BACK TO THE FUTURE: Domino's launches an AI assistant to talk to about your pizza order

Domino’s CEO Don Meij. (Source: supplied)

Domino’s latest technical achievement may well provoke a sense of déjà vu in many customers who used to order pizza by phone.

The next time you place an order on the Domino’s app or website, you’ll be able to talk to a robot that will take the order.

DRU Assist is a virtual assistant developed by Domino’s in conjunction with voice technology provider Nuance Communications.

“DRU Assist is not just a toy. We genuinely see this as a real platform change,” Domino’s CEO Don Meij said at the company’s regular technology showcase in Sydney today.

The tool allows customers to place an order by voice and make choices for pick up or delivery, to the type of pizza and any special instructions like ‘hold the anchovies’. The function will be rolled out from today and should be in place nationally by Monday.

The company hailed DRU Assist as a step into the field of artificial intelligence, with Meij saying the assistant would learn and improve with experience.

“It’s really important to highlight that DRU is an adolescent. DRU will make some mistakes. We need tens of thousands people to feed into DRU,” he said.

“But we’re not talking about years and years of learning… Depending on how many people make their way onto the platform, we think DRU will be fairly proficient by the 20th of March.”

Domino’s virtual assistant DRU Assist on an iPhone. (Source: supplied)

When asked by Business Insider how a virtual assistant taking order is different to the old days of telephoning a human, Meij pointed out freedom from time constraints as a major advantage.

“With a telephone order, you know that you’re calling live into a pizza shop… and there’s all the tension that goes with that. It’s not in your own time,” he said.

“What people value about this is that it’s your own pace, it’s your own privacy and it’s your own way. Calling a pizza shop and remembering the whole menu is not the best experience you can get from Domino’s.”

Meij, who is ranked number four on the Business Insider Tech 100, also unveiled several other digital initiatives this morning, including the rollout of a back-office store automation project named DRU Manager, Facebook Messenger chatbot for customers to get coupons and the ability to have an order delivered without an address.

Domino’s Anywhere, due to roll out later this month or early April, will allow customers to use a location pin on their smartphone, using GPS, for the delivery destination. This means addresses are longer be required and pizzas can be delivered to places like parks and beaches.

“We know that pizza is a social sharing meal and many of our customers want to enjoy it on a day out with the family, and not be limited to a house or office,” said Meij.

Now Australia’s dominant pizza brand, Domino’s declared itself a “technology company” in recent years with several innovations, including apps specially built for smartphones, tablets and smartwatches, along with driver tracker and experiments with delivery drones and robots.

Meij added that the company’s delivery drones – first trialled in New Zealand on a limited scale in November – will continue to be tested this year, although he could not say if or when an Australian deployment would occur.

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