This item was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.
As if the steering wheel controls weren’t frustrating enough, now we might have a Siri-like AI to contend with. McDonald’s just rolled out a voice recognition system to 10 drive-ins in Chicago, extending from the solitary test store they launched a few years ago.
But when will it arrive in your Arches d’Or neighborhood?
“There is a big step between going from 10 restaurants in Chicago to 14,000 restaurants across the United States with an endless number of promotion permutations, menu permutations, dialect permutations, weather – I mean over and over and over again, ”McDonald CEO Chris Kempczinski admitted, reports News from the nation’s restaurant.
Are we ready for AI? For those of us still dragging our feet on tech, not wanting to activate Siri on our phones, this may seem like a premature leap forward. But this is not the case. We have engaged with artificial intelligence in many ways – from chatbots at agricultural equipment – sometimes without our knowledge.
One of the biggest challenges has actually been training employees to take a step back and not help AI when it’s in trouble.
If robots will leave human workers jobless, only time will tell. Many McDonald’s restaurants already had self-service kiosks, where customers can order on an iPad-like screen, and many orders are now placed online or with apps.
Robots and artificial intelligence also take on other roles in restaurants.
Flippy the robot turns burgers in a california restaurant, grilling up to 150 burgers in an hour. And Spyce, a Boston restaurant, employs seven automated woks to cook food – and no human chef.
Some say this trend towards automation will improve food safety because robots are easy to clean and never get sick. Others hope the robots will serve as reliable back-up personnel in an industry with high employee turnover unemployment rate, recently hit by post-pandemic labor shortages.
Does it work for McDonald’s? Yes and no. The technology is still in its infancy and is only 85% accurate. One in five orders needs a little help from a real human – although Kempczinski says one of the biggest challenges has actually been training employees to take a step back and not help the AI when it is struggling. But the CEO estimates that it may only take five years for a nationwide rollout to occur, reports Futurism.
How it happened : McDonald’s bought the voice technology from startup Apprente in 2019. From there, they built their voice assistant.
“There is still a lot of work, but (…) we are happy with the technical feasibility and the business case,” Kempczinski said in a conference transcript from FactSet.
McDonald’s isn’t the first to move in this direction: White Castle and Sonic restaurants added voice automation last year, as well as Ohio’s famous Lee’s Recipe chicken restaurant, according to voicebot.ai.
Even though they’re eager to test drive-thru line automation at Mickey D, Kempczinski says they’re not ready to replace the line cooks who run fryers or grills.
“Most of them aren’t ready for prime time, and neither will they be for the next five years or so,” he said. “The level of investment that would be required, the cost of this equipment, we are nowhere near what the breakeven point should be from a labor cost perspective, to make it a good business decision for companies. franchisees. “
One question remains: do we call the new AI “Ronald” or will it be immortalized under a new name?