The Rise of Robo Restaurants
One perhaps surprising field that has taken advantage of the shift to technology is the restaurant industry, where a shortage of available workers has driven up costs and limited the ability of some restaurants to open additional locations. Spyce, a casual fast-food place begun by four MIT graduates, is set on opening the first truly robotic restaurant chain in the US. Its founders say the robots help improve consistency and speed and prepare food in three minutes or less, while enabling the company to serve its food at reasonable prices.
Another example is the Chinese restaurant chain Haidilao, which has partnered with Panasonic to open up a fully automated kitchen in Beijing. The new establishment will feature robots that take orders, then prepare and deliver raw meat and fresh vegetables to customers to put into soups prepared at their tables. The automated kitchen will reportedly be used to help Haidilao expand to as many as 5,000 locations around the world.
Need Reservations? There Is an App for That
You needn’t go all the way to a robotic kitchen to encounter Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the food world. When commanded, Google Duplex will call a restaurant and make reservations. The software is very advanced, with a realistic human voice that mimics the “uhhs” and “umms” typical of most conversations. It’s undoubtedly a harbinger of things to come, as this software could easily expand to booking appointments for other businesses such as hair salons, doctor offices, and hotels.
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Another feature of Google’s Duplex and its AI capabilities across the globe is the possibility of eliminating language barriers. “There’s the opportunity to [give people] the ability to call a business in a country where [they] don’t speak the language,” says Nick Fox, Google’s vice president of product and design. “I’d be able to speak to the assistant in a language that I speak and then it could speak to the business in a language that makes sense to them. That’s a really interesting way this system can be used to break language barriers.”
The applications of AI are just beginning to be explored. In fact, Servion predicts that AI will power 95 percent of all customer interactions by 2025 and will do it so effectively that customers will not be able to “spot the bot.”
Technological Disruption and Dislocation
There is no arguing that machines and AI are faster, cheaper, more efficient, and make fewer mistakes than humans. When a bank started using chatbots to handle more than 1.5 million claim requests each year, it found that the work of 85 bots was equal to the output of 200 full-time human employees at only 30 percent of the cost. As for the future, Juniper Research predicts that chatbot conversations will be responsible for cost savings of more than $8 billion per year by 2022, up from $20 million in 2017.
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