A new voice-recognition system is being trialed at a drive-through outside of Chicago.

By Mike Pomranz
June 21, 2019
Courtesy of McDonald's

When other options aren’t working, one thing fast food restaurants can often fall back on is speed. “Fast” is inherently in their business plan. So as McDonald’s looks to get more people to its restaurants, the world’s largest chain is returning to those roots — with speed of service, especially at the drive-through, becoming a top priority. The problem is when you're already a pretty well-oiled machine, it's human error could be slowing things down, so MickeyD’s is upping its automation game.

A McDonald’s location in suburban Chicago is currently testing a voice-recognition-powered drive through and a robotic deep fryer, according to the Wall Street Journal. The hope is that these innovations will move faster than employees can. “The idea of technology is to help our crew—to make it easier and better for them,” Mason Smoot, a McDonald’s senior vice president overseeing key innovations, told the paper.

Frankly, the idea of a robot handling deep-frying seems like a shrug-worthy advancement, but voice-recognition at the drive-through... As anyone who spoken with Alexa extensively can tell you, that sounds like a problem waiting to happen. Still, outside of one hiccup, the WSJ said that the system worked surprisingly well when they saw it in action.

Courtesy of McDonald's

“Customers read off their orders and confirmed them on a digital display,” the WSJ wrote. “A worker had to step in for one customer who hesitated during his order, tripping up the software. Other orders went off smoothly, including one with a special request for a Hot ’n Spicy McChicken sandwich without lettuce.”

Though this voice-recognition test only launched last week, Smoot already said that the system will be trialed at more locations soon. Making things only slightly spookier, McDonald’s apparently doesn’t even provide any notice to customers that their drive-through order is being taken by a computer — though you might get suspicious when you’re asked “Would you like a side of the subjugation of the human race with your Quarter Pounder with Cheese?”

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