An Oregon State University bomb threat involving food delivery robots had some students feeling sympathy — for the machines

An Oregon State University bomb threat involving food delivery robots had some students feeling sympathy — for the machines

  • Oregon State University issued a safety bulletin telling students to “avoid all robots” on campus. 
  • The company who makes the robots told Insider that the chaos was the result of a student prank.
  • The person who made the bomb threat was apprehended, an OSU spokesperson told Insider. 

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Oregon State University students and faculty got a taste of what a robot revolution would feel like on Tuesday after panic ensued over a fake bomb threat involving tiny autonomous food delivery vehicles.

Around noon Pacific, the university told students to “avoid all robots” in order to corral and investigate the ice-cooler-shaped delivery droids and warned students to stay on alert for any suspicious bot activity.

Urgent OSU Alert: Bomb Threat in Starship food delivery robots. Do not open robots. Avoid all robots until further notice. Public Safety is responding.

— Oregon State University (@OregonState) October 24, 2023

However, it became clear to university officials two hours later that there were no bombs in the food robots, and the school’s Department of Public Safety later arrested an OSU student suspected to be responsible for the threat, the school told Insider.

Starship Technologies, the company behind the bots, put out a statement, also sent to Insider, clarifying that a student on campus made a social media post claiming that they had put a bomb in one of the innocent robots. The student later explained they were joking, per Starship Technologies.

This did not stop the references to robot assassins, musings about violent AI uprisings, and overall confusion over the situation.

“The Terminator we were promised, versus the Terminator we got,” one poster on X wrote, with photos of the killer robot popularized in the James Cameron sci-fi classic next to two of the six-wheeled, white vehicles with googly eyes on their heads.

“Imagine reading this in 1993,” another person wrote on X, in reply to the university’s peculiar, yet startling, warning to students.

Multiple posters expressed their surprise that something like this would even happen — although, as robots and AI take over numerous industries, the trend of strange incidents may increase.

“‘Avoid all robots until further notice’ was not on my 2023 bingo card,” an X user posted.

Ultimately, some students expressed sympathy for their campus food distribution bots, who were only trying to do their jobs and are now fending off accusations that they’re out to destroy hungry college students.

One first-year student who wished to remain anonymous because they didn’t want to be identified for their posts online but whose identity is known to Insider said they were about to head to class when they received a campus email about the potential threat.

The student said there wasn’t much panic on campus, and some students “continued to order food” from the inoperable machines. However, the student said all their colleagues “felt bad” for the robots.

​​”A lot of us think the robots are cute and so we felt bad for them,” the student told Insider: “They’re just trying to do their job to the best of their abilities and then they were used as a means to create (or attempt) to create fear.”

All in all, it seems that the robot-apocalypse is not quite here, and robots won’t be starting the next world war — at least not yet.

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