Mobile first, voice and face recognition hit the high street

Ordering a Big Mac, turning your kettle on for a cuppa and even going to the loo won’t be the same anymore… You guessed it, it’s because of technology! Find out more in this week’s [retail bytes]

McDonald’s mobile mis-adventures: Three minutes is the average order-taking time at McDonald’s when using the old-fashioned face-to-face method. Since these are ‘ages’ for millennials, McDonald’s is now offering mobile ordering options. The catch is that your order is only going to prep once you’re in the restaurant, which still saves time – but not significantly. Well-known troubles with extra queues caused by new mobile ordering at Starbucks show that future high street locations in busy spots will need a radical redesign to satisfy mobile ordering while not annoying customers in their face-to-face queues. A First World problem no doubt, but one that needs addressing. Start-ups, get your thinking caps on and email us if you have a plan for mobile-first shopping. High street food vendors are waiting!

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em: Victoria Shopping Centre in Leeds is seeing a new partnership as Morrisons is making friends with Just Eat. You can now dine at the store’s Bombay Bites Express or, for convenience, order a takeaway via Just Eat. It would not be our first port of call for a takeaway but, after some group tasting, we found the food to be agreeable and, more to the point, delivered to our conference hotel faster than from a local competitor. The project is still a pilot but Morrisons are on a roll following their UK local product-sourcing spree, so they can do no wrong (for now).

Beijing faces: Toilet paper thieves in popular Beijing tourist attractions are being stopped thanks to facial recognition technology. To get more paper than a standard few sheets, ‘customers’ have to face the camera, get their photo taken and sit tight for at least nine minutes before the next loo roll section comes down from the dispenser – and that’s only if the user has not been registered on the ‘black list of photos’. One for Transport for London to think about, as the number of people travelling without tickets is climbing up, pushing the cost of the service up for all. Face recognition is a hot privacy issue but, as costs and precision come down, it’s inevitable that we’ll be paying for the Underground with a pretty smile.

Zelda magic in your Smart Home: Voice-controlled devices like cars and kettles are the new black in everyday computing, but it’s sometimes hard to get your faithful Alexa Echo to hear you if there are other voices in the room. Solution? Play a different short melody on your Ocarina to make sure your device can hear just you. Then start your car as asked, rather than confusing the device with different voices and putting the kettle on instead. Watch the video for The Next Big Thing inspired by Zelda. Magic!

New Twitter scam: 48 million Twitter accounts are likely to not be actual people but to be controlled by bots, says a new study. Bots are pretty busy liking and re-tweeting, and creating the illusion that a blogger or influencer is a real superstar – when in reality the subject of their attention has a huge bunch of ‘imaginary friends’. Since fashion bloggers live or die by their number of followers, they’re not very happy with the findings and have already started a real exodus from Twitter to Instagram (a much harder-to-fake platform). You can’t kid all of the people all of the time, the old saying goes, so it’s time for bloggers to come clean about their ‘fanbases’. 

Next event: Dresses that talk to each other and 3D-printed sentient fashion pieces are what we love and what the Make Fashion Gala is all about. If you are near Calgary on April 1st, this is the event for all future fashion lovers. Get tickets here.