You may ask yourself, what do these two companies have in common and how could they benefit from a partnership? As the screenshot above might suggest, it seems that McDonald’s is among the latest companies that are looking for a digital revamp. They announced that they will be teaming up with IBM in order to make the drive thru ordering process an automated experience. They first tested this out in a Chicago drive thru location earlier in 2021 which was filmed by this tik tok-er seen here. Initial reviews of the experience tagged it as “dystopian” with the voice being very “siri like” and unfriendly. When the idea first launched, a McDondald’s rep claimed the robot got your order right about 85% of the time.
As a result of the pandemic, many McDonald’s franchisees complain they can’t find staff. At the start, some were even reluctant to re-open their restaurants for indoor dining, as they felt they were doing just fine with drive-thru and delivery. If this is the case, moving in this direction will surely seem worthwhile for them as they can get through orders quicker as well as retain more data about what customers are ordering.
Since the initial test earlier this year, it seems that this will be implemented at more locations since McDonald’s has just sold IBM its McD Tech Labs — the engineers that are formerly known as Apprente — so that IBM can take on the robot-driven drive-thru dream. McDonald’s CEO says, “In my mind, IBM is the ideal partner for McDonald’s, given their expertise in building AI-powered customer care solutions and voice recognition.” He added that the work now required is “beyond the scale of our core competencies.”
This is just another example of digital changing to improve with the times (in this case the recent pandemic). McDonald’s implementation of these devices will definitely make the user experience easier for some, but may hinder others from trying it out. For example, in this day in age, robots are still not 100% capable of understanding all accents and some may find it more frustrating than helpful. It is also up in the air if the robot’s accuracy rate has improved from the 85% it started out with during the test run.
A downside to this new technology being implemented is that there are laws around people being recorded which vary from state to state. Upon testing these machines in Chicago earlier this year, a customer claimed that McDonald’s is going against the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) and that there was no written consent. The law says: “No private entity may collect, capture, purchase, receive through trade, or otherwise obtain a person’s or a customer’s biometric identifier or biometric information.” As we have talked about in class, there is sometimes a blurred line when it comes to user experience and privacy. This type of technology brings up many questions such as: Are all users aware their voice is being recording and are they ok with that? Should a waiver be signed as they pull into the drive thru? What does McDonald’s do with the recordings? Where is the line? These are all things to consider in this new age of tech where privacy is often overlooked for convenience.
Boris, Teejay. “McDonald’s Ai Drive Thru Bot Breaks Biometric Privacy Law, Lawsuit Alleges.” Tech Times, 11 June 2021, https://www.techtimes.com/articles/261360/20210611/mcdonald-s-ai-drive-thru-bot-breaks-biometric-privacy-law.htm.
Matyszczyk, Chris. “I Just Watched McDonald’s New Ai Drive-Thru and I’ve Lost My Appetite.” ZDNet, ZDNet, 19 June 2021, https://www.zdnet.com/article/i-just-watched-mcdonalds-new-ai-drive-thru-and-ive-lost-my-appetite/.
Matyszczyk, Chris. “McDonald’s Just Announced It’s Completely Changing the Customer Experience.” ZDNet, ZDNet, 30 Oct. 2021, https://www.zdnet.com/article/mcdonalds-just-announced-its-completely-changing-the-customer-experience/.