Gonzaga University, Sodexo roll out on-campus food delivery robots

Sep. 22—Gonzaga University's new on-campus food delivery service is programmed to deliver food with a smile.

The university is one of the latest schools in the country to deploy a fleet of semi-autonomous delivery robots called Kiwibots. The robots are available through an agreement between food-service provider Sodexo and Kiwibot, a company founded in 2017 with offices in Colombia and Berkeley, California.

Kiwibots have been employed at several colleges, including the University of Denver; University of California, Berkeley; and George Mason University. The expansion of the Sodexo-Kiwibot partnership onto the Gonzaga campus was announced last month.

At Gonzaga, students, faculty and visitors to campus can place their delivery orders through the Sodexo Bite for Universities app.

Kiwibot delivery is currently only available for the sandwich shop HandCrafted, but Zag Dining by Sodexo aims to expand the service throughout the year to other Sodexo locations, including Starbucks and The Bulldog.

"We are excited to explore technology through robotic delivery and how it might contribute to student success and enhance our community using this new innovation to provide access to food," Pat Clelland, resident district manager at Zag Dining by Sodexo, said in a statement.

Zag Dining unveiled the delivery robots Tuesday at the Hemmingson Center. As of Tuesday afternoon, the bots had made around 20 deliveries to students, aside from a number of test runs.

As semi-autonomous robots, Kiwibots are set up to follow pre-programmed routes mapped throughout the Gonzaga campus.

They are equipped with a camera, through which the driver based in Colombia or on campus can see to allow intervention when needed, according to Zag Dining. The bots are not yet programmed to go into buildings or onto elevators.

The Kiwibots have tracking devices, flags for visibility and sensors to hit the brakes if there's something in their path. They're also equipped with a display that flashes emotive faces — or a message for help that comes with an alarm if the Kiwibots go off road or are mishandled.

There's more to them than meets the eye, as food gets stored inside the bot through a top door. Only the recipient can open the compartment through the Bite for Universities app, according to Zag Dining.

Average delivery time, according to Zag Dining, is 20 to 35 minutes, depending on distance and peak delivery times. Each delivery costs $2 plus 10% of the order .

Suzie Mize, associate vice president of auxiliary enterprises at Gonzaga University, said in a statement she is excited to be a part of bringing Kiwibot to Gonzaga.

"It is an opportunity to showcase partnerships in innovation, technology, and food service," she said in a statement. "Along with the service aspects of this program, it is simply heartwarming to see the smiles that the Kiwibots bring to the faces our students and Gonzaga community as they motor about campus. Who doesn't like a cute little robot who winks and brings you COG Cookies?"