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  • Writer's pictureDanielle van Hout

Eye on AI - January 6th, 2023

Welcome to Aigora's "Eye on AI" series, where we round up exciting news at the intersection of consumer science and artificial intelligence!


This week, we’ll be focusing on two new innovative concept ideas – one an automation store by McDonald’s, and another a prototype car by BMW – that hint at a potential future of their respective industries.


McDonald’s New Texas Store Concept – A Move Toward Full Automation

McDonald's opened its first highly automated restaurant as a test to meet the needs of post-pandemic customers. According to the article “McDonald’s opens its first highly automated restaurant in Texas,” this move has the potential to be a watershed moment in fast food moving toward full automation.

“Instead of placing an order via the mobile app and then either going into the restaurant or waiting in a drive-thru lane or curbside parking spot to get their food, customers can pick it up at the store’s dedicated Drive-Thru Express Lane, where it will be delivered via conveyor belt,” writes Big Think contributor Kristin Houser.

The concept came about during the pandemic, with bans on indoor dining forcing fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s to serve more people via drive-thru. This led to longer wait times and an increase in delivery services.

We’ve written in the past quite a bit about the rise of ghost kitchens. This move by McDonald’s is certainly a move in that direction. The interior of the highly automated restaurant is smaller than the average McD’s. Customers place orders at a kiosk, and they grab their food off a shelf. Crew members at this new store will be focused mainly on making and packaging orders rather than taking them. Even with the automated order-taking process, the new location will still maintain a comparable staff to most McDonald’s stores. As store automation continues, it will be interesting to see if employment rates are maintained.

BMW Unveils Car Said to Be “Next Level of Human-Machine Interaction”

We continue with a look at what is perhaps the most exciting announcement from the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, one of the most influential tech events in the world. Of the many presentations that stood out, BMW’s was particularly eye-catching. It featured the prototype reveal of their new i Vision Dee personalized concept car that uses E Ink technology to allow car owners to configure the exterior with 32 different colors.

“BMW said that Dee has a ‘digital soul, a personality not only with a voice but with facial expressions, too,’” writes TechCrunch contributor Rebecca Bellan. “So what is BMW trying to tell us here? Well, Oliver Zipse, BMW’s CEO, went so far as to call Dee ‘the next level of human-machine interaction, a concept that cannot be simply dismissed as science fiction because it will inspire our Neue Klasse.’”

Dee is emblematic of BMW’s next-generation platform, Neue Klasse, which the company hopes to launch in 2025. It’s their attempt to create a more personalized experience for drivers and passengers.

“Ever since the ‘software-defined vehicle’ began to take hold, automakers have been angling for new ways to use that software to create a more personalized experience for drivers and passengers,” continues Bellan. “CES always provides a smorgasbord of examples… BMW is taking it up a notch by positing not just an emotional connection between human and car, but also a car that has emotions of its own.”

One way BMW hopes to turn that personalized vision into reality, according to CEO Oliver Zipse, is by combining software and hardware development for a seamless digital experience. This idea manifests in Dee’s head-up display, which features four levels of interaction in what BMW is calling its ‘mixed reality slider.’ Upon the slider display, users would receive navigation, text messages, calls, and other on-windshield data, such as warnings and weather, and even augmented reality experiences that would bring family members and friends along for rides, or potentially stream social media posts of the areas you’re passing across the screen in real-time. The last two examples, which are part of what BMW calls their fourth-level display, are not yet fully understood because it doesn’t actually exist – yet.

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