DON'T SHAKE or Grimace the next time you're driving through a McDonald's and are served by a robot.
The chain of alleged restaurants has this week announced it is buying a voice AI startup called Apprente, which will allow it to dispense with using actual people talking at you through crackly tinny speakers when you're trying to get your nug fix.
Apprente appealed to McDonald's as it has a pedigree of voice assistant technology which can handle different accents and timbres in a way that less-advanced AI just isn't ready for.
When it's not in the back, trying to chat up the McFlurry dispenser, Apprente has already proven itself in a few trial locations, with McMarketing telling us that it will lead to "faster, simpler and more accurate" saturate ordering.
Apprente will become the lynchpin of the newly-formed McD Tech Labs. Yes. McDonald's is opening up a Silicon Valley tech division. What next? Wine glasses at Mothercare? My Little Pony franchised out to British Steel?
Itamar Arel, Ph.D., co-founder of Apprente and vice president of McD Tech Labs, explains: "Apprente was borne out of an opportunity to use technology to solve challenging real-world problems and we're thrilled to now apply this to creating personalized experiences for customers and crew."
We can't even.
We also loved this bit: "It was quite clear from our various engagements that McDonald's is leading the industry with technology"
…and yet the milkshake machine at the local McDonalds near us is almost always broken. And then there's the infamous "poogate". But we digest.
Earlier this year, McDonald's bought another AI startup - Dynamic Yield - which its already using to tailor menu options to time of day, weather, and presumably customer ECG.
The big problem will always be, no matter how efficient a robot server is, as an emotionless robot, it can never, ever, be 'Lovin' It'. Just thinking of emotional response could fry its chips.
Still, if it breaks down, you won't need to switch it off and on again, just give it a shake. μ
Put a Ring-Con on it
We know. We're as surprised as you are
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