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OM in the News: The Pizza Technology War Wages in Asia

May 30, 2016
Pizza Hut's Pepper robot

Pizza Hut’s Pepper robot

“The next battle in the pizza technology wars has dawned as Pizza Hut Asia just announced that it will test an order-taking robot that uses artificial intelligence to interact with customers,” writes The Wall Street Journal (May 25, 2016). Rival Domino’s Pizza said that it is testing an autonomous vehicle for delivering pies to customers in Australia. Domino’s Robotic Unit interacts with customers through lights on a display and navigates around obstacles on footpaths and roads. The two pizza companies have long battled on the technology front, including promoting smart watches, connected cars and retinal scanning for order and delivery.

With Pizza Hut Asia, MasterCard announced Tuesday that it is has embedded its MasterPass mobile wallet into the robot, dubbed Pepper, that the pizza chain is testing in restaurants in Japan.  As customers approach and speak to Pepper, the robot can read facial expressions and understand natural language. Pepper, for example, can judge a customer’s mood and perhaps offer add-on products, trying to capitalize on how the customer is feeling. MasterCard plans to study the Pizza Hut transactions to see if there is an increase in order size for customers who interact with the robot.
Internet connected machines, including wearable devices and robots, can help companies personalize service in retail stores and other venues by accessing data about customers and applying algorithms to make tailored offers on the spot. By experimenting with robots, MasterCard hopes to learn how customers react to the technology and whether they begin to conduct financial transactions with the machines. The number of Internet of Things devices is expected to jump to 21 billion by 2020, from about 6.4 billion today.


Classroom discussion questions:

  1. What is the “Internet of Things” (IOT)?
  2. Why are restaurant chains exploring these new technologies?
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