The future of fast food will centre around automation and digitisation solutions that increase productivity, boost profits, and enhance customer engagement
HyperTaste – giving computers a sense of taste
Is it possible to give computers a sense of taste? This was the question that motivated researchers at IBM Research to develop HyperTaste, a tool for chemical taste sensing. It acts as an “electronic tongue” – a sensor that analyses the chemical composition of liquids. “HyperTaste was inspired by advances in AI and machine learning to mimic human senses like sight and hearing for recognizing images and interpreting speech. Big Blue wanted to present a new lens for chemical sensing.
The idea was to apply a combinatorial approach using an array of sensors—much like the thousands of taste buds on our tongues—and then employ machine-learning algorithms to interpret the output of those sensors. The team used a printed circuit board with microcontroller-based hardware and an assembly of 16 conductive polymeric sensors that change their voltage when dipped in a solution.
Despite its operational simplicity, HyperTaste was not easy to develop. Bringing the various parts of the system together as well as merging an interdisciplinary team consisting of electrochemists and material scientists to determine HyperTaste’s sensing principle, electrical engineers to define and assemble the hardware, and software engineers for the data science and deployment side proved challenging. HyperTaste was first developed in 2019, but it was able to work only with a few specific liquids. Now, it can analyse much more complex liquids. “
McDonalds using Virtual Reality
McDonald’s made an entrance into the metaverse with a Chinese Lunar New Year event. Partnering with AltspaceVR and Spatial, the brand designed a hall of Chinese zodiacs that players could explore through VR. The QSR giant has also filed trademark applications that suggest a virtual restaurant may be opening soon that sells both virtual and actual goods with home delivery.
Robotic Food Preparation
According to a CB Insights report, existing and emerging technologies in robotics, AI, and digital engagement technology can not only help restaurants streamline operational processes, but also create personalized, seamless brand experiences for fast food customers. The future will see the emergence offast-food restaurants that have adapted their store layouts to rely exclusively on robotic food preparation to cook menu items. Robots will work in sync to fill orders, account for customer substitutions, and communicate with autonomous delivery vehicles to quickly bring customers fresh, accurate orders.
Restaurant tech to reach US$6.5 billion
Improving the customer experience will help restaurants grow and maintain loyalty in the competitive restaurant landscape. In turn, solutions that help offset restaurants’ key operating costs are gaining traction, with 2022 funding for restaurant tech projected to reach more than $6.5 billion – which would surpass 2021 and be more than double the amount raised in 2020. As the future of fast food begins to take shape, laggards will be left behind compared to competitors that have been proactive about exploring these new technologies.
The food and restaurant industry is already logging on to conversational AI and AI-powered recommendation engines trying to make ordering food more human-friendly, accessible, and convenient. These technologies will be able to power drive-throughs, smart speakers, apps, and even metaverse avatars, allowing customers to simply speak their order wherever they may be while the restaurant makes hyper-relevant recommendations that can increase order value.
Meanwhile, the applications of conversational AI for restaurants are not limited to just drive-throughs – the tech could also be used for customer-facing interfaces like phone and SMS orders, voice assistants, and mobile apps. Domino’s has partnered with ConverseNow which provides conversational AI for phone orders. After an order is placed through ConverseNow’s software, which is integrated with the existing point-of-sale system, employees can immediately see the order and prepare it.
The future of fast food will centre around automation and digitisation solutions that increase productivity, boost profits, and enhance customer engagement. By combining technologies like AI and robotics, restaurants can provide personalised recommendations, fresher and more accurate orders, and faster delivery.
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