If you weren't worried enough about the robot uprising already, Starbucks introduced the Pumpkin Spice Latte chat bot on Facebook Messenger this week to help answer the perennial question, "when will the pumpkin spice latte be back in 2016?" as well as other latte-related updates. The bot is part of Starbucks' oddball pumpkin spice latte promotion this fall, which also includes a PSL tumblr, a PSL Twitter account, and, of course, a PSL Instagram. Because how could anyone enjoy fall's most basic beverage without taking the most basic photos known to humankind—of course, we're talking about the Starbucks cup photo.
But amongst all the bizarre #millennial advertising initiatives behind the Starbucks pumpkin spice latte, the PSL chat bot takes the cake. Now, the notion of a chat bot is nothing new: Elderly millennials might remember Smarterchild from back in the days of AOL Instant Messenger, as well as long and pointless conversations with Cleverbot on a friendless Friday night in front of a Gateway 2000. Chat bots are on the rise again, with brands jumping on the technology as a cheap means of providing customer service. Some banks have experimented with chat bots to provide customers with their balances, and the wildly popular chat app Slack incorporates chat bots right into its software.
But for every successful (or even mildly useful) chat bot, there are hordes that serve little or no purpose whatsoever. Enter: the PSL chat bot.
I had mildly optimistic hopes that the PSL chat bot could help me with the most basic tasks (like, for example, telling me where I could buy a pumpkin spice latte). Or it could, at the very least, talk with me about my rock-solid weekend plans (which include The BreakFestival, I might add!). But instead, it dodged my questions with the deftness of a toddler, while making sure to have the conversation revolve around itself (which everyone loves in a friend—whether they're real or robotic).
Undaunted, I tried to continue having a semi-normal conversation with the bot. Well, at least normal for me. So who really knows what that means in real-world terms.
This... is not going well. Let's see if we can tailor the questions to items that are a little more "on-brand" for the PSL chat bot. Surely that will yield some kind of useful results, right?
Well, that didn't really go as expected. You'd have to be pretty excited by the return of the pumpkin spice latte to get on board with the PSL chat bot, or have a pretty low expectation of what fun is. There was a time in my life where I thought that the Singularity—wherein human beings are uploaded into computers and live forever—might have been possible. But to be honest with you, the PSL chat bot kind of killed that aspiration. And even if it were possible, I genuinely wonder if we even deserve it now.