McDonald's To Replace More Humans With Drive-Thru AI

What doesn't cost $15 an hour and talk back to customers? AI. 

McDonald's announced on Tuesday the acquisition of Mountain View-based voice tech startup Apprente in order to integrate its technology into the food chain's drive-thrus, according to Engadget. Apprente employees will form the company's new Silicon Valley "McD Tech Labs" which McDonald's intends to expand over time. 

The AI can handle "complex, multilingual, multi-accent and multi-item conversational ordering," allowing for "faster, simpler and more accurate order taking," according to the report, while McDonald's claims the new software is part of a company effort to "alleviate pressure on restaurant employees,who currently have to decipher what customers want. 

Apprente will form a pivotal part of McD Tech Labs, a new restaurant technology group based in Silicon Valley. The Apprente team will become the group's founding members and co-founder Itamar Arel will serve as vice-president. "McDonald's commitment to innovation has long inspired our team. It was quite clear from our various engagements that McDonald's is leading the industry with technology" said Itamar Arel, Ph.D., co-founder of Apprente and Vice President of McD Tech Labs. "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." The company is planning on hiring more engineers, data scientists and other advanced technology experts to build its presence in Silicon Valley. - Engadget

McDonald's plans to roll out self-service kiosks across all US restaurant locations by 2020 - reducing the need to employ as many human cashiers. 

In April, the company acquired personalized data startup Dynamic Yield in order to customize drive-thru menus based on the time of day, weather, current restaurant traffic and trending items. A minority stake was also purchased in New Zealand-based mobile app technology company Plexure.