Next time you order a Big Mac, ask yourself if you're talking to a robot or a human. McDonald's this week took a step toward automating how it handles your order when it acquired artificial intelligence company Apprente.
The Silicon Valley-based startup was founded in 2017 to create voice-based platforms for "complex, multilingual, multi-accent and multi-item conversational ordering," which McDonald's plans to incorporate in its drive-thrus initially. The system has already been tested at a few restaurants, so maybe you've been talking to robots about McFlurries.
McDonald's said it hopes to add the technology to its mobile ordering and kiosks later.
"Apprente's gifted team, and the technology they have developed, will form McD Tech Labs, a new group integrated in our Global Technology team that will take our culture of innovation one step further," Steve Easterbrook, McDonald's president and CEO, said in a release.
The fast-food giant previously acquired Dynamic Yield, a machine-learning company whose "decision logic technology" subtly tweaks menu displays based on outside factors like the time of day, weather and traffic, as well as suggesting extra stuff for you to add to your order. So basically machines will push you to get fries and a large Coke.
It also invested in mobile app maker Plexure to work on its Global Mobile App.
First published at 4:57 a.m. PT.
Updated at 5:27 a.m. PT: Adds more detail.