McDonald’s to use A.I. to tempt you into extra purchases at the drive-thru

You may think your food order is pretty much decided when you rock up at a McDonald’s drive-thru, but new dynamic menus to be installed by the restaurant chain may see you leaving with a few unexpected extras.

The major change to the fast-food giant’s drive-thru experience is coming later this year and is the result of the company’s recent acquisition of Israel-based machine-learning startup Dynamic Yield for a reported $300 million.

Dynamic Yield’s so-called “decision technology” will be built into new electronic menu boards located at McDonald’s drive-thrus to provide a more personalized customer experience. This means the items on the menu could change even as you order. So, as a simple example, if you order a burger, the menu could automatically respond by pushing fries front and center on the menu board, or other side items, which may persuade some customers to select extra snacks when they hadn’t planned to.

The technology powering the menu boards will also take into account factors such as current weather conditions — so it might offer up cold drinks on a hot day — and also how busy the restaurant is, meaning if there’s a long line and the kitchen is under pressure, it might push items that are quicker to prepare.

If you hadn’t already noticed, McDonald’s high-tech menu board is similar in many ways to how Amazon’s online shopping site constantly offers similar or complementary items as it tracks your search activity click by click.

McDonald’s has been testing the technology at a number of its restaurants over the past year and is now preparing to roll it out at more than 1,000 locations within the next three months, according to Wired. The long-term plan is to install the smart menu boards at all 14,000 of its U.S. restaurants, as well as at its international locations. It’s likely the technology will eventually find its way into McDonald’s self-order kiosks and mobile app, too.

McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook even suggested it could one day include license recognition technology so the menu board could adjust its items based on a customer’s recent purchases. In that case, customer data could be shared across the entire chain of restaurants rather than be confined to a single outlet, further enhancing the power of the technology and its ability to drive sales.

The move by McDonald’s to embrace artificial intelligence in a bid to boost profits mirrors similar efforts by a growing number of customer-facing businesses in recent years. Combining the decision technology with customer data gathered via loyalty programs and apps enables these companies to offer a more personalized shopping experience — one designed to tempt you into making extra purchases almost without realizing it.

Emerging Tech

Beresheet crash caused by manual command, but reflector device may have survived

Details are emerging about what may have gone wrong with spacecraft Beresheet's failed moon landing. A manual command was entered which led to a chain reaction. But NASA still hopes to salvage use of its Laser Retroreflector Array device.
Cars

GPS units aren't dead! Our favorite models still do things your phone can't

Love hitting the open road but hate having to rely solely on your phone for getting around? Thankfully, the best in-car GPS systems will allow you to navigate and capitalize on a range of features sans your cellular network. Here are our…
Home Theater

Wireless headphones are finally awesome, and these are our favorites

With sleek forms, prime audio quality, and the freedom of untethered listening, there has never been a better time to pick up a pair of wireless headphones. These are the best ones currently available.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Gaming

How to share your best gaming moments on the Xbox One and its app

The current generation of consoles makes it easier than ever to share your gaming highlights with the world. Here's a quick guide on how you can record a gameplay video on Xbox One.
Emerging Tech

The oldest type of molecule in the universe has been located at last

A milestone in the development of the early universe was the combination of helium and hydrogen atoms into a molecule called helium hydride. But strangely enough, this ancient molecule has never been detected in space before now.
Emerging Tech

The grid of the future will be powered by … giant subterranean bagpipes?

In order to transition to a more renewable-focused energy system, we need to scale up our grid storage capacity --- and our existing methods aren't going to cut it. Could compressed air be the key?
Emerging Tech

Mercury’s wobble as it spins reveals that it has an inner solid core

Scientists have long wondered what the inside of Mercury looks like, and they now have strong evidence that the planet has a large and solid metallic core. The data for the new findings was collected by the now-defunct MESSENGER mission.
Emerging Tech

Gravitational forces at heart of Milky Way shaped this star cluster like a comet

Hubble has captured the stunning Messier 62 cluster. The cluster is warped, with a long tail which stretches out to form a shape like a comet. It is thought this distortion is due to Messier 62's proximity to the center of the galaxy.
Emerging Tech

Burgers are just the beginning: Embracing the future of lab-grown everything

You’ve almost certainly heard of the 'farm to fork' movement, but what about 'lab to table'? Welcome to the fast-evolving world of lab-grown meat. Is this the future of food as we know it?
Emerging Tech

Troubleshooting Earth

It’s no secret that humans are killing the planet. Some say it’s actually so bad that we’re hurtling toward a sixth major extinction event -- one which we ourselves are causing. But can technology help us undo the damage we’ve…
Emerging Tech

Inside the Ocean Cleanup’s ambitious plan to rid the ocean of plastic waste

In 2013, Boyan Slat crowdfunded $2.2 million to fund the Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization that builds big, floating trash collectors and sets them out to sea, where they’re designed to autonomously gobble up garbage.
Emerging Tech

Climeworks wants to clean the atmosphere with a fleet of truck-sized vacuums

Using machines that resemble jet engines, Climeworks wants to fight climate change by extracting CO2 from thin air. The gas can then be sold to carbonated drink and agriculture companies, or sequestered underground.
Emerging Tech

How 3D printing has changed the world of prosthetic limbs forever

When he was 13 years old, Christophe Debard had his leg amputated. Here in 2019, Debard's Print My Leg startup helps others to create 3D-printed prostheses. Welcome to a growing revolution!