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McDonald's to Use AI Voice Assistants in Drive-Thrus

McDonald's to Use AI Voice Assistants in Drive-Thrus

The era of having staff at McDonald's restaurants ask if you want fries with that is set to end, as the burger giant invests in AI voice-assistant technology. 

McDonald's has entered into an agreement to buy voice-based tech start-up Apprente as part of a plan to improve customer service. The Silicon Valley AI company was founded in 2017 specifically to develop a voice-based AI system for fast-food ordering in a gamble that can now be said to have definitely paid off. 

In contrast to speech-to-text systems, Apprente describes its technology as "sound-to-meaning," because instead of transcribing what a customer says and then determining meaning from the transcript, Apprente's tech goes directly from speech signals to result.

The burger corporation is hoping that the new technology will make the ordering process simpler and more accurate and allow customers to get their mitts on the restaurant's famous fast food even faster. It will certainly eliminate any slowdowns that stem from misunderstood accents. 

The purchase is being made with the primary intention of introducing voice-assistant technology at McDonald's drive-thrus, but use of the voice-based tech may be extended.

In a statement released today, a McDonald's spokesperson said: "We believe that the broader voice-based technology also has the potential to reach customers when, where, and how they want through incorporation into mobile ordering or kiosks."

Apprente's staff, which includes employees trained in machine learning and computational linguistics, will form a new internal team called McD Tech Labs, which will be integrated into the McDonald's Corporation. The team will work at McDonald's newly renovated Innovation Center near Chicago.

McDonald's statement continued: "This latest investment in advanced technology capabilities and talent builds on several key initiatives the company has introduced over the last three years to improve both the restaurant employee and customer experience, from the acquisition of Dynamic Yield, to the expansion of McDelivery, as well as the development of McDonald’s Global Mobile App, Mobile Order and Pay, indoor and outdoor digital menu boards, and self-order kiosks.  

"With this move, we’re investing in the talent and technology that will ultimately make our customer and restaurant employee experience better." 

Source: Information Security Magazine