Artificial Intelligence Online

McDonald's brings cognitive to the drive-through

Fast food giant McDonald’s is using cognitive technology to convert drive-through orders to text that can be fed directly into the outlet’s point-of-sale system.

The project was disclosed by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella during his keynote at the worldwide partner conference in Canada.

Nadella said an undisclosed Microsoft partner was working with McDonald’s on the app, which takes advantage of Microsoft’s cognitive services: its recently-launched foray into a space also occupied by IBM Watson.

“For McDonald’s, as you can imagine, the most mission-critical application is the efficiency of their drive-through,” Nadella said. 

“That’s what fast food is all about – how can people get in and get out fast with the order that they want?”

One of the challenges for McDonald’s is that drive-through audio quality is notoriously scratchy.

“You have all of these characteristics with ambient noise,” Nadella said.

“So what McDonald’s with a partner has done is taken [our] speech algorithm [and] tuned it, in fact, for the specific ambient noise of a McDonald’s drive-through.”

That tuning enabled McDonald’s to convert the scratchy audio, capturing the fast food order directly into text with a high degree of “fidelity”, Nadella said.