Carl's Jr. and Arby's are trying out touch-screen ordering in our area--Carl's in Ontario and Azusa, Arby's in Century City. You walk up to a bank of computer screens and press brightly colored squares to tell it what you want; it gives you a running total on the right side of the screen and never, ever forgets to ask whether you'd like some fries with that order. A human unit takes your money and gives you your food.
This is no joke. The Pizzabot is a pizza-making robot which puts toppings on a prepared crust, places the pizza in an oven and removes it when done, all at voice commands such as "Mushrooms, pepperoni." It was designed by the Carnegie-Mellon Center for Human Service Robotics to enable severely handicapped people to run their own businesses.
Those saddened some months ago by the news that the Potato Museum in Washington had closed may take heart. The International Potato Center in Lima, Peru, houses numerous varieties of the noble tuber, including many wild species.
Party Down, Spot
Critter Caterers in Beverly Hills is definitely your party supply one-stop if you happen to be a dog or a cat. It's got pretzels, bagels and (carob) brownies, a bakery case with 30 flavors of dog biscuits and even doggy deli platters. Home delivery and drive-through service are available for phone (and very likely car-phone) orders. It reports that some of its animal customers have credit cards in their own names. Needed now: touch screen ordering.