Lean on me: Some AI products still depend on human intervention


The big picture: AI is becoming increasingly prevalent, vowing to enhance our day-to-day experiences and afford us the luxury of focusing on tasks that hold greater significance. Or at least, that’s what big tech companies want you to believe. In reality, AI is still heavily dependent on humans to pull off its illusion.

Presto Automation, a company that specializes in supplying artificial intelligence solutions to popular fast food chains including Del Taco, Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., is a leading innovator in the drive-thru order-taking chatbot space. Even the firm’s most advanced voice assistant technology, which has gone through several iterations, is only about to complete 30 percent of orders without human intervention.

In other words, human workers at off-site locations – often overseas, like in the Philippines – are responsible for overseeing as many as 70 percent of orders taken by drive-thru AI chatbots.

The same sort deception was behind Amazon’s recently discontinued Just Walk Out technology. If you recall, select Amazon grocery stores were loaded with tech that allowed customers to walk in, grab what they needed, and walk out without having to go through a checkout line.

The tech supposedly used an array of cameras and sensors to track items and charge customers for their purchases once they left but according to a recent report from The Information, the system relied on north of 1,000 workers in India to oversee activity, essentially acting as remote cashiers.

Remember Facebook M, the digital concierge the social network launched in closed beta during the summer of 2015 and shut down a few years later? According to Bloomberg, it was also a bit misleading as every message the service fielded was reviewed by contractors that worked at the company’s Menlo Park headquarters. At launch, Facebook said the service was powered by AI that was trained and supervised by real people.

For now, it would seem that the true worth of artificial intelligence resides in enhancing human abilities rather than supplanting them.

Image credit: Cash Macanaya


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