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OM in the News: Food Delivered by Robots at GMU

January 30, 2019

GMU’s robots deliver meals to students and faculty via an app

At most universities, meal plans allow college students to take advantage of on-campus cafeterias or chow down at local restaurants. Now, writes The Washington Post (Jan. 22, 2019), thousands of students at George Mason University will have another dining option at their disposal: on-demand food delivery via an autonomous robot on wheels. The school has a fleet of 25 Starship Technology delivery robots that can haul up to 20 pounds each as they roll across campus at 4 mph. Robots make deliveries in 15 minutes or less. GMU is the first campus in the country to incorporate robots into its student dining plan and has the country’s largest fleet of delivery robots.

The company’s app allows GMU students to order food from places such as Blaze Pizza, Starbucks and Dunkin,’ as well as a grocery store and other options. Once an order has been placed, users drop a pin where they want their delivery to be sent. The robot’s progress can be monitored using an interactive map. Once the machine arrives, users receive an alert, allowing them to unlock the robot using the app. The delivery cost–$1.99.

To navigate the campus, robots rely on A.I., ultrasonic sensors and 9 cameras. Two-way audio on board allows users to communicate with “human teleoperators” who monitor the robots from afar. The robots can cross streets, climb curbs, navigate around obstacles and operate in rain and snow.  Sodexo, which runs campus dining, says that “the delivery robots are at the forefront of changing trends.”

“Students and teachers have little free time as it is, so there is a convenience for them to have their food, groceries and packages delivered to them,” said Starship Technology’s VP. “Our goal is to make life easier, whether that means skipping the line, or finding the time to eat better when studying for exams. Commuters can even meet the robot on their way into class.”

Classroom discussion questions:

  1. Would this be popular and efficient on your campus?
  2. What concerns might you have regarding this new concept?


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