In September this year, food ordering service Just Eat began testing self-driving robots designed to deliver takeaway orders to customers in London. The robots, built by UK robotics firm Starship Technologies, have been designed to increase deliver capacity for the city's many restaurants and will shortly begin their first food deliveries to real-life customers.
In London this week, Just Eat offered a further glimpse into its vision of food delivery's future. At an event titled The Future Now – Redefining Food Discovery, the event was intended to showcase the company's commitment to the latest tech innovations and establish itself as "the leading food tech company in the world".
Taking place in London's trendy Shoreditch, Just Eat took the opportunity to demonstrate how it saw emergent technologies like virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence and robotics playing a role in food delivery's future.
A demo that took place on Microsoft's HoloLens proposed a new type of "visual" menu that displayed images of food rather than a list of items.
Other than offering a more fun twist on the traditional ordering process, the idea is that if a customer wants to try something new, they would be able to "see" the food beforehand and gauge whether they'd enjoy it.
Similarly, Just Eat is also looking at how virtual reality can offer new ways for their restaurant partners to visualise data by providing a bird's eye view of orders that can highlight ordering patterns, hot spots and potential opportunities for growth.
AI also had a central position at the event, with Amazon Echo making a star turn. Just Eat has now integrated its mobile app with Amazon's virtual assistant which, while limited in functionality, can now be used to check the status of orders made through Just Eat and re-order previous food orders. Just Eat said it is currently exploring a unique way to order food using voice commands using Alexa that doesn't rely heavily on visual information.
Finally, Just Eat revealed the app it has been working on for Apple TV – coming in January 2017 –and exclusively unveiled its brand new app for Xbox One, which will launch in time for Christmas. It said these technologies would form an important part of its attempts to build the ordering experience into customers' everyday routines, which the company has also been working towards with the launch of its dedicated customer care chatbots built for Microsoft systems and Facebook Messenger.
"Working with leading partners, we are exploring the latest fields in technology to shape the future of how we interact with food," said Fernando Fanton, Just Eat's chief product and technology officer. "By harnessing these advanced technologies, Just Eat is driving innovation in our sector and working towards our ambition to create the world's greatest food community."