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Autonomous robots start delivering food at SUNY Poly campus

By Traci DeLore (tdelore@cnybj.com)

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Starship Technologies robots have arrived on the SUNY Polytechnic Institute campus, working with Grubhub to provide autonomous food-delivery services to students, faculty, staff and visitors on campus. (Photo credit: SUNY Poly)

MARCY, N.Y. — SUNY Polytechnic Institute students have a new, autonomous option for food delivery from on-campus eateries with the help of Grubhub and on-demand robots from Starship Technologies.

Students can order food and drinks from Utica Coffee, Wildcat Grill, Limon & Chile, and 400 Acre Café, located in the student center.

Students, faculty, staff, and visitors can use the Grubhub app to order food and drinks for delivery anywhere on campus. The service also works in conjunction with the student meal plan.

“At SUNY Poly, we actively look for ways to enhance the student experience,” Marybeth Lyons, VP for student affairs, said in a release. “The response from students to the robots’ presence on campus and the new service has been overwhelmingly positive. I applaud the hard work of our Auxiliary Services and Wildcat Hospitality teams in forging this new partnership with Starship Technologies and Grubhub, which only adds to our campus’ culture of innovation.”

To use the service, users can choose their food and drink options in the Grubhub app and select the location for delivery. They can then watch on an interactive map as the robot makes its way to them. Once it arrives, customers receive an alert and can meet the robot and unlock it through the app. Most deliveries take just minutes, depending on the items ordered and the distance the robot must travel. Each robot can carry about three shopping bags of goods.

Grubhub and Starship have been providing robot food-delivery services across several campuses in the U.S., including the University of Kentucky, Fairfield University, SMU, UNLV, and Wayne State University.

Starship’s robots have made more than 5 million autonomous deliveries and traveled millions of miles. They make more than 150,000 road crossings every day. They use a combination of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and sensors to travel on sidewalks and navigate around obstacles. Computer vision-based navigation helps robots map their environment to the nearest inch. The robots can cross streets, climb curbs, travel at night, and operate in both rain and snow. A team of humans can also monitor their progress remotely and take control if needed.

“We always love bringing our Starship robots to schools that really embrace technology, and SUNY Poly is certainly one of those schools,” Starship VP of Business Development Chris Neider said. “We think the campus community will enjoy seeing our autonomous delivery technology on a daily basis and will also appreciate the convenience of on-demand delivery, especially as the colder weather starts.”

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