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McDonald’s plans to serve up artificial intelligence at its drive-thru windows

McDonald’s is exploring ways to automate its drive-thru service with the help of artificial intelligence.

This means you could soon be chatting with a robot rather than a human when you pull up to place your order.

Helping the fast-food giant in its high-tech endeavor is Silicon Valley-based Apprente, which McDonald’s revealed this week it has agreed to acquire.

Apprente was founded in 2017 to create a voice-based, conversational platform for complex, multilingual, multi-accent, and multi-item conversational ordering.

According to McDonald’s, Apprente’s technology, which is already being tested at select restaurants, will pave the way for “faster, simpler, and more accurate order taking at the drive-thru.” Because no one likes to get an Egg McMuffin when you order a Big Mac.

McDonald’s has been turning increasingly to technology in a bid to boost its bottom line. Besides this latest acquisition, the company earlier this year also snapped up Dynamic Yield.

The Israel-based machine-learning startup specializes in so-called “decision technology” that’s already undergoing tests with electronic menu boards located at McDonald’s drive-thrus.

Aimed at offering a more personalized customer experience, the items on the menu can change automatically and quickly according to a range of factors. For example, it might place various food and drink options front and center according to your opening choice (large fries with that cheeseburger?). It could also focus on cold drinks in hot weather, and show breakfasts in the morning. If the restaurant is particularly busy, it might push items that are quicker to prepare, thereby easing the pressure on the kitchen.

Dynamic Yield’s technology is currently deployed at more than 8,000 McDonald’s restaurants across the U.S., with plans to take it to almost all of its drive-thrus by the end of the year.

McDonald’s also recently invested in mobile app vendor Plexure to work on the development of its global app for mobile.

As part of McDonald’s ongoing efforts to enhance its business with cutting-edge technology, the Apprente team will be the founding member of a new, integrated group within McDonald’s Global Technology team, called McD Tech Labs. In the coming months and years, McDonald’s said it plans to expand its presence in Silicon Valley with the hiring of more tech experts as it seeks to develop future innovations.

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