Siri, can I have fries with that?

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Voice recognition is getting better and better. From Google Now and Siri to Microsoft’s new futuristic voice translator, we are able to use our voices for more and more things, and computers can understand our speech better and better.

So it hit me yesterday while at (insert your favorite fast food chain here),  why can’t drive-thrus (I actually prefer this spelling because it reduces ambiguity) at fast food restaurants use voice recognition to save money?  From my experience with the accuracy of Google Now, it is more than capable of recognizing what I’m saying, and this would even be easier if trained to listen for specific words from a menu.  It could even handle special orders such as “no onions”, etc.

Now I know this would eliminate jobs, specifically of the drive thru worker, but I think thats generally a good thing.  As Steve Levitt, of my favorite podcast, Freakonomics, says, if a job is eliminated by created more efficiency in the system, than that is a good thing for the overall economy.  That improved efficiency means there is now more time/energy/money/resources to be used on something else.  So in my opinion, this would be a case where eliminating a human job for a much cheaper and more efficient computer is good for our economy.

In fact, better yet, why not have a tablet with the voice app run the entire drive through?  You could use voice to order, and the screen would show you each item and its price as it is added to the order.  And then if for some reason the voice recognition didn’t work or you dont like talking to a machine, you can simple touch the tablet to order – a touch screen picture menu.

What do you think?  Would you feel comfortable ordering from Siri or Google Now?  Or would you prefer to talk to a human?  Do you think that voice recognition would be able to understand your order?  Would you feel comfortable ordering from a tablet?  Or do you think we should preserve the jobs of drive thru workers? Or do you prefer the ‘human touch’ of a real person?

(image credit: here)

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