Starship Technologies brings food delivery robots to OSU campus

Third-year students Dominic Giuliano and Hailie Schweit grab their lunch from one of the Starship robots. These independent robots can bring food to residence halls for a contactless delivery.

Claire Nelson, News Contributor

This week, small white robots on six wheels have been sighted all across Oregon State University’s Corvallis, Ore. campus. These Starfleet robots are going mainstream on campus because their purpose is to deliver food to residence halls in a convenient and safe manner.

“Our goal is to get food service into parts of campus that are hard to reach,” said Jennifer Viña, director of marketing and communications for University Housing and Dining Services.

The Starfleet robots provide contactless delivery to students with meal plans, as well as professors and other faculty.

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“We know students need their time—they need the convenience—and we want to be able to bring them as many options as we can,” Viña said.

Kia Alborz, the launch director for Starship Technologies, said he knows that busy students do not have time to travel across campus for a meal. 

“The real purpose of these robots is to bring more options to the students…to provide food options to students on and around campus that may not be readily available,” Alborz said.

Starship Technologies was founded in Estonia in 2014 and was created by the same founders of the video software Skype. Starship has been working on the robots prior to COVID-19, and while the pandemic has extended negotiations, Alborz sees it as an opportunity to implement a delivery service with a unique value in a time of social change.

Starship Technologies began on-campus operations at OSU three years ago. Since then, the innovative company has brought food-delivery robots to 12 college campuses across the country. Even small neighborhoods throughout the U.S., Germany and Estonia have welcomed the little white robots into their communities. 

The Starfleet robots are a “combination of machine learning, computer vision and sensor fusion that provides a seamless route of travel. So [the robots] can get from point A to point B without anyone behind the wheel operating,” Alborz said. 

The robots are 99% independent, with a small remote team to make sure the robots are safe and functioning. With all-day battery life and a moving speed of around four miles per hour, the robots are durable for the daily needs and services of OSU students, workers and faculty 24/7.

The robots will continue their operations even after COVID-19 is long gone. The future for the Starfleet robots is looking bright, as is the evolution of food delivery services. Late-night meal options will soon be available for the entire campus community. New meals and food options continue to be added, and by early 2021, credit card purchases will be made available.