A fleet of delivery robots could soon be coming to a campus near you

We last heard about Starship Technologies‘ diminutive wheel-based delivery robot in 2017 when it trundled into trouble after a San Francisco official deemed it a safety hazard.

Using multiple cameras, an array of sensors, and GPS software navigate the path to customers, the autonomous robot was being sent out onto the city’s streets as part of a meal-delivery pilot. But a local official wanted it banned, claiming the 2-foot-high machine could cause pedestrian pileups, particularly among seniors, those with disabilities, and children.

While Starship Technologies attempts to convince skeptics that its robot will be just fine tootling up and down public sidewalks, it’s since come up with what many will consider as a far more realistic plan for its self-driving machine: Deliveries on campuses.

It makes perfect sense. After all, the robot would operate within a defined space with more predictable pedestrian traffic and ground conditions. There would be fewer hazardous streets for the 4 mph robot to cross, too, while the relatively secure space would eliminate the risk of miscreants disrupting its movements, or worse, stealing it.

Starship has been testing its campus-based delivery system at Intuit, a financial software company based in Silicon Valley, California.

As the video above shows, workers can order meals and drinks via Starship’s app and have them delivered across all 4.3 acres of the Intuit campus. Most deliveries take no more than 15 minutes, “giving people more time to be productive or enjoy their breaks around their campus, instead of standing in line,” Starship said in a release.

The system works pretty much as you’d expect. In other words, you simply choose your order, pay, and mark on a map where you want to meet the robot. You’ll then be told how long its likely to take. The company’s kitchen staff preps the food and drink, places it in a secure compartment inside the robot, and sends it on its way. When it arrives, you can retrieve your order by using the app to unlock the compartment.

Starship has a fleet of its robots zipping about the campus, each with a raised flag to make them easier to see, thereby preventing any of those pile-ups that some critics fear.

You might imagine that this particular delivery platform is yet another nail in the coffin of physical activity, but Starship’s autonomous vehicle doesn’t appear to enter any of the campus buildings, and can’t handle stairs or elevators, so workers have to leave their desks to collect their delivery.

While the most common delivery so far consists of breakfast sandwiches, the company behind the robot points out that it can of course deliver all manner of items, “from food and office stationery to tools and spare parts in large campus environments.”

London-based Starship says the campus launch represents “a major milestone” in its expansion plans as it continues to build on commercial delivery pilot programs in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, and Estonia, some of which include sending the robots out onto regular streets. It adds that its robots have so far covered 100,000 miles in 20 countries.

Starship CEO Ahti Heinla said that following the successful trial at Intuit, it plans to expand its services and distribute “thousands of robots across campuses around the world by 2019.”

Emerging Tech

From electron microscopes to X-rays, high-tech tools expose low-tech art forgery

At the Indianapolis Museum of Art, conservation scientist Greg Smith and Glennis Rayermann, then a Ph.D student, used high-tech equipment to determine if a painting was made by master forger Icilio Federico Joni.
Emerging Tech

Flying food: Uber has set a target date to use drones for meal delivery

Uber is better known for transporting people around town, but it also has a growing meal-delivery business called UberEats. It currently uses drivers and cyclists to deliver the food, but also has plans to use drones.
Smart Home

If you're not sipping beer while a robot mows your lawn, you're doing it wrong

Imagine watching your lawn being mowed by a robot while you sit on the porch drinking a beer. That’s life with Husqvarna’s line of electric Automowers, which takes the gas and the manpower out of one dreaded aspect of yard work.
Deals

The best iRobot Roomba deals to make cleaning your home a breeze

Keep your home clean without lifting a finger using a robot vacuum cleaner. These nine iRobot Roomba deals not only help you keep your home tidy, but many also come with advanced features such as automatic scheduling and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Smart Home

Vector, the engaging Alexa-like robot, is ready to roam around your home

Anyone who has ever watched Short Circuit or WALL-E has surely dreamed about having a robot buddy come live with them. Finally, that dream is now a reality. It's name is Vector, and it's available now.
Wearables

NYPD pulls thousands of body cams after one explodes

The NYPD has recalled thousands of body cameras after one of them exploded during an officer's shift on Sunday, October 21. No one was injured in the incident, which is thought to have been caused by the device's battery.
Emerging Tech

There’s finally a way to trace ‘untraceable’ 3D printed guns

To help track 3D-printed guns, researchers have developed a new algorithm which is able to identify which 3D printer was used to print an object, based on its unique fingerprint. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

These solar-powered water purifiers can produce 30,000 gallons of water per day

Problems with contaminated water? Quench Water & Solar's water purifiers can purify up to 30,000 gallons of fresh water per day and it's offering the technology to whoever wants it.
Smart Home

Silo A.I. vacuum storage system tells you when your leftovers are going bad

"Alexa, is the chicken still OK to eat?" Newly launched on Kickstarter, Silo is a neat vacuum storage container that will extend your food's shelf life -- and add in a useful dose of A.I., too.
Emerging Tech

Watch the moment NASA releases 450,000 gallons of water onto a launch pad

NASA's next-generation rocket will be one of the most powerful ever made and at launch will generate a colossal amount of heat and noise. Here's what it's going to do to control all that energy ...
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk to give free rides in first Boring Company tunnel in December

Members of the public will soon get to find out if Elon Musk's high-speed tunnel plan is a serious effort at reducing traffic congestion or little more than a fancy theme park ride, with free rides being offered from December.
Emerging Tech

World’s first drone-equipped motorcycle features a special space for the Spark

If your sidecar is missing a drone or your drone a sidecar, then check out how the two machines have been brought together in this unique design from Ural Motorcycles. Only 40 have been made, though that may turn out to be enough.
Product Review

North’s Focals aim to keep you ‘heads-up’ with smartglasses

North, formerly known as Thalmic Labs, has unveiled a new product alongside the brand-name change. Focals is a pair of smartglasses, like Google Glass, that attempts to help keep you heads-up.
Emerging Tech

Meet the $1.5m Xprize winner that makes artificial clouds in shipping containers

Could the solution to a lack of clean drinking water be an artificial cloud inside a shipping container? It sounds crazy, but it just won the prestigious $1.5 million Water Abundance XPrize.