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Starship robots invade campus

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If you’ve been around campus the last week, you may have seen knee-high white robots roaming around the school delivering food. With NAU not announcing this service to the student population these robots seemed to have come out of nowhere. It seemed like an invasion was imminent.

People could see them on the sidewalks, going up hills and some even getting stuck in the snow as they walked from building to building. Most students just stared at them as they walked to class and then glanced back down at their phones, the white robots an after-thought. Some would look at their friends with confused and concerned looks on their faces.

Like most college towns, there has to be some type of food delivery service like Postmates or Grubhub. Well, NAU decided to completely eliminate the person handing you your hot food at the front door of your dorm and instead got robots to do the job.

These robots are called Starships from Starship Technologies. They are self-driving and only deliver food, parcels or groceries within a four-mile radius, according to its website. The Starship robots will be in full action after spring break.

In order to use Starship robots, you need to download their free app. Once you sign up for an account, you can start ordering food. The app lets you know where your robot is and when it is outside your building. According to its website, Starship robots are secure and will only open its compartment, where a customer’s food or package is stored, when prompted by the app.

This is a pretty cool and innovative idea that NAU has decided to try out. Though, it will be a little strange walking to class and seeing a Starship robot whiz past you on its way to deliver food to someone.

As far as paying for this service, I wonder if the app will connect with any of the meal plans on campus or if you have to pay out of pocket. It would be convenient if the service was based off meal plans, but the out-of-pocket aspect of it might not make it popular with the student population.

It doesn’t look too promising for any Flagstaff locals, either, because of the four-mile radius limitation, unless residents are closer to campus. Most Flagstaff residents will probably have a better bet with other local food delivery services.

Although this is a cool idea that will seem fun in the beginning, there could be a lot of issues that arise from these Starship robots.

First, what stops someone from scooping up a Starship robot, taking it off somewhere and cracking it open for the free food? These robots aren’t very big and can easily be swooped by a thief. Second, the wheels on the robot don’t look very functional for different types of weather. For example, if Flagstaff has another massive snowstorm, how will the Starship robots make it around town in over a foot of snow? How will they fare with ice?

Third, the Starship robots encourage college students to be even more remote with their social interactions. As long as you have a mini fridge and a bathroom in your room, a college student can live in their rooms forever. They can turn in assignments online, take virtual class and, now, not even have to go to the dining halls to eat.

This generation is already technology driven, and according to the New York Times, people look at their phones every 12 minutes. That means someone will look at their phone a total of 120 times a day. Adding on that time by using a food delivery service app, might just inspire us to become recluses.

Ariel Cianfarano is the circulation director of The Lumberjack, Northern Arizona University's student newspaper. College Chronicles aims to connect Flag Live! readers to various aspects of campus life.


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