing the amount of delivery bots.

Many TU students seem enthralled with the new campus members. Similar to the reaction to the TU lawn ‘roomba,’ students think they are cute and fun, often posting about them on social media. Some students praise the accessibility of the delivery robots for injured, sick, or disabled students. One current campus employee and TU alumni, Julianne Tran, reported a very positive experience using the food delivery bots, saying that both the app and robots were easy to use, although it did deliver to the wrong door. Her delivery bot arrived quickly and gave a cheerful, encouraging message along with her cookie order. “I think the convenience was worth the price, and I would use the robot again,” said Tran.

However, other students are less than happy to see the robots, claiming that they are unnecessary and a waste of money. One alumnus was very disappointed to see the robots traveling about, saying they make students lazy. The ease of use for the robots has been inconsistent, with some struggling to open them and turn off the delivery song.

Though still relatively new, the Starship robots appear to have a future here at TU, joining the trend of technological advancements for the university, and helping college students stay fed and busy.

Post Author: Mary Lickona