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Robots are now delivering food on GMU campus

WASHINGTON — Box-sized robots are now delivering food to students and faculty on the George Mason University campus in Fairfax, Virginia.

Food services and facilities management company Sodexo has partnered with Starship Technologies to deploy a fleet of 25 robots, the largest autonomous robot food delivery service on a university campus in the country.

As of now, Blaze Pizza, Starbucks and Dunkin’ are on board for the robot launch. Sodexo said more restaurants will be announced in coming weeks.

Students and teachers can use an app to place their order, which Sodexo and Starship say can be delivered in about 15 minutes. Each on-demand delivery costs $1.99.

The robots are outfitted with multiple cameras that are always recording, and two-way audio to communicate with people they interact with. Each robot can carry up to 20 pounds — the equivalent of about three grocery bags.

They drive autonomously, can navigate hurdles like curbs and can travel in rain and snow. But they are monitored by humans who can take control at any time.

The service also works in conjunction with GMU student meal plans.

“College students and digital natives really understand technology and expect it to be integrated seamlessly into their daily lives,” said Ryan Tuohy, senior vice president of business development at Starship Technologies. “We look forward to seeing how our service will enrich the daily lives and community of students and educators at George Mason University as they build the next generation of future leaders.”

“University dining programs are evolving their strategies to meet this generation’s elevated expectations, such as better quality, variety and service delivery,” said Jim Jenkins, CEO of Universities East at Sodexo USA. “George Mason University’s culture of innovation and early adoption makes it the perfect campus for Sodexo and Starship to introduce this cutting-edge technology.”

Gaithersburg, Maryland-based Sodexo USA and Starship plan to roll out the robots on other college campuses in the future.

London-based Starship Technologies, which opened a D.C. office in 2017, has been testing its Personal Delivery Device robots, or PDDs, in more than 100 cities worldwide since 2015, including a pilot program in D.C.’s Logan Circle last year.

Last year the company raised $25 million in new funding.

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