Voice order at the self-service kiosk? Coming right up

Elliot Maras — Originally published by Kiosk Marketplace

Ben Kaplan of PLNT Burger and Ken Sutton of Yobe Inc. are working on a voice solution that will allow guests to speak their order at a kiosk and pick it up in a manner of minutes.

Guests will be ordering their meals faster than ever, thanks to self service technology. And they will not feel like an anonymous number in the process.

That’s because the self-order experience will be verbal, as opposed to using a touchscreen, and the guest will be able to customize their order in their own words and have that order recognized in real time.

Such is the future envisioned by Ben Kaplan, owner of the Boston based PLNT Burger fast casual chain, and Ken Sutton, CEO of Yobe Inc., a developer of AI-enabled voice solutions. Kaplan and Sutton are working on a voice solution that will allow guests to speak their order at a kiosk and pick it up in a matter of minutes.

“You didn’t pull out a wallet, you didn’t swipe a card,” Sutton told this website in a phone interview, describing the voice activated self-service transaction. “Everything is done with voice.”

The partners plan to introduce it to PLNT Burger’s freestanding New York stores in the near future before expanding it to all 14 stores.

A new era unfolds

As noted in part one of this two-part series, Kaplan, a long-time student of restaurant technology, believes it is now possible to provide a customized experience for guests that recognizes them by their individual voice, pulls up preferences and responds based on emotion, intent and mood.

“Restaurants have been inundated with technology solutions focused on making the guest experience frictionless,” Kaplan said in a prepared statement. “While those systems have done a good job with providing efficient service, they have missed the mark on providing genuine hospitality to our guests. With Yobe, we can now use voice to create a more authentic connection and still get the efficiency benefits that our guests have come to expect from ordering tech.”

The partners are also working with SoundHound, a provider of an AI-enabled voice solution that can understand natural human speech and integrate the voice order with the restaurant’s existing order process.

‘Hands-free texting’

During the recent CES show in Las Vegas, Yobe demonstrated its voice solution to visitors on the crowded, noisy trade show floor. During the demos, Sutton referenced Yobe ordering as “hands-free texting.”

A digital screen at the exhibit displayed users’ words in text form as they spoke into a phone.

The text immediately appeared on the screen at the sound of the biometrically linked user’s voice. When another person standing next to the biometrically linked user began speaking loudly, that non-linked person’s words did not appear on the screen. The software filtered out the unneeded sound.

“I can hear them over the noise, but more importantly, I know if they were serious or if they were joking,” Sutton said. “All of that is tracked in the voice signal.”

Sutton launched Yobe in Boston in 2016 along with Hamid Nawab, who holds a doctorate in signal processing and machine perception. The duo developed a voice information extraction and speaker tracking solution to extract voice data — biological, linguistic and acoustic data — in noisy spaces that typically compromise the accuracy and effectiveness of voice interfaces.

The solution does not require cloud-based computing or an Internet connection and can operate on various hardware platforms to filter out background noise and accurately identify and interpret the user.