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Company launches food-delivery robots on University of Tennessee campus

Meet UT's newest hospitality hire: robots!

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Robots are taking over the University of Tennessee campus!

A company called "Starship Technologies" is deploying robotic food carriers for the spring semester. They deliver food from 13 dining spots on campus by using a combination of mapping technology and GPS technology. About 25 robots were delivering food Wednesday.

"Those robots are dope!"  UT student Soofi Punjani said.

"I'm weary of the future. Have you ever seen Terminator?" Another student said.

"It's pretty awesome!" UT student John Codevilla said. 

They see them rolling, but no one's hating. These robots are on a mission to deliver food while being polite in the process. According to one student, if you help one that finds itself in a tricky situation, such as being stuck somewhere on campus, the robot will thank you for getting it unstuck.

"I'm excited to try them out and get some food from them," one UT student said.

Like an insulated remote-controlled car, these cute little robots are on the move from 8 a.m. through 4 p.m. crossing streets and dodging pedestrians to bring students' food orders at around 4 miles per hour. 

Customers can order food or groceries on the Starship Application kind of like any other food delivery service. The best part, according to UT student John Codevilla, is that it also takes campus dining dollars.

"Apparently you can use your Flex and Dining Dollars on it, which is pretty convenient,” he said.

"This is a more interesting experience than seeing a cute animal or a cute pet,” Punjani said. “We try to take a video of it whenever we see one of them take off and park and things like that.”

According to Starship Technologies officials on campus, these delivery robots are still in the trial phase and they're expected to go live next week.

As an engineering major and former robotics team member, Codevilla said he's impressed by the technology.

"The path tracking they do, actually being able to find their way across campus and then avoid all the crazy pedestrians. The sensory stuff is pretty well built, it's pretty cool,” he said.

Starship officials are on campus this week monitoring the robots and making sure they are ready to hit the ground running. So far, they said they appear to be running like well-oiled machines.

"It's cool. I haven't used it yet but it's pretty awesome," Codevilla said.

Starship officials said the robots cannot climb stairs but they can hop a curb up to 8 inches high. The company said it's made 3 million commercial autonomous deliveries worldwide with deliveries growing more than 60 thousand per week.

To learn more about the robots, click here.

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