Self-serve kiosks could be one bit of technology used to help restaurants re-open. Switching to kiosks can help eliminate ordering from a worker behind a counter and thereby reducing human-to-human contact.
But the problem with a lot of kiosks is that they still require people to use a touchscreen when it comes to browsing a menu and ordering food. Those touchscreens are, well, touched by a lot of hands throughout the day. This will mean that restaurants will need to not only clean the screens on a regular basis, but make sure those sanitation efforts are on display so customers know the kiosks are clean.
One feature that could help mitigate any concerns over using public kiosks is gesture tech — that is, the ability to wave and swipe your hands in front of a device without actually touching it to activate it.
More than just waving your hand under a faucet to get it to run, gesture controls have been around for a long time. Check out this demo of gesture control via Kinect on the Microsoft Xbox from 2014. It shows how you can scroll and select on-screen objects with your hand while never actually touching the screen. My recollection of using the system back then was that it was pretty clunky, but advancements in computing power, computer vision and even AI have assuredly resolved those issues.
You can start to see some of this contactless tech with PopID, which makes kiosks that let you pay with your face. Obviously, as with any facial recognition, there are privacy concerns. But, rightly or wrongly, those more abstract concerns could get set aside because people who don’t want to physically interact with a public machine and insert their credit card.
Obviously, an easier solution would be to skip the kiosk altogether and just have people use their phone to order. In that way, the only object they touch is their own. That is true, but not everybody has a smartphone. Also, while people may download apps for big companies they frequent like Starbucks or McDonald’s, they won’t download an app for every single restaurant they visit. Plus, mobile apps are expensive to build and not every mom and pop restaurant can afford to make them.
We are just starting to figure out what people want from restaurant interactions. Perhaps they will be fine with ordering from an actual person wearing a mask and all of this is for naught. But if the virus doesn’t go away or rebounds in a meaningful way, we could all be waving hello to gesture controlled kiosks.