Based in Colorado Springs, Synq3 Restaurant Solutions offers Intelligent Virtual Assistant technology (or IVA) that has been fielding orders at Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants since May 2018, with several other major U.S. restaurants expected to join soon.
Now, the company has found that individuals on the autism spectrum are perfect candidates for the newly created role of “intent analysts,” who are tasked with interpreting customer speech that the A.I. might not understand. The analyst’s screen displays several options of what the system thinks the customer is saying, and after listening to a digital whisper of the word or phrase in question, the analyst selects the right option.
Synq3 CEO Steve Bigari developed the new role, in partnership with the company’s human resources director, Kevin Reiss. The new job is meaningful to Bigari on a personal level, since his 19-year-old daughter Anna is on the autism spectrum. In June, Anna joined Synq3 as its first-ever intent analyst. The job is the first she’s ever had.
Positions like the one created by Bigari and Reiss are especially essential due to the severe unemployment rate among young adults with autism. According to statistics shared by the advocacy group Autism Speaks, almost half of people with autism reach the age of 25 without ever holding a paid position.
Synq3 currently employs about 50 intent analysts, and expects to add many more as the company expands its operations. The pay of 11.75 an hour is also expected to rise, according to Bigari.
Dave Boennighausen, the CEO of Noodles and Co. (which also uses Synq3’s technology), believes Synq3’s approach is extremely productive in addressing the problem of autism unemployment.
“With the labor situation that we have today with unemployment at historic lows, they’ve created an absolute win-win,” he said.”It’s not just solving the labor challenge but also providing opportunities for a workforce that is particularly well-suited to provide a superior work.”
Anna Bigari believes there is “a lot of hope if we keep doing what we’re doing, because this job is really made for people like me who are atypical, who stand out.”