By Clara Spars
Have you noticed large clusters of people crowding around what look to be high-tech versions of portable mini coolers? Have you stared in confusion at clips of people fist-bumping robots in exchange for food on Snapchat stories (that are now too difficult to find)? Have you wondered about the curious uptick in Soylent consumption around campus? If any of these situations apply to you, then you are one of the individuals lucky enough to have witnessed the groundbreaking advent of the Kiwi Bot.
It was a sunny day when I coasted down past the Huang building in the engineering quad with both headphones in, enjoying the sun on the hand that held a handlebar of the little green Peugeot bike Grandma had bequeathed to me. I was excited about having finally mastered the ability to balance my bike with only one hand, giving the impression to all the other bikers and pedestrians around me that I was “cool” and “capable” enough to handle myself on a bicycle. This notion was quickly exposed for what it truly was: a sad, forced, facade that I had put up to mask my terrible biking skills.
I assumed that my overcompensated watchfulness would make up for my horrendous lack of balance, so I always took the correct direction around the Circle of Death. I always slowed down to check around the corners of turns. But here’s something I hadn’t taken into account in my wariness: Being a particularly tall individual, my line of vision tended to constrict itself to more elevated objects and people.
So it came as quite a shock when, out of nowhere, a tiny, Roomba-like creature crept its way out into the intersection at which my little green bike was so furiously speeding. I slammed my free hand onto the other handlebar that–let’s face it–I should’ve been clutching tightly the entire time, and swerved out of the way of this small, black, box on wheels that had paused in the middle of the intersection. I then rode my bike right into the grass where I ever so dramatically tossed my hands into the air in a brazen display of utter defeat and plopped into the moist greenery.
What was this strange object that had led me straight into the epitome of everything I had feared while riding a bicycle? I stood up, brushing off the sticks and leaves, and glared at the creature in both fury and utter embarrassment. On a little screen found at its front end, a pair of cartoon eyes flicked back and forth with jovial casualness, and, as if nothing had happened, the box continued merrily along.
The nerve! I stomped after the box, demanding to know what it was, where it came from! But the following sequence of events transformed my fury into a befuddled state of curiosity.
A girl came running up, and knelt down next to the little guy as if it were a puppy to be coddled. She outstretched a fist, and boom! The box opened up to reveal an enormous bag of Chipotle burritos.
I stood there in my leaf-covered state with eyes wide and jaw dropped. What was this sorcery that I had just witnessed?
After doing some crazed research, I learned that a mobile app called Kiwi Campus was taking Stanford by storm. The premise is that upon downloading the app, a student is able to order food from a selection including Chipotle, Panda Express, Jamba Juice, Soylent drinks, and more, that will be delivered to various locations across campus by these small, box-like, minions-on-wheels that are called Kiwi Bots, or Kiwers. Upon its arrival to a chosen location, the box is opened with a fist-bump. I was both dumbfounded at the discovery of this genius, and also not surprised at all that the extra-ness of the Silicon Valley community had reached the level of robot-food-delivery. Upon returning to my dorm, the first thing I did after cleaning up my battle scars was to download the app and order a smoothie. I was so ecstatic when it arrived that my fist-bump was practically a full-on punch.
Now, in spite of any negative first impressions, the Kiwi Bot has become one of Roble Hall’s greatest friends, as people from my floor constantly call upon its noble capacity for spreading the joy of greasy food to young, ravenous college students. So to everyone with sub-par biking skills, keep an eye out for this sneaky little wheeling wonder. If you ever find yourself in the predicament of feeling both hungry and too lazy to go out and grab some food, remember that the Kiwi Bot is only a fist bump away!
Contact Clara Spars at cspars ‘at’ stanford.edu.