Can artificial intelligence be taught to avoid the Noid?

By Jelisa Castrodale
April 28, 2021
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Noid and Nuro
Credit: Domino's Pizza, Inc.

In the mid-1980s, Domino's Pizza created a villain that challenged its intrepid delivery drivers, doing everything in its power to keep them from getting the chain's pies to hungry customers. In a series of commercials, the Noid, a rubbery-looking, stop-motion clay creature, tried everything from freezing pizzas so they'd arrive cold, to crushing them with weights, to blowing them up with tiny bombs. (Spoiler alert: He never pulled any of this off.) 

The Noid's original run only lasted a few years, but Domino's has decided to bring him back, if only to see if he can stop the company's new autonomous delivery vehicles. "The Noid is Domino's oldest and most famous villain, and the pizza delivery testing we're doing with Nuro's autonomous vehicle is exactly the kind of technology innovation that could provoke the Noid to return," Kate Trumbull, Domino's vice president of advertising, said in a statement. "However, after 35 years of practice in avoiding the Noid, we're pretty confident we know how to defeat it."

The Noid's new nemesis is Nuro's R2 robot, the driverless vehicle that is being rolled out for deliveries from one store in Houston's Woodland Heights neighborhood "on select dates and times," according to the company. Any customer who opts-in for the robo-delivery will receive a text with a unique PIN. When the R2 rolls up outside their home, they'll need to enter the PIN on its touchscreen, and the doors will open for them to collect their hot pizzas. (Although customers don't have to tip the R2, they will still have to pay a delivery fee.) 

Domino's site explains that this collaboration with Nuro is just a "test intended to keep us ahead in the world of technology" and it does not expect it to affect the jobs or livelihoods of its human delivery drivers. Plus, they've already created one job—although it's for the Noid. 

In addition to appearing in a new Domino's commercial, the Noid also has a cameo in Crash Bandicoot: On the Run!, a new mobile game that celebrates the 25th anniversary of the adventurous island-dwelling marsupial. Domino's has also released some limited-edition 'Avoid the Noid' merch that is currently available on Amazon; all proceeds from the t-shirts and tumblers will be donated to the nonprofit Domino's Partners Foundation, which provides the company's franchise or corporate team members with financial help following accidents, natural disasters, medical emergencies, or the death of someone in their immediate family. 

Perhaps the Noid might turn out to be a good guy after all.