Gadgets, Game & Mobile News

Rally's and Checkers are using AI chatbots for Spanish-language food orders

Engadget - Fri, 2023-08-18 05:09

Checkers and Rally's restaurants have launched the first Spanish ordering system that uses AI, Checkers restaurants announced. The system from a company called Hi Auto is already in use at 350 of those restaurants, following two months of beta testing at five locations. The service allows for a more "inclusive environment" by accommodating Spanish speakers, the company said, but it remains to be seen whether customers or employees will embrace it.

The system takes orders via a virtual assistant and detects the customer's language spoken, automatically switching between English and Spanish. Hi Auto says it has "unique customization capabilities" that let franchises easily scale the system up. The company promises to streamline ordering with a greater than 95 percent order accuracy rate.

"Our expanded partnership with Checkers and Rally’s represents a huge breakthrough for the country’s Spanish-speaking and bilingual communities, and allows every restaurant to cater to the Spanish speaking population at any time," said Hi Auto CEO Roy Baharav.

AI drive-through order-taking is a unique challenge, however, thanks to an environment that tends to be noisy and chaotic. "You may think driving by and speaking into a drive-thru is an easy problem for AI, but it’s actually one of the hardest," Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian recently told The Wall Street Journal in reference to the company's recent collaboration with Wendy's. And the tech isn't necessarily reliable, either. The WSJ reported that three people out of 10 using AI systems asked to speak with a human employee due to errors or the desire to speak to a person.

Hi Auto is up against some giants, as well. One of the first companies to look at the tech was McDonald's, which teamed up with IBM to accelerate its own AI ordering systems, and starting testing them in 10 Chicago-area restaurants last year. It's also competing with Google Cloud, which is testing its systems at White Castle on top of Wendy's.

The system does offer features restaurant chains want, though. It can "upsell relentlessly" on items like deserts and french fries, resulting in higher orders, according to CNN. It may also allow restaurants to cut employees, boosting their bottom lines but reducing the number of jobs available to young people. That said, the restaurant with the highest customer service marks last year was Chick-fil-A, thanks in part to its face-to-face human ordering system, according to a recent survey from Intouch Insight.

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Spotify almost removed 'white noise' podcasts to save money

Engadget - Fri, 2023-08-18 02:56

White noise podcast creators on Spotify are making serious money, and the audio streaming service was reportedly not happy about it and tried to cut them off. According to Bloomberg, it has viewed an internal document revealing that podcasts with white noise content, such as the sounds of waves, vacuums and whirring fans, accounted for a total of 3 million consumption hours on the platform every single day. That was made possible by Spotify's algorithm inadvertently pushing these types of content to its listeners as part of its efforts to become the go-to app for podcasts

Previously, Bloombergreported that white noise podcasters were making as $18,000 a month. A lot of creators on the platform, not just those broadcasting white noise, use Spotify's free hosting software Anchor to publish their shows. Spotify purchased Anchor back in 2019, and in addition to helping creators make and distribute their podcasts, it can also monetize their content. 

While white noise podcasts turned out to be a hit with listeners, they apparently don't make Spotify as much money as other types of programming. The company reportedly considered removing them altogether and preventing future uploads in the category. Plus, it thought of altering its algorithm to recommend "comparable programming" that's more economical for Spotify. Doing all those would raise the company's annual gross profit by $38 million. The news organization didn't say if Spotify elaborated on what it meant by "comparable programming" in the internal document, but they could be other types of content meant to induce and improve sleep, as well as to help calm anxiety, which is what white noise is typically used for. 

A thread on the Spotify subreddit posted a couple of months ago show multiple users complaining that the white noise podcasts they listen to had disappeared. Bloomberg also talked to a creator who said their content had vanished for a few weeks before being reinstated. Spotify didn't confirm whether it temporarily pulled white noise podcasts from its service, but it told the news organization that ultimately, "[t]he proposal in question did not come to fruition" and that it continues "to have white noise podcasts on [its] platform."

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Amazon is reportedly testing a confusing star rating system

Engadget - Fri, 2023-08-18 00:59

Amazon has started testing a new star rating system in specific regions that makes it harder to gauge how buyers are liking a specific product. Android Police has spotted the the experimental system on the company's mobile app in India, its German website and its global website when accessed from Germany. We couldn't replicate what the publication has seen on the US website, but it looks like the test replaces the website's weighted average rating that's typically shown through an image with five stars. Instead of that illustration, buyers see a single yellow star next to the product image with the percentage of 5-star ratings it had received. 

People wouldn't be able to tell at a glance whether a product's average rating is 5 or 3.5, because it's represented by a single yellow star in both cases. It's also not immediately visible how many reviews a product has received so far, seeing as the new system only shows the percentage of 5-star ratings. As the publication notes, this makes it easier for sellers to dupe potential buyers by unscrupulously looking for ways to get 5-star reviews to counteract the negative ones. 

That said, Amazon hasn't completely removed ratings breakdown and details. Potential buyers who look at the number of reviews a product has gotten and not just its average score can click through to see its ratings breakdown on the product page. It's not ideal and could make picking a product to buy longer than it should take, but at least the option exists. When asked, an Amazon spokesperson didn't confirm the experimental feature and simply told The Verge: "We are always innovating on behalf of customers to provide the best possible shopping experience." Testing a feature doesn't always lead to a wide release, though, and Amazon might make changes to this rating system if it does decide to implement it. 

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