A.I. Sets Sights On Your Nearest Drive Thru

You hear it all the time.  People joke about it at work, in bars, barber shop, and hair salons. Unfortunately, as we well know, jokes are only as funny as the truth they are built upon.  To many, the idea of robots and artificial intelligence taking jobs from humans is no laughing matter.

In a recent article from TechCrunch, Senior Editor Matt Burns gives us the lowdown on the showdown between man and machine within the Fast Food industry.  More specifically, we’re going to concentrate on its efficient and undeniable cornerstone…THE DRIVE THRU.

We’ve probably all been there before.  The day’s tasks have put you on a collision course with hunger.  You’ve been able to hold it off, but you know the oncoming battle is inevitable.  Managing to trick your mind into the bliss of ignorance has fooled your body into believing that you could go a few more miles.  But, as the gauge lingers to the left of ‘E’ you have no choice but to admit to yourself.  My tank is on empty.

The silver lining in your playbook reminds you that you are indeed on the road.  LITERALLY.  We are no longer using metaphors here.  You glance at the gas station and the drug store, but a bag of chips won’t do.  It’s too late for that.  Right now you need FOOD fast.  Or maybe, as you notice the bright yellow arches twinkling in the horizon…You need FAST FOOD.

You ease into the lowered ground feeling as if the concrete was perfectly shaved and smoothed out just for you.  Within seconds you’re reading the menu with your stomach, anxious to recite your long list of delicious desires.  Finally, you pull up to the speaker and a familiar voice greets you.  “Hello, may I take your order?” The chilling robotic voice asks.  Perplexed you wreck your brain trying to place the voice until a lightbulb goes off.  Staring into the voice box you curiously ask, “Siri is that you?”

“This isn’t Siri or Alexa. This technology is from the next generation.”

If we are to believe the Ann Arbor-based Clinc’s claims about their latest endeavor, this is bigger than any conversation you’ve ever had with your smartphone or wireless speaker.  According to this article, Clinc “has several contracts with major banks and its technology emulates human intelligence and can interpret unstructured, unconstrained speech”.  In other words, instead of having to enunciate your speech like a robot or slowing down your cadence as if you are talking to a person who uses English as a second language, you should be able to talk ‘normally’ and get your point across.  Yeah, I’ve heard that before.  Show me the proof!

After checking out a demo Burns claims that “for the most part, even in its early state, it works as advertised.”  After watching Clinc engineers use the system for about an hour, Burns says that “the system processed the order correctly” and even though it occasionally got some orders wrong, “it seems changing an order is just as easy as placing one though, and the engineer was able to modify the order on the fly.  Just before I could go into my Devil’s advocate objections, he finished off by letting us know that the AI’s voice clearly sounds like a computer.  Like that or not.  Also for those instances when the system just isn’t working, you will need “triggers that cause the system to connect the orderer with a live person to resolve the issue.”  For instance, let’s say someone like Fenster from The Usual Suspects is ordering.  You will definitely need to get in contact with a live human being, maybe even an Interpreter.  Oh, by the way, the video that the link above leads you to is NSFW.  Just a quick FYI in case you never saw the movie.

At the end of this story, we have Drive Thru Warriors profusely sweating onto the mic filters of their trustee headsets, hoping that this new technology’s implementation is further off than Clinc would like it to be.  For if they are wrong and this ARTIFICIAL Intelligence is ready for REAL world application, these Fast Food Soldiers will have a hard time trying to keep their jobs.  To keep the war metaphors going; This will be a financial “suicide mission”.  If you’re in one of these squadrons, I suggest you start planning your “exit strategy” now!  Lucky for you, this is a great place to start.

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