BGSU Dining and Starship Technologies launched their robotic partnership the week of March 2nd and began delivering menu items through an app from nine locations on campus including Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Jamba Juice, Marco’s Pizza, Panda Express, Chickendippity, Mondos Subs, Kreischer Late Night and BGSU Market c-stores.
Going off campus
But as the pandemic progressed, the robots ventured beyond campus and expanded their delivery areas to support people in the community sheltering in place. Currently there are 42 robots zipping along the streets, ready to deliver off campus from a pared-down list of concepts including Dunkin Donuts, Panda Express, Market at Carillon Place and Carillon Place.
How does it work?
After downloading the Starship Delivery app on their phones, people can add menu items, drop a pin on the map, enter payment, then track delivery. When the robot arrives, it can be unlocked with the phone to reveal food inside.
To roll out the program, the robots made special stops to the Bowling Green police and fire departments, delivering Dunkin Donuts as a thank you for their work in the community.
“We are appreciative and grateful to all of our first responders for their tireless work on ensuring our communities remain safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Paulus says.
Go robot, go!
The robots can go up to 4 mph and can travel anywhere a pedestrian can walk, but they mainly stay on sidewalks. These tough little bots can also go up curbs and operate in rain and snow.
Why did the robot cross the road?
To deliver goodies! The robots do have the capability to cross roads both through AI technology and the assistance of remote human operators if additional help is needed. The little guys use a mixture of computer vision and GPS to know its location down to the inch. Using 10 cameras, sensors, radar, neural networks and other technology, the robots can detect and avoid obstacles.
Live and let…robot
If a robot is tampered with, cameras and sensors begin recording and sound a siren alarm, but so far, curiosity has been the bigger problem, according to BGSU marketing director Jon Zachrich. “One thing we do notice is, due to interest, some citizens of the town are ‘testing’ the robot and following it around too closely,” he says. “Not necessarily in a destructive way, but it has led to some delayed deliveries as people greet the robots.”
Hard numbers aren’t available yet, but Zachrich estimates the robots make about 125 deliveries per day.
Robots know how to have fun
Within the town of Bowling Green and on campus, parents and kids have been getting in the car or going for a walk for “robot safaris,” where they see how many robots they can spot around town. “Reports from some of BGSU Dining’s staff members said it’s been a fun distraction during the Ohio stay at home order,” Zachrich says.
The future is here
Will people get used to living with robots for delivery? “Personally, I think so,” Zachrich says. “And there are many applications outside of food delivery as well, due to the technology being sound, and customers who are interested in conveniences like robotic delivery.”