I graduated from grad school at George Mason University in Virginia a while ago, but with my new job I find myself on campus a lot once again. Things have definitely changed since my days getting my MBA, but nothing is more noticeable than the army of mini robot vehicles driving around campus.
The robots are called Starship Delivery Robots, and they will tell you that if you walk by them (See the video above). Starship Technologies and Sodexo run the machines, which deliver students items from places like Dunkin Donuts, Panera Bread and the on-campus pizza place.
Students use their phones and an app to track the robots, and then open them up when they arrive at their dorms or classrooms using their phones. The machines are even temperature controlled to keep the food warm. The president at GMU says that the students look at the robots and talk to them like they are pets.
I was on campus to see a lecture by Sheryl Connelly, the business futurist at Ford Motor Company. You can read more about that on our business blog.
The robots are pretty fast. When trying to film them I had to walk fast/start to jog to catch up. They run around 4 mph. The autonomous “creatures” avoid obstacles and students and safely cross streets. However, there is a control room at Starship Technologies where they can manually take control if something happens.
On my visit I saw about a dozen of these things running around campus, but I did not actually use the service. It was quite a site to see, so be sure to check them out if you are on campus.