There is probably some grim metaphor in the fact that while people across the US shelter in place to avoid human contact, robots continue to roll out, making deliveries, unaware of the pandemic that surrounds them.
Ever since this outbreak started, we at The Spoon have wondered why autonomous delivery robots aren’t being used more often, especially in cities. As grocery and restaurant deliveries surge, robots could remove at least one human from the delivery equation (and they are a lot easier to scrub down after each use).
Turns out that Bowling Green State University is still using Starship robots for food delivery on campus, according to the Sentinel-Tribune. At least Jon Zachrich, Bowling Green State University Dining Director of Marketing and Communications, thinks that’s a good thing in these end times.
“I personally think it’s a good opportunity for social distancing, just because your only interaction is going to be with the actual robot, once it comes from our facility,” Zachrich told the Sentinel-Tribune.
He also spilled some factoids that I, as someone who follows the robot space, found interesting. The surface of the robot is non-porous, so it’s easy to clean. Zachrich also outlined some of the sanitizing protocols for the robot, saying that each robot is wiped down with disinfectant and anti-bacterial cleaners after each use.
On a more general interest note, Zachrich also gave us a glimpse as to how many orders the robots were running at Bowling Green before the pandemic. The robots debuted on campus on Feb. 20 and “Orders were quickly maxed out at over 750 per day,” the Sentinel-Tribune writes. Each of those came with $1.99 Starship delivery fee if you want to do the math on revenue generation.
That number has obviously dropped off as Bowling Green, like so many other colleges, has shifted to distance learning. Most restaurants on campus have closed, but the restaurants are still delivering to essential staff on campus and students who remained because they don’t have any other place to go.
This outbreak doesn’t seem to be subsiding anytime soon, especially in this country. With social distancing becoming the new norm, at least for the foreseeable future, perhaps more places will be like Bowling Green and get their own robots rolling across the social distance gap.