Opinion: Name the robots


Robots – Photo by Andrew Bailey

Chloe Kozal and Chloe Kozal

I remember watching one of the first Starship robots going for a test drive during its piloting program when I visited in February 2020. I was walking with my family as we watched a small dog chasing a robot, sniffing it out of curiosity. The little robot seemingly waddled around the sidewalk, trying to avoid the chihuahua. Its owner then walked up to the robot and tried opening the robot’s food compartment. Alarmed, the robot chirped at the woman, causing the dog to become very offended. My family watched all this commotion as a BGSU photographer took photos of us, that woman, and the dog interacting with the robot.

After our visit, the robot circulated a lot of discussion among my family — “They’re so little and funny,” or “American universities are so weird.” At the time, I personally did not think the Starship robots would be around long, despite how endearing they were to me.

To my surprise, the robots are still on campus, and they have become part of BGSU’s campus culture due to their characteristic memability. Student meme pages like the anonymous moderated meme page bgsuaffirmationns, who are unaffiliated with BGSU, have made multiple memes about these robots.

A submission-based alternative “surrealist” meme page, the page has made Starship-related memes about wait times and the odd desire to push over one of the robots. However, in their caption with their “I will not push over robot” meme, bgsuaffirmationns positively says, “Make sure you say thank you to all the good robots out there that don’t cut you off while walking. They’re doing a great job!”

I personally agree and think that the robots are very adorable and trying their best, despite the fact that I always feel like I am pushed off the sidewalk into the grass because of the robots and skateboarders. Despite these common occurrences, I do not have any animosity toward the robots because they are cute and I’ve seen enough sci-fi movies to know that you should always, always be kind to the robots even if they seem insentient.

I think that because the Starship robots have become part of campus meme culture that we as a community should name the robots. Think about it for a second — wouldn’t it be cool if the robot that is dropping off your Starbucks grande frappuccino had a name? It could be just a fun name like John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, a popular celebrity name like Rhianna, Cher, John Mulaney, or a superhero like Thor.

BGSU members could name the robots via a survey and there would be an online voting process after names have been vetted. Then, the Starship robots could get little identifying labels on their hoods. By naming the Starship robots, we would further make the robots part of the BGSU college experience and environment, as well as have a chance for ourselves to make a fun little impact on campus.