The other day on my break between classes, I decided to get lunch at one of my favorite fast-food restaurants, Jack in the Box. Inside, to my surprise, I found an ordering kiosk all set up and ready to take orders. I’ve read of these, but hadn’t yet encountered one myself.
Of course, I had to use it. And I found it was pretty simple: just follow the instructions on screen. And my food was ready just as fast as it I had went to a person. I used my debit card but the machine could also take cash and dispense change.
This machine is just one highlight of the incoming robotic revolution. It does a job that supplants a human worker (in this case the cashier). But this particular type of machine does have its flaws. For one, the interface is through touchscreen. People are used to interacting via speech, and prefer to do it that way. For a kiosk like this to really take off, it would need to be able to understand and respond entirely through voice commands. Watching the other people in the restaurant order, all of them preferred to go up to the person behind the counter. One did try the kiosk, but decided to go with the person when the opportunity presented itself.
We are just beginning to see the widespread application of voice-command technology. It has a high computational demand, and is still seen as something of a novelty. But so did the PC, the ATM machine, and the telephone. Once people get over the initial unease, they often quickly realize the potential and embrace new technologies (much more so for younger generations). Coupled with the fact that voice-command technology will very likely get cheaper and higher quality due to Moore’s Law, by 2020 interacting with multiple machines and kiosks solely through voice probably won’t seem strange at all.
Once that happens, we’ll be one giant step closer to the robotic revolution.