You can add the University of Houston to the growing list of colleges and universities that will have Starship‘s small delivery robots scurrying around its campus this coming school year. According to ABC 13 University of Houston (UH) president Renu Khator made the announcement during her fall address.
Starting this fall, students will be able to order and have food delivered to their location on the UH campus via Starship’s squat, six-wheeled, cooler sized robots. We don’t have a ton of details about the program, such as whether Starship has partnered with a foodservice operator like Sodexo to enable meal delivery from campus restaurants that ties into student meal plans. We reached out to Starship for more information.
News of the UH expansion comes after Starship raised a $40 million Series A round of funding this summer. Starship has also been accelerating it college campus program in the back half of this year. The company kicked off 2019 by making deliveries at George Mason University in January. It then added Northern Arizona University in March and the University of Pittsburgh and Purdue University in August. In September The Harvard Crimson reported that students there were working to bring Starship robots to its campus, too.
College campuses are proving to be fertile ground for food robots. In addition to Starship, Kiwi makes its own delivery rover bots for colleges like the University of California at Berkeley. And Chowbotics has sent Sally, its salad-making robot, off to multiple colleges this year. Colleges make a lot of sense for robots, as they have concentrated populations of students, faculty and staff that are around at all hours and automated food systems can work around the clock to make or deliver food.
As robots enter more colleges and make more types of food available more often, sociologist departments on campus should watch how this automation changes an entire generation of students’ relationship with dining.