• John Ennis

Eye on AI - September 12th, 2019


Welcome to Aigora's "Eye on AI" series, where we round up exciting news at the intersection of consumer science and artificial intelligence!

This week we put the spotlight on how voice is improving the consumer experience with two excellent articles from “The Spoon” blog (previously recommended). Keep in mind that The Spoon’s annual conference, “The Smart Kitchen Summit”, is coming up in Seattle on Oct. 8th – 9th, and there’s still time to register: https://www.smartkitchensummit.com/


Conversational AI Leads McDonald’s Transition into Tech


Continuing its transition from a hamburger company to a tech company that sells hamburgers, McDonald’s announced this week that it will acquire Apprente, a voice-ordering AI startup, to bolster ordering capabilities, marking its second tech startup acquisition this year.


“… while McDonald’s has certainly made the biggest strides of all QSRs in terms of adding tech to the drive-thru experience,” writes Chris Albrecht, Spoon’s Managing Editor, “others, including KFC and Dunkin’, are also experimenting with ways to speed up order times and upsell more customers. Seeing this type of competition is most likely spurring McDonald’s decision to ramp up its own tech efforts internally.”

The Apprente team will become founding members of what McDonald’s is calling ‘McD Tech Labs’, a new branch of McDonald’s Global Technology team. Expect McD Tech Labs to soon go on a hiring spree as the race to become first fast food company to establish AI ordering, cooking and servicing speeds up, with important implications for the future. Keep an eye on this space.


Amazon Broadens Alexa’s Uses Through Alexa Connect Kit



Next up, let’s discuss The Spoon article “Amazon’s Ben McInnis on How Voice Control in the Kitchen Can Make Your Bacon Better”, in which Ben McInnis, Senior Manager of Amazon’s Alexa Connect Kit, describes how the Alexa Connect Kit gives device makers the ability to integrate with Alexa and Amazon’s suite of conversational AI management products.


“...device makers integrate an Amazon-managed hardware module and the provided software development kit into their product,” writes McInnis. “This module, which is also a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth chip, securely connects to Alexa and other Amazon services like Dash Replenishment… Device makers using the Alexa Connect Kit don’t need to maintain a cloud service, create an app, write an Alexa Skill, or invest in things like a device setup experience.”

Think of what it would mean if your microwave was integrated with Alexa. Or your washing machine. Or television. Or any device, really. Those devices would gradually be able to learn your preferences, then cook, wash or program in accordance with your individual taste.


“Going forward, you’ll see more devices that take advantage of their connection to Alexa to do things like add new recipes, fine-tune the performance of a preset with data about your specific preferences, or work across many connected devices to execute a complex dish,” continues McInnis. “It’s useful to ask your oven to preheat to cook some bacon. But having it know that you like bacon extra crispy is even better.”

Look for Alexa Connect Kit’s Ben McInnis at The Spoon’s “The Smart Kitchen Summit” this October. And on a consumer research note, expect to see Alexa increasingly used as a data collection device for consumer surveys in the coming years, as described in our previous blog post, “5 AI-Powered Breakthroughs That Will Help Sensory and Consumer Scientists Scale New Heights”.


Finally, if you’re interested in conducting pilot testing to explore how Alexa-powered surveys might provide your team with new insights, please contact Aigora here.


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