back to article IBM adds side order of NLP to McDonald's AI drive-thru chatbots

IBM says it is rolling out its natural language processing software to a greater number of McDonalds' drive-thrus months after buying the automated order technology unit from the fast food chain, along with the team that developed it. IBM already added extra NLP features to its Watson Discovery enterprise AI service last year …

  1. Cederic Silver badge

    oh, NLP not NLP

    I was halfway through the article before I realised this wasn't about teaching chatbots to use neuro-linguistic programming on customers.

    Which I'd assumed was already well in flight across the industry.

    1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

      Re: oh, NLP not NLP

      I misinterpreted "NLP" in the same way you had. I recalled some guy introduced "Neuro-Linguistic Programming" in a popular paperback back in the 1960s or 1970s. I had read a bit of it back then -- and then had tossed it back.

      A quick Google search shows the fad cult topic still is popular, with many books, and seminars being sold.

  2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Tomorrow's story

    IBM in age-discrimination lawsuit for making all McD staff over 16 redundant

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tomorrow's story

      ....IBM and Amazon and a few others in worldwide lawsuit for making all humans redundant.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: Tomorrow's story

        As every shop owner will tell you: Humans belong on the other side of the counter.

  3. Neil Barnes Silver badge


    A thing that isn't an artificial intelligence being used to sell something which is almost food.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Amazing

      Just need to invent a robot to eat it

      1. Plest Silver badge

        Re: Amazing

        Considering must MaccyDs ends up in bins or on the ground ( it seems to in my area! ) which leads it to finally end up in a rubbish grinder at the local recycling/extraction plant, I'd say we're pretty much there!

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Amazing

          You are probably discarding the wrong part

  4. Timo

    do you want fries with that?

    IBM's Watson was once a huge deal, and it played Jeopardy and did very well. I wonder if it is depressed now that it's slinging burgers and asking "do you want fries with that?"

    Icon is there for the other thing it almost surely has to do: "HAVE A NICE DAY!!! :) :) :)"

    1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: do you want fries with that?

      I came here to mention the downward spiral from Jeopardy, to being an expert medical system diagnosing cancer, ... to flipping burgers, and when I saw there were only six comments, I thought I had a chance. But you pipped me.

      Anyway, is it time to to link to to the comedy sketch featuring two Scotsmen in a voice activated lift yet?

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: do you want fries with that?

        > the downward spiral from Jeopardy, to being an expert medical system diagnosing cancer, ... to flipping burgers

        Yes, it's almost human...

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: do you want fries with that?

          Except it doesn't have student loans

        2. skeptical i

          Re: do you want fries with that?

          "Here I am with a brain the size of a planet and they ask me to take fast food orders. Call that job satisfaction? I don't." Apologies to Marvin.

  5. Auntie Dix

    The "Wage Inflation" Is His C-Suite Paycheck

    McD's obstacle-in-the-way, unpaid-labor, germ-screen/cumbersome-UI kiosks—ignored by most customers (CEO Clown, haven't you figured that out yet?)—can sit there and rot, right next to the recently reduced, comfort-worsened seating.

    The same goes for NLP BS at the drive-thru.

    Customers, many with special requests, are not going to wait behind someone yelling out of his car window, "A-gent, agent, AGENT!"...or tolerate robot-voiced, automatically Mc-F-Upped orders.

    (BTW, CEO Clown, at a local store, the weeks-out-of-order, smashed LCD that flashed annoying adverts to one side of the double drive-thru may be a hint that using video loops with disappearing menu choices has pissed off your brick-toting customers.)

    So, CEO Clown, if you are going to play games rather than provide a living-wage-paid human cashier, Mc-F-Off. Your customers can buy artery-clogging burgers and fries from your less-obnoxious competitors.

    P.S. Walmart, Home Depot, etc.: I refuse your unpaid-labor, "self-serve" checkouts. If your cashiers are backed up and struggling, I simply leave my cart and walk out.

  6. Chairman of the Bored

    In simpler times...

    My brother worked for an audio company that sold the radio comms infrastructure to McD "restaurants". Analog (narrowband FM) using only bog standard CTCSS tones to control squelch. No voice scrambling. Customers would call up desperate for a solution when the following sort of thing happened at the drive through kiosks-

    16-year old: "Welcome to McDonald's, can I take your order?"

    Customer: "Yeah, I'd like a whopper meal with a coke big enough to swim in"

    Interloper: "For fuck's sake, man, you're what? 300 pounds? How is eating this s...t gonna help THAT?"

    Customer: "What the fuck?"

    16-year-old: "I'm hearing voices!"

    Interloper: "Yes you are! Stop smoking weed, dumbass!"

    I miss the 90's. Simpler times.

  7. Howard Sway Silver badge

    humans reportedly not required to intervene in circa four out of every five orders

    That's still an impressive 20% failure rate, when confronted with the complex task of understanding someone bellowing "big mac and large fries!" out of their car window. If it's anything like my phone company's AI voice recognition, it'll then reply "You ordered 17 milkshakes. Is this correct?"

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thar he blows

    Chris Kempczinski said of the sale of Tech Lab to IBM that it was about getting the development work to "a partner who can then blow it

    No comment...

  9. iron Silver badge

    > He said this is a "great application of technology" in a time of "wage inflation"

    This line tells me he is a despicable human being.

    > "We can do all the drive-thru ordering without requiring human intervention, every once in a while something will kick to the human

    But earlier it states 4/5 orders don't require human intervention which means 20% of orders do - that is NOT every once in a while.

    Since all their testing was in Chicago I also wonder how much that error rate increases when you try it on other US accents, let alone UK accents.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      > in a time of "wage inflation"

      Yes, the wage inflation at McDonald's is really overheating the economy, something has to be done ASAP...

      The rest of the industry can't keep up, and we have to prevent our valuable highly trained staff quitting to go flip burgers at the golden arches.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        They could always cross the road and join the Subway human conveyor belt

        "To me"... slice of tomato... "to you"... 2 slices of salami... "to me"... 2 slices of pickle... "to you"... blob of mayo...

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          >Subway human conveyor belt

          "Sandwich artistes" please

  10. rlightbody

    Doesn't make sense

    You'd be better off driving up, then just using the app on your phone...

  11. spold Silver badge


    ...they can use it to take delivery orders over the phone and they will turn up in a Johnny Cab...

    A quarter pounder my dear Watson.

  12. spold Silver badge


    NLP - Not Likely Palatable

  13. GuldenNL

    Almost two decades too late

    Did this for the largest Mickey D’s franchise owner back in 2005 when I led speech services at another three letter acronym.

    Back then we used a company called Unveil when an utterance fell below X confidence level, the utterance was sent to a person in San Antonio who chose the correct response from a screen pop. Amazing outcomes and extremely good ROI. But alas, too much cheap and easy labor, plus negative public relations of word gets out. So a no go.

  14. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

    Even 100%-working-correctly AI will not help

    because people at the drive-up window will be hearing the AI through the same crappy, distortion-adding comm systems currently used.

    Customer at drive-up: "One Big Mac, a large order of fries, and a strawberry milkshake, please."


    Customer at drive-up: "I said, 'One Big Mac, a large order of fries ...'"

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