AI News, McDonald's acquires AI company trying to automate the drive artificial intelligence

Smart Food

Last week, McDonald’s announced the acquisition of Apprente, a start-up based in Silicon Valley that describes itself as a “leader in the field of conversational voice-based technology”.

As part of its efforts to weave technology into its labour chain, McDonald’s is setting up McD Tech Labs, a part of its global technology team, with Apprente employees as founding members.

Its solutions are used to create dynamically customized menus for drive-through locations based on variables such as the weather, time of day, current restaurant traffic and trending menu items.

Now, with a bigger focus on computing power, McDonald’s — like many retail companies — seems to be learning from Amazon, optimizing revenue and margins at point of sale by implementing cutting-edge AI-based technologies.

Many of these companies hope to deploy existing platforms, particularly Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant and their accompanying smart speaker interfaces, to allow customers to perform simple tasks such as querying their bill or checking their bank balances.

Although the scope of conversations with McDonald’s voice agent will be more limited than those with Alexa, the company will need to put a lot of resources into developing and maintaining the technology to serve enough languages and dialects, and to avoid a PR disaster like Microsoft experienced with its Tay bot, which had its AI system learning sabotaged by users.

McDonald's Is Becoming a Tech Company With Its Latest Purchase

With McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) acquisition of early-stage artificial intelligence specialist Apprente, the fast-food leader is quickly transforming itself into a technology leader.  The purchase marks the burger joint's third investment in a tech company this year following its acquisition of another artificial intelligence (AI) outfit, Dynamic Yield, and its 10% stake in mobile app developer Plexure.  McDonald's first forays into the tech field were modest: self-ordering kiosks and digital signage.

But as it looks to enhance the customer experience and lower overall costs, the chain is accelerating its tech investments.  Beyond the acquisition of AI firms to help speed up the drive-thru process while also boosting sales through menu suggestions, McDonald's is testing the introduction of robots to dunk fries, chicken nuggets, and fish patties into fryers, and adding mobile pay and pickup to its app.

It had already deployed AI assistance at thousands of drive-thrus and was planning on implementing the capabilities across all of the restaurant's digital platforms, so the testing was undoubtedly successful enough to warrant further investment.

The acquisition will also see McDonald's create what it is calling McD Tech Labs, a group within McDonald's global technology team that will help increase its presence in Silicon Valley to hire engineers, data scientists, and other advanced technology experts.

McDonald’s set to replace Drive Thru servers with AI

McDonald’s is planning to use AI voice recognition technology instead of human servers in some of its US restaurants.

The fast-food chain has just acquired Apprente, a start-up that specialises in voice-based, conversational technology, after trialling its solutions in a small number of restaurants.

McDonald’s said it will utilise Dynamic Yield’s decision technology to provide a more personalised customer experience by varying outdoor digital menu displays to show food based on time of day, weather, current restaurant traffic and trending menu items.

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