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Purdue president receives first food robot delivery as university launches service on campus

The launch makes Purdue the largest college campus in the world to have the delivery robots.

Posted: Sep 9, 2019 9:24 AM
Updated: Sep 9, 2019 12:20 PM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — A food delivery robot brought Purdue President Mitch Daniels a chicken and rice bowl as the university launched the service on campus. Starship Technologies rolled out the six-wheeled food delivery robots Monday.

"The robot showed up right on time! I said, 'How do you tip a robot?' I took out a can of oil and squirted a little on its tires! I couldn't think of any other way to express my appreciation," Daniels said. 

The launch makes Purdue the largest college campus in the world to have the delivery robots. According to a news release, more than 30 of them will share the sidewalks with students. The service costs $1.99 and can be accessed on the Starship Deliveries app.

People can watch the robot's whereabouts in real time. The customer will meet the robot at a designated place and unlock its door through an app. Purdue says it takes just a matter of minutes, and can carry up to 20 pounds.

The robots use a combination of sensors to drive around objects and people. Purdue says humans, however, are always monitoring the robot's progress. 

Starship Technologies started in Estonia and then migrated to the United Kingdom before coming to the United States. The company has been servicing smaller universities and was looking for a major college to launch at, according to Daniels.

So why Purdue?

"Because we've been willing to try new things, this gets noticed and people who are looking for an innovation-friendly place are more likely to think of us," Daniels said. 

He listed the university's willingness to be the location for Amazon's first brick and mortar store and innovative transportation methods as examples. 

"They see that Purdue is game for things like that," Daniels said. 

He said he doesn't know what the future looks like, but the delivery robots certainly attracted a lot of attention.

"A lot of the students were really interested. Some of them were standing in front of it to see if it really sensed and moved around them, which it did. I think it will get a very good try-out. If it works then I think it would probably be a regular feature."

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