McDonald's just announced it's completely changing the customer experience

McDonald's has concluded that there's only one way to go for customers.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer
Screenshot by ZDNet

You know the way the world is going because you're happy it's happening.

Out with the old ways of doing things -- going to work at an office, for example -- and in with doing your own thing. All the time, anywhere.

I sense McDonald's understands this.

It seems to have realized that people coming to work at its restaurants, greeting you as they take your order at the drive-thru and then quickly cooking your food is an outmoded concept.

Instead, how about machines doing it all faster than humans ever could?

Well, here's a little announcement the global burger chain made last week. McDonald's is now getting together with a very, very famous name in tech in order to make the drive-thru more robotic and therefore more crowd-pleasing.

You may remember that McDonald's was testing robot order-taking at its drive-thru in Chicago earlier this year.

A customer experience video showed how glorious it is to be greeted by one of Siri's many cousins. You could tell she was really, um, loving it.

This was just an experiment, right? They couldn't possibly be serious. Could they?

Well, now McDonald's seems ready to expand this test to further-flung parts of our great nation. Ray, the old ways are just a load of Kroc these days.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the very famous tech name with which McDonald's will now partner.

It's IBM.

Yes, the IBM at which a Steve Jobs emissary once threw a large hammer in a famous ad. The IBM that used to be called Big Blue and now seems to be Big Intimidator of Little Companies.

Well, 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.

As CNBC reported, McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski is delighted with how the robot-ordering drive-thru tests have gone. They apparently benefited customers and the remaining staff who still come to work at McDonald's.

Kempczinski offered: "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."

Did you ever think your burger would come courtesy of IBM's Watson and friends? Of course you did. You've dreamed about this moment. The robots will never get it wrong. The robots will always be quicker. And the robots will enhance your emotional relationship with the brand.

That's what AI does. It strives for perfection so that you can offer it uncontrolled love.

Who needs a personal relationship when you can get your Big Mac thirty seconds faster?

Ultimately, of course McDonald's is making a wise business decision. If speed is what's required, the robots will surely provide it. Even if many of them still don't always grasp such nuances as an accent. (Don't worry, IBM is working on that.)

And it isn't just about speed. Just think of how much more personal data may be collected as the AI begins to learn who you are and what you really, really like. 

But please don't worry about that. The companies insist: "IBM and McDonald's are both committed to adopting AI responsibly by embedding ethical principles into AI applications and processes to build systems based on trust and transparency."

Having seen the AI ordering in action, I'm still not sure how tolerant I'll be of its essential inhumanity.

But perhaps the people I feel most sorry for are the employees of McD Tech Labs. Now they'll be working for the IBM Cloud & Cognitive Software division.

It doesn't sound quite as cool, does it?

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