Tech Tracker: AI technology is becoming more conversational – Nation’s Restaurant News

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As voice AI and robotics technology becomes more sophisticated and widely-used, one of the more common user-end complaints is that the technology is not quite sophisticated enough to handle interactions as perfectly as a human might. For example, Presto Voice AI company recently published an article detailing its “Human in the Loop” approach to voice AI: people that are able to take over if and when AI is unable to understand a human—which Presto says it does not have to do 85% of the time.

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Not only are robots and AI becoming more sophisticated at understanding human guests, But they are also becoming more conversational. Vox AI is (yet another) voice AI company that is looking to revolutionize the drive-thru and the company differentiates itself by claiming to be the most intelligent and conversational voice AI on the market now. RichTech Robotics — known for its robotic barista/bartender, ADAM — announced similar updates to the drink-making robot, which makes him more conversational than previous iterations.

In other news this month, POS integration platform Chowly acquired digital marketing platform Targetable, and PathSpot introduced a new platform that targets food safety.

Tech Tracker rounds up what’s happening in the technology sector of the restaurant industry, including news from restaurants, vendors, digital platforms, and third-party delivery companies. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know and why:

Vox AI is debuts ‘most conversational drive-thru AI’

Vox AI announces its advanced AI and machine learning technology for voice ordering in the drive-thru lane at the Consumer Electronics Show in Jan. 2024. Although the company is just one of many voice AI platforms in a crowded marketplace drive-thru voice assistants, Voice AI claims to stand out from the pack by being the world’s most conversational and intelligent drive-thru voice AI system out there.

We do not claim to be perfect from day one,” Maurice Kroon, CEO and founder of Vox AI told Nation’s Restaurant News. “Instead, Vox AI only takes over when we prove that we are equal to or better than a human, which is typically within 100 days after implementation. The chances that a human is still needed after 100 days of implementation are very slim.”

The company also uses generative AI to make the interaction non-scripted and allow the AI to converse with guests on even off-topic areas. For example, guests would be able to get a non-scripted response if they asked about Taylor Swift without the computer freezing up.

Other areas where Vox AI tries to stand out include its availability in more than 35 languages, the speed of response (there is less than a 350 millisecond delay in response, currently), and hardware integration process, which can be connected for $500 and takes 100 days to listen to drive-thru conversations and learn.

“Each day the AI system trains itself, and evaluates whether it would be more performant than the human,” Kroon said. “Once Vox AI becomes more performative than a human, it takes over — freeing up the human agent to spend more time working on other things within the drive-thru, such as cooking.”

RichTech Robotics updates ADAM to be more conversational

ADAM the robot barista/bartender was a high-profile exhibit at the 2022 National Restaurant Association Show, and now ADAM’s parent company, RichTech Robotics is upgrading the robot to be more conversational and be able to sense and greet guests first.

ADAM’s latest upgrades were on display at the Consumer Electronics Show and showcased the robot’s new ability to utilize the camera on his chest to know when customers are approaching, and use generative AI to have more natural conversations with guests, like telling people jokes or giving drink recommendations.

“This technology not only addresses the current labor challenges but enhances the guest experience, making the robots more engaging and interactive,” Matt Casella, Richtech Robotics’ President said in a statement. “Our goal is to alleviate the labor burden, enabling restaurants and bars to support their current staff while focusing on other areas of their business, helping them to grow, scale, and improve their bottom line.”

Chowly acquires Targetable

Digital ordering platform Chowly announced this month the acquisition of automated digital marketing platform, Targetable, making this the second purchase the tech company has made in the past year, following the acquisition of digital ordering platform, Koala, at the start of 2023.

The aim of Chowly’s new digital marketing arm is to provide an affordable alternative to traditional marketing companies for restaurant brands. Eventually, Chowly wants to become a one-stop-shop for operators’ off-premises and digital tech needs.

 “The combination of these two businesses is a true ‘better together’ story that will help tens of thousands of restaurants create more sales without the additional operational headache,” Sterling Douglass, cofounder and CEO of Chowly, said in a statement. “What Andrew and Mark have built at Targetable shows a deep understanding of the customer and aligns perfectly with how restaurants want their technology: done for them.”

PathSpot introduces upgraded food safety platform

PathSpot has long been a leader in food safety technology for restaurant operators, and now the company is introducing an upgraded hardware and software integration platform called Safety Suite, which uses cloud-based analytics to modernize safety procedures.

The popular HandScanner machine (which was abler to analyze the relative cleanliness of hands washed by employees) is now joined by other food safety tech tools like temperature management, expiration date timelines and advanced labeling system, and the ability to allow employees to keep up with health inspection requirements to identify and mitigate food safety risks, while also optimizing labor and fostering a safer back of house.  

Safety Suite provides real-time feedback and data insights for employees:

“As the hospitality and food service industries continue to face a variety of macro-economic challenges, brands simply can’t afford to spend time manually managing safety and compliance and risk the potential for food waste, expensive shutdowns, insurance hikes and audit failures,” Christine Schindler, cofounder and CEO at PathSpot said in a statement. “Our new SafetySuite digitizes the full health and safety system to save operators meaningful time and resources with tools that streamline the audit process, improve reporting accuracy and empower employees to focus on what matters most – the culinary and guest experience.”

ChatMeter upgrades customer feedback platform with AI

While we previously wrote about ChatMeter as one of the many tech vendors experimenting with generative AI, the brand reputation management platform is taking its social media and review website capabilities to new levels with its new program, Pulse AI: Signals. This upgrade offers real-time data and analysis of specific customer sentiments– using generative AI to answer questions such as, “Do our customers like the new chicken sandwich?” and “what do customers think about wait times at our locations?”

Besides answering direct questions, the new ChatMeter platform can offer “at a glance” data like top performing restaurant locations and top positive and negative topics on social media/review channels.

“We’ve made swift and effective changes to elevate the guest experience,” Richard Clarke, senior manager of loyalty and guest feedback at Northland Properties—a Canadian hospitality group, said in a statement. “As a result, we’ve enjoyed future bookings, repeat stays, and greater guest loyalty. Chatmeter’s ability to close the loop on customer feedback and generate positive results is truly impressive.

GoTab launches phone-only POS system

We already predicted in 2023 that smartphones would replace kiosks and become the new hub of consumer engagement, and now we’re seeing just how crucial phones have become to restaurant operations. GoTab just announced a new phone-only POS platform without the need of a card reader, with features including an OLED display, contactless payments, and multiple days of battery life.

“We believe the future of hospitality will involve many ways of interacting with ordering and payment, all to better suit team members and guests,” Tim McLaughlin, cofounder and CEO at GoTab said in a statement. “With the Phone-Only POS, we saw a need in the market for operators to be able to process payments without a card reader, allowing team members to quickly process payments from a pocket-size mobile device on-the-go.”

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